For a week, Transmediale brought together artists, hackers, researchers, developers and onlookers from across Europe to discuss about art, technology and communication in Berlin. Media.cat talked to the festival’s artistic director, Kristoffer Gansing, the editor of Neural magazine, Alessandro Ludovico, the director of the Rotterdam 010 Creating, Florian Cramer, and the British artists YoHa.

Author: Laia Balasch

 

“Software is mind control, get some”

“Neither the BBC nor ARTE TV or The New York Times. Nowadays, no mass media explains nor understands the technological change we are experiencing”. Forceful and very critical, the British artists Graham Harwood and Matsuki Yokokoji (YoHa)  warn that the error is the starting point: “We tend to think with technology as a tool to enslave others or through which we are enslaved. But technology has always existed – a book and a pencil are also technology – and it doesn’t belong to any human, nor to a human group. We cannot think with technology in these terms”.

However, it seems that reality contradicts this statement: large companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Toshiba, Google, Facebook and Samsung design and manufacture nearly all the technology products that we use in our daily life. On that basis, the question that arises is: how do we get out of this tangle? The recipe from YoHa is a new technological literacy, creative and critical with the media. Their view has been showed in the exposition ‘Evil Media Distribution Center’ where a printer Konica U-Bix 26 was placed next to a dictionary for typewriting, a paper grinding machine or the definition of the code ASCII.

This was one of the proposals from Transmediale, which in its 26th edition has decided to jump back in time and visit 2006, back when Pluto was still considered a planet. The aim: to revise “old” technologies like paper in order to create new contexts and reread the present.

Public media, private contents

The director of Neural magazine, Alessandro Ludovico, criticizes that citizens do not have tools to produce media themselves, tools that enable people to construct their own mediascape and also tools to analyze media in general. Ludovico underlines that it is essential to analyze corporate media, “because  anybody really knows how to analyze them and it’s quite important”.

With a huge knowledge on new media and technology, Ludovico alerts that public media changed their role in the last 40 years: “in the 70’s, public television was often explaining how to use and understand media. Now, this job is left to schools or activists, and public media are often in competition with corporate, private media, which is nonsense”, and adds that “public funded things, including public media, should be completely free to access and to share because they have been paid with public money. We should be able to download the contents, share them, freely”.

The author of the book ‘Post-Digital Print’ consults every day a list of about 100 media; among those, he recommends two: the site Lifehacker.com, “for a certain perspective of how to manage your working life in a smart way, and using proper tools technically wise” and the magazine Mute, “a website for theoretic activist perspective”.

 

Symbiosis and experimentation

The artistic director of Transmediale has a very transverse idea of media: “for me, media is something through which we act, we become in the world in different ways: politically, socially, etc”, states Kristoffer Gansing. Nowadays, the most effective media “are not the ones that come from a specific media company organization but from players like Google or Facebook. These are the ones we use the most, they managed to capture this user culture in a comprehensive way and they became very important”, says Gansing. The result is a symbiosis between social media and mainstream media: “they transform each other, and there is a lot of codependency […] for instance, mainstream media wouldn’t afford to produce so many news, like 24 hour information channels”.

Against this monopole, Gansing’s purpose is to follow Unlike Us, an interesting net of artists, designers, researchers, activists and programmers who study and develop alternatives to Facebook, for example.

Florian Cramer, director of Creating 010 at Hogeschool Rotterdam, agrees that the present of journalism is experimentation. “Newspapers were a revenue model but, nowadays, nobody has a fix model for journalism”, states Cramer, and adds: “when The Guardian landed in Internet with its website, expanded the readers ten times and became read all over the world, also in America. But they can do that because they are sponsored by a millionaire, but nobody really knows how to make money of it”. “The paywall it’s not useful, Huffington Post is not either the model, on collaborative journalism, the attempt with Wikinews failed and although Indymedia would be a good example, they are the pioneers, Indymedia itself shows the limitations of this model and, moreover, 90% of journalism is redundant”, revises Cramer.

 

“Media is a very personal part of our everyday life, it organizes our time and this is what allows, to a large extent, that societies exist”, states Kristoffer Gansing. We’re living in a time of hybridization and transformation, in which analogical media like paper overlap with digital, like mobiles. Within this transition the key is, maybe, to have tools to understand this technological transformation and, besides, to use them.