Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Last Update on the 'Refoundation' of the Amsterdam Digital Cit
Patrice Riemens on 21 Mar 2001 20:04:45 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Last Update on the 'Refoundation' of the Amsterdam Digital City (DDS)

Last Update on the 'Refoundation' of the Amsterdam Digital City...

Five weeks (ghosh, how time flies!....) after the roaring start made by the
'Open Domain' Association (of users) at its inaugural General Assembly, the
situation round the Amsterdam Digital City (DDS) has become very sticky
again. Given recent developments, this is not entirely surprising. Both
parties concerned, the management of DDS Holding (that is its two
shareholders/owners), and the Open Domain Association have manoeuvered in
such way as to produce a stalemate, the outcome of which is both certain
and unlikely to unfold in the very short term: the final demise of what we
know as the Digital City.  

Late in January, and then again in mid-February, Joost Flint (the
director/co-owner of the DDS business) had mailed all account holders to
find out whether they would be prepared to pay a fee for the services of
the hitherto free DDS. Allegedly a majority of the respondents was not
averse to the idea. This apparently convinced Joost Flint that continuing
DDS as a revenue earning ISP was a viable proposition. This made him even
less inclined to 'hand over' the community part ('DDS-City Ltd.') of the
Holding to the Open Domain Association.

For a while there had been some fairly unproductive correspondance between
Joost Flint (the other partner, Chris Godel, remaining silent) and the
Association. In a so-called 'terms of reference' letter, Flint had laid out
very strict conditions the association had to fulfill in order to be
considered a 'serious negotiating partner'. These included size,
representability, commitment, 'professionalism', and a fairly puzzling
demand that the Association would refrain from any recourse to the courts
at any stage of the negotiations - or afterwards.

Finding the carefully, if guardedly phrased response of the Association
'vague', 'dithering', or even 'disingenuous', Flint decided that he had no
serious party to talk to, and that further negotiations at this stage were
without object. The association then requested him, by registered letter,
to allow for a formal exploratory meeting. A further telephonic enquiry by
the Association's chair, Reinder Rustema, yielded such a discouraging
reaction that it was widely believed the talks had broken down for good.

Then Joost Flint posted (on March 15) a lengthy letter on the Association's
general mailing list in which he restated the conditions under which he
would be prepared to do business with 'us'. He also for the first time gave
his point of view on the nature and history of the Digital City. This
mainly pertained to the linkages between commercial enterprise and
community activities, where by the latter are merely seen as beneficiaries
(and hence dependant upon) the former. In his view, a fruitfull
collaboration  can only take the form of voluntary work and contribution of
the Association within the Digital City enterprise as it exists now. As if
this 'take' was already not at variance enough with the stated intentions
(and statutory aims) of the Association, Flint also indulged in remarks
describing users of free ISPs as 'locusts', and the office bearers of the
Association as  'religious leaders' and 'zealots', bend on misguiding their

Thus a complete stalemate has been reached, largely due to the DDS's owners
stuborness in sticking to an almost exclusively commercial business model
for the community services (with voluntary contributions seen as the icing
of the, ie their, cake). But the fact that the Association still seems
utterly unable to decide where it want to go  in case a 'take-over' is
unworkable (like, for instance, now) has not been helpful either. From the
very beginning there had been voices (a.o. mine) pleading for a fresh
start. Yet even the domain name itself ('dds.nl'), which will obviously
remain 'forever' property of the Holding because it is essential to the
continuation of its business, is the object of a spiteful retention
syndrome among members and the Association's board alike.

Not all is bleak however. Working groups on various issues within the Open
Domain Association have been quietly, but efficiently busy tackling all
kinds of problems, and coming up with creative solutions for setting up a
eventual  'New Digital City'. These groups, involving scores of people, may
in fact be seen as a submerged part of sorts of the Association's
'iceberg', whereas the visible top, the (now far too, immo) vicarious
discussion list possibly gives the impression of a mass drifting around in
a sea of indecision and, sometimes, divisiveness.  

A nice aside was also provided by Marleen Stikker's (The chief initiator
and former 'burgomaster' of the Digital City) e-mail interview with Geert
Lovink, which appeared on the Dutch nettime list on March 7. In it, Marleen
Stikker made a pressing appeal to the current owners of the DDS Holding to
desist from a narrowly commercial approach, and divest - for their own
business benefit - DDS-City in favor of a non-profit organisation. She also
hinted at the substantial support such a voluntary organisation is likely
to obtain from bodies currently being set up to provide access and
(high-)bandwidth for social and cultural initiatives.

As things stand now, only time will tell, not if, but when, and in which
manner, the Digital City as we know it will fold up. Joost Flint's
envisaged business model of a paying ISP is simply not viable, since it
entails irrealistic levels of disbursements, not only to flesh up the DDS's
woefully inadequate level of service, but even to set up a revenue
collection environment in the first place. It can only be hoped that when
things will have run their course (and the finances of the DDS Holding
dry), the Open Domain Association will be ready, able, and willing to offer
some confort and digital asylum to the 'refugees' of what was once one of
Cyberspace's most markant, and most famous places. 

(For the time being, this will be my last report on the tribulations of the
Amsterdam Digital City.  Readers who are curious about the latest
developments - and are unable to follow it in Dutch on the Open Domain
Association's website http://www.opendomein.nl  - are surely welcome to
contact the Association's chair, ReindeR Rustema <rrr {AT} dds.nl>  Myself, well
I am reverting somewhat more back to the real ... reality.) 

It's spring now (even though in Amsterdam, it is snowing!), so: HAPPY NOWROOZ!
#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net