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<nettime> The Politics of Cultural Memory
Eric Kluitenberg on Thu, 22 Jul 1999 23:11:15 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> The Politics of Cultural Memory


Dear nettimers,

This rather long text is the extension of a lecture I presented in Tirana
(Piramedia), Tallinn (ACTION - REFLECTION) and Prague (Translocation). 
Because of the enormous scope of the topic I opted for a rather personal
approach. The text will be published in the forthcoming book MEDIA ·
REVOLUTION, edited by Stephen Kovats, Edition Bauhaus #6, published by the
Campus Verlag (Frankfurt a/M & New York), and is due for release as a
biligual german/english edition on October 11, 1999. It will be
accompanied by the ostranenie 99 CD ROM. 

hope it is of interest to a few of you

eric



___________________


The Politics of Cultural Memory



	Upon her spoon this motto
	wonderfully designed:
	"Violence completes the partial mind." [0]



Identity, Belonging and Necessity

A visit I made to Tirana (Albania) in April 1998 marked the start of a
personal investigation. An investigation into a complicated field,
somewhere between cultural memory and politics. What I wanted to do is to
sketch out and map a territory of identity, memory, politics, and media. 
The need for this was primarily of a personal nature. There was no
expectation that I would be able to get any kind of complete understanding
of what the relationship of politics and cultural memory entails.
Certainly not beyond the excellent writings that have been produced
already in this area, most of whom I am quite ignorant of. Yet, feeling
the need to do this, if only for myself, seemed enough of an incentive.
Since everyone's experience is always different and specific, my findings
might even be useful for others grappling with the same questions I wanted
to map out. 

My need for this investigation originated from an unresolved dilemma. 
Writing this in July 1999, the dilemma, obviously, remains unresolved,
though it still strikes me as something dramatic. One of those crucial
experiences you would have gladly dispensed with. 

This particular story starts in Tallinn in 1995. I was invited to help put
together a conference on the social and cultural impact of digital media
and networking technologies on the Baltic states, called "Interstanding -
Understanding Interactivity". The aim of the event was to go beyond the
economic and technological perspectives, and develop something of a
critical cultural and social point of view. 

We were at the end of the second day of the three-day conference. The
topic was "Community and Identity in the Global Infosphere", and a host of
speakers was dealing with ways of reconstructing identity and the social
sphere in the realm of digital media. At some point the sys-op of the
ZAMIR peace network from the former Yugoslavia (who happened to be present
in the audience)  grabbed the microphone and made a short, clear, and
rather devastating comment: 

"We've been talking all day about identity issues now, and their value.
Our recent experiences, however, have taught us that nothing sets people
more apart than identity!" 

I had, as I still have, no answer to this objection. It couldn't have
pinpointed the dilemma more clearly. The idea we had started from was to
question what two simultaneous extraordinary transformations meant for a
country like Estonia. On the one hand Estonia was contained in a process
of re-inventing its national identity, a few years after breaking free
from the former Soviet Empire and Russian rule. At the same time Estonia
had entered the information era overnight, depending for its economic
survival on a networked international economy that undermined the very
notions of national sovereignty it had just retained. The notion of a
national Estonian identity is deeply problematic, if only because of the
large Russian minority within its borders, which comprises one third of
the overall population of the country. 

The reconstitution of national identity is a fundamental dilemma that pops
up again and again in the aftermath of the revolutionary changes that have
taken places in the former 'East'. Identity is belonging, and a basic
sense of belonging to me seems indispensable for any kind of social
structure to be able to function, for any kind of social cohesion to
emerge. The refusal of the identity question in name of a universal
ideology (modernism) or materialist system (neo-liberalism), inevitably
leads to a reactionary response. Identity forges connection, but it is
simultaneously also a principle of separation. This principle of
separation is at the heart of the dilemma we suddenly saw ourselves faced
with that afternoon in Tallinn. 


Deep Europe

Europe is a container of identities. A sedimental layering of cultures
past and present, in permanent flux between moments of crisis and tragic
sublimity. In this shifting landscape the dilemmas of identity can turn
into drama, especially in those regions where Europe is at its 'deepest',
i.e. where most identities overlap (and collide). This sedimentary image
of the cultural map of Europe derives from the concept of Deep Europe, as
put forward by the Bulgarian artist Luchezar Boyadijev. Boyadijev provides
a highly original reading of post-wall Europe. 

In Boyadijev's explanation of 'Deep Europe', "the notion is a metaphor
which could be problematic. In the logic of this metaphor, deepness or
depth is where there are a lot of overlapping identities of various
people.  Overlapping in terms of claims over certain historical past, or
certain events or certain historical figures or even territories in some
cases. It could also be claims over language or alphabet, it could be
anything.  Europe is deepest, where there are a lot of overlapping
identities." 

The formation of identity is a fundamentally dynamic process. It is also
subject to manipulation. The construction of identity refers to a reading
of the past that can be subjective, incomplete. Sometimes it is linked to
clear interests of a group. It is often difficult to fully substantiate
the claims made in this formation process. Identity, therefore, is not
just belonging, it is clearly also politics. 

Identity and memory are connected. Identity at the very least means to
remember one's origins. If memory belongs to a group, a time, a region, a
nation or any other larger structure, it immediately becomes deeply
political. Cultural memory is crucial in the formation of an identity that
transcends the merely personal. Cultural memory is not just museums, books
and monuments. Cultural Memory rather is politics pur sang! 


Cultural Memory and Collective Identity

The Estonian philosopher Hasso Krull once remarked in one of his lectures
that "history is a machine going nowhere". Though he might be right, the
idea does not seem very useful to the formation of any particular kind of
social order (such as a nation state). Krull's contention will therefore
not be likely to gain much approval amongst politicians, whatever their
sign may be. It is more interesting for any kind of politics to create a
meaningful context, both for the present as well as the past. 

This meaningful context can best be understood as a narrative, a way in
which material objects, events, documents and descriptions are linked
together into a coherent narration of past and present. This narration
conveys to its audience how the present derives from the past, and how the
signs that structure and signify the world around them, bear witness to
this inextricable connection between past and present. What the objects of
the past tell their audience is the necessary state of things in the
present. A society doesn't just exist, it is an emergent property of a
multitude of events that have shaped its current state. Its members are
never alone or alienated, rather, they are interwoven in the very
historical fabric of that society, which shapes their perceptions and
values as much as their immediate physical and social environment. 

The objects belonging to the cultural heritage of a given society are
never isolated bodies in a decontextualised hyperspace, nor are they
self-contained objects in a post-historical era. Their symbolic
significance is not contained so much in their artistic or aesthetic
qualities as such, but rather in the degree to which they are part of a
convincing narrative that binds the object and the viewer together in a
shared system of beliefs. What the object and the audience tell each other
is that their inalienable connection testifies to a continuity, which
transcends the limitations of the merely individual, in time (history) as
well as in space (a people). 

That is, if you believe in it. 

There are various ways to describe this function. The Egyptologist Jan
Assmann speaks of cultural memory as a connective structure founding group
identity through ritual and a textual coherence [1]. He explains that the
past is never remembered for its own sake. Its main functions are to
create a sense of continuity and to act as a motor for development. The
present is situated at the end of a collective path as meaningful,
necessary and unalterable. Assman defines such cultural narratives as
'mytho-motorics'.  They motivate development and change by presenting the
present as a deficient reflection of a heroic mythological past. A past
which should be restored for the future. 

What this view implies is that cultural memory acts beyond the founding of
group identity and continuity of present and past, into the future. It
presents a particular view of the future as necessary, and provides
direction for collective action in the present to move towards it. The
goal is to recapture and restore the ideals which have been lost in the
deficient imperfections of present day-life. Ideals that can be retained
through collective action, whether this be in the form of ritual or rather
through revolutionary change. 

Cultural memory in a living culture is never fixed. It involves a constant
reinterpretation of the present in terms of the past to decide on possible
actions for the future. Meaning can shift and rituals can take on
different forms. Rather than being fixed in an anthropological text book,
the cultural memory of living cultures is suspect to manipulation. Since
the definition of cultural memory depends on a continuous exchange between
the memory objects of a given culture and their interpretation by its
members, it is however difficult to reveal the outcome as fraud. Cultural
memory simply is the outcome of this interplay. It is the process that
counts, and not its arbitrary fixation. 

The definition of identity that results from this memory construction,
therefore is deeply imaginary. Benedict Anderson has convincingly argued
that "all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face
contact are imagined." Imagined because they deal with how people imagine
themselves and one another. Today almost all communities people belong to,
are too large to allow for direct face to face contact between all its
members. Therefore the modes of imagination employed to imagine one's
community must somehow be organised via an inbetween mechanism or
apparatus (i.e. media in the broadest sense of the word). 

The set of values and ideas that binds people together in a community
necessarily have to become mediated values and ideas. There is nothing new
in this, nor is it something pertaining specifically to the formation of
the nation state. Someone argued with me after a lecture about this topic
that if you would have asked a random inhabitant of Western Europe in the
late medieval times to define her or his identity, the most likely
response would have been; "Christian", clearly illustrating a grand
transnational identity-structure. Even more so, the measure of control
over the media that dominated identity discourse then and now is probably
quite comparable. The era of electronic media does, however, introduce a
new dimension of speed to this process; a fatal acceleration towards the
immediate. 


Location of Memory: 

Where is the memory of a culture, of a society located?  Principally in
the memory objects that hold the traces of the past. As noted before, in a
living culture this location is fluid and dynamic.  Memory is stored both
in material and immaterial forms. 

A seemingly stable container of cultural memory is the built environment. 
The streets of cities and villages, the architecture of the buildings, the
artefacts that inhabit the living space, they all testify to the
persistence of a culture's and a societies' memory. It was hardly a
surprise, in retrospect, that an ahistorical, or maybe better
anti-historical, cultural movement such as the Italian Futurists hailed
the virtues of war to destroy the stifling remains of moulded, bankrupt
and corrupted cultural history. The explosive beauty of the modern war
machine, ecstatically embraced as a relentlessly powerful tool to break
the chains of a suffocating cultural past. 

The monument as a physical embodiment of community memory, has, of course,
always been a focal point for the struggles over cultural memory. 

Cultural memory is also contained in immaterial form. First of all in
language, both in spoken language as well as in its written forms. Orality
and speech seem to be imbued with a much more subtle connection to
history.  Speech, through accent and choice of words is usually connected
to a regional origin. Accent and dialect are the regional containers of
cultural memory par excellence, they are as much part of the narration of
past and present, as the stories they convey. It would be interesting to
question if the concept of a nation state is conceivable at all without a
writing system? 

Like the monument, language is an embodiment of community memory, albeit
an immaterial one. Language has often become the battle ground for
cultural and political conflicts. In part these conflicts revolve around
the suppression of a local language or dialect to facilitate the
superimposition of a new dominant cultural system. There are also other
more hidden forms of assimilation and resistance that can become the
object of such clashes. 

In Estonia, for instance, the suppression of the Estonian language was
quite overt during the Soviet occupation of the country. The Estonian
language was stripped of its official use-value and relegated to the
personal realm. Russian as the new state language (i.e. the language of
bureaucracy) took its place. But exactly through this shift from public
life to the personal sphere, the threatened national identity and the
personal identification of the Estonians became deeply associated with the
use of the Estonian language. For them it was particularly shocking that
Estonian officials of the Soviet system started to 'Russify' the Estonian
language by importing alien language structures from the Russian language
into Estonian. One such example was the introductory phrase most Russians
would use, saying "I am X, son of Y", which was then also used by these
officials when they introduced themselves in Estonian. By most Estonians
these subtle modifications of their native language, were felt as a
particularly direct assault on the sovereignty of this last personal
sphere. 

Music is another strong container of culturally specific memory
structures, like rhyme, its formal characteristics ensure a pertinence
from one generation to the next beyond and outside of a writing system. In
a larger sense, aesthetic and formal design principles are the immaterial
principles that structure the awareness of the viewer about the cultural
significance of individual objects, even if no explicit story is connected
to them.  Obviously there are countless art objects and use objects that
physically embody these principles, but it seems that their "narration"
determines their meaning in a living culture. Cultural memory in these
instances is located principally in our heads, rather than in the memory
objects themselves. 

Today, this memory function is increasingly organised via the media
system, of print, electric, electronic and digital media. This media
system has become increasingly integrated, both through technological
developments (such as digitalisation), and because of economic integration
(mergers and concentration in the media-industries). This integrated media
system internalises the main functions of cultural memory, it becomes its
principal 'location'. It acts as a documentation system, of current as
well as past events. The latter by making use of continuous references to
that past with historical media documents. The integrated media-space also
acts as a system of symbolic representation; of individuals that represent
power (political leadership) or spiritual values (religious leaders), or
simply by setting an artistic or interpretative agenda. 

What the media system is particularly good at is the creation of
collective narratives. TV so far champions this function as Marshall
McLuhan already rightfully observed in the mid-sixties, reflecting on the
TV coverage of the Kennedy funeral.  McLuhan writes: "Kennedy was an
excellent TV image. With TV, Kennedy found it natural to involve the
nation in the office of the Presidency, both as an operation and as an
image. TV reaches out for the corporate attributes of office. Potentially,
it can transform the Presidency into a monarchistic dynasty. A merely
elective Presidency scarcely affords the depth of dedication and
commitment demanded by the TV form." [2] (...)"Perhaps it was the Kennedy
funeral that most strongly impressed the audience with the power of TV to
invest an occasion with the character of corporate participation. No
national event except in sports has ever had such coverage or such an
audience. It revealed the unrivalled power of TV to achieve involvement in
a complex process. The funeral as a corporate process caused even the
image of sport to pale and dwindle into punny proportions. The Kennedy
funeral, in short, manifested the power of TV to involve an entire
population in a ritual process." [3]

Quite recently this enormous power of TV to integrate a public of billions
into a collective act of cognitive processing in depth was again
strikingly illustrated. First by the televised wedding of Princess Diana,
but most of all by the almost global live coverage of her funeral,
following her tragic death. In the process of the televisual rendition of
a royal fairy tale-turned-nightmare, Princess Di became a purely
symbolical embodiment of community values and aspirations, making her no
more real than Delacroix's liberty, leading the people. 


Commodification of cultural memory in the information age

The European Union has identified Europe's cultural heritage as its
greatest 'info-asset' for the information economy of the future. It has
engaged in a scheme for offering multimedia access to Europe's cultural
heritage as a business opportunity. Given that the core of the future
information economy is information goods, and given that there is a
particular interest in rich "content" for the information and
communication structures of the "emerging information society", the EU has
declared the commercial exploitation of multi-media access to the cultural
heritage of Europe the highest aim of its funding programs in this field. 

Through a "Memorandum of Understanding" and the establishment of
"co-operation frameworks" such as MEDICI (Multi Media Access to Europe's
Cultural Heritage), this new market sector (cultural content industries)
is actively encouraged. The notion of culture as public domain does not
seem to have been a consideration when these policies were developed. Even
less so does this policy-framework open up any spaces for critical debate. 

This failed opportunity may in part be understood as a reluctance on the
part of the European Union to give itself a cultural definition, given the
great diversity of cultural identities within its (expanding) territory.
It is, however, problematic that in a period of European integration, the
EU is not willing or able to create a space for critical debate about the
urgent questions of the new cultural formations in Europe. Together with
the lack of democratic substance the European Union has become an abstract
and alienated technocratic and bureaucratic structure, that affords little
opportunity for identification to its 'citizens'. 


Uncritical Regionalism

Boris Groys has pointed out a more subtle form of commodification of
cultural memory. It starts with a strong anti-modern resentment, which is
particularly notable in the countries of the "former East" of Europe.
Groys notes that modern art does indeed negate the old cultural identities
and their perceived historical unicity, originality and authenticity. The
defenders of national identity do not appreciate that, but also the
"international visitor of the virtual museum of identities", who has no
wish to be confused by ambiguous signs, has no appreciation for it. 

This postmodern cultural tourist, lost in the decontextualised societies
of spectacles and ubiquitous consumerism, is looking for a lost cultural
authenticity which she/he hopes to find in the revival of pre-modern
identity and sentiment, particularly in 'the former East'. "The global,
postmodern, flâneur, lacking a clear definition of identity, is certainly
sceptical about any claim to a universal truth. But it is exactly this
fundamental scepticism that allows the acceptance of any other point of
view, as long as it understands itself as regional and does not claim
universal validity", Groys writes. This attitude results in an unpleasant
complicity of a reactionary regionalism and the international cultural
tourist industry, where even certain cultural fundamentalisms are
uncritically accepted, as long as they manifest their claims to an
absolute truth on a regional plane. [4]

Although Groys acknowledges the museum as a typically modern institution,
isolating objects from the specific historical and socio-political context
in which they operate, the "museified gaze" of the repressive politics of
identity and the international cultural tourist are for him bound together
with the museum into a single system. Certain specified memory-objects are
charged with meaning by these actors, much in the same way as the museum
carefully enacts their display into a coherent narration, to create the
deeply desired illusion of a stable identity. The regional fundamentalist'
dictator is thus seen as a somewhat hyper active, but nonetheless
sympathetic kind of curator. [5] A last defence outpost of difference in
an ocean of negated signs. 



Perversion of memory


"Nobody, either now or in the future, has the right to beat you!" 

In the Balkans, where Europe is at its deepest, the battles over identity
and memory are the most severe. The clashes over history, territory,
belonging, language and religious identity have a traditionally violent
character and are linked with some of most tragic chapters of European
history. In the wake of European integration and the emergence of
globalisation the regional fundamentalist wars seem to have reached an
unprecedented level of intensity and destructiveness. 

In March 1989, the Slovenian art collective NSK (Neue Slovenische Kunst) /
Laibach staged a chilling performance in Belgrade, called "Lecture", which
was to pre-figure the terrible events to follow. The performance also
revealed the dangerous character of one of the most sad perversions of
cultural memory of recent history. In the NSK 'lecture' parts of
appropriated speeches by the nationalist Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic,
Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbles, and the architect of British
pre-worldwar II appeasement politics Richard Chamberlain, provided the
elements of an explosive mixture. 

Three months later, Slobodan Milosevic would speak in almost the exact
same words on Kosovo Polje, the Field of Black Birds, commemorating the
600th anniversary of the Serbs' defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Turk
Empire in 1389 on that very "field of black birds". [6] At this occasion
Milosevic used his famous words 'nobody has the right to beat you',
referring to the growing animosities between the Serb and Albanian
population of Kosovo. 

Both ethnic groups disputed their contesting historical claims over the
territory of Kosovo. The Serbs stressed their long lived cultural roots in
the Kosovar soil, exemplified by the many cultural heritage sites
consisting of medieval churches, monasteries and Serbian dominated cities
and villages. The Albanians on their part stressed their decendance of the
ancient Illyrians, a people who are believed to have occupied the Balkans
some time before the ancient Greeks - and 1,000 years before the Slavs. 

In the nationalist rhetoric of the Milosevic regime the cultural heritage
sites of Kosovo, such as the famous monastries of Zica, Decani, and
Vansjka, were functionalised to serve a sinister political program. Kosovo
was declared the cradle of Serbian culture and the Serbian nation, a
theory that had been very popular since the days of the Serbian
nationalist of the late 19th century. It had been this nationalist
movement that managed to shake of Ottoman rule finally in 1878, after 500
years of occupation. By portraying the cradle of the proud Serbian nation
under threat, the right and the need for its territorial defence and
ethnic purification was created by the Milosevic regime. 

In the ten years this regime has ruled the remains of the former
Yugoslavia, it never failed to recognise the importance of the media and
the TV in particular. Perhaps Milosevic had read McLuhan with more than an
absent minded interest. He and his advisors knew very well how the TV
could be employed to create the collective narratives needed to justify
his nationalist and ethnically hyper-violent politics, and how to motivate
the Serbian people to engage in action. 

TV according to McLuhan is a cold medium, it involves in deep cognitive
processing, but does not excite the viewer. If this is true, then the
motivation of the viewer towards action of required more than the simple
exposure to a blatant political message. Goebbles already noted that
propaganda requires the creation of an 'optimum anxiety level'; a feeling
of threat and unrest that should, however, not transgress the boundaries
of panic. 

In Serbia the feeling of constant threat was created by the Milosevic
regime in various ways. On state-television a relentless campaign, using
the horrific images of forced baptism of orthodox Serbs in Croatian
worldwar II death camps hammered home the message of the luring dangers
next door. The reports of international criticism reinforced the feelings
of being under siege of practically the rest of the world, while mythic
stories of the partisan achievements helped to boost moral. In this
gruesome media-mix the evening news became the focal point of a national
mania, a nation wide brainwash that slowly but surely prepared the grounds
for war. 

When considering the various contesting claims about history, territory,
language and religion, within the terrain of the former Yugoslavia, the
current two dimensional maps of the international 'peace' brokering
agencies seem hopelessly beside the point. When these claims, Croatian,
Serbian, Muslim, (or possibly even Austro Hungarian), are projected
individually onto this terrain, virtually identical maps emerge. Each of
these maps would more or less cover the entire terrain of the former
Yugoslavia. This layering of contesting claims and identities over the
disputed territory is what constitutes the depth of the Balkans and marks
its tragedy. Only a three-dimensional map of the terrain of the former
Yugoslavia can therefore properly explain the complexity of its cultural
history. It is also clear, therefore, that within the current
two-dimensional logic of the international peace-brokering agencies, the
conflicts on the Balkans cannot be resolved. 


Access to cultural memory and participatory identity construction


In his book "The Rise of the Network Society", Manuel Castells, analyses
the rise of two diverging spatial logics. One of these spatial logics is
close to what we customarily think of when considering the concept of
physical space. Castells calls it the 'space of place'. In this spatial
logic, experience is located in an embodied existence, here and now. But
this experience is heightened, and to some extent estranged, by the
emergence of a second spatial logic, which, although connected to the
first, seems to evolve outside of the control of the vast majority of the
earth's inhabitants; the 'space of flows'. The space of flows consists of
the countless disembodied informational and economic interactions within
the world's information and communication networks, and is quickly
becoming the prime locus of economic power and material wealth. 

Given the profound impact the new configurations of the space of flows
increasingly will have on most peoples lives, Castells is deeply concerned
about the divergence of these two spatial logics. During the preparatory
discussions for the program of the third Next 5 Minutes conference on
Tactical Media in Amsterdam (march 1999), David Garcia, one of the
co-editors on our team felt the need to respond to Castells' call for
action.  Garcia: (...) I believe we must create a more consciously
dialectical relationship between these two realms, (which Manuel Castells
describes as the Space of Flows and the Space of Place) because (with
Castells) if they are allowed to diverge to widely, if cultural and
physical bridges are not built between these two spatial logic's we may be
heading (we may already be there) towards life in two parallel universes
"whose times cannot meet because they are warped into different dimensions
of hyper space".  (...) I believe that one such bridge or entry point may
lie in notions of reclaiming memory through re-imagining the public
monument. I still believe that any broad discussion about the public
domain can not be separated from the physical embodiments of community
memory in the form of public monuments. "The model here is that of the
city (the polis) in classical antiquity, and the stress is the memorable
action of the citizen, as it publicly endures in narrative". 

Public narrative is an activating principle. Memory is never constructed
solely for its own sake: It structures the relationship between past and
present to formulate a plan for future action. Disputes about public
narratives, in the Space of Place are traditionally negotiated
non-violently through democratic participation, both in the act of
creating memory and the formulation of plans for future action, as well as
their continuous revision. The new networked space of flows requires a
similar democratic participation, or public access. 

More importantly, the new space of networked communications still holds a
promise and a more profound potential for public participation than the
accustomed modes of participatory decision making. It transcends the
limitations of the regional focus of the embodied space of place, but it
also decenters the media control over the completely centralised
structures of broadcast media (radio and TV). Paradoxically the new Space
of Flows simultaneously holds the potential of absolute transparency,
making every single operation within the informational environment
perfectly traceable.  At which point it threatens to become a space of
absolute control and observation - the ultimate instrument of
authoritarianism. 

The decentralised media and communications model that the Internet
introduced in the beginning of the nineties, is dissipating quickly under
the pressures of commercialisation, and (even worse) government control
over 'harmful content'. Still the best chance for avoiding the dangerous
manipulation of memory by an increasingly sophisticated medialised
propaganda machine, is the radical opening of the media-landscape for a
multiplicity of uses. This consciously opened mediascape will constitute
an integrated electronic space of flows, where countless people will
engage in the participatory construction of memories and identities,
simply by creating their own heterogeneous messages... 

Momentarily, three competing models for the future media landscape
circulate; a model of complete centralised control, countered by the model
of complete privatisation and market regulation, and thirdly the model of
the networked public sphere. None of these models are self-evident or
inevitable outcomes of the current phase of transformation the networked
communication system is going through. Their instigation is a matter of
choice, of clear real-world interests, and of policy. These choices are
part of a fundamental political struggle, whose outcome will determine
whether the new space of flows will be as experientally empty as the
technocratic structures of the EU, or whether it can offer the spaces of
identification and multiplicity that Europe as a whole at least, so
blatantly lacks at the moment. 



Epilogue: Liberate the wires - Free the ether - Give us Bandwidth! 

Bandwidth is a technical term. It refers to the information transfer rate
of an electronic communications system. In social and political terms it
embodies the question of access to the international communications
networks, in particular to digital networks such as the Internet. 

The Bandwidth Campaign, which was held as part of the Hybrid Workspace
temporary media laboratory at documenta X in Kassel, centred on the demand
for a more equal distribution of bandwidth across the earth and within
society. It made a radical demand for the creation of structures for
public bandwidth to accommodate a host of participatory functions. In the
best traditions of the modern art of political propaganda a set of
unambiguous slogans was created. A selection of these slogans completes my
journey for now... 

Bandwidth is the power to speak

Bandwidth is the ability to assert yourself

Bandwidth is the Power of Access

Access to information and communication should be a fundamental democratic
right, for all citizens of the world

We want bandwidth now! 


---- Notes:  ----

0 - distilled from the song "War" by Henry Cow (Anthony Moore / Peter
Belgvad), 1974.
1 - I paraphrase Volker Grassmuck here from his text "The Living Museum",
which has been an invaluable source of references. The text can be found
at: http://www.race.u-tokyo.ac.jp/RACE/TGM/Texts/Museum/museum.html
Grassmuck refers in his text to: Jan Assmann, "Das kulturelle Gedächtnis.
Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen", Beck,
München, 1997.
2  - Marshall McLuhan, "Understanding Media - The Extensions of Man", 1964,
cited from Routledge, London, 1994, p. 336
3 -  ibid, p. 337
4 -  Boris Groys, "Logik der Sammlung", Carl Hanser Verlag, München, 1997,
pp. 52-53.
5 -  ibid, p. 54
6 - "Kosovo" in Serbian means "black bird"


Eric Kluitenberg,
Amsterdam, July 1999.



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