Medienkatastrophe: Dirk Baecker – die Kunst der nächsten Gesellschaft

Dirk Baecker on media revolutions and the one we’re currently in. What does it mean for art and the arts when machines start to take part in the communication between humans? What does it mean if you can begin to observe something akin to communication between machines?

As a sociologist, he has written extensively on the subject. See i.e. here or here (in German).

Prof. Dr Dirk Baecker is Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Arts at Witten/Herdecke University and holds a Chair of Culture Theory and Management. Among his key research interests are sociological theory, economic sociology, organisational research and management theories.  Baecker underlines the profound structural and cultural implications of electronic media – from telegraph, radio and TV to computers and the internet – for humans and society, comparable to the introduction of book printing (“modern society”), writing (“advanced civilisations”), and language (“tribal cultures”). According to Baecker, we live in the “next” society, with tremendous distortions between different stages of socio-cultural evolution. *

Tuesday, May 15, 19h, KHM Aula. The talk will be recorded.


poster by Nikolai

Geert Lovink / Medienkatastrophe talk

A State of the Platform Address

By Geert Lovink

20 April 2017, 18h, KHM Aula
This lecture deals with the changes over the years from media, via networks to platforms. What does it mean that the internet has become infrastructure, penetrating society, from taxis to hotels to agriculture and healthcare, going well beyond the media and communication realm? What do we mean when we talk about ‘platform capitalism’? What is aggregation and does it play out in different contexts? We all know how social media operate in daily life, but what’s the next step, and how can the art world, start to play a role in these massive changes in society?

Geert Lovink is a media theorist, internet critic and author of Uncanny Networks (2002), Dark Fiber (2002), My First Recession (2003), Zero Comments (2007), Networks Without a Cause (2012) and Social Media Abyss (2016). Since 2004 he is researcher in the Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA) where he is the founder of the Institute of Network Cultures. His centre recently organized conferences, publications and research networks such as Video Vortex (the politics and aesthetics of online video), Unlike Us (alternatives in social media), Critical Point of View (Wikipedia), Society of the Query (the culture of search), MoneyLab (internet-based revenue models in the arts) and a project on the future of art criticism.

Network Cultures Critique! Buzzwords: Era of Social Media Monopolies / Platform Capitalism / Cryptocurrencies / the end of the “free” services business model /  etc etc. He’s meeting us at 16h to look at some of your projects. There are a million talks on Youtube. From a short interview about Social Media:

“I sincerely hope that we can still break it open and have space for more experimentation. Because what we see is the reverse development. And that’s got to do with the fact that people are more and more familiarizing themselves. It’s all slipping into this new level of mass subconsciousness, where the social media become part of the everyday life. We all know that, when you walk into the elevator, very very likely he or she is going to get out the smartphone and check it before they arrive at the 6th floor. That is a new habit. And it’s this habitual element which is very very dangerous. Because it forbids further experimentation, and kind of solidifies the network architectures and says, this is what it is. If we know what it is, it can then enter the collective subconsciousness. And that is a very dangerous moment. And that is the moment of complete and utter state and corporate control.”

Update: here’s the recording

Readings for the Winter Term 2016/17: Systematic Observation and Recall

Required reading for the Winter Term 2016/17

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, especially the “Docile Bodies” chapter.
English translation freely available online: Foucault Discipline and Punish filetype:pdf
(The German translation: Überwachen und Strafen is in the Semesterapparat, and there is a second copy in the library that you can take home: PHI I.1.2 – 28)

Gilles Deleuze – Postscript on the Societies of Control
Very short essay from 1990, available online, e.g. here or hereGerman translation in the Semesterapparat: PHI C.7 (DEL) – 76

Here’s a 20 minute video explaining the core concepts: (try to ignore the background music and it’s pretty good)

Giorgo Agamben: What is an Apparatus?
PDF available online:

German translation: Was ist ein Dispositiv? in the Semesterapparat: PHI I.1.2 – 58

“According to the philosopher Giorgio Agamben, “subjectivity” is the result of an encounter between “living beings” and the “apparatus”—which he defines, following Michel Foucault, as technologies that possess the power “to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviours, opinions, or discourses of living beings.” Art, according to the approach of Nervous Systems, possesses in turn the power to release life from these apparatuses of capture—even if only for moments and in the imagination—thus undoing the current drift toward ever-greater systemic closure. It is in this realm that we can begin to assemble the fragments of lived experience historically, in order to observe the transformations of “the social” in the present, and the frontiers of its subsumption.
(from the introduction to the Nervous Systems catalogue, see below)

Nervous Systems exhibition 2016 @ HKW, Introductory essay in the catalogue
by Anselm Franke, Stephanie Hankey and Marek Tuszynski
The essay is freely available online from HKW
The entire catalogue is in the Semesterapparat: KUN B.6.14 – 813

poster by Nikolai

Research paper: Mass Surveillance Silences Minority Opinions

Under Surveillance: Examining Facebook’s Spiral of Silence Effects in the Wake of NSA Internet Monitoring

Research paper by Elizabeth Stoycheff

Abstract: Since Edward Snowden exposed the National Security Agency’s use of controversial online surveillance programs in 2013, there has been widespread speculation about the potentially deleterious effects of online government monitoring. This study explores how perceptions and justification of surveillance practices may create a chilling effect on democratic discourse by stifling the expression of minority political views. Using a spiral of silence theoretical framework, knowing one is subject to surveillance and accepting such surveillance as necessary act as moderating agents in the relationship between one’s perceived climate of opinion and willingness to voice opinions online. Theoretical and normative implications are discussed.

In “Data and Goliath”, Bruce Schneier says the same (it’s in the library in both English and German, see our Semesterapparat):

Across the US, states are on the verge of reversing decades-old laws about homosexual relationships and marijuana use. If the old laws could have been perfectly enforced through surveillance, society would never have reached the point where the majority of citizens thought those things were okay. There has to be a period where they are still illegal yet increasingly tolerated, so that people can look around and say, “You know, that wasn’t so bad.” Yes, the process takes decades, but it’s a process that can’t happen without lawbreaking. Frank Zappa said something similar in 1971: “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

The perfect enforcement that comes with ubiquitous government surveillance chills this process. We need imperfect security­ — systems that free people to try new things, much the way off-the-record brainstorming sessions loosen inhibitions and foster creativity. If we don’t have that, we can’t slowly move from a thing’s being illegal and not okay, to illegal and not sure, to illegal and probably okay, and finally to legal.

This is an important point. Freedoms we now take for granted were often at one time viewed as threatening or even criminal by the past power structure. Those changes might never have happened if the authorities had been able to achieve social control through surveillance.

This is one of the main reasons all of us should care about the emerging architecture of surveillance, even if we are not personally chilled by its existence. We suffer the effects because people around us will be less likely to proclaim new political or social ideas, or act out of the ordinary. If J. Edgar Hoover’s surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. had been successful in silencing him, it would have affected far more people than King and his family.

Big Other: The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism

Shoshana Zuboff on how we became Google’s slaves. A must-read.

Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization Update: Joscha sent in a better link: The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism

German translation: Überwachungskapitalismus

Nearly 70 years ago historian Karl Polanyi observed that the market economies of the 19th and 20th centuries depended upon three astonishing mental inventions that he called fictions. The first was that human life can be subordinated to market dynamics and be reborn as labor. Second, nature can be subordinated and reborn as real estate. Third, that exchange can be reborn as money. The very possibility of industrial capitalism depended upon the creation of these three critical fictional commodities. Life, nature, and exchange were transformed into things, that they might be profitably bought and sold. The commodity fiction, he wrote, disregarded the fact that leaving the fate of soil and people to the market would be tantamount to annihilating them.

With the new logic of accumulation that is surveillance capitalism, a fourth fictional commodity emerges as a dominant characteristic of market dynamics in the 21st century. Reality itself is undergoing the same kind of fictional meta-morphosis as did persons, nature, and exchange. Now reality is subjugated to commodification and monetization and reborn as behavior. Data about the behaviors of bodies, minds, and things take their place in a universal real-time dynamic index of smart objects within an in finite global domain of wired things. This new phenomenon produces the possibility of modifying the behaviors of persons and things for profit and control. In the logic of surveillance capitalism there are no individuals, only the world-spanning organism and all the tiniest elements within it.

Thinking about surveillance of our most intimate activities

Law Professor Karen Levy writes about the rise of surveillance in our most intimate activities — love, sex, romance — and how it affects those activities.

This article examines the rise of the surveillant paradigm within some of our most intimate relationships and behaviors — those relating to love, romance, and sexual activity — and considers what challenges this sort of data collection raises for privacy and the foundations of intimate life.

Data-gathering about intimate behavior was, not long ago, more commonly the purview of state public health authorities, which have routinely gathered personally identifiable information in the course of their efforts to (among other things) fight infectious disease. But new technical capabilities, social norms, and cultural frameworks are beginning to change the nature of intimate monitoring practices. Intimate surveillance is emerging and becoming normalized as primarily an interpersonal phenomenon, one in which all sorts of people engage, for all sorts of reasons. The goal is not top-down management of populations, but establishing knowledge about (and, ostensibly, concomitant control over) one’s own intimate relations and activities.

After briefly describing some scope conditions on this inquiry, I survey several types of monitoring technologies used across the “life course” of an intimate relationship — from dating to sex and romance, from fertility to fidelity, to abuse. I then examine the relationship between data collection, values, and privacy, and close with a few words about the uncertain role of law and policy in the sphere of intimate surveillance.

(via Bruce Schneier)

Guest lecture: Nils Zurawski

“The omnipresent gaze? Surveillance between visibility and the management of norms.”

Guest lecture by Dr. Nils Zurawski
Institut für kriminologische Sozialforschung at Uni Hamburg,
founder of the Surveillance Studies network

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Surveillant Architectures Group
room 2, Filzengraben 2a
KHM Cologne

Upcoming conference in Barcelona: