Netzkultur // Networked culture

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Playfully approaching the brave new digital world

Lately it seems like there’s a digital festival, installation or conference everywhere you look in Berlin. Nevertheless, it seems like it’s hard to find the right balance between art and politics, theory and practice. At the recent Cyberfest festival, one one hand the artists praised the possibilities the internet has opened up to them to collaborate on art and disseminate it for little cost – it’s a veritable digital playground. However, towards the end of the talk surveillance was mentioned, along with the question of how free are we to really express ourselves in this brave new digital world?

Making your digital mark, or erasing footprints?

And so it goes for many arts practitioners – including bloggers and writers. Many of us make the most of the internet’s possibilities – after all, web presence is indispensable if you work in media– , with perhaps a vague sense of insecurity about who might trace our footprints on the web, and what the consequences might be. On the surface, the benefits seem to far outnumber the risks, and that warm, fuzzy feeling of being connected outweighs everything else. Nevertheless, digital has changed everything: such as the way and the pace at which people consume culture (ie faster, but in smaller, byte-sized bits), and the volume of content we suddenly have access to (see my link list if you don’t believe me – I could read literature all day every day and never have to pay for a book again in my life). In other words, the networking of culture opens up possibilities and creates a new set of choices, both for what we share in our networks and what we consume. And since those of us who haven’t mastered programming or studied computer science are still bumbling around in the dark and relying on trial and error as we improve our digital literacy, it wouldn’t hurt to open up this discussion to the experts. In fact, I think it would make light years of difference to get more interdisciplinary and actually learn a thing or two about how all this pixel magic works.

A hackathon for the arts

So what better way to warm up this weekend than by cozying up with some cultural hackers to hack our way to a more sophisticated, knowledgeable digital culture at the Berliner Festspiele? This Saturday, the first event of Netzkultur, a 3-part series, will take place. All afternoon there will be hands-on workshops taking place where visitors can experiment with blogging, Twitter, mixing (and remixing) with Audacity, and learn how to protect your data at a “cryptoparty”.

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Stephan Porombka (author of Der letzte macht das Buch aus & Schreiben unter Strom)

Unlike a normal hackathon, the motley crew sharing their knowledge at Netzkultur is made up of wordsmiths and musicians. The author Juli Zeh will kick off the event with a talk on the internet as a ‘realistic utopia’. Then the real play begins, with workshops using 3D printers, audio editing and blog platforms. UdK professor Stephan Porombka is available for Twitter ‘office hours’, and sound artists will be talking about their methods. There will also be discussions on Surveillance & Culture (with Michael Seeman), Invisible Powers – man, machines and utopias (Frank Schirrmacher) and Who is Programming Whom? (Ralf Bremer (Google Deutschland), Helena Hauff (Produzentin), Petra Löffler (Bauhaus Universität Weimar) and Stephan Thiel (Studio NAND)). In the evening, international artists and bands will be sharing the results of their experimentation on the stage.

Getting back to the big picture and thinking about a more cross-disciplinary approach to digital culture, Netzkultur seems to be doing just that – combining theorizing and practice, and getting artists, programmers and hackers of all kinds in on the action. And with Nikola Richter from Mikrotext curating, how could you expect anything less?

It should be a fun and horizon-expanding day. I, for one, will be wearing my play clothes – those pixels can leave nasty stains.

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