Gabriel Pickard on Mon, 22 Sep 2003 17:55:40 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> concerning these minutes

Hi nettimers!
here are some impressions of mine from the Next 5 Minutes 4 in Amsterdam 
last weekend. for those who weren't there & those whishing to recognize 

a review of n5m-con, and then some

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 At times we have withdrawn to the ambiguity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 ( ) 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

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 ;-} ). 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: ) 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..

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