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Geert Lovink Keynote

Geert Lovink is the speaker for our second keynote address, the following is a summary of his lecture.

Geert founded the Institute for Network Cultures (http://www.networkcultures.org/portal/) in 2004.

He has a forthcoming book from Routledge called *Zero Comments: Kernels of Critical Internet Culture*. In this book he has a chapter entitled "Blogging the Nihilist Impulse" which is a study of the blogging phenomenon. A second details what he refers to as "the crisis of media arts" called "The Cool Obscure." In "The Substance of Internet Time" Geert details a failed attempt by Swatch to institute its own form of "internet time." The book ends with studies of four concepts rather than critical essays. These four chapters are entitled, "Updatig Tactical Media," "Theory of Free Cooperation," "Distributed Aesthetics," and Organized Networks."

Geert returned to Europe from Australia to set up the Institute for Network Cultures. Surprisingly, Geert only entered academia in 2003 and prior to that was a "free floating intellectual."

His first conference project for the institute was a history of web design, considering it from the perspective of "work." He sees the internet as having experienced three distinct phases thus far. The first was the introductory phase which ended 1993 and was primarily text and link based. The second speculative and experimental phase ended with the dot com bust. He posits that the current third phase might be coming to an end with Web 2.0.

Interestingly, he mentions how web designers often are not entirely aware of each others work which is ironic considering the nature of a networked and hyper-communicative environment. To this end, he organized the conference to organize and bring into conversations some of the best designers.

A second element of this conference was aimed at professionalizing digital workers. As he states, questions of economics, standardization, and basic practices of digital professionals are important questions. As an example, he cites that web designers are making less and less money.

In November the institute is holding an event called ?My Creativity? (http://www.networkcultures.org/mycreativity/) which will bring together researchers to look critically at the creative industry. Of particular interest are how to get creative workers more involved in production processes and studying the ?creative underclass? who are used to help build and design cities but then cannot afford live in them. In addition, the conference will examine the increasingly limited roll of the arts in society.

Creative work is becoming more focused in places like China and India, both of which he says are not so much sites of outsourcing, as in the past, but now are the central sites of design and production.

Another interesting conference held in Amsterdam in 2005 was called ?Urban Screens? (http://www.networkcultures.org/urbanscreens/). Conversations and presentations at this conference were focused on how public projections screens could be expanded with artful and culturally interesting content rather than merely advertisements. As he states, the potential of these screens could be broadened significantly to repurpose and draw new attention to them, as well as call attention to advertisements. However, what would it mean to commission an artist to design or produce art that is meant to then advertise for an advertisement?

The ?Art and Politics of Net Porn? conference (http://www.networkcultures.org/netporn/), which will have a second conference as well as a book, was dedicated to expanding the field of porn studies from film and video to considering the unique impact net culture has had on the production and consumption of pornography.

?Incommunicado? examined the increasingly complex nature of networked communications as they relate to global information politics.

Geert showed a website that details internet usage worldwide (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stat.htm). One third of the world has or has access to a mobile phone. Only 16% of the world is on the net. As he says the computer market has plateaued and will soon be heading to China and India in force as well as marketing to children to increase sales.

Cyberspace was initially seen as a borderless space but blogs and blog software have nationalized the internet and brought many other countries onto the web. Both Japan and France are examples of this. Whereas Japan had many users in the past, their activities were mainly consumptive instead of productive as they are now. Additionally, internet culture is now being produced by individuals. Language and other national barriers create nationalized mini-blogospheres.

He states that 76% of bloggers are interested in personal experiences or interests and a small minority are interested in news, this is contrary to the media?s concentration on the function of blogs being citizen reportage.

Discussing the largest French blogging service, ?SkyBlog,? he says that Africans are also using the service. Thus, the national spaces of these services are not bound geographically but through language and culture.

New users of the internet in the past started with building web pages through the complicated process of learning html. Nowadays a new user would most likely start a blog through a far more simplified process.

One of the Geert?s theories regards internet cynicism and nihilism. He sees this as a response to the broken promises and utopian rhetoric of the beginning of the net. He asserts that cynicism is not behavioral but a techno-social condition. It is a cultural spinoff from blogging software, hardwired into a specific era (post 9-11) and architecture of the software itself (posting, tagging, commenting, etc.). This cynicism does not see cyberculture as a lifestyle. In Foucaultian terms, bloggers use their computers as confession machines. While not as strong as the early days, blogging still carries a sense of the liberatory fantasies of the net through truth. The creation of this truth is a democratic process and, in that sense, is not news.

The creation of blog culture is attempting to undermine the top-down model of broadcast media. However, those that have said this in the past were using this critique of old news media to create space for themselves within the news industry.

Geert showed a clip from his great film ?Beautiful World.?

Q&A

Question: How do the language issues within net culture intersect with fan sites and fan communities which tend to have a more international basis?

Answer: There is not much crossover of language or national boundaries on the net. Cross-cultural does not imply multi-lingual just yet, but to truly realize it you need to have multi-lingual capability. The questioner was referring to collaborative blogs and this if fairly uncommon and is an area in need of exploration.

Response: Traces journal has a commitment to publish in seven languages.

Question: Confessional and diaristic nature of blogging is a traditionally ?girlish? activity and that should not be written off.

Response: Orca was in many ways a language war between Portuguese and English.

Response: How would blogosphere be differently understood through Lyotard?s witnessing as opposed to Foucault?s confessional?

Answer: This is definitely the case in places like Iran. Geert was frightened by his own proposal of the confessional. Blogging is different from diary keeping in that it is online and public, whereas diaries were and are potential public displays with a delay between the writing and its revelation.

Response: Letter writing, diary culture and commentary has always been a part of writing. Blogging is returning to this history.

Answer: Letter writing is closer to email since it is specifically addressed.

Question: Blogging is also a performative activity.

Answer: Geert cites a German theorist who says that this performative aspect pushes bloggers from English to another language for greater breadth of expression. Whereas in chatrooms and email English is more predominant.

Question: Why use the term internet culture in a nationally segregated net?

Answers: Term has its roots in the early 90s when the net was seen as a tool to create a global culture that transcends physical boundaries. There was an early idea that English was to be the language of the internet and no one considered the possibility of other languages appearing on the internet. Internet Culture Definition: People that gather around applications and platforms and create their own communities and cultures of use.

Geert admits he is techno-determinist and sees these cultures bordered by the limitations of software.

Question: Relation between confession and political participation, Confession first example of autobiography and secular without mediation of the church or sovereign. Is blogging a new form of political participation that has not been realized yet, free of mediation?

Answer: Anyone can blog therefore there is no intrinsic emancipatory element to it. Reached critical mass after 9-11 and the dominating culture of blogs has been conservative. This is also evident in other cultures.

Question: Is there a space for ?do-it-yourself? in the massification of internet culture?

Answer: There is if you look at tactical media, activism, and netporn. However for DIY to become a mass practice you must have a distrust to deconstruct the technology and not take it for granted as it is. Blogging is not part of this because no one criticizes the way blogs work. It creates an instantaneous mindlessness.

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