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<nettime> Panic Content - The ZKP 3 Introduction Draft (october 1996)

[The Zentral Kommittee Proceedings number 3, zkp3, is finally on-line:, thanks to Walter van der Cruijssen. Now, all
the five zkps are on-line. This is part of a bigger plan to further move
on with the nettime reform. To celibrate this, we are posting here the
draft of the introduction to the zkp3, which was written as a preparation
for the metaforum 3 conf, which took in place in Budapest in early october
1996 with the theme 'content'. The text also tried to explain what 
nettime intended to do at the time, one year after it started as a 
mailinglist. Enjoy it - it remained a first draft and was never posted to
the list. A smaller version appeared in zkp3 in 150 copies. - geert]


Panic Content

The question of content is a question for substance. After a glorious
postwar period where the enlightening concept of information escaped
from the concepts of matter and energy, it is filling today any
governing organisations of power and knowledge. That doesn't mean that
information means anything more then gaining general dominance.
Information has become such a slippery term, that in the center of the
'information-society', in it's global virtual cathedral also called
'the Net', one is hectically cyberizing everything: 'the body', 'life',
'work', 'sex', 'mind' to adapt to a chaosmos which is not made for
humans but for 'something faster'.

*Panic Content* as the counterpart of information-as-pure-essence is
part of a privatized colonizing project which tries to gain land out of
nothing. After building up boundaries around selections of information
and access restrictions, one hopes that money flows in. Interestingly
the success of the war machine Internet is partly based on pirate
utopias of anti-market models like shareware, public domain,
anti-copyright and a ring economy of knowledge exchange.

The awaited 'War on Content' (whose information is on what server?) is
a conflict which connects this experimental zone to it's real existing
outside. It also sets free a dynamism which is expected to catapult us
over the upcoming time-wall and which, most of all, let us forget.
Forget any information we will never be able to access because it is
not public or digitized. Forget about Gandmother Europe which haunted
us with it's outdated canonical culturism. Forget about 'false'
believes and 'wrong' memories.

To execute the grand plan of escape into cyberspace a global city must
be build where the systems of command, control and communication in the
military, cultural and financial sector are modulating the flows of
energy and matter diffundating the finest fabrics of personal and
social life. It is no wonder that being confronted with such paranoid
scenarios of a world panopticum, some people get obsessed with their
lost innocence showing symptoms like child abuse, alien abduction and
an obsession with unvisible censorship and secure intimacy. 'Content'
may be a temporary fashion which exemplifies the mass psychology of the
net in the nostalgic desire for something material, it's also a chance
for re-building power-knowledge-structures which do not fit into the
norms of the existing official quality control systems and are
therefore defining zones for serious fun.

ZKP3 is the third of a xeroxed a-periodical we non-professionally
published on cyberconceptual conferences based on the output of the
nettime carawane, a curly path through the contemporary so called
critical so called international cyberdiscourse. We hope that out of
this temporary publishing practise ideas will come how to continue the
project, do reprints, migrate into infranets, become content, grow to a
newsgroup, make new friends or intensify old friendships.

Budapest is a city of old hopes and new frustrations, it may be
postmodern for hundreds of years, multicultural by default, most of all
it cultivates a diversity of creative disfuntionalities which
sentimentally resist the principles of effectivity and profit of today.
Most of all it's a place to meet with people from the east on a
territory which is part of 'their own' history. It might be also a city
to build up models for east-west content generators and 'round-robin'
city echange networks, or at least to make plans for the evening.

On nettime

version 0.1 (nonedited yet)

When it comes to the question to describe my own projects i often feel
unable to do so. At the one hand i am too blind to measure the professional
effectivity of a work which is far from beeing profitable yet, second
i can not tell about something as my own thing which circumscribes
the activities of a long list of other people and which goes back to a
genealogy of predecessors, friends and neighbors you can't listen now.
And third it is hard to catch and freeze a process of net discourse which
moves and changes constantly and form it to something which is as static
like a text. Accept it or not, this description may be fundamentally wrong.

nettime was found in June 1995 in Venice by a group of artists, theoricians,
media activists and journalists. It was happening in the context of the
Venice Biennale and was connected to a night-event called Club Berlin which
was importing 'Techno' into the art context. While having good food and bright
talks during the day, the 'cooption' of 'techno-underground' during the night
became an imprinting birth experience for this project. Since then nettime
remained what one can call independent and extremely cautious towards processes
of converting cultural capital. This is not happening because of dogmatism but
because of the will for maximum freedom, freedom money cannot buy.
In Venice we also described the main lines of critical complexes on which
nettime is still oriented: Urban metaphor, Infovitalism, and Net-tribalism.
Since then every three months there are happening meetings where a changing
nucleus of the list is planing and discussing new projects, like lately the initiative by Paul Garrin, the east-west web refresh, or just art
practises like a city exchange network, publishing strategies, or tasks forces
against private German content police officers.

It is funny to use a medium without trusting in it. It is even more
funny to use a medium and then criticize it. Some say it is unpossible
to criticize a system from within. They say you have to have a distance
to it to be able to interpret it, but then they don't find an end of
interpretation. There are three basic securities a net critique on the net
can count on. a. it refers to itself (the net, critique) in a mode of
contradiction. b. contradiction produces interest and information
c. interest and information have an end.
Any Marxist reading of such terms is not avoided but especially by
east-european subscribers not really popular. If 'communication creates
conflict' (Bunting) or 'subjectivity must get produced' (Guattari), it
was never a goal of this project to dominate discourse, missionate you,
or tell the pure truth.

Giving Credits:
In 1993 Ctheory, an academic magazine which turned into a
mailinglist, run by the Krokers in Canada, was for us a new but long
awaited experience. Where most Media Theory suffers from a phathos of
distance from it's own object, Ctheory runs hot in a short cuircuit of
Postmodern Practise. While it's academic Competitor, PMC, is mostly
mirroring the rituals of an institutional apperatus, it remains a good
example for cost effective grey publishing of younger and older Authors.
Ctheory is still the Grandfather of nettime, and the Book 'Data Trash' of
Weinstein and Kroker is still the standard work of a political economy of
cyberspace. The Panic Enzyclopaedia another product out of the discourse
factories in Toronto, marks the transition from a bad Love affair with
Baudrillard, to a more performative pastiche project dealing with the
famous German export product into Cyberculture : Angst and it's
cultivation as Mass Phenomena: Panic. While Ctheory still produces on a
unearthy academic height, very postmodern and a bit ornamental, it is
definetly worth to subscribe to if you have a special interest in Net
Critique. The third big Theory data base in the end of 1994 when we
started to think about such a project is the English Server at CMC, a huge
collection of magazines, papers, articles, quotes, around the field of
'cultural theoriy' run by a collective of students. It must get mentioned
that all these projec are financed by the Education system. Today with a
growing number of projects in the same segment of 'cyberdiscourse' it is
worth to think again what nettime might be, before finding a new strategy
of publishing which again remains effective for a longer period. 

We began to feel the need for a european cyber-discourse with
the unberaerebale lightness of reading wired magazine. Wired is still the
most influentive, ideological and irational Organ of the Virtual Class.
Everything which Wired wrote was for us Pure Propaganda and provoked the
question for the unofficial Data. As the Prawda of the net Wired Magazine
forces the emergence of dissident thought. Later it was named by Barbrook
'the Californian' Ideology, which to contradict to cannot be wrong. This
is of course the simplicistic logic of the early colonized, and the
situation looks much different 2 Years later. But it is still clear that
the Mass pyschology of cyberspace generates issues and figures like
represented by John Perry Barlow, which had a hard time after his
protopathological manifesto about the Independence of Cyberspace. Still
there is interestingly no competent discoursive analysis of the influence
of this little Magazine on the way the world is speaking about the net.

While Mondo 2000, as the better part of cyberculture dispeared by burnout
and with it the last Cyberpunk, it was clear that Electronic Resistance
had to get re-defined. The mid of the 90ies where as starting phase of
net-migration. The same wishes and possibilities which led us move to the
east after 1990, squatiing city space and realizing something which was
later named TAZ, it was logical for some, to seek for the same thrill in
Cyberland. But after a first euphoria, celebrated for some of us in the
Golden Years of the Thing BBS, learning a lot about collaborative electric
text production, after the first orgasmic contacts with the long awaitet
universal Media, scepticism began to grow, even for doing art, one first
needed a concept about the net and its different fields of meaning. Right
now, we are speaking about potentials, about possible decisions, about
vague Ideas which has not yet become concepts.

Even if net critique is based on the Axiom that everyone should have the
right to be not Wired, but this doesn't mean that net critique refuses to
affirmate the power of a new technological standards. Of course the former
networks of transport and Transmission, did not function as a historical a
priori, but they were often places where new tactiques and strategies took
place, if economical, military or in discourse production. Networks can
easily get described as organisations of power. With a special european
social memory of the possible abuse of Technological Networks of Power one
is sceptically approaching any kind of new media technique. 

"Imagine what would have happen if McLuhan had Access to the World Wide
Web." It may be the initial moment of Media Theory that is is in fact
unable to leave it's stand in the Gutenberg Galaxy, while it uses the
knowledge about New Electric Media to try to break with its dependencies.
We have a prominent example of such a media generation conflict in Germany,
the very influentive work of Professor Kittler, who comes from literay
theory and successfully shows how technical media is determing culture and
everything else. But he insists on the priority of the hardware. His main
rethoric is based on a contradictions within a culture resisting to
conceptualize the influence of computers. But this is not true. I guess one
of the most important Books written in the last few years on the
contradictions of a Electric Media Culture is 1000 Plateauxs of
Deleuze/Guattari. Here the book itself becomes already something discribed
as a machine. Net theoricians like Manuel Delanda, Critical Art Ensemble
or Peter Lamborn Wilson are making heavily use of concepts of this book.
It was mentioned lately by Sherry Turkle that French Abstract Postmodernism
has partly come to the ground through the rise of the Internet. What i want
to say with all this is that it seems that the net forms a 'plane of
consitency' which is hardware-independent and where concepts and action,
socialty and technique, theory and practise, work and money merge toegether
to form new aggregates of power-knowledge. The wish economies of the nets are
different from the old democratic-despotic Broadcast media, always
in danger to collabse into a terminal state of capitalism or the
black wholes of fascism.

The time of nettime is a social time, it is subjective and intensive,
whith condensation and extractions, segmented by social events like
confereences and little meetings, and text gatherings for export into
the paper world. Most people still like to read a text printed on wooden
paper, more then transmitted via waves of light. nettime is not the
same time like geotime, or the time clocks go. Everone who programs or
even sits often on a screen knows about the phenomon of beeing out
of time, time on the net consists of different speeds, computers,
humans, software, bandwith, the only way to see a continuity of time
on the net is to see it as a asychronous network of synchronized
time zones. The psychological side effect of the single user on her
screen is often a 'time-bubble', if not a transcendental at least a
pysiological state of mind, where absolute time of the idea, the
association, a network of thought creates a time zone which notoriously
desynchonizes with the one of normal life. A mailinglist might be a
possiblitiy to share such a time bubble and create a colletive asynchronous
time zone relativly independent from space.
The Different tactiques of accelaration and slowing down, are always
defining the boundaries of such a social time continuum. With the hidden
layer of private e-mail it is always possible for mutual dialogues and
personal reflections to detect a critical state of the list, problematic
issues, common disinterest, 'general overload' - or even a person which falls
into a role-game which turn out to be destructive for the whole list.

Some already called such info-enviornments group therapy. This is
not right in general. It is all in all a grouping of interests, of textes,
of time as a process of condensation, without having a clear center. Of course
there are certain hirarchies in the nettime-network. But there are
several opportunities to 'route around' it. The main principle of
nettime might be a productive vagueness. A flexibility of never reaching
an absolute minimum or maximum, a certain production of a social scope,
which often turns out to represent the interest of the main group of
active contributors. But any new document functions as a vektor which
recontextualizes what was already posted. One knows that somewhere an
archive stores the stream of documents, documenting the path the discourse
went through different time zones, and net phases.

As a collaborative project the principle of selection is as easy as
unclear, what comes in, is part of the flow, and anyone has the risk to
send something 'useless' or 'noisy'. Public Dialogue is more or less the
first step to an entropic decline of mailinglist. Therefore nettime is
aiming on a big threshhold to reply to textes in the public, while it
often happens that private mail contextualizes where someone else might
have no further interests to discuss. Between Dialogue and a One-To-Many
list there are different ways of Moderating a list. The goal still is the
collaborative construction of a body of knowledge which is fre from the
interests of a company, an institution, or even a certain editorial team.
Of course nettime has certain centers, but before you might say that only
two people are selecting the textes, you should look on the
senders/authors adress, it becomes obvious that behind the flow of nettime
stands not one editorial team but a complex network of academical,
subcultural, private and professional relations which select textes in a
way which makes the traditional editing team obsolete. of course it still
needs persons which make selections, which even moderate or organizing
publishing activities in paper-space. The text types, which we prefer to
name genres are mainly articles, essays, reports, threads (discussions),
reviews, poems, quotes and announcements. The relation of Quality and
Quantity in nettime follows fuzzy rules. It is more the knowledge to
create content and cultural capital avoiding a direct commerical use. This
creates a certain dynamic which forces professional and commercial
'followers' to maybe loose their conservative and reglementatory course,
and gain effectivity in the discourse, which is the aim of crititique. It
is not any more the case that the academy, or a publishing house can
determine which textes are wanted or even distributed. But only a few of
them see the chances of the net for micropublishing. Nettime is in this
wuch more simliar to the xerox networks in the former eastern blocks,
especially interesting for people which can't afford to buy imported
books. A certain barrier of virtual dirtyness, like typos and formatting
errors, but mainly an unedited use of net-English, helps to hide the
project in the technical sublime of the ascii-world. Only those who has a
certain knowledge or interest will remain or hear about the group. It is
not as all the logic of mass media. 

Nettime is trying to avoid its own promotion and advertisment, a too fast
growth and too much refernces, in this way it builds up a relativly
continous but semi-private flow in the exhaustive content-economy of the
nets where effectiveness and presence are measured in number of users, or
clicks. This is the logic of Television and Magazines. Small Media like
nettime has other tasks to do then defining and controling a 
public-sphere. The diversity of the flow of textes represents a diversity
experienced on the street, in a bar or a club. There is a certain social
selection, but it never reaches the censorship which is done under the
principles of creating scarcity and excluding ideas and intensity through
'professional quality control'. Nettime is existing and used because there
is no other media for the same purposes available on the net Nettime
brings in a simple way specialists, authors, editiors, artists of a
special interest group together. 

One of the main Principles of nettime is to forget about the metaphor of the
magazine. The textes in nettime might be the same which appear in Magazines,
but it is much more a distribution channel which may lead into magazines or
out of them. What one is basically missing in a time-based discontinous flow
of documents is the grouping into table of contents. The flow itself whith
certain repetitions of names and themes documents an inner social logic
of selection and interest, of distraction of boredom. Not one of the
subscribers of nettime will ever have read all textes, but the format is
already much more condensed and discoursive then the average
talk-and-reply-list which forms completly different social dynamics and
suffers often the effects of amplified emotions through minmal channels.
Prepublishing means a policy which gives publishers the chance to get
in contact with an author and buy a text. Reprublishing goves nettime
the chance to ask often the same Publishers to get back a text. This is
an economy of agreement which is aware of a dialectique of exploitation
and exploration. Because an environment like nettime is based on no
budget and hi credibility, it is always possible to try to speed up
production or activities, change fields or distract with noise so that
exploitation becomes more different. The extreme form of fighting against
the abuse of the good will of authors and member of nettime could be
the collaboration with projects in the model of pirate utopias which
are situated in territories or under protocols which are hard to
reach for publishers even if copyright rights might get violated.
Inversive Publishing means Project like ZKP. The retransfering into
the Paperworld. Only here one may make money in the near future to
pay Authors, which do not loose their credibility and chance to
modulate a vivid process. A world edition of ZKP may get published

The copyright liberation front or the Free Content Coalition
are fighting for the accesability of basic common content like
Enzyclopaedias, Comics, Technotracks, Cyberculture. They might cooperate
with the Polish, Chinese or Russian Mafia, but the goal is the
availability of certain Information for free. Anyone who can afford it
should by content or software in a official shop. In the traditional
production of content not the author but the advertiser gets payed first.
The inner interdependencies of advertisment and content are often
neglected in the discussions around censorship. Privacy may be at first of
an interest of companies which try to hide their financial data before
taxes. The issue of Free Content has interestingly no Lobby group yet,
even if Public Online Libraries where the most common promises of the
early Superhiqway Propaganda. It is clear that social conflicts and
poverty will determine who needs free content online. As long as the
Archives on the net are open, it is not a false idea to build up private
backups before the content castles close their doors. 

some short notes to the city-metaphor. while ther are already several books
which theorize the model of the city in relation to the net, it is obvious
that the discourse of architecture is still centered around the goal of
building houses or doing art, while in between one is developing representative
monuments. One of the most urgent developments in the academic field should
be a transdiciplinarian research group which combines the experiences of
architecure in conceptualizing and designing social space with the need
to build new interfaces which leave the Desktop Metaphor of the
'private Computer'. Software standards like VRML are maybe leading in the
wrong direction as it is also important to rethink how space is conceptualized
psychologically and pysiologically, or encoded through cultural products like
music, language, gestures, fashion. Everything which i read until now about
the net and the city is much to descriptive to show the need and potential
for architects of the International Cities. The real existing metaphors are
too depressive to talk about, Groupware like the one of IBM/Lotus is only
automatizing certain distributed processed of document editing, it is
interestingly extremely cautious with every use of metaphors, enforcing the
abstractions of an office machine. New social interfaces will include the
Theories of Social Systems, Discourse Analysis, Transaction etc etc.

It is very certain that projects like Digitale Stad Amsterdam or
Internationale Stadt Berlin will soon become prototypes of
transdiciplinarian Research Groups which are developing a process design
and the transactional Interfaces for Social Computing. The possible errors
of such utopias might be overwehlming the chances for a new rise of the
public sphere. It is obvious that one will need 'narrations' simliar to
theme parks, where such experiments do interfere with dayly life in a
controled way. Another fast expanding Market are Multiuser Games like
Quake. A collaborative working environment will still be the main goal of
projects like nettime. The more subscribers it gets the more possible a
split of into subgroups and filter projects gets possible. 

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