Back from Berlin. Exhausted, exhilarated and hungry to talk about it, relive it and go back next weekend! The catalyst for the trip was Transmediale, Berlin’s festival for art and digital culture. This years festival centred on open systems, collaborative technologies and aimed to address the way we live with the Internet today.
Having become a central stage for the unfolding of our public and private lives, we must ask not only how this experience of online-liveness affects and transforms our bodies and subjectivities but also, importantly, what responsibilities and possibilities this engenders for participating in the continuous process of its evolution.
Feeling a little worse for wear (more on that later), Saturday morning we somehow managed to navigate the public transport and get from Prenzlauer Berg to Haus der Kulturen der Welt at a reasonable (ish) hour. The festival is on all week, and next year I would love to go for a whole week – we had a day ticket for Saturday, leaving us enough time to fit in some cultural highlights (and lots of techno) the rest of the weekend.
The first project that caught our attention and had most of us taking part in was the Wanted and For Sale office situated in the middle of the exhibition. The Wanted and For Sale Office offers people the opportunity to exchange knowledge, services, and tools with other visitors attending the festival. The notes of skills for sale and wanted varied from going for a walk in Berlin, coding for food or finding a house to rent in Paris.
I offered to interpret someone else life story through photographs. Wanting to explore the idea of how different what you see is to what someone descibes. I’m hoping someone will contact me over the next few weeks…we will see.
The workshop we really wanted to take part in but was already full when we booked tickets was BodyHack where participants had the opportunity to “hack” each another’s faces.
We are able to call forth a fake smile on someone’s face just by stimulating it with electronic computer signals. But nobody is able to produce a genuine, real smile on a person’s face unless there are emotions involved.
As well as the hackaway workshops there was multiple discussion and debates going on. The currency of the commons – the price of free culture the free culture movement focused on the recent developments and exploration into alternative rights and licensing systems. The discussion touched on the issues of how to convert ‘free’ cultural services into an economic currency. This discussion really opened my eyes to how little I know about copyright and the struggles we face with regards to the worth of long-term culture based on free access rather than supply and demand.
Peter Sunde, cofounder of Pirate bay was one of the discussions contributors. It was really interesting to hear him talk about the early days of the sites creation and the development of Flattr a micro payments system enabling viewers of websites to make small donations by clicking a “Flattr this” button. Sunde explained that the money we pay each month would be spread evenly among the buttons you click in a month encouraging people to share money as well as content.
The other projects that stuck out for me explored Facebook and its implications for our privacy, both on- and offline. Seppukoo provides a service for users who want to “commit Facebook suicide”, setting up a memorial page in their honour. It deals with the liberation of the digital body from any identity constriction in order to help people discover what happens after their virtual life and to rediscover the importance of being someone, instead of pretending to be someone.-
‘Virtual life’ is an often-abused term used to describe the whole of one persons online activities. As media communications let our second/online/offline identities overflow into real life – and vice-versa – the distinctions between real and virtual are becoming more and more confused. What is virtual? What is real? Beyond these questions remains the fact that our privacy, our profiles, our identities and our relationships are exploited to be sold as a product. But are these lives really worth it?
Unfortunately Seppuko.com no longer exists after Facebook sent a cease and desist letter and they now as a guide to virtual self-destruction.
The second project Lovely-Faces.com, scraped 250,000 Facebook profiles and used the data to build a huge, fake dating site. Taking publicly accessible data and using technology like facial recognition to fill in the gaps, it constructed a complete picture of its “members” by providing their gender, nationality, interests and even characters.
Finally the biggie for me at the festival was The Facebook Resistance. Unfortunatley the worshop was held on the Friday but Saturday evening they went over what had been discussed and made. Run by Tobias Leingrube from Free. Art. Technology (F.A.T) The workshop aimed to challenge the status quo of Facebook and its dominant social identity management system, researching on ways to change it’s rules and functionality from inside the system.
FB sets the rules of how-to behave, so we’re asking: Are we happy to live in their visualisation of our online identity or do we want to change it? A change can be as trivial as adding a background-image. Facebook designing your online identity is like IKEA designing your appartment. The only individuality lies in the family pictures standing in your BILLY shelves.
Obviously with a lot of topical news around Facebooks new valuation and its future direction, plus Time magazine selecting the young Zuckerberg as person of the year the growing Facebook rejection has been a huge point of discussion between many of my colleagues and friends (one very drunkenly in a small cafe in Berlin) and there are so many other elements I to explore and I think I will save that for another separate post. Check out some pictures of the hacks they implemented at the workshop and keep an eye out for a fb resistance firefox add on appearing soon (hopefully).