[ISEA2011] Panel: Philip Glahn – Dig­i­tal Publics: Promises and Prob­lems of an Ap­plied Cy­ber-Rev­o­lu­tion

Panel Statement

Panel: From New Media to Old Utopias: ‘Red’ Art in Late Capitalism?

Today’s new media artists and ac­tivists find them­selves in a po­si­tion sim­i­lar to that of the Russ­ian Pro­duc­tivists al­most a cen­tury ago: the rev­o­lu­tion has al­ready hap­pened and re­mains only to be im­ple­mented, mak­ing cul­tural pro­duc­tion less an ar­tic­u­la­tion of the pos­si­ble than a sphere of the ap­plied. As dig­i­tal forms of in­for­ma­tion ex­change and knowl­edge labor af­ford the dis­lo­ca­tion of tra­di­tional bound­aries of com­mu­nity and iden­tity, “tele-” and “cy­ber-com­mu­nism” de­clare the dawn of a new so­ciopo­lit­i­cal era. The suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of the eman­ci­pa­tory abil­i­ties in­her­ent in so­cial dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion thus de­pends on their prag­matic ap­pli­ca­tion. Tech­ni­cal util­ity, and the new-me­dia pro­duc­tivist as its provider, are the keys to es­tab­lish­ing “ex­treme shar­ing net­works” not to make con­sum­ables but to har­ness and so­licit sur­plus cre­ativ­ity.  Or­ga­ni­za­tions like Mikro.fm in Berlin, Fu­tureEv­ery­thing in Man­ches­ter, and the Waag So­ci­ety in Am­s­ter­dam em­ploy dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to turn con­sumers into pro­duc­ers, avail­ing “mass par­tic­i­pa­tion” for “so­cial in­no­va­tion.” These groups re­pro­gram GPS de­vices to re­nav­i­gate urban en­vi­ron­ments, de­vise open-source soft­ware for remap­ping eco-po­lit­i­cal land­scapes, and or­ga­nize fes­ti­vals and work­shops for the col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­duc­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion of in­for­ma­tion and tech­no­log­i­cal know-how. As such prac­tices seek to re­con­struct the pub­lic sphere, the ques­tion re­mains whether or not the ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and the tech­no­log­i­cal means of its pro­duc­tion ac­tu­ally re­dis­trib­utes own­er­ship of knowl­edge, labor, and ex­pe­ri­ence: whether these pro­jects fo­ment real ac­tion and agency, or fur­ther in­sti­tu­tion­al­ize an ideal bour­geois pub­lic sphere by cre­at­ing a sat­is­fy­ing sem­blance of cul­tural par­tic­i­pa­tion. Tak­ing a crit­i­cal look at se­lected ex­am­ples, this pre­sen­ta­tion as­sesses these col­lec­tive prac­tices within a tra­jec­tory of his­tor­i­cal avant-garde strate­gies and their for­ma­tion of po­ten­tial “pro­le­tar­ian” or “counter-pub­lic spheres” in which par­tic­i­pants are trans­formed into net­worked ac­tors rather than re­main­ing spec­ta­tors in sym­bolic dra­mas of aes­theti­cized re­la­tion­al­ity.

  • Philip Glahn is As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Crit­i­cal Stud­ies and Aes­thet­ics at the Tyler School of Art/Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity, Philadel­phia, USA, spe­cial­iz­ing in con­tem­po­rary art his­tory and the­ory. Glahn stud­ied art his­tory and cul­tural stud­ies at the Uni­ver­sität Lüneb­urg and Pratt In­sti­tute, and re­ceived his PhD from the Grad­u­ate Cen­ter, City Uni­ver­sity of New York. His writ­ings have ap­peared in Art Jour­nal, Af­ter­im­age, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and BOMB and he is cur­rently work­ing on a crit­i­cal re­assess­ment of the life and work of Bertolt Brecht.

Full text (PDF)  p. 895-969  [Title slightly different]