Who knows why they call it “Next Five Minutes”… Maybe, at some point in time, some cool hectic folks actually took that title seriously. I imagine them, surrounded by halos of energy, excitedly hacking along on their own little projects of counter-buzz. As Geert Lovink pointed out (showing off his new book “My first Recession”) “We also had our dreams” – but then came the crisis…
So one might actually say, the future was yesterday, 5 years ago. Nowadays we are a bit more laid-back. At times we have withdrawn to the ambiguity of the archive and are trying to repaint its walls, with windows and sunset-seaviews. But – hell, it’s so easy to be negative. Archiving is essential and perhaps the crisis has not only made this essentiality evident. It also may be that this process of knowledge and introspection can lead on to new movement and hope.
Whatever form of “next” our future-seek was spanning, the conference offered loads of interesting (there has been agreement not to use the word “exciting” excessively) panels, projects, presentations (as well as lots of screenings). As so often, my minutes longed to skip over the boundary of my physical medium to graze-off the whole highway of the jam-packed schedule. Nevertheless I’ll try to recount the gist of event-dishes that i heaped onto my platter, as well as a few smoothies in between.
Of course the menu featured discourse on different media (including the oldschool print and television), as tactically applied in activism, and for obvious reasons the debate around indymedia took center-court. Now, indymedia has become a fairly huge, very momentous movement. Interestingly enough, the media branch of this sprawl called “the movement of movements” has brought forth the single most accomplishing, open and well-known .. um, something .. well, what is it? Exactly this question sparked a needlessly heated debate on wether indymedia was a “brand” or not. IMHO the term may be applied, of course only if useful. Though certainly, criticising the working model indymedia on grounds of calling it names can not be the option. As was made clear, it is a vibrant community of complex internal dynamics. Perhaps the open, underdefined culture of indymedia buys its freedom (as well as functionality) by hanging on to certain fundamental structures and architectures, be they technical or social. This may seem quite boggy to critics coming from rapidly morphing, slim projects but in the end, indymedia is fulfilling its job with bravado. So I did not have the feeling that the debate would lead on to much improvement or change; The indymedia activists themselves can only take gradual steps, trying to solve the problems which of course exist. And that’s fine with me.
Next to this pro-activism media, the program also featured pro-media activism; the initiative “WSIS – WE SEIZE!” presented its call ( http://www.geneva03.org ) in a lively discussion meeting. As the “World Summit on the Information Society” (WSIS) seems to be selling out to the demands of transnational IT-bizz (respective its governments in the “developed world”), like at the World Climate Conference in Johannesburg, people are turning against their representatives. However, as Florian Schneider pointed out, in this case we are engaging in a conflict of much lower intensity. Rather than massively protesting, dissent and inspiration are to be exchanged in a parallel space and to be broadcast into the “official” conference and beyond. Beyond the “lobby themes” of intellectual property and cyber-security (to which the summit-preparation has been turning, from what initially looked more like a “Digital Divide” discourse), we are hoping for alternatives. – Alternatives that are being built; presenting projects, exchanging practices, praising and denouncing. – Alternatives that are being dreamed and designed, taking the name of the summit seriously (“information society”) social and technical utopian call for initiative. – And alternatives that are being broken; this includes criticism of the events inside the official summit and goes on to other problems the IT-industry is creating (eg. e-waste) and movements it is suppressing (eg. free software), which may be moving below official radar. However, the whole project is at risk of not only remaining below radar itself, but of slithering from high-strung goals into an induced state of (too high) disorganization. Well, we can at least try; as with many of these occasions: the opportunity is there, it won’t hurt to go there – and it’s important that someone does. Now that the transnational free-market ideology-shops such as the WTO loose wind and are pushed aside by the cold breath of overt confrontation and power-by-fear, the future can be ours (again).
On this Conference i had one special mission, lying mainly in the technical field. I was on the prowl for projects & people in some way working on “new new media”, trying to take the next step for technology – preferably radical. Radical in the sense of questioning (mainly) Computer Science and its scientific and practical offspring which have populated the field opened up by the “computer”. That was at least my point of departure which i presented in a small TAZ-session (notes coming soon ;-} http://werg.demokratica.de ). I talked about information, the importance of closely studying its nature and the the shortcomings of conventional approaches. I would like to reach a movement which leaves the concept of the “computer” behind and approaches the task of autonomy (also) in technology with better suited tools. For all to whom this sounds a bit lofty, i would like to conclude with a slightly more concrete project; The whole issue of mapping – “Tactical Cartography” provoked my attention. Of course such maps (if you haven’t seen one: http://www.universite-tangente.fr.st ) are at first glance intriguing, bewildering (and possibly aesthetically & epistemologically questionable – as some found), but Brian Holmes & Co are aiming at an even more mind-boggling form of representing these relationships of power. The goal is to create a sort of interactive “map-generator” and database to follow up on the paper versions. There was an almost tremendous echo of people interested in (maybe even a bit excited about) using this paradigm for effective analysis and targeted interference, resistance. They also saw the tremendous problems with such a potentially huge project. Which makes me kind of optimistic, because they might run into problems when trying to “correctly” represent all this complex data. I might have a few ideas for that. ;-} And, present in this feature as well as in others, i see the long term option of learning new social configurations and applying them to our systems – to me it’s a network society. (OK, enough utopia..)
So, back over the German border. I have missed quite a few points, but others have witnessed them. (Pun intendend: there was a presentation on the project WITNESS that i didn’t get to visit.. just to represent the human rights- cultural- and theoretical issues that i couldn’t cover.) All in all, a happy weekend in the city of bikes.