10 Theses on Assemblage Culture

These are notes for a talk I gave a few years ago (can't remember the exact occasion). I came across them now, and I think they are still valid and relevant.

Hannah Höch. Untitled (From an Ethnographic Museum), 1930 (detail)

Assemblage culture is based on the use of (parts of) pre-existing (material or informational) cultural objects in the creation of new cultural objects. Assemblage culture is an umbrella term incorporating numerous media-specific practices such as quoting, sampling, (re)mixing, montage, collage, editing.

  1. Assemblage culture emerges when a society becomes saturated by media objects. Saturation means that these objects become widely and easily available to a wide range of users.
    Historical sequence:
    printed text (quotations in scientific culture, 17th century)
    printed images (early collages, late 19th century)
    recorded audio (musique concrète, mid 20th century)
    moving images (found footage film, mid 20th century)
    computer code (free/open source software, 1980s)
    modifiable genes (?) (early 21th century)
  2. Every cultural work contains elements taken from other works. Digitization makes the processes of assemblage – mostly implicit (by way of reference) in analog media – explicit (by way of insertion and transformation), putting it at the center of cultural production. Quoting and referencing in (scientific) texts made this practice explicit already in pre-digital form, reflecting the ease of separating content from its carrier in print culture.
  3. The meta-medium networked computer brings all media to the point of saturation, thus creating the material basis for the expansion of assemblage culture.

Fours Theses on Cultural Commons

This is an edited version of a presentation given at the “TCS Philosophy & Literature Conference 2019” (29 May – 2 June 2019) as part of a panel called “Creating Commons”, with Jeremy Gilbert and Tiziana Terranova. At this panel, my task was to present our research project Creating Commons. Given the short time for the presentation (20 minutes), I focused on four library projects, Ubu, aaaaarg, Monoskop, and Memory of the World (MotW) and I tried to distill some of the things we learned through them into “four theses on cultural commons”. So, here they are:

1. Infrastructure is politics
2. Copyright is so broken that few are left to enforce it.
3. Care is core
4. Appropriation is better than participation

Read the full text over at the Creating Commons research website.

We Are All Bruno! From Unease with Technology to Empathy with Nature

Guerilla Girls, 1989

Monkey Selfie, 2011

It’s no good. The horse has bolted. The tipping point has been reached. The digital condition now shapes our lives. In the early 1960s Marshall McLuhan noted the demise of the ‘Gutenberg Galaxy’, which is to say, that epoch of (Western) culture decisively shaped by the printed word; and there is no mistaking, now, what has taken its place: a new condition – i.e. ‘forms of experience, philosophical viewpoint, and expression’– defined by the ubiquitous presence and inherent potential of networked communications and control. It is thereby incidental whether, or how, one uses these technologies oneself, for they have become part and parcel of everyday infrastructure, in similarity to other networks, such as power and water supply, or transport systems. Were any one of these to suddenly break down, our lives would change in a flash – and not for the better.

Monkeys, Profiles and Collectivities of Difference

This is a bit of an experimental format. The audio of the talk delivered last October is set to the slides. Since the slides are quite visual and should produce another layer of meaning, I hope this is more interesting than simply the audio. Let me know, what you think. More information on the conference (re)constructing authorship" at Akademie Schloss Solitude.

Lecture: Knowledge for all: from public to free

This lecture is from October 2014, held at the Public Library Conference in Stuttgart. But it has only recently been put online, together with all other lectures.. I think the entire conference is still very relevant.

In this lecture, I try to untangle the differences between resources that are managed as "public" and are thus connected to notions of the state and citizens and those that are managed as "free" and are thus based on notions of the commons and community. The differences are subtle, but in their consequences far reaching.

Zwischen Smartness und Kooperation. Möglichkeiten der informationellen Stadt

Derive Cover Seit mehr als 20 Jahren bestimmt das Internet die Dynamik der kulturellen Entwicklung und seit rund 10 Jahren ist es auch in Europa ein Massenmedium. Es prägt die Subjektivität der Menschen, also die Art und Weise, wie sie sich selbst, Andere und die Welt wahrnehmen und wie es ihnen normal erscheint, in der Welt zu agieren. Was in den 1990er Jahren noch schwer vorzustellen war – etwa horizontale Kooperation als Produktionsmethode, Personalisierung der Welt oder flächendeckende Datenerhebung und Überwachung – ist heute normal und selbstverständlich: Hausverstand 2.0.

Um die Konsequenzen und Möglichkeiten dieses Wandel besser zu verstehen, hilft es zwischen strukturellen und politischen Dimensionen unterscheiden. Im Folgenden wird zunächst der strukturelle Wandel der Subjektivität skizziert. Danach werden die widersprechende, politische Dynamiken der Stadtentwicklung damit in Beziehung gesetzt.

03.10. Lernen von Barcelona? Organisationsmodelle für die kooperative Produktion von Stadt (Wien)

Veranstaltung im Rahmen des Urbanize 2015 Festivals.

Lernen von Barcelona?

Organisationsmodelle für die kooperative Produktion von Stadt


3.10.2015 19:00 Festivalzentrale, Marxergasse 1 | 1030 Wien | Erreichbarkeit: U3, U4, S-Bahnen, Landstraße-Wien Mitte

Kostenbeitrag: Freie Spende!

Die dominierenden Organisationsformen von Städten degradieren die Mehrzahl der BewohnerInnen zu KundInnen ohne Gestaltungsmacht, während urbane Entwicklungen massiv in individuelle Lebenskonzepte eingreifen. Netzkultur und stadtpolitische Bewegungen zeigen alternative Ansätze zur Produktion von Stadt, basierend auf bottom-up-Strukturen und vernetzten Modellen. Wie lässt sich Stadt kooperativ organisieren?

<nettime> nottime: the end of nettime

On 1 April Ted Byfield and I announced the end of @nettime_l as a kind of backhanded joke, see below. Really amazing, however, were the responses that came in over the last few days which you can find on the nettime archive, including Ted's and mine. I also explained our reasoning in a short interview by Dirk Gehlen (in German), which centers around a line by Hannah Arendt “Power arises only where people act together, not where people grow stronger as individuals.”

Dear Nettimers, present and past --

The first nettime message was sent on 31 May 1995,[1] almost twenty
years ago. A lot has happened since then, and we're proud of how well
this list, and the larger nettime 'neighborhood,' has traced many of
these epochal changes. The list's alumni/ae is a who's who of critical
culture across an incredible range of fields. They -- really, *you*
-- have helped to redefine activism, shape national and international
legal and economic reforms, lead international cultural festivals and
some of the world's most famous musems, produce astonishing works of
art, write fiction and nonfiction that's won awards and redefined
entire disciplines, and build crucial free and open-source software,
to name just a few things. And those are just the 'heroic' stories.
There are many more obscure ones that, if anything, are even more
impressive, as even a quick glance at nettime's Wikipedia entry will
show.[2] A few nettimers have passed away, and we miss them dearly,
still. Moreover, most like-minded projects of a similar age have

Everything is Connected, Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion, Elevate Festival, 2014
In this panel conversation the various topical threads of Elevate's discourse programme will be brought together. Starting with an analysis of the current situation, tangible paths into a solidary future will be discussed. Representatives of different perspectives will talk about the required socio-ecological change, the possible makeup of future societies, and the necessary steps to create them.

Amy Goodman is concerned with the role of the media in social transformation, Nafeez Ahmed has a comprehensive understanding of the various crises, Felix Stalder focuses on the implications and ambivalence of new technologies, Friederike Habermann speaks from the perspective of social movements and Silke Helfrich will represent the idea of the commons as an alternative model for the organization of society. The panel will address questions such as: Where can we start? What are the challenges and how can we meet them? Which forward-looking projects and movements can we become a part of?

Moderation: Josef Obermoser (Crossroads, FORUM STADTPARK)

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