Digitization – a Prediction of the Future I (The Summer School)

I am happy to present to you the first part of a new guest post, this time from Sven Guckes. Besides a lot more things he can be described as hacktivist. As participant of the summer school he wrote a quite detailed summary about this event on his website. He allowed me to publish his text here, too. If you are a fan of pure and simple layouts, his site will make you happy for sure.

== Misc ==
accomodation, travel, weather.

this is a summer school - so it is still
summer in germany, right?  well.. WRONG!

the temperatures range between
13C/55F and 0C/32F at night. eek!

so dont forget to bring a sweater and a coat
and extra underpants and a scarf and gloves.
alright.. prepare for WINTER!

accomodation for me was both in
a hotel and at friends' places.

visiting friends is almost always a part
of my travels to events. that's always great.
staying with them also gives the possibility
for some "nerding" at the computers on the net.
always great fun.. and usually
ends with a lack of sleep..

the hotel is very near the main station,
so it is easy to reach. just a walk away.

the room had a double bed (space! :-)
with super-white sheets and a nice
view onto the main station's roof.

there were four sockets labeled with
"DSL" (hey!), ISDN (wot?), and Modem (wtf??).
as it turns out, they're all dead.
there supposedly is wifi - for 5euros
per *half* hour. thanks - but, no, thanks.

most hostels will give you wifi for free.
no wonder they have no money
to buy a real hotel, right?

and the bottle of water cost 4,50 euros. o_O
maybe i should have crossed over the 30m
to the McD and bought myself a happy meal. ;)

others were staying at the guest house...
how was that?
== Languages ==
EN, de

the main language is definitely English.
however, as it takes part in Germany,
there are many german words involved.
but i also heard Italian, Spanish,
and Hebrew - and Saxonian. ;-)

okay.. the real language is *pidgin* english.
expect everyone to apply the intonation and
pronunciation from his/her mother tongue
as well adding some made-up
grammar and spelling, too.

then again, this is no course on english.
and everyone is fine to forgive
the mistakes of others.
so dont worry if your
english is not perfect.
join the school, anyway! :)
== Locations ==

the site of the event is a part of the
technical university of dresden,
in the south of the main station,
within the part of Räcknitz, more
specifically in nöthnitzerstrasse.

on the first day we met at the
military history museum which
is definitely special in itself.
we got a fast tour of the museum.
i didnt know i'd be interested that much,
but i found it really interesting after all.

for all the other days there has been
three main buildings we changed between:
the computer science department
and the Max Plank Institute (MPI)
in nöthnitzerstrasse - 
(about 300m away from each other),
and the refectory at mommsenstrasse
(two blocks away from the CS department).

the entry hall at the CS department contains
some art in the form of green slinky blobs.
i'd call them "spaghetti", but, hey..
at least there's something to talk about
once you enter this rather technical building.

at the CS department we obtained access to the wifi
with a user+pass - distinct from each other.
at the MPI there was exactly *one*
user+pass for all participants.
== Extras ==
tour at museum, tour of the town. blogger meetup.

tour at museum:
wow - this museum is interesting after all!
and i thought it would all be icky stuff.
the tour we got was quick (an hour) - and good.
i was drawn into the exhibition after it..
i almost immediately lost my command of time.
Joachim had to drag me out of it towards
the talks - otherwise i'd missed them.
i'm not into military stuff at all,
but i've taken note of this museum
and will likely visit it again.

tour of the town:
two hours in the chill - and informative all the way.
the guide woman was born in Dresden
and obviously is fond of this town.

bloggers meetup:
Katrin Etzrodt, Lisa Merten..
it's hard to get anything started.
a lot of opinions were given,
and both Katrin and Lisa
took them all in, sorted them,
put them into clear objective.
but now all the bloggers must
give their data to make it happen.
we'll see where this goes.
hopefully, this blog will still be
active for the next summer school.
it could be really helpful to
the following participants.
== Media ==
blog, chat, email, facebook, homepage, pads, pics, twitter, wiki.

good idea to have a blog accompany an event.
just like every other medium. ;-)
thinking about it now, maybe we
should have asked all participants
to write an entry *before* the event:

"please introduce yourself.
what is it you are doing?
have you been here before?
why do you participate at all?
what do you expect of the event?
do you have any open questions?"

the events i normally attend usually have a mailing list
and some chat (mostly IRC and jabber) in the background.
however, this kind of synchronous medium is
usually missing with events on media.  weird.
or has this been replaced by twitter now?
am i getting old?

email has been around since the 1970s.
but it's mostly a 1-to-N communication.
a maillist usually would allow N-to-N communication.
then again, noone seems to have learnt anything
about this at school. as it fails at so many levels.
while i have been using this for 25 years now,
i find that most people cannot make effective use of it.
like other media, i'm sure.

"are you on facebook?" "'course i am!"
funny enough, people who are not on facebook
seem to be weirdos who do not even
own an ID or do not exist at all.
"can you even trust these people?"
at some conferences it seems that way.
then again, on some other conferences
you get an response like
"fuckbook? hand over all of my data
directly to the NSA? are you kidding?"
think about it, media people.

a homepage definitely has become a business card.
got your own domain for it, too? sure.
firstname@lastname.{com,name,org}? yep.
connects you too all other stuff like
blog, social media, and the like? check.

we used textpads for some talks (see list).
the goal was to list a summary of the talk,
list all questions, and some comments and links.
as a textpad also allows chatting to each other,
participants had some fun around it.

some people have taken pics.
while they appear on instagram and twitter,
why - isnt anyone using flickr any more?

by the way, you can find my pics on dropbox+flayvr:

it's a must. don't you get it?
how else can you communicate to others
while you are sitting in a boring talk?
whaddaya mean, email, facebook, chat?

dead. killed by pads.
== Orga ==
catering+lunch. finance. schedule.

there had been several updates on the schedule.
was good to see a preview. thanks for that!

we always had beverages like water, juices (apple+orange), 
and (at MPI) also some coffee. that was great! 
thanks, orga people!

the orga folks also took care about the financial stuff,
like hotel reservations, reimbursments, vouchers for lunch.
as far as i can tell, all this went very smoothly. well done!:)

at lunchtime we went to the refectory for food.
it's just a 5min walk to an adjacent block.
they offer three main dishes, various salads,
and desserts (eg cake, pudding).
(not sure about the offers for vegetarians
and vegans. can somebody comment on that?)

we even received some vouchers for a
main dish, a beverage, and a dessert. yay :)

there is also a cafeteria within the building
which offer beverages, cake, and some snacks.

sitting outside in the sun was oh-kay..
but in the shadow it certainly was chilly.
in the end we sat inside within the
cafeteria for some coffe and club-mate
(you don't know this? check it out!)

the only thing we didn't really do is to
communicate where we would sit to eat.
so we kinda broke up in little groups.
but maybe this is how it must be.
groups over six people usually break
up in smaller communication groups, anyway.

did you know that for every group of six people
there are three who know each other or do NOT
know each other?  why?  well.. ask wikipedia!
== People ==

although the event was organized by the linguist department,
the participants were economists, lawyers, linguists, and
media people. and this one bloke with math+CS (nerd).

people came from quite some countries:
Germany (obviously), Austria (not so obvious),
Switzerland (disguising, too), but also
from Egypt, Italy, Israel, and India. (more?)
== Events ==
keynotes, presentations, talks, workshops.

there were events like talks and workshops,
as well as presentations of PhD projects.
some breaks in between; lunch
in the afternoon (12:30-14:00).

the presentations contained three projects each,
lasting 15min, and up to 10min more for Q&A.

the talk+workshops took place at the CS department,
the keynotes at the MPI.

when you present your Ph.D. thesis,
please, please, puh-leeze -
do not make it look like your
first talk since high school.

things to avoid:
* do not start reading off a paper.
* do not read the complete overview.
* do not look at and read off the slides.
* do not use fillers like "and my claim is"..
* do not give the audience the feeling someone
  told you to do this because you should.
* you are on stage. perform! do not be boring.

* speak freely.  speak slowly.  speak UP!
* who are you? what is your background?
* what exactly will you be looking at?
* why is this subject important to *you*?
* why should *we* care about the results?

get us interested, so we will think:
i gotta follow this and see how work on this progresses.
i must follow this person on all social and non-social media,
so i will know about these results before i die!

to be continued …

To be (or) not to be – how to overcome socio-technical dualism

The inspiring talk “Habits of Living: Data, Life and Society in Network Societies” by Nishant Shah made me think – once again – about dualisms. We’re locked to them in our everyday lives, as each element in our language exists in contrast to it’s opposite: black/white, warm/cold, male/female, life/death. For me the reified object of dualism is the now defunct, hence very present, Berlin Wall. The inherent dualism of Germany was and is east and west. With the reunification we gained another dualism: north and south. In order to describe the specifics of the different parts we describe them by their opposites: the north is what the south isn’t and the west is what the east isn’t – and the other way round.

If you were ask to describe yourself, how would you do it? Isn’t it so much easier to talk about who you’re not rather than who you are?

The problem of dualism is the underlying notion of hierarchy. Through a dualistic lens things become separate and inferior, they start to compete with one another. One of my favorite questions to ask is, if someone would rather live by the ocean or by the mountains. Ask yourself! What would you rather? Live by the calm never-ending ocean or the great majestic mountains. And while you gather your arguments think about Lady Justice’s scale and image how you fill up both sides with your arguments. What happens? The scale gets out of balance even though both sides are equally valid.

In media science we’re facing the same issue when talking about today’s media (technology). We’ve learned from STS that technology is never just technical but also social. The media (technology) inherent dichotomy of the technical and the social makes media research viscous and challenging.

In order to overcome the dualistic view Nishant Shah suggested in his talk an ‘opaque metaphor’, first introduced by Wendy Chun. In her view we have converted media (technology) into habits. By us connecting habitually to them without even thinking about them, media (technology) has made itself invisible. And this is why they so often take us by surprise.

Chun as well as Shah is trying is to overcome duality by rethinking, critiquing and challenging current ways of investigating media technology. Rather than juxtaposing the social and the technical against each other, they ask how things are shaped through one another. (Btw. they’ve done so in a Thinkathon – a thinking marathon, love the idea!)

I think this is a very valuable and much-needed approach in social science; however, I would like to propose an alternative, which is also applicable in everyday life: the method of radical acceptance. What I have observed lately is, that we’re trying so hard to overcome the dualism inherent in technology that it manifests itself even stronger. The more we talk about it, the harder it seems to change our way of thinking and the stronger appears the dualism itself. Thus, rather than rethinking our dualistic world, let’s radically accept it as it is – as a dualistic world.

‘Radical Acceptance’ is a method recommended by Tara Brach in order to heal trauma. In order to do so the fist step is to fully experience and accept all sensations that arise in our bodies. The second step is to fully welcome them with an open heart. The underlying assumption is that pain continues to cause pain, until we’ve fully experienced and accepted it. Or, as she cites Rumi, “the cure for the pain is in the pain”.

Even though cyberneticians don’t talk about pain at all, in the end they talk about the same when claiming “only variety can destroy variety”. The Law of Requisite Varity states that two systems can only be stable, when the number of states within the two systems are equal. Applied to our stated problem of duality this means that the outcome of our research needs to have two states as well.

In conclusion, in order overcome a dualistic view, I suggest that we first need to radically accept the two dualistic states and then, second, adjust our way of scientific thinking accordingly. This means, when researching media (technology) we must always look at them from the dualistic sides. By doing so, hopefully, the inherent dualism will slowly disappear – so does the trauma once you’ve accepted and re-experienced it.

How digitalization changes the way we communicate – Part One

This post is the first of a series, which will concentrate on several cases and examples about changing communicational behavior as a result of digitization. I want to start with the observation I made during the panel discussion today.

Photo: Katrin Etzrodt

“What we do with digitization and what it does to us” Guido Westkamp, Sven Guckes, Wolfgang Donsbach, Thomas Wolf, Daniel Riebe (left to right)

But let me start with a short introduction of the discussion. Four people from very different backgrounds, namely Guido Westkamp (Professor for Intellectual Property and Comparative Law), Sven Guckes (arguing from the point of view of creative commons rights), Thomas Wolf (the chief of the online ressort of DD+V Mediagroup) and  Daniel Riebe (member of the german pirate party) where brought together to discuss the issue “What we do with digitization and what it does with us”. Moderated by Prof. Wolfgang Donsbach from the Institute of Media and Communication.

I will not summarize the content of the discussion in a way that you may expect at this very moment. Instead I will talk about a phenomenon that occurred during the real time event. So what I observed was a communication situation, which took place on three channels I noticed. Number one was the so called face-to-face communication. The four discussants as well as the moderator talked about phenomenons on different dimensions related to digitization. The audience – which mainly consisted of the summer school participants and some other interested people as well – was invited to ask questions and did used this opportunity. To this point you may say, this was a pretty usual event with a pretty usual way of conversation.

Parallel digital discussion on Twitter?

Panel Discussion – Digital Audience

But since we are all digital citicens – or at least most of us – of course we tweeted about main phrases and quoted interesting answers or questions. There is a list for the summer school, which contains mainly all tweeting participants. Although somehow there wasn’t going to be a discussion going beyond quotations and phrases from the podium on this medium – at least for this panel. Well, you may say, what’s the big deal with it? That’s old news for us! And you may be right.

So what was different?

At the beginning of the panel the organizers gave us another medium: a piratepad. At first I did not realize the purpose, but after a while I was enlightened: Another way of simultaneously communicating. I got curious and followed the link. And then a real constructive conversation – at least for me – arose. Four people were joining the pad. Did the others not recognize it? Was it too less understandable? Weren’t the curious? Whatever the answer may be, the result of the pad was a third channel where not only a discussion, but also a structuring and conservation of the thoughts and arguments of the other two channels. I will not analyze this phenomenon in detail now (I/we will come back on that in another post). instead of interpreting it for you I will give you the whole content, so you can see for yourself. (I did not leave out some text, just some empty lines).

Bildschirmfoto 2013-10-01 um 21.28.08

Bildschirmfoto 2013-10-01 um 21.28.12

What does this say?

At the moment it does tell me, that there are many different ways of communicating at an event like this. The usual assumption parallel conversation happens on social network sites may not always do justice to reality and mislead our research focus. Sometimes it may occur on social collaborating sites, too. And it made me wonder, if a medium to write or structure text collaboratively, which at the same time serves as a chat-like medium, suits better to situations such as this panel discussion.

It made me also wonder about the dominance we willingly give to social network sites as users, instead of benefitting from the variety and richness of the social media universe. And it makes me wonder to what extend and what impact we can alter the origin use of a social medium. If you, e.g., have a look at the piratepad pictures, you will soon recognize that we did not just note and structure important facts, arguments and thoughts of the panel, but also had our own conversations there, too.

To conclude this observation with a statement to the discussion’s topic:

Digitization enables us to find and create additional channels to a face-to-face event. At the same time we are altering these digitalized solutions to our own needs and purposes, in ways that might not have been the intention of the creator. Therefore the process of change can be – once again – seen as a reciprocal process.


Countdown is running

Organisers and helpers have done a good job. The Summer School is ready to start. Only one hour is left until the first keynote speeches. Registration is already opened for our participants from all over the world. And the sun shines to welcome them. We are excited and look forward to a week full of new insights on digitization and its impact on society!

Foto 2
Summer School is opening today at the military-historical museum

Opening Keynote by Volker Grassmuck

GrassmuckWe are happy to announce that Volker Grassmuck will give the opening keynote “Ups and downs in the digital society”! He is a media sociologist, free-lance author and activist, has conducted research on the knowledge order of digital media, on copyright and the knowledge commons at Free University Berlin, Tokyo University, Humboldt University Berlin and University of São Paulo and is currently directing the project “Public Service Media 2.0″ at the Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC) of Leuphana University Lueneburg. He was project lead of the conference series Wizards-of-OS.org and of the copyright information portal iRights.info, co-founded mikro-berlin.orgprivatkopie.net and CompartilhamentoLegal.org and blogs at vgrass.de.

(Foto: Berit Schuck)