Art imitates life; life imitates art. As social media becomes more omnipresent than ever, we’re beginning to see how the influence of the virtual lens shapes the way we experience the culture.

Instagram is the most preferred social media platform in the art world. With the intensification of online artwork trading, understanding what kinds of artworks drive participation is crucial. What does the acceptance of an artwork depend on? We’re at an intersection where the old-style physical art experience is voyaging towards a more web-based setting. Instagram is redefining the way the art world does business. It might be a perfect time to study online artwork interactivity on Instagram.

The term “artwork” we are discussing here is visual arts, which includes such as drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, film, and printmaking, etc. The influence of digital technology has transformed the traditional visual arts. New media art refers to artworks created with new media technologies, including digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, interactive art and video games and applications.

Marshall McLuhan said that media is the extensions of human and interactivity is the typical feature of the Internet. If technology is a medium of cultural development, the communication and user positioning of these technologies has produced a participatory “mashup” culture. The ways of creating and retrieving content are reviewed by online platforms, computers and smartphones, and online content is uploaded, assorted, merged and reassembled, establishing a participatory culture.

Participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and public engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some informal mentorship whereby the most experienced people pass along what they know to apprentices. Participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions can make a difference, and feel some degree of social connection with one another. Likes and comments are the most pervasive and fundamental levels of participation. The interactions on social media occur at lightning speed, which can be understood as a moment effect. The audience intermingles with artwork in seconds or even less with instinct.

Many artists in Pakistan have now adopted this online culture and are seen publishing their work online. Publishing your art online means you reach a broad audience throughout the world within a matter of seconds. The online art market has revolutionised the artist’s reach and given them new ways to fulfil orders in limitless volumes. The good thing is, your success is not dependent on anyone else. You completely control your own destiny, and all of your work stays with you.

Today, anyone and everyone can run their own art accounts online even and even convert them into a small side project. You can put in whatever effort you feel like, and grow it slowly over time. So launching your own online art account solves the major difficulties of many other ways of selling art.

This leads us to another concerning factor: Legitimacy. Given the public nature of social media, shouldn’t we worry about our work getting stolen? A lawsuit is, after all, a costly affair. Isn’t it a bad idea to have our art readily available online? The artists’ rights and their work have been an age-old concern. But, with the advent of posting one’s work online, those rights have become muddled and hazy. The general public opinion is that it’s okay to use whatever images we find online for our own needs. Concerning Pakistan, we see a lot of companies pull photographs and illustrations right off the web and use them in advertising and packaging, without giving credit to the artist or paying for the images.

Previously, art used to be available in museums and galleries or art fairs only. For the newer generation, visiting museums and galleries in person takes time and money, as it often involves travelling great distances to see great works of art and culture. With the accessibility of social media, one can visit these museums and galleries as well as works of independent artists online. But is an online visit as good as an in-person trip to a gallery? Does viewing art online diminish or increase the overall experience?

The problem with viewing art on a screen is, you don’t see any surface. You can’t tell if this is gloss or matte or are there any bumps. Colours look different and because the colour is visible through electromagnetic waves, we all see everything in grey if there is not enough light. Technology can ‘introduce’ art to a wider audience. Still, it can never replace the atmosphere of actually being at a live event. That atmosphere is as much a part of the experience as the actual performance. The argument is that social media is a virtual experience and not a real one. Still, the fact is that the Internet is just a medium, mostly a visual medium. Since most of the art is visual, for some, they might go perfectly together.

On a concluding note, it is not the first time that the access to art is changing drastically. Most of the ancients’ pieces were created for the elite. The museums served as a more egalitarian way to experience art which initially evolved from the personal collections of few individuals. Internet is just surrendering access of art to everybody who has a connection or a following. It is a revolutionary path which is shaping a new era for art as well.