The Curious Retreat of Art (open!)

While the current historical situation demands urgently a redefinition of authorship, the art world offers very little in terms of critique or alternative practice.

Much of the 20th century’s avant-garde art can be read as a revolt against the bourgeois conception of the artist as an exceptional individual who creates art through a mysterious process of introspection into his – mainly his – particularly sensitive soul. The introduction of mass-produced materials into artworks, of randomness, the exploration of the subconscious and, after WWII, the turn towards machinic and algorithmic processes, all served to decentre the process of making art away from the artist’s inner world and his or her complete control. In the 1960s, literary theory caught up and famously declared the death of the authoritative, omniscient author. The matter seemed to have been laid to rest by Foucault’s famous “murmur of indifference:” ‘What matter who’s speaking?’”

All of this has been debated to death and the issues have mostly been settled, but, now that the battles over the conception of authorship and associated constructions of rights and modes of ownership have moved from the field of cultural theory to the centre of society, the art world – in which “contemporary art” plays a minor supporting role – has fallen curiously silent. Not only that, the deeply neoliberal makeover of the last two decades have actually moved it into the opposite direction. Authorship and individuality are being asserted more strongly than ever. This is not due solely to the power of market forces with their predictable need for stars and commodities.

Interview on the Internet after Snowden

[Das Interview gibt es auch in Deutsch]

Uschi Reiter: With the Snowden affair the Internet as space for surveillance has reached a wider public. This incident and the excitement it caused hasn’t brought about any major withdrawal from the social network Facebook, for example. What impact does this knowledge of control have on the way we culturally act and communicate on the net?

Felix Stalder: As long as there is no real alternative to the ever expanding parts of the Internet, that act as surveillance spaces, the current discussion about the way we should act on the net will remain quite limited. Cryptoparties and such are more symbolic acts. As long as the infrastructure of surveillance is optimised, creating individualised private spheres later will remain a highly complex matter. So it will always be a minority activity.

On the other hand, what we can see already is a shift in general assumptions. Extensive surveillance is considered normal, defending yourself against it naive. In the case of legal actions taken against Google’s data mining, Google justified itself recently by saying that Gmail users can’t expect that their e-mails and private information will not read and analysed (“a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties”).

Uschi Reiter: Encrypting e-mails and anonymisation services such as Tor is more of practise of geeks. Do you think this practise will spread?

Das Paradox der "sozialen Medien"

Clemens Apprich gab der Springerin (Nr.3/2013) ein schönes Interview zu den "Netzkulturen der 1990er Jahren". Zentrales Thema ist die Hybridisierung von online und offline, und die lokale Spezifität, die sich daraus ergibt. Anlass dazu war die Publikation des Buches "Vergessene Zukunft. Radikale Netzkulturen in Europa", welches wir gemeinsam letztes Jahr herausgeben haben. Das Interview ist leider nicht online, deshalb hier nur als scan (PDF, 1.5 MB).

three concurrent struggles

At the moment, i think in the West (core and periphery) we can distinguish between three struggles in advanced stages.

One is against authoritarian regimes that force a closed set of values on their increasingly diverse societies. Within these societies, a new mind set is emerging that values, understands and can deal with this diversity.

Another one is against the subversion of the democratic processes through the capture of the traditional institutions of liberal democracy by financial markets, which includes the fight against austerity policies and the invention of new democratic institutions redrawing the balance between participation and representation.

And, one is against the increasing subversion of civil liberties through the militarization of the state. This process is certainly the most advanced in the US, and so is the resistance against also mainly coming from the US. However, not from organized interests, but from brave individuals who cannot tolerate the contradiction between what they are supposed to do (defend liberty) and what they are actually doing (destroy liberty).

Of these three, I think the first one we can win and many many people in networks like this and places too numerous to count are working on this. This is what the Internet was made for, particularly those layers that we all can access (aka the "front end of the internet")

The second one is really hard, but also manageable. Perhaps not winning, but it can redraw the balance of forces. The contradictions evident in society can be mobilized by us. A lot of people are working on this too, and there is an increasing mood, from what I understand, that the next step (for social movements) is about creating institutions that can realize the promises we all see.

Ein Anderes oder keines: Urheberrecht am Wendepunkt

Präsentation vor ParlamentarierInnen in Bern, organisiert durch die parlamentarische Gruppe Digitale Nachhaltigkeit.

Update: Hier noch der Bericht über die Veranstaltung, inkl. aller Präsentationen und der Diskussion als Video.

Instrastrukturen des Sozialen Netz: Straße, Karte und selbstfahrendes Auto in einem

Mein Beitrag in der Berliner Gazette zu den Machtverhätnissen in den Infrastrukturen des Netzes.

Das heutige Internet bietet „out-of-the-box“, und dazu noch meistens kostenlos, sehr viel Organisationsfähigkeit an. Alles ist leicht zugänglich und leicht zu benutzen, aber dennoch erstaunlich effektiv und ermöglicht Menschen und Handlungen in einer Masse zu organisieren, für die noch vor kurzem eine große, teure bürokratische Organisation notwendig gewesen wäre.

Die Idee des „Organisierens ohne Organisation“ (Clay Shirky) atmet jenen optimistischen Geist, der das Netz nach wie vor umgibt: die Vision einer transparenten, auf weitgehender Freiwilligkeit beruhenden Gesellschaft, die Utopie der semiotischen Demokratie, der Fähigkeit der UserInnen, Neues zu kreieren, es zu teilen und am öffentlichen kulturellen Diskurs teilzunehmen. Es ist der sich immer wieder erneuernde Traum des Internets.

Die leichten, flexiblen Organisationen sind eine Realität, eine erfreuliche sogar. Aber sie sind nur die Hälfte der Gleichung und das Gerede davon ist sehr problematisch. Denn die Idee selbst maskiert die andere Hälfte der Gleichung, nämlich dass sehr viele der Ressourcen des Organisierens aus den Organisationen ausgewandert sind und in die Infrastruktur selbst verlagert wurden.

Der ganze Beitrag in der Berliner Gazette

The Author at the End of the Gutenberg Galaxy

I just finished my talk at Former West, a contemporary art research, education, publishing, and exhibition project (2008–2014). Below are my slides. The talk was also recorded. Perhaps it will be made available later. Nothing I can influence.

Afterwards, there was a great discussion with Katja Mayer and Theo Röhle on "Rankings and Cartels. Self-Optimization in Quantified Knowledge Environments".

Jahrbuch Netzpolitik 2012 – Von A wie ACTA bis Z wie Zensur

Eben ist das "Jahrbuch Netzpolitik 2012 – Von A wie ACTA bis Z wie Zensur“ erschienen.

Das Buch ist der Rückblick auf 2012 der Plattform netzpolitik.org. Es enthält nebst vielen anderen Beiträgen auch meinen Text zur Digitalen Solidarität (S.231-240).

Aus der Selbstbeschreibung:
Netzpolitik betrifft alle, jede und jeden. Was im Jahr 2012 wichtig war, was vielleicht auch zu kurz kam, darauf blickt dieses Jahrbuch zurück. Die Autorinnen und Autoren waren Beobachter und Akteur zugleich. Ihre Berichte in diesem Buch fassen die wichtigsten Themen des Jahres zusammen, ordnen ein und reflektieren. Von A wie ACTA und Anonymous über Open-Data und Überwachung bis zu Urheberrecht und Z wie Zensur: komprimiert, informiert und frei lizenziert.

270 Seiten! Mit Beiträgen von: Jan-Phillip Albrecht, Markus Beckedahl, Annegret Bendiek, Mirko Boehm, Jörg Braun, Ulf Buermeyer, Gabriella Coleman, Leonhard Dobusch, Kirsten Fiedler, Karina Fissguss, Kilian Froitzhuber, Volker Grassmuck, Johnny Haeusler, Christian Heise, Jeanette Hofmann, Jōichi ‘Joi’ Itō, Andrea Jonjic, Matthias Kirschner, Julia Kloiber, Constanze Kurz, Lawrence Lessig, Falk Lüke, Lorenz Matzat, Tim Maurer, Joe McNamee, Andre Meister, Matthias Monroy, John F. Nebel, Frank Rieger, Alexander Sander, Ben Scott, Felix Stalder, Moritz Tremmel, Ben Wagner, Stefan Wehrmeyer und Jillian C. York.

ISBN: 9783844242522

Alle weitere Information ist hier.

The Social Media Reader (2012) is now online

The New Media Reader (NYU Press) is now available online in full (pdf, epub etc), under a CC license. Consequently, it also includes my contribution "Between democracy and spectacle. The front and the back of the social web", which has been online since here on this blog since May. But more importantly, it also contains all others. A great collection of texts! Grab it.

With the rise of web 2.0 and social media platforms taking over vast tracts of territory on the internet, the media landscape has shifted drastically in the past 20 years, transforming previously stable relationships between media creators and consumers. The Social Media Reader is the first collection to address the collective transformation with pieces on social media, peer production, copyright politics, and other aspects of contemporary internet culture from all the major thinkers in the field.

Cultures and Ethics of Sharing / Kulturen und Ethiken des Teilens

We are very happy and proud to announce the publication of our new book: Cultures and Ethics of Sharing / Kulturen und Ethiken des Teilens, edited jointly by Wolfgang Sützl, Felix Stalder, Ronald Maier, Theo Hug. It is a bilingual (English/German) collection of papers on empirical and theoretical aspects of sharing, both on-line and off-line. Some papers develop quite optimistic perspectives, but others show also how activities of sharing can be captured by very problematic interests. They all manage to highlight the richness of sharing in social setting and the wide-ranging questions a focus sharing brings to the fore.

Thanks a lot to all contributors to this unusual, because truly multi-disciplinary effort. We would also like to thank Innsbruck University Press for making available the book in full as free download (2mb).

From the Introduction

This is a volume of essays about sharing. Few people could have predicted that practices of sharing would gain such prominence in contemporary society. It is, arguably, one of the most unexpected developments of the early 21st century. Surprising, but not inexplicable. Over the last decade, numerous developments have taken place that created conditions under which new practices could flourish and the roles of sociability and sharing are being re-examined. For example, the very idea of man and woman as homo economicus, that is creatures that will naturally gravitate towards the pursuit of narrow self-interest and, thus, the need of society to organize itself as to make productive use of this supposed essential characteristic, has been called into question with renewed vigor.

Syndicate content