The Institute of Network Cultures (INC), which was set up in June 2004, caters to research, meetings and (online) initiatives in the area of internet and new media.
The INC functions as a framework within which a variety of studies, publications and meetings can be realized. As indicated by its name, the INC itself will also be active in setting up and maintaining networks. Not only will it facilitate, but also initiate and produce its projects. Its goal is to create an open organizational form with a strong focus on content, within which ideas (emanating from both individuals and institutions) can be given an institutional context at an early stage. The INC aims to organize both public and internal meetings and to formulate new research, based on the fusion of old and new media. The INC sees it as its special task to give shape and content to the digital public domain, with emphasis on the interaction between aesthetics and social relations within technological environments. Special attention will also be paid to intercultural aspects and international cooperation. The INC has no intention to remain on the sidelines, but rather, it aims to analyse its field of action from the inside, and to make an active contribution. Self-reflection and theoretical developments are of vital importance in the creation of the rich autonomous language that this new area of knowledge so desperately needs. New media are not a religion, even though they are often presented as the solution to all the misery in the world. Nevertheless, they still have a huge potential for bringing about (social) change. The INC intends to explore this potential, without losing track of reality. The field of new media is becoming increasingly dominated by marketing- and management-oriented thinking. This certainly has advantages, in view of the recent history of the 1990s with its speculative excesses. And yet, pragmatic thinking is threatening to banish any further conceptual development to the background. In our opinion, wild thinking is still essential, be it in the form of essays, case studies and discussions or incorporated in thorough academic research.
Network culture is not so much about an anthropological eye observing users as a new (sub)culture, or about studying the effects of new technologies. Rather, it revolves around the interaction between new media and their users, with these users themselves being able to give shape to new technologies. This constructive aspect and the multidisciplinary nature of new media are of primary importance, and artistic, political and technical aspects are all paid an equal amount of attention within this context. The INCs field of activity is not confined to the internet and can vary from design, activism, art and philosophy, to political theory and architecture.
The INC originates from the lectorate of the department of Interactive Media at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. The media theoretician Geert Lovink was appointed lector of this department in January 2004. The purpose of lectorates is to introduce research into the Dutch system of higher vocational education, and to enable the development of so-called centres of excellence. Within the department of interactive media, the responsibilities of the lectorate include the provision of traineeships, a series of lectures and the theory programme. The INC is also involved in the Media Lab (initiated by the Hogeschool and the University of Amsterdam) which will be launched in October 2005. Moreover, it organizes various study groups for teachers, with themes relevant to their professional practice.
The INC is also closely affiliated to the University of Amsterdam, where Geert Lovink is senior lecturer at the department of media and culture. The University of Amsterdam and the Hogeschool, which have merged at a managerial level, are cooperating in many areas. The INC will contribute to the content of this collaboration; not only by providing input and by research at the Media Lab Amsterdam, but also by means of various mutual research projects and thematic events.