The Impermanence Agent at the Whitney Museum’s Artport

The Impermanence Agent (by Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Adam Chapman, Brion Moss, Duane Whitehurst) began in 1998 as a storytelling Web agent that customized its texts and images based on monitoring of each reader’s Web browsing. Five years later, the project is turning inside out — rather than showing each individual a story customized for them, it now shows all visitors the stories altered by a few “featured browsers.” During the month of February 2003, the Agent’s story will be progressively altered for these browsers, with the results continually viewable, and at the end of the month, the final version will be archived on the Whitney Museum’s server. With this, the project’s weight shifts between individual experience and collective, between long-term customization and short-term surveillance, between impermanence and archiving. Most users now will never see the original story, but only the results of many browser-driven alterations.