I’ve attended two great events in October. The first one was a symposium organized by the Institute of Media Archeology (IMA) and Theo Röhle, author of the book “Der Google Komplex. Über Macht im Zeitalter des Internets“. The symposium/ workshop took place in the beautiful Kulturfabrik in Hainburg.
The idea of the event “Knowledge machines between freedom and control” was to bring together researchers, artists and programmers dealing with search engines and new media in a more general sense. I really enjoyed working together with artists and net activists, who have both similar and different viewpoints on the matter. Accordingly, on the first day, we tried to identify our positions on the issue, discuss possibilities and challenges in terms of search engine developments, think about utopias, but also concrete policy actions and implementations. In my workshop group the focus was on user profiling, personalization of search results, user data collections, or our “data bodies”, and their implications. While we easily found various issues to criticize (the filter bubble and privacy issues first and formost), we – or at least I – had trouble developing utopias or thinking outside the present socio-political contexts and structures. Hence, we ended up writing a manifesto on our data bodies, which I found liberating and fun! (thanks to Theo for putting this up). Thinking outside of the box and outside of academic requirements leads to pretty interesting results sometimes! Hence, the combination of researchers, artists and programmers really worked out in terms of having triggered creative ideas, writings and drawings, that wouldn’t have popped up in a merely academic arena.
The second day was meant to be a public event, the public, however, was sort of limited unfortunately. We presented and discussed our workshop results along the lines “index”, “algorithm” and “profile”. Finally, we had a round table discussion. Konrad Becker started out with a critical comment, which was followed by a lively debate on Google and Facebook, monopoly formation, alternative indexes and technology, business models, societal implications and potential futures regarding our knowledge machines and their relation to society and business. Moreover, the art piece “Insight Tower – A world machine” enabled us to stick our heads into the net – a piece by Seppo Gründler, Nicole Pruckermayr, and Elisabeth Schimana. In my viewpoint, it was a truly successful event! I especially liked meeting Theo Röhle, Malte Ziewitz, and Katja Mayer again, who all work at the intersection of search engines and science and technology studies. Moreover, I met really cool people like Seda Gürses doing research on social networks and (EU) policy making, and Joris van Hoboken working on search engines and law/ freedom of expression, as well as the media artist Nicole Pruckermayr and the musician/ performer Reni Hofmüller. And, last but not least, the artist/ performer Elisabeth Schimana, who organized the event and does a great job of leading the IMA . Thanks a lot for putting together this amazing crowd of people and ideas!!