Graziano, Mars & Medak
Learning from #Syllabus
2019


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LEARNING FROM
#SYLLABUS
VALERIA GRAZIANO,
MARCELL MARS,
TOMISLAV MEDAK

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LEARNING FROM #SYLLABUS
VALERIA GRAZIANO, MARCELL MARS, TOMISLAV MEDAK
The syllabus is the manifesto of the 21st century.
—Sean Dockray and Benjamin Forster1
#Syllabus Struggles
In August 2014, Michael Brown, an 18-year-old boy living in Ferguson, Missouri,
was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson. Soon after, as the civil protests denouncing police brutality and institutional racism began to mount across the United
States, Dr. Marcia Chatelain, Associate Professor of History and African American
Studies at Georgetown University, launched an online call urging other academics
and teachers ‘to devote the first day of classes to a conversation about Ferguson’ and ‘to recommend texts, collaborate on conversation starters, and inspire
dialogue about some aspect of the Ferguson crisis.’2 Chatelain did so using the
hashtag #FergusonSyllabus.
Also in August 2014, using the hashtag #gamergate, groups of users on 4Chan,
8Chan, Twitter, and Reddit instigated a misogynistic harassment campaign against
game developers Zoë Quinn and Brianna Wu, media critic Anita Sarkeesian, as well as
a number of other female and feminist game producers, journalists, and critics. In the
following weeks, The New Inquiry editors and contributors compiled a reading list and
issued a call for suggestions for their ‘TNI Syllabus: Gaming and Feminism’.3
In June 2015, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United
States. In the weeks that followed, he became the presumptive Republican nominee,
and The Chronicle of Higher Education introduced the syllabus ‘Trump 101’.4 Historians N.D.B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blain found ‘Trump 101’ inadequate, ‘a mock college syllabus […] suffer[ing] from a number of egregious omissions and inaccuracies’,
failing to include ‘contributions of scholars of color and address the critical subjects
of Trump’s racism, sexism, and xenophobia’. They assembled ‘Trump Syllabus 2.0’.5
Soon after, in response to a video in which Trump engaged in ‘an extremely lewd
conversation about women’ with TV host Billy Bush, Laura Ciolkowski put together a
‘Rape Culture Syllabus’.6

1
2
3
4
5
6

Sean Dockray, Benjamin Forster, and Public Office, ‘README.md’, Hyperreadings, 15 February
2018, https://samiz-dat.github.io/hyperreadings/.
Marcia Chatelain, ‘Teaching the #FergusonSyllabus’, Dissent Magazine, 28 November 2014,
https://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/teaching-ferguson-syllabus/.
‘TNI Syllabus: Gaming and Feminism’, The New Inquiry, 2 September 2014, https://thenewinquiry.
com/tni-syllabus-gaming-and-feminism/.
‘Trump 101’, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 19 June 2016, https://www.chronicle.com/article/
Trump-Syllabus/236824/.
N.D.B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blain, ‘Trump Syllabus 2.0’, Public Books, 28 June 2016, https://
www.publicbooks.org/trump-syllabus-2-0/.
Laura Ciolkowski, ‘Rape Culture Syllabus’, Public Books, 15 October 2016, https://www.
publicbooks.org/rape-culture-syllabus/.

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In April 2016, members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe established the Sacred Stone
Camp and started the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the construction of
which threatened the only water supply at the Standing Rock Reservation. The protest at the site of the pipeline became the largest gathering of native Americans in
the last 100 years and they earned significant international support for their ReZpect
Our Water campaign. As the struggle between protestors and the armed forces unfolded, a group of Indigenous scholars, activists, and supporters of the struggles of
First Nations people and persons of color, gathered under the name the NYC Stands
for Standing Rock Committee, put together #StandingRockSyllabus.7
The list of online syllabi created in response to political struggles has continued to
grow, and at present includes many more examples:
All Monuments Must Fall Syllabus
#Blkwomensyllabus
#BLMSyllabus
#BlackIslamSyllabus
#CharlestonSyllabus
#ColinKaepernickSyllabus
#ImmigrationSyllabus
Puerto Rico Syllabus (#PRSyllabus)
#SayHerNameSyllabus
Syllabus for White People to Educate Themselves
Syllabus: Women and Gender Non-Conforming People Writing about Tech
#WakandaSyllabus
What To Do Instead of Calling the Police: A Guide, A Syllabus, A Conversation, A
Process
#YourBaltimoreSyllabus
It would be hard to compile a comprehensive list of all the online syllabi that have
been created by social justice movements in the last five years, especially, but not
exclusively, those initiated in North America in the context of feminist and anti-racist
activism. In what is now a widely spread phenomenon, these political struggles use
social networks and resort to the hashtag template ‘#___Syllabus’ to issue calls for
the bottom-up aggregation of resources necessary for political analysis and pedagogy
centering on their concerns. For this reason, we’ll call this phenomenon ‘#Syllabus’.
During the same years that saw the spread of the #Syllabus phenomenon, university
course syllabi have also been transitioning online, often in a top-down process initiated
by academic institutions, which has seen the syllabus become a contested document
in the midst of increasing casualization of teaching labor, expansion of copyright protections, and technology-driven marketization of education.
In what follows, we retrace the development of the online syllabus in both of these
contexts, to investigate the politics enmeshed in this new media object. Our argument

7

‘#StandingRockSyllabus’, NYC Stands with Standing Rock, 11 October 2016, https://
nycstandswithstandingrock.wordpress.com/standingrocksyllabus/.

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is that, on the one hand, #Syllabus names the problem of contemporary political culture as pedagogical in nature, while, on the other hand, it also exposes academicized
critical pedagogy and intellectuality as insufficiently political in their relation to lived
social reality. Situating our own stakes as both activists and academics in the present
debate, we explore some ways in which the radical politics of #Syllabus could be supported to grow and develop as an articulation of solidarity between amateur librarians
and radical educators.
#Syllabus in Historical Context: Social Movements and Self-Education
When Professor Chatelain launched her call for #FergusonSyllabus, she was mainly
addressing a community of fellow educators:
I knew Ferguson would be a challenge for teachers: When schools opened across
the country, how were they going to talk about what happened? My idea was simple, but has resonated across the country: Reach out to the educators who use
Twitter. Ask them to commit to talking about Ferguson on the first day of classes.
Suggest a book, an article, a film, a song, a piece of artwork, or an assignment that
speaks to some aspect of Ferguson. Use the hashtag: #FergusonSyllabus.8
Her call had a much greater resonance than she had originally anticipated as it reached
beyond the limits of the academic community. #FergusonSyllabus had both a significant impact in shaping the analysis and the response to the shooting of Michael
Brown, and in inspiring the many other #Syllabus calls that soon followed.
The #Syllabus phenomenon comprises different approaches and modes of operating. In some cases, the material is clearly claimed as the creation of a single individual, as in the case of #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus, which is prefaced on the project’s
landing page by a warning to readers that ‘material compiled in this syllabus should
not be duplicated without proper citation and attribution.’9 A very different position on
intellectual property has been embraced by other #Syllabus interventions that have
chosen a more commoning stance. #StandingRockSyllabus, for instance, is introduced as a crowd-sourced process and as a useful ‘tool to access research usually
kept behind paywalls.’10
The different workflows, modes of engagements, and positioning in relation to
intellectual property make #Syllabus readable as symptomatic of the multiplicity
that composes social justice movements. There is something old school—quite
literally—about the idea of calling a list of online resources a ‘syllabus’; a certain
quaintness, evoking thoughts of teachers and homework. This is worthy of investigation especially if contrasted with the attention dedicated to other online cultural
phenomena such as memes or fake news. Could it be that the online syllabus offers

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Marcia Chatelain, ‘How to Teach Kids About What’s Happening in Ferguson’, The Atlantic, 25
August 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/08/how-to-teach-kids-aboutwhats-happening-in-ferguson/379049/.
Frank Leon Roberts, ‘Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance, and Populist Protest’, 2016, http://
www.blacklivesmattersyllabus.com/fall2016/.
‘#StandingRockSyllabus’, NYC Stands with Standing Rock, 11 October 2016, https://
nycstandswithstandingrock.wordpress.com/standingrocksyllabus/.

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a useful, fresh format precisely for the characteristics that foreground its connections to older pedagogical traditions and techniques, predating digital cultures?
#Syllabus can indeed be analyzed as falling within a long lineage of pedagogical tools
created by social movements to support processes of political subjectivation and the
building of collective consciousness. Activists and militant organizers have time and
again created and used various textual media objects—such as handouts, pamphlets,
cookbooks, readers, or manifestos—to facilitate a shared political analysis and foment
mass political mobilization.
In the context of the US, anti-racist movements have historically placed great emphasis on critical pedagogy and self-education. In 1964, the Council of Federated Organizations (an alliance of civil rights initiatives) and the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC), created a network of 41 temporary alternative
schools in Mississippi. Recently, the Freedom Library Project, a campaign born out
of #FergusonSyllabus to finance under-resourced pedagogical initiatives, openly
referenced this as a source of inspiration. The Freedom Summer Project of 1964
brought hundreds of activists, students, and scholars (many of whom were white)
from the north of the country to teach topics and issues that the discriminatory
state schools would not offer to black students. In the words of an SNCC report,
Freedom Schools were established following the belief that ‘education—facts to
use and freedom to use them—is the basis of democracy’,11 a conviction echoed
by the ethos of contemporary #Syllabus initiatives.
Bob Moses, a civil rights movement leader who was the head of the literary skills initiative in Mississippi, recalls the movement’s interest, at the time, in teaching methods
that used the very production of teaching materials as a pedagogical tool:
I had gotten hold of a text and was using it with some adults […] and noticed that
they couldn’t handle it because the pictures weren’t suited to what they knew […]
That got me into thinking about developing something closer to what people were
doing. What I was interested in was the idea of training SNCC workers to develop
material with the people we were working with.12
It is significant that for him the actual use of the materials the group created was much
less important than the process of producing the teaching materials together. This focus
on what could be named as a ‘pedagogy of teaching’, or perhaps more accurately ‘the
pedagogy of preparing teaching materials’, is also a relevant mechanism at play in the
current #Syllabus initiatives, as their crowdsourcing encourages different kinds of people
to contribute what they feel might be relevant resources for the broader movement.
Alongside the crucial import of radical black organizing, another relevant genealogy in
which to place #Syllabus would be the international feminist movement and, in particular, the strategies developed in the 70s campaign Wages for Housework, spearheaded

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12

Daniel Perlstein, ‘Teaching Freedom: SNCC and the Creation of the Mississippi Freedom Schools’,
History of Education Quarterly 30.3 (Autumn 1990): 302.
Perlstein, ‘Teaching Freedom’: 306.

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by Selma James and Silvia Federici. The Wages for Housework campaign drove home
the point that unwaged reproductive labor provides a foundation for capitalist exploitation. They wanted to encourage women to denaturalize and question the accepted
division of labor into remunerated work outside the house and labor of love within
the confines of domesticity, discussing taboo topics such as ‘prostitution as socialized housework’ and ‘forced sterilization’ as issues impacting poor, often racialized,
women. The organizing efforts of Wages for Housework held political pedagogy at their
core. They understood that that pedagogy required:
having literature and other materials available to explain our goals, all written in a
language that women can understand. We also need different types of documents,
some more theoretical, others circulating information about struggles. It is important
that we have documents for women who have never had any political experience.
This is why our priority is to write a popular pamphlet that we can distribute massively and for free—because women have no money.13
The obstacles faced by the Wages for Housework campaign were many, beginning
with the issue of how to reach a dispersed constituency of isolated housewives
and how to keep the revolutionary message at the core of their claims accessible
to different groups. In order to tackle these challenges, the organizers developed
a number of innovative communication tactics and pedagogical tools, including
strategies to gain mainstream media coverage, pamphlets and leaflets translated
into different languages,14 a storefront shop in Brooklyn, and promotional tables at
local events.
Freedom Schools and the Wages for Housework campaign are only two amongst
the many examples of the critical pedagogies developed within social movements.
The #Syllabus phenomenon clearly stands in the lineage of this history, yet we should
also highlight its specificity in relation to the contemporary political context in which it
emerged. The #Syllabus acknowledges that since the 70s—and also due to students’
participation in protests and their display of solidarity with other political movements—
subjects such as Marxist critical theory, women studies, gender studies, and African
American studies, together with some of the principles first developed in critical pedagogy, have become integrated into the educational system. The fact that many initiators of #Syllabus initiatives are women and Black academics speaks to this historical
shift as an achievement of that period of struggles. However, the very necessity felt by
these educators to kick-start their #Syllabus campaigns outside the confines of academia simultaneously reveals the difficulties they encounter within the current privatized and exclusionary educational complex.

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Silvia Federici and Arlen Austin (eds) The New York Wages for Housework Committee 1972-1977:
History, Theory and Documents. New York: Autonomedia, 2017: 37.
Some of the flyers and pamphlets were digitized by MayDay Rooms, ‘a safe haven for historical
material linked to social movements, experimental culture and the radical expression of
marginalised figures and groups’ in London, and can be found in their online archive: ‘Wages
for Housework: Pamphlets – Flyers – Photographs’, MayDay Rooms, http://maydayrooms.org/
archives/wages-for-housework/wfhw-pamphlets-flyers-photographs/.

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#Syllabus as a Media Object
Besides its contextualization within the historical legacy of previous grassroots mobilizations, it is also necessary to discuss #Syllabus as a new media object in its own
right, in order to fully grasp its relevance for the future politics of knowledge production and transmission.
If we were to describe this object, a #Syllabus would be an ordered list of links to
scholarly texts, news reports, and audiovisual media, mostly aggregated through a
participatory and iterative process, and created in response to political events indicative of larger conditions of structural oppression. Still, as we have seen, #Syllabus
as a media object doesn’t follow a strict format. It varies based on the initial vision
of their initiators, political causes, and social composition of the relevant struggle.
Nor does it follow the format of traditional academic syllabi. While a list of learning
resources is at the heart of any syllabus, a boilerplate university syllabus typically
also includes objectives, a timetable, attendance, coursework, examination, and an
outline of the grading system used for the given course. Relieved of these institutional
requirements, the #Syllabus typically includes only a reading list and a hashtag. The
reading list provides resources for understanding what is relevant to the here and
now, while the hashtag provides a way to disseminate across social networks the call
to both collectively edit and teach what is relevant to the here and now. Both the list
and the hashtag are specificities and formal features of the contemporary (internet)
culture and therefore merit further exploration in relation to the social dynamics at
play in #Syllabus initiatives.
The different phases of the internet’s development approached the problem of the
discoverability of relevant information in different ways. In the early days, the Gopher
protocol organized information into a hierarchical file tree. With the rise of World Wide
Web (WWW), Yahoo tried to employ experts to classify and catalog the internet into
a directory of links. That seemed to be a successful approach for a while, but then
Google (founded in 1998) came along and started to use a webgraph of links to rank
the importance of web pages relative to a given search query.
In 2005, Clay Shirky wrote the essay ‘Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links and
Tags’,15 developed from his earlier talk ‘Folksonomies and Tags: The Rise of User-Developed Classification’. Shirky used Yahoo’s attempt to categorize the WWW to argue
against any attempt to classify a vast heterogenous body of information into a single
hierarchical categorical system. In his words: ‘[Yahoo] missed [...] that, if you’ve got
enough links, you don’t need the hierarchy anymore. There is no shelf. There is no file
system. The links alone are enough.’ Those words resonated with many. By following
simple formatting rules, we, the internet users, whom Time magazine named Person of
the Year in 2006, proved that it is possible to collectively write the largest encyclopedia
ever. But, even beyond that, and as per Shirky’s argument, if enough of us organized
our own snippets of the vast body of the internet, we could replace old canons, hierarchies, and ontologies with folksonomies, social bookmarks, and (hash)tags.

15

Clay Shirky, ‘Ontology Is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags’, 2005, http://shirky.com/writings/
herecomeseverybody/ontology_overrated.html.

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Very few who lived through those times would have thought that only a few years later
most user-driven services would be acquired by a small number of successful companies and then be shut down. Or, that Google would decide not to include the biggest
hashtag-driven platform, Twitter, into its search index and that the search results on
its first page would only come from a handful of usual suspects: media conglomerates, Wikipedia, Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, Reddit, Quora. Or, that Twitter would
become the main channel for the racist, misogynist, fascist escapades of the President
of United States.
This internet folk naivety—stoked by an equally enthusiastic, venture-capital-backed
startup culture—was not just naivety. This was also a period of massive experimental
use of these emerging platforms. Therefore, this history would merit to be properly
revisited and researched. In this text, however, we can only hint to this history: to contextualize how the hashtag as a formalization initially emerged, and how with time the
user-driven web lost some of its potential. Nonetheless, hashtags today still succeed in
propagating political mobilizations in the network environment. Some will say that this
propagation is nothing but a reflection of the internet as a propaganda machine, and
there’s no denying that hashtags do serve a propaganda function. However, it equally
matters that hashtags retain the capacity to shape coordination and self-organization,
and they are therefore a reflection of the internet as an organization machine.
As mentioned, #Syllabus as a media object is an ordered list of links to resources.
In the long history of knowledge retrieval systems and attempts to help users find
relevant information from big archives, the list on the internet continues in the tradition of the index card catalog in libraries, of charts in the music industry, or mixtapes
and playlists in popular culture, helping people tell their stories of what is relevant and
what isn’t through an ordered sequence of items. The list (as a format) together with
the hashtag find themselves in the list (pun intended) of the most iconic media objects
of the internet. In the network media environment, being smart in creating new lists
became the way to displace old lists of relevance, the way to dismantle canons, the
way to unlearn. The way to become relevant.
The Academic Syllabus Migrates Online
#Syllabus interventions are a challenge issued by political struggles to educators as
they expose a fundamental contradiction in the operations of academia. While critical pedagogies of yesteryear’s social movements have become integrated into the
education system, the radical lessons that these pedagogies teach students don’t
easily reconcile with their experience: professional practice courses, the rethoric of
employability and compulsory internships, where what they learn is merely instrumental, leaves them wondering how on earth they are to apply their Marxism or feminism
to their everyday lives?
Cognitive dissonance is at the basis of degrees in the liberal arts. And to make things
worse, the marketization of higher education, the growing fees and the privatization
of research has placed universities in a position where they increasingly struggle to
provide institutional space for critical interventions in social reality. As universities become more dependent on the ‘customer satisfaction’ of their students for survival, they
steer away from heated political topics or from supporting faculty members who might
decide to engage with them. Borrowing the words of Stefano Harney and Fred Moten,

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‘policy posits curriculum against study’,16 creating the paradoxical situation wherein
today’s universities are places in which it is possible to do almost everything except
study. What Harney and Moten propose instead is the re-appropriation of the diffuse
capacity of knowledge generation that stems from the collective processes of selforganization and commoning. As Moten puts it: ‘When I think about the way we use the
term ‘study,’ I think we are committed to the idea that study is what you do with other
people.’17 And it is this practice of sharing a common repertoire—what Moten and
Harney call ‘rehearsal’18—that is crucially constitutive of a crowdsourced #Syllabus.
This contradiction and the tensions it brings to contemporary neoliberal academia can
be symptomatically observed in the recent evolution of the traditional academic syllabus. As a double consequence of (some) critical pedagogies becoming incorporated
into the teaching process and universities striving to reduce their liability risks, academic syllabi have become increasingly complex and extensive documents. They are
now understood as both a ‘social contract’ between the teachers and their students,
and ‘terms of service’19 between the institution providing educational services and the
students increasingly framed as sovereign consumers making choices in the market of
educational services. The growing official import of the syllabus has had the effect that
educators have started to reflect on how the syllabus translates the power dynamics
into their classroom. For instance, the critical pedagogue Adam Heidebrink-Bruno has
demanded that the syllabus be re-conceived as a manifesto20—a document making
these concerns explicit. And indeed, many academics have started to experiment with
the form and purpose of the syllabus, opening it up to a process of co-conceptualization with their students, or proposing ‘the other syllabus’21 to disrupt asymmetries.
At the same time, universities are unsurprisingly moving their syllabi online. A migration
that can be read as indicative of three larger structural shifts in academia.
First, the push to make syllabi available online, initiated in the US, reinforces the differential effects of reputation economy. It is the Ivy League universities and their professorial star system that can harness the syllabus to advertise the originality of their
scholarship, while the underfunded public universities and junior academics are burdened with teaching the required essentials. This practice is tied up with the replication
in academia of the different valorization between what is considered to be the labor of
production (research) and that of social reproduction (teaching). The low esteem (and
corresponding lower rewards and remuneration) for the kinds of intellectual labors that
can be considered labors of care—editing journals, reviewing papers or marking, for
instance—fits perfectly well with the gendered legacies of the academic institution.

Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, New York:
Autonomedia, 2013, p. 81.
17 Harney and Moten, The Undercommons, p. 110.
18 Harney and Moten, The Undercommons, p. 110.
19 Angela Jenks, ‘It’s In The Syllabus’, Teaching Tools, Cultural Anthropology website, 30 June 2016,
https://culanth.org/fieldsights/910-it-s-in-the-syllabu/.
20 Adam Heidebrink-Bruno, ‘Syllabus as Manifesto: A Critical Approach to Classroom Culture’,
Hybrid Pedagogy, 28 August 2014, http://hybridpedagogy.org/syllabus-manifesto-criticalapproach-classroom-culture/.
21 Lucy E. Bailey, ‘The “Other” Syllabus: Rendering Teaching Politics Visible in the Graduate
Pedagogy Seminar’, Feminist Teacher 20.2 (2010): 139–56.
16

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Second, with the withdrawal of resources to pay precarious and casualized academics during their ‘prep’ time (that is, the time in which they can develop new
course material, including assembling new lists of references, updating their courses as well as the methodologies through which they might deliver these), syllabi
now assume an ambivalent role between the tendencies for collectivization and
individualization of insecurity. The reading lists contained in syllabi are not covered
by copyrights; they are like playlists or recipes, which historically had the effect of
encouraging educators to exchange lesson plans and make their course outlines
freely available as a valuable knowledge common. Yet, in the current climate where
universities compete against each other, the authorial function is being extended
to these materials too. Recently, US universities have been leading a trend towards
the interpretation of the syllabus as copyrightable material, an interpretation that
opened up, as would be expected, a number of debates over who is a syllabus’
rightful owner, whether the academics themselves or their employers. If the latter interpretation were to prevail, this would enable universities to easily replace
academics while retaining their contributions to the pedagogical offer. The fruits of
a teacher’s labor could thus be turned into instruments of their own deskilling and
casualization: why would universities pay someone to write a course when they can
recycle someone else’s syllabus and get a PhD student or a precarious post doc to
teach the same class at a fraction of the price?
This tendency to introduce a logic of property therefore spurs competitive individualism and erasure of contributions from others. Thus, crowdsourcing the syllabus
in the context of growing precarization of labor risks remaining a partial process,
as it might heighten the anxieties of those educators who do not enjoy the security
of a stable job and who are therefore the most susceptible to the false promises of
copyright enforcement and authorship understood as a competitive, small entrepreneurial activity. However, when inserted in the context of live, broader political
struggles, the opening up of the syllabus could and should be an encouragement
to go in the opposite direction, providing a ground to legitimize the collective nature
of the educational process and to make all academic resources available without
copyright restrictions, while devising ways to secure the proper attribution and the
just remuneration of everyone’s labor.
The introduction of the logic of property is hard to challenge as it is furthered by commercial academic publishers. Oligopolists, such as Elsevier, are not only notorious for
using copyright protections to extract usurious profits from the mostly free labor of
those who write, peer review, and edit academic journals,22 but they are now developing all sorts of metadata, metrics, and workflow systems that are increasingly becoming central for teaching and research. In addition to their publishing business, Elsevier
has expanded its ‘research intelligence’ offering, which now encompasses a whole
range of digital services, including the Scopus citation database; Mendeley reference
manager; the research performance analytics tools SciVal and Research Metrics; the
centralized research management system Pure; the institutional repository and pub-

22 Vincent Larivière, Stefanie Haustein, and Philippe Mongeon, ‘The Oligopoly of Academic
Publishers in the Digital Era’, PLoS ONE 10.6 (10 June 2015),https://journals.plos.org/plosone/
article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0127502/.

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lishing platform Bepress; and, last but not least, grant discovery and funding flow tools
Funding Institutional and Elsevier Funding Solutions. Given how central digital services
are becoming in today’s universities, whoever owns these platforms is the university.
Third, the migration online of the academic syllabus falls into larger efforts by universities to ‘disrupt’ the educational system through digital technologies. The introduction
of virtual learning environments has led to lesson plans, slides, notes, and syllabi becoming items to be deposited with the institution. The doors of public higher education are being opened to commercial qualification providers by means of the rise in
metrics-based management, digital platforming of university services, and transformation of students into consumers empowered to make ‘real-time’ decisions on how to
spend their student debt.23 Such neoliberalization masquerading behind digitization
is nowhere more evident than in the hype that was generated around Massive Open
Online Courses (MOOCs), exactly at the height of the last economic crisis.
MOOCs developed gradually from the Massachusetts Institute of Techology’s (MIT) initial experiments with opening up its teaching materials to the public through the OpenCourseWare project in 2001. By 2011, MOOCs were saluted as a full-on democratization of access to ‘Ivy-League-caliber education [for] the world’s poor.’24 And yet, their
promise quickly deflated following extremely low completion rates (as low as 5%).25
Believing that in fifty years there will be no more than 10 institutions globally delivering
higher education,26 by the end of 2013 Sebastian Thrun (Google’s celebrated roboticist
who in 2012 founded the for-profit MOOC platform Udacity), had to admit that Udacity
offered a ‘lousy product’ that proved to be a total failure with ‘students from difficult
neighborhoods, without good access to computers, and with all kinds of challenges in
their lives.’27 Critic Aaron Bady has thus rightfully argued that:
[MOOCs] demonstrate what the technology is not good at: accreditation and mass
education. The MOOC rewards self-directed learners who have the resources and
privilege that allow them to pursue learning for its own sake [...] MOOCs are also a
really poor way to make educational resources available to underserved and underprivileged communities, which has been the historical mission of public education.28
Indeed, the ‘historical mission of public education’ was always and remains to this
day highly contested terrain—the very idea of a public good being under attack by
dominant managerial techniques that try to redefine it, driving what Randy Martin

23 Ben Williamson, ‘Number Crunching: Transforming Higher Education into “Performance Data”’,
Medium, 16 August 2018, https://medium.com/ussbriefs/number-crunching-transforming-highereducation-into-performance-data-9c23debc4cf7.
24 Max Chafkin, ‘Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, Godfather Of Free Online Education, Changes Course’,
FastCompany, 14 November 2013, https://www.fastcompany.com/3021473/udacity-sebastianthrun-uphill-climb/.
25 ‘The Rise (and Fall?) Of the MOOC’, Oxbridge Essays, 14 November 2017, https://www.
oxbridgeessays.com/blog/rise-fall-mooc/.
26 Steven Leckart, ‘The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever’,
Wired, 20 March 2012, https://www.wired.com/2012/03/ff_aiclass/.
27 Chafkin, ‘Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun’.
28 Aaron Bady, ‘The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform’, Liberal Education 99.4 (Fall 2013),
https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/mooc-moment-and-end-reform.

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aptly called the ‘financialization of daily life.’29 The failure of MOOCs finally points to a
broader question, also impacting the vicissitudes of #Syllabus: Where will actual study
practices find refuge in the social, once the social is made directly productive for capital at all times? Where will study actually ‘take place’, in the literal sense of the phrase,
claiming the resources that it needs for co-creation in terms of time, labor, and love?
Learning from #Syllabus
What have we learned from the #Syllabus phenomenon?
The syllabus is the manifesto of 21st century.
Political struggles against structural discrimination, oppression, and violence in the
present are continuing the legacy of critical pedagogies of earlier social movements
that coupled the process of political subjectivation with that of collective education.
By creating effective pedagogical tools, movements have brought educators and students into the fold of their struggles. In the context of our new network environment,
political struggles have produced a new media object: #Syllabus, a crowdsourced list
of resources—historic and present—relevant to a cause. By doing so, these struggles
adapt, resist, and live in and against the networks dominated by techno-capital, with
all of the difficulties and contradictions that entails.
What have we learned from the academic syllabus migrating online?
In the contemporary university, critical pedagogy is clashing head-on with the digitization of higher education. Education that should empower and research that should
emancipate are increasingly left out in the cold due to the data-driven marketization
of academia, short-cutting the goals of teaching and research to satisfy the fluctuating demands of labor market and financial speculation. Resistance against the capture of data, research workflows, and scholarship by means of digitization is a key
struggle for the future of mass intellectuality beyond exclusions of class, disability,
gender, and race.
What have we learned from #Syllabus as a media object?
As old formats transform into new media objects, the digital network environment defines the conditions in which these new media objects try to adjust, resist, and live. A
right intuition can intervene and change the landscape—not necessarily for the good,
particularly if the imperatives of capital accumulation and social control prevail. We
thus need to re-appropriate the process of production and distribution of #Syllabus
as a media object in its totality. We need to build tools to collectively control the workflows that are becoming the infrastructures on top of which we collaboratively produce
knowledge that is vital for us to adjust, resist, and live. In order to successfully intervene in the world, every aspect of production and distribution of these new media objects becomes relevant. Every single aspect counts. The order of items in a list counts.
The timestamp of every version of the list counts. The name of every contributor to

29 Randy Martin, Financialization Of Daily Life, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002.

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127

every version of the list counts. Furthermore, the workflow to keep track of all of these
aspects is another complex media object—a software tool of its own—with its own order and its own versions. It is a recursive process of creating an autonomous ecology.
#Syllabus can be conceived as a recursive process of versioning lists, pointing to textual, audiovisual, or other resources. With all of the linked resources publicly accessible to all; with all versions of the lists editable by all; with all of the edits attributable to
their contributors; with all versions, all linked resources, all attributions preservable by
all, just such an autonomous ecology can be made for #Syllabus. In fact, Sean Dockray, Benjamin Forster, and Public Office have already proposed such a methodology in
their Hyperreadings, a forkable readme.md plaintext document on GitHub. They write:
A text that by its nature points to other texts, the syllabus is already a relational
document acknowledging its own position within a living field of knowledge. It is
decidedly not self-contained, however it often circulates as if it were.
If a syllabus circulated as a HyperReadings document, then it could point directly to the texts and other media that it aggregates. But just as easily as it circulates, a HyperReadings syllabus could be forked into new versions: the syllabus
is changed because there is a new essay out, or because of a political disagreement, or because following the syllabus produced new suggestions. These forks
become a family tree where one can follow branches and trace epistemological
mutations.30
It is in line with this vision, which we share with the HyperReadings crew, and in line
with our analysis, that we, as amateur librarians, activists, and educators, make our
promise beyond the limits of this text.
The workflow that we are bootstrapping here will keep in mind every aspect of the media object syllabus (order, timestamp, contributor, version changes), allowing diversity
via forking and branching, and making sure that every reference listed in a syllabus
will find its reference in a catalog which will lead to the actual material, in digital form,
needed for the syllabus.
Against the enclosures of copyright, we will continue building shadow libraries and
archives of struggles, providing access to resources needed for the collective processes of education.
Against the corporate platforming of workflows and metadata, we will work with social
movements, political initiatives, educators, and researchers to aggregate, annotate,
version, and preserve lists of resources.
Against the extractivism of academia, we will take care of the material conditions that
are needed for such collective thinking to take place, both on- and offline.

30 Sean Dockray, Benjamin Forster, and Public Office, ‘README.md’, Hyperreadings, 15 February
2018, https://samiz-dat.github.io/hyperreadings/.

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Bibliography
Bady, Aaron. ‘The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform’, Liberal Education 99.4 (Fall 2013), https://
www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/mooc-moment-and-end-reform/.
Bailey, Lucy E. ‘The “Other” Syllabus: Rendering Teaching Politics Visible in the Graduate Pedagogy
Seminar’, Feminist Teacher 20.2 (2010): 139–56.
Chafkin, Max. ‘Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, Godfather Of Free Online Education, Changes Course’,
FastCompany, 14 November 2013, https://www.fastcompany.com/3021473/udacity-sebastianthrun-uphill-climb/.
Chatelain, Marcia. ‘How to Teach Kids About What’s Happening in Ferguson’, The Atlantic, 25 August
2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/08/how-to-teach-kids-about-whatshappening-in-ferguson/379049/.
_____. ‘Teaching the #FergusonSyllabus’, Dissent Magazine, 28 November 2014, https://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/teaching-ferguson-syllabus/.
Ciolkowski, Laura. ‘Rape Culture Syllabus’, Public Books, 15 October 2016, https://www.publicbooks.
org/rape-culture-syllabus/.
Connolly, N.D.B. and Keisha N. Blain. ‘Trump Syllabus 2.0’, Public Books, 28 June 2016, https://www.
publicbooks.org/trump-syllabus-2-0/.
Dockray, Sean, Benjamin Forster, and Public Office. ‘README.md’, HyperReadings, 15 February 2018,
https://samiz-dat.github.io/hyperreadings/.
Federici, Silvia, and Arlen Austin (eds) The New York Wages for Housework Committee 1972-1977: History, Theory, Documents, New York: Autonomedia, 2017.
Harney, Stefano, and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, New York:
Autonomedia, 2013.
Heidebrink-Bruno, Adam. ‘Syllabus as Manifesto: A Critical Approach to Classroom Culture’, Hybrid
Pedagogy, 28 August 2014, http://hybridpedagogy.org/syllabus-manifesto-critical-approach-classroom-culture/.
Jenks, Angela. ‘It’s In The Syllabus’, Teaching Tools, Cultural Anthropology website, 30 June 2016,
https://culanth.org/fieldsights/910-it-s-in-the-syllabus/.
Larivière, Vincent, Stefanie Haustein, and Philippe Mongeon, ‘The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era’, PLoS ONE 10.6 (10 June 2015), https://journals.plos.org/plosone/
article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0127502/.
Leckart, Steven. ‘The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever’, Wired,
20 March 2012, https://www.wired.com/2012/03/ff_aiclass/.
Martin, Randy. Financialization Of Daily Life, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002.
Perlstein, Daniel. ‘Teaching Freedom: SNCC and the Creation of the Mississippi Freedom Schools’,
History of Education Quarterly 30.3 (Autumn 1990).
Roberts, Frank Leon. ‘Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance, and Populist Protest’, 2016, http://www.
blacklivesmattersyllabus.com/fall2016/.
‘#StandingRockSyllabus’, NYC Stands with Standing Rock, 11 October 2016, https://nycstandswithstandingrock.wordpress.com/standingrocksyllabus/.
Shirky, Clay. ‘Ontology Is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags’, 2005, http://shirky.com/writings/
herecomeseverybody/ontology_overrated.html.
‘The Rise (and Fall?) Of the MOOC’, Oxbridge Essays, 14 November 2017, https://www.oxbridgeessays.
com/blog/rise-fall-mooc/.
‘TNI Syllabus: Gaming and Feminism’, The New Inquiry, 2 September 2014, https://thenewinquiry.com/
tni-syllabus-gaming-and-feminism/.
‘Trump 101’, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 19 June 2016, https://www.chronicle.com/article/
Trump-Syllabus/236824/.
‘Wages for Housework: Pamphlets – Flyers – Photographs,’ MayDay Rooms, http://maydayrooms.org/
archives/wages-for-housework/wfhw-pamphlets-flyers-photographs/.
Williamson, Ben. ‘Number Crunching: Transforming Higher Education into “Performance Data”’,
Medium, 16 August 2018, https://medium.com/ussbriefs/number-crunching-transforming-highereducation-into-performance-data-9c23debc4cf7/.


WHW
There Is Something Political in the City Air
2016


What, How & for Whom / WHW

“There is something political in the city air”*

The curatorial collective What,
How & for Whom / WHW, based
in Zagreb and Berlin, examine
the interconnections between
contemporary art and political and
social strata, including the role of art
institutions in contemporary society.
In the present essay, their discussion
of recent projects they curated
highlights the struggle for access to
knowledge and the free distribution
of information, which in Croatia also
means confronting the pressures
of censorship and revisionism
in the writing of history and the
construction of the future.

Contemporary art’s attempts to come to terms with its evasions in delivering on the promise of its own intrinsic capacity to propose alternatives, and
to do better in the constant game of staying ahead of institutional closures
and marketization, are related to a broader malady in leftist politics. The
crisis of organizational models and modes of political action feels especially acute nowadays, after the latest waves of massive political mobilization
and upheaval embodied in such movements as the Arab Spring and Occupy and the widespread social protests in Southern Europe against austerity
measures – and the failure of these movements to bring about structural
changes. As we witnessed in the dramatic events that unfolded through the
spring and summer of 2015, even in Greece, where Syriza was brought to
power, the people’s will behind newly elected governments proved insufficient to change the course of austerity politics in Europe. Simultaneously,
a series of conditional gains and effective defeats gave rise to the alarming
ascent of radical right-wing populism, against which the left has failed to
provide any real vision or driving force.
Both the practice of political articulation and the political practices of
art have been affected by the hollowing and disabling of democracy related
to the ascendant hegemony of the neoliberal rationale that shapes every
domain of our lives in accordance with a specific image of economics,1
as well as the problematic “embrace of localism and autonomy by much
of the left as the pure strategy”2 and the left’s inability to destabilize the
dominant world-view and reclaim the future.3 Consequently, art practices
increasingly venture into novel modes of operation that seek to “expand
our collective imagination beyond what capitalism allows”.4 They not only
point to the problems but address them head on. By negotiating art’s autonomy and impact on the social, and by conceptualizing the whole edifice
of art as a social symptom, such practices attempt to do more than simply
squeeze novel ideas into exhausted artistic formats and endow them with
political content that produces “marks of distinction”,5 which capital then
exploits for the enhancement of its own reproduction.
The two projects visited in this text both work toward building truly
accessible public spaces. Public Library, launched by Marcell Mars and
Tomislav Medak in 2012, is an ongoing media and social project based on
ideas from the open-source software movement, while Autonomy Cube, by
artist Trevor Paglen and the hacker and computer security researcher Jacob Appelbaum, centres on anonymized internet usage in the post–Edward
*
1
2
3
4
5

David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, Verso, London and New York, 2012, p. 117.
See Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution, Zone books,
New York, 2015.
Harvey, Rebel Cities, p. 83.
See Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World
Without Work, Verso, London and New York, 2015.
Ibid., p. 495.
See Harvey, Rebel Cities, especially pp. 103–109.

“There is something political in the city air”

289

Snowden world of unprecedented institutionalized surveillance. Both projects operate in tacit alliance with art institutions that more often than not
are suffering from a kind of “mission drift” under pressure to align their
practices and structures with the profit sector, a situation that in recent
decades has gradually become the new norm.6 By working within and with
art institutions, both Public Library and Autonomy Cube induce the institutions to return to their initial mission of creating new common spaces
of socialization and political action. The projects develop counter-publics
and work with infrastructures, in the sense proposed by Keller Easterling:
not just physical networks but shared standards and ideas that constitute
points of contact and access between people and thus rule, govern, and
control the spaces in which we live.7
By building a repository of digitized books, and enabling others to do this
as well, Public Library promotes the idea of the library as a truly public institution that offers universal access to knowledge, which “together with
free public education, a free public healthcare, the scientific method, the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Wikipedia, and free software,
among others – we, the people, are most proud of ”, as the authors of the
project have said.8 Public Library develops devices for the free sharing of
books, but it also functions as a platform for advocating social solidarity
in free access to knowledge. By ignoring and avoiding the restrictive legal
regime for intellectual property, which was brought about by decades of
neoliberalism, as well as the privatization or closure of public institutions,
spatial controls, policing, and surveillance – all of which disable or restrict
possibilities for building new social relations and a new commons – Public
Library can be seen as part of the broader movement to resist neoliberal
austerity politics and the commodification of knowledge and education
and to appropriate public spaces and public goods for common purposes.
While Public Library is fully engaged with the movement to oppose the
copyright regime – which developed as a kind of rent for expropriating the
commons and reintroducing an artificial scarcity of cognitive goods that
could be reproduced virtually for free – the project is not under the spell of
digital fetishism, which until fairly recently celebrated a new digital commons as a non-frictional space of smooth collaboration where a new political and economic autonomy would be forged that would spill over and
undermine the real economy and permeate all spheres of life.9 As Matteo
Pasquinelli argues in his critique of “digitalism” and its celebration of the
6
7
8
9

See Brown, Undoing the Demos.
Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space, Verso, London and
New York, 2014.
Marcell Mars, Manar Zarroug, and Tomislav Medak, “Public Library”, in Public Library,
ed. Marcell Mars, Tomislav Medak, and What, How & for Whom / WHW, exh. publication, What, How & for Whom / WHW and Multimedia Institute, Zagreb, 2015, p. 78.
See Matteo Pasquinelli, Animal Spirits: A Bestiary of the Commons, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, and Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2008.

290

What, How & for Whom / WHW

virtues of the information economy with no concern about the material
basis of production, the information economy is a parasite on the material
economy and therefore “an accurate understanding of the common must
be always interlinked with the real physical forces producing it and the material economy surrounding it.”10
Public Library emancipates books from the restrictive copyright regime
and participates in the exchange of information enabled by digital technology, but it also acknowledges the labour and energy that make this possible. There is labour that goes into the cataloguing of the books, and labour
that goes into scanning them before they can be brought into the digital
realm of free reproduction, just as there are the ingenuity and labour of
the engineers who developed a special scanner that makes it easier to scan
books; also, the scanner needs to be installed, maintained, and fed books
over hours of work. This is where the institutional space of art comes in
handy by supporting the material production central to the Public Library
endeavour. But the scanner itself does not need to be visible. In 2014, at
the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, we curated the
exhibition Really Useful Knowledge, which dealt with conflicts triggered by
struggles over access to knowledge and the effects that knowledge, as the
basis of capital reproduction, has on the totality of workers’ lives. In the
exhibition, the production funds allocated to Public Library were used to
build the book scanner at Calafou, an anarchist cooperative outside Barcelona. The books chosen for scanning were relevant to the exhibition’s
themes – methods of reciprocal learning and teaching, forms of social and
political organization, the history of the Spanish Civil War, etc. – and after
being scanned, they were uploaded to the Public Library website. All that
was visible in the exhibition itself was a kind of index card or business card
with a URL link to the Public Library website and a short statement (fig. 1):
A public library is:
• free access to books for every member of society
• library catalog
• librarian
With books ready to be shared, meticulously cataloged, everyone is a
librarian. When everyone is librarian, the library is everywhere.11
Public Library’s alliance with art institutions serves to strengthen the
cultural capital both for the general demand to free books from copyright
restrictions on cultural goods and for the project itself – such cultural capital could be useful in a potential lawsuit. Simultaneously, the presence and
realization of the Public Library project within an exhibition enlists the host
institution as part of the movement and exerts influence on it by taking
the museum’s public mission seriously and extending it into a grey zone of
10
11

Ibid., p. 29.
Mars, Zarroug, and Medak, “Public Library”, p. 85.

“There is something political in the city air”

291

questionable legality. The defence of the project becomes possible by making the traditional claim of the “autonomy” of art, which is not supposed
to assert any power beyond the museum walls. By taking art’s autonomy
at its word, and by testing the truth of the liberal-democratic claim that
the field of art is a field of unlimited freedom, Public Library engages in a
kind of “overidentification” game, or what Keller Easterling, writing about
the expanded activist repertoire in infrastructure space, calls “exaggerated
compliance”.12 Should the need arise, as in the case of a potential lawsuit
against the project, claims of autonomy and artistic freedom create a protective shroud of untouchability. And in this game of liberating books from
the parochial capitalist imagination that restricts their free circulation, the
institution becomes a complicit partner. The long-acknowledged insight
that institutions embrace and co-opt critique is, in this particular case, a
win-win situation, as Public Library uses the public status of the museum
as a springboard to establish the basic message of free access and the free
circulation of books and knowledge as common sense, while the museum
performs its mission of bringing knowledge to the public and supporting
creativity, in this case the reworking, rebuilding and reuse of technology
for the common good. The fact that the institution is not naive but complicit produces a synergy that enhances potentialities for influencing and
permeating the public sphere. The gesture of not exhibiting the scanner in
the museum has, among other things, a practical purpose, as more books
would be scanned voluntarily by the members of the anarchist commune
in Calafou than would be by the overworked museum staff, and employing
somebody to do this during the exhibition would be too expensive (and the
mantra of cuts, cuts, cuts would render negotiation futile). If there is a flirtatious nod to the strategic game of not exposing too much, it is directed less
toward the watchful eyes of the copyright police than toward the exhibition
regime of contemporary art group shows in which works compete for attention, the biggest scarcity of all. Public Library flatly rejects identification
with the object “our beloved bookscanner” (as the scanner is described on
the project website13), although it is an attractive object that could easily
be featured as a sculpture within the exhibition. But its efficacy and use
come first, as is also true of the enigmatic business card–like leaflet, which
attracts people to visit the Public Library website and use books, not only to
read them but also to add books to the library: doing this in the privacy of
one’s home on one’s own computer is certainly more effective than doing
it on a computer provided and displayed in the exhibition among the other
art objects, films, installations, texts, shops, cafés, corridors, exhibition
halls, elevators, signs, and crowds in a museum like Reina Sofia.
For the exhibition to include a scanner that was unlikely to be used or
a computer monitor that showed the website from which books might be
12
13

Easterling, Extrastatecraft, p. 492.
See https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2012/10/28/our-belovedbookscanner-2/ (accessed July 4, 2016).

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What, How & for Whom / WHW

downloaded, but probably not read, would be the embodiment of what
philosopher Robert Pfaller calls “interpassivity”, the appearance of activity or a stand-in for it that in fact replaces any genuine engagement.14 For
Pfaller, interpassivity designates a flight from engagement, a misplaced libidinal investment that under the mask of enjoyment hides aversion to an
activity that one is supposed to enjoy, or more precisely: “Interpassivity is
the creation of a compromise between cultural interests and latent cultural
aversion.”15 Pfaller’s examples of participation in an enjoyable process that
is actually loathed include book collecting and the frantic photocopying of
articles in libraries (his book was originally published in 2002, when photocopying had not yet been completely replaced by downloading, bookmarking, etc.).16 But he also discusses contemporary art exhibitions as sites of
interpassivity, with their overabundance of objects and time-based works
that require time that nobody has, and with the figure of the curator on
whom enjoyment is displaced – the latter, he says, is a good example of
“delegated enjoyment”. By not providing the exhibition with a computer
from which books can be downloaded, the project ensures that books are
seen as vehicles of knowledge acquired by reading and not as immaterial
capital to be frantically exchanged; the undeniable pleasure of downloading and hoarding books is, after all, just one step removed from the playground of interpassivity that the exhibition site (also) is.
But Public Library is hardly making a moralistic statement about the
virtues of reading, nor does it believe that ignorance (such as could be
overcome by reading the library’s books) is the only obstacle that stands
in the way of ultimate emancipation. Rather, the project engages with, and
contributes to, the social practice that David Harvey calls “commoning”:
“an unstable and malleable social relation between a particular self-defined social group and those aspects of its actually existing or yet-to-becreated social and/or physical environment deemed crucial to its life and
livelihood”.17 Public Library works on the basis of commoning and tries to
enlist others to join it, which adds a distinctly political dimension to the
sabotage of intellectual property revenues and capital accumulation.
The political dimension of Public Library and the effort to form and
publicize the movement were expressed more explicitly in the Public Li14
15
16

17

Robert Pfaller, On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions Without Owners, Verso, London and New York, 2014.
Ibid., p. 76.
Pfaller’s book, which first appeared in German, was published in English only in 2014.
His ideas have gained greater relevance over time, not only as the shortcomings of the
immensely popular social media activism became apparent – where, as many critics
have noted, participation in political organizing and the articulation of political tasks
and agendas are often replaced by a click on an icon – but also because of Pfaller’s
broader argument about the self-deception at play in interpassivity and its role in eliciting enjoyment from austerity measures and other calamities imposed on the welfare
state by the neoliberal regime, which since early 2000 has exceeded even the most sober (and pessimistic) expectations.
Ibid., p. 73.

“There is something political in the city air”

293

brary exhibition in 2015 at Gallery Nova in Zagreb, where we have been
directing the programme since 2003. If the Public Library project was not
such an eminently collective practice that pays no heed to the author function, the Gallery Nova show might be considered something like a solo exhibition. As it was realized, the project again used art as an infrastructure
and resource to promote the movement of freeing books from copyright
restrictions while collecting legitimization points from the art world as enhanced cultural capital that could serve as armour against future attacks
by the defenders of the holy scripture of copyright laws. But here the more
important tactic was to show the movement as an army of many and to
strengthen it through self-presentation. The exhibition presented Public
Library as a collection of collections, and the repertory form (used in archive science to describe a collection) was taken as the basic narrative procedure. It mobilized and activated several archives and open digital repositories, such as MayDay Rooms from London, The Ignorant Schoolmaster and
His Committees from Belgrade, Library Genesis and Aaaaaarg.org, Catalogue
of Free Books, (Digitized) Praxis, the digitized work of the Midnight Notes
Collective, and Textz.com, with special emphasis on activating the digital
repositories UbuWeb and Monoskop. Not only did the exhibition attempt to
enlist the gallery audience but, equally important, the project was testing
its own strength in building, articulating, announcing, and proposing, or
speculating on, a broader movement to oppose the copyright of cultural
goods within and adjacent to the art field.
Presenting such a movement in an art institution changes one of the
basic tenets of art, and for an art institution the project’s main allure probably lies in this kind of expansion of the art field. A shared politics is welcome, but nothing makes an art institution so happy as the sense of purpose that a project like Public Library can endow it with. (This, of course,
comes with its own irony, for while art institutions nowadays compete for
projects that show emphatically how obsolete the aesthetic regime of art is,
they continue to base their claims of social influence on knowledge gained
through some form of aesthetic appreciation, however they go about explaining and justifying it.) At the same time, Public Library’s nonchalance
about institutional maladies and anxieties provides a homeopathic medicine whose effect is sometimes so strong that discussion about placebos
becomes, at least temporarily, beside the point. One occasion when Public
Library’s roving of the political terrain became blatantly direct was the exhibition Written-off: On the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Operation
Storm, which we organized in the summer of 2015 at Gallery Nova (figs.
2–4).
The exhibition/action Written-off was based on data from Ante Lesaja’s
extensive research on “library purification”, which he published in his book
Knjigocid: Uništavanje knjige u Hrvatskoj 1990-ih (Libricide: The Destruction
of Books in Croatia in the 1990s).18 People were invited to bring in copies of
18

Ante Lesaja, Knjigocid: Uništavanje knjige u Hrvatskoj 1990-ih, Profil and Srbsko narodno

294

What, How & for Whom / WHW

books that had been removed from Croatian public libraries in the 1990s.
The books were scanned and deposited in a digital archive; they then became available on a website established especially for the project. In Croatia during the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of books were removed from
schools and factories, from public, specialized, and private libraries, from
former Yugoslav People’s Army centres, socio-political organizations, and
elsewhere because of their ideologically inappropriate content, the alphabet they used (Serbian Cyrillic), or the ethnic or political background of the
authors. The books were mostly thrown into rubbish bins, discarded on
the street, destroyed, or recycled. What Lesaja’s research clearly shows is
that the destruction of the books – as well as the destruction of monuments
to the People’s Liberation War (World War II) – was not the result of individuals running amok, as official accounts preach, but a deliberate and systematic action that symbolically summarizes the dominant politics of the
1990s, in which war, rampant nationalism, and phrases about democracy
and sovereignty were used as a rhetorical cloak to cover the nakedness of
the capitalist counter-revolution and criminal processes of dispossession.
Written-off: On the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Operation Storm
set up scanners in the gallery, initiated a call for collecting and scanning
books that had been expunged from public institutions in the 1990s, and
outlined the criteria for the collection, which corresponded to the basic
domains in which the destruction of the books, as a form of censorship,
was originally implemented: books written in the Cyrillic alphabet or in
Serbian regardless of the alphabet; books forming a corpus of knowledge
about communism, especially Yugoslav communism, Yugoslav socialism,
and the history of the workers’ struggle; and books presenting the anti-Fascist and revolutionary character of the People’s Liberation Struggle during
World War II.
The exhibition/action was called Written-off because the removal and
destruction of the books were often presented as a legitimate procedure
of library maintenance, thus masking the fact that these books were unwanted, ideologically unacceptable, dangerous, harmful, unnecessary, etc.
Written-off unequivocally placed “book destruction” in the social context
of the period, when the destruction of “unwanted” monuments and books
was happening alongside the destruction of homes and the killing of “unwanted” citizens, outside of and prior to war operations. For this reason,
the exhibition was dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of Operation
Storm, the final military/police operation in what is called, locally, the
Croatian Homeland War.19
The exhibition was intended as a concrete intervention against a political logic that resulted in mass exile and killing, the history of which is
glossed over and critical discussion silenced, and also against the official
19

vijeće, Zagreb, 2012.
Known internationally as the Croatian War of Independence, the war was fought between Croatian forces and the Serb-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army from 1991 to
1995.

“There is something political in the city air”

295

celebrations of the anniversary, which glorified militarism and proclaimed
the ethical purity of the victory (resulting in the desired ethnic purity of the
nation).
As both symbolic intervention and real-life action, then, the exhibition
Written-off took place against a background of suppressed issues relating
to Operation Storm – ethno-nationalism as the flip side of neoliberalism,
justice and the present status of the victims and refugees, and the overall character of the war known officially as the Homeland War, in which
discussions about its prominent traits as a civil war are actively silenced
and increasingly prosecuted. In protest against the official celebrations
and military parades, the exhibition marked the anniversary of Operation
Storm with a collective action that evokes books as symbolic of a “knowledge society” in which knowledge becomes the location of conflictual engagement. It pointed toward the struggle over collective symbolic capital
and collective memory, in which culture as a form of the commons has a
direct bearing on the kind of place we live in. The Public Library project,
however, is engaged not so much with cultural memory and remembrance
as a form of recollection or testimony that might lend political legitimation
to artistic gestures; rather, it engages with history as a construction and
speculative proposition about the future, as Peter Osborne argues in his
polemical hypotheses on the notion of contemporary art that distinguishes
between “contemporary” and “present-day” art: “History is not just a relationship between the present and the past – it is equally about the future.
It is this speculative futural moment that definitively separates the concept
of history from memory.”20 For Public Library, the future that participates
in the construction of history does not yet exist, but it is defined as more
than just a project against the present as reflected in the exclusionary, parochially nationalistic, revisionist and increasingly fascist discursive practices of the Croatian political elites. Rather, the future comes into being as
an active and collective construction based on the emancipatory aspects of
historical experiences as future possibilities.
Although defined as an action, the project is not exultantly enthusiastic
about collectivity or the immediacy and affective affinities of its participants, but rather it transcends its local and transient character by taking
up the broader counter-hegemonic struggle for the mutual management
of joint resources. Its endeavour is not limited to the realm of the political
and ideological but is rooted in the repurposing of technological potentials
from the restrictive capitalist game and the reutilization of the existing infrastructure to build a qualitatively different one. While the culture industry adapts itself to the limited success of measures that are geared toward
preventing the free circulation of information by creating new strategies
for pushing information into a form of property and expropriating value

20

Peter Osborne, Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art, Verso, London
and New York, 2013, p. 194.

296

What, How & for Whom / WHW

fig. 1
Marcell Mars, Art as Infrastructure: Public Library, installation
view, Really Useful Knowledge, curated by WHW, Museo
Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, 2014.
Photo by Joaquin Cortes and Roman Lores / MNCARS.

fig. 2
Public Library, exhibition view, Gallery Nova, Zagreb, 2015.
Photo by Ivan Kuharic.

fig. 3
Written-off: On the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Operation
Storm, exhibition detail, Gallery Nova, Zagreb, 2015.
Photo by Ivan Kuharic.

fig. 4
Written-off: On the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Operation
Storm, exhibition detail, Gallery Nova, Zagreb, 2015.
Photo by Ivan Kuharic.

fig. 5
Trevor Paglen and Jacob Appelbaum, Autonomy Cube,
installation view, Really Useful Knowledge, curated by WHW,
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, 2014.
Photo by Joaquín Cortés and Román Lores / MNCARS.

through the control of metadata (information about information),21 Public Library shifts the focus away from aesthetic intention – from unique,
closed, and discrete works – to a database of works and the metabolism
of the database. It creates values through indexing and connectivity, imagined communities and imaginative dialecticization. The web of interpenetration and determination activated by Public Library creates a pedagogical endeavour that also includes a propagandist thrust, if the notion of
propaganda can be recast in its original meaning as “things that must be
disseminated”.
A similar didactic impetus and constructivist praxis is present in the work
Autonomy Cube, which was developed through the combined expertise of
artist and geographer Trevor Paglen and internet security researcher, activist and hacker Jacob Appelbaum. This work, too, we presented in the
Reina Sofia exhibition Really Useful Knowledge, along with Public Library
and other projects that offered a range of strategies and methodologies
through which the artists attempted to think through the disjunction between concrete experience and the abstraction of capital, enlisting pedagogy as a crucial element in organized collective struggles. Autonomy Cube
offers a free, open-access, encrypted internet hotspot that routes internet
traffic over TOR, a volunteer-run global network of servers, relays, and services, which provides anonymous and unsurveilled communication. The
importance of the privacy of the anonymized information that Autonomy
Cube enables and protects is that it prevents so-called traffic analysis – the
tracking, analysis, and theft of metadata for the purpose of anticipating
people’s behaviour and relationships. In the hands of the surveillance
state this data becomes not only a means of steering our tastes, modes of
consumption, and behaviours for the sake of making profit but also, and
more crucially, an effective method and weapon of political control that
can affect political organizing in often still-unforeseeable ways that offer
few reasons for optimism. Visually, Autonomy Cube references minimalist
sculpture (fig. 5) (specifically, Hans Haacke’s seminal piece Condensation
Cube, 1963–1965), but its main creative drive lies in the affirmative salvaging of technologies, infrastructures, and networks that form both the leading organizing principle and the pervasive condition of complex societies,
with the aim of supporting the potentially liberated accumulation of collective knowledge and action. Aesthetic and art-historical references serve
as camouflage or tools for a strategic infiltration that enables expansion of
the movement’s field of influence and the projection of a different (contingent) future. Engagement with historical forms of challenging institutions
becomes the starting point of a poetic praxis that materializes the object of
its striving in the here and now.
Both Public Library and Autonomy Cube build their autonomy on the dedi21

McKenzie Wark, “Metadata Punk”, in Public Library, pp. 113–117 (see n. 9).

“There is something political in the city air”

305

cation and effort of the collective body, without which they would not
exist, rendering this interdependence not as some consensual idyll of cooperation but as conflicting fields that create further information and experiences. By doing so, they question the traditional edifice of art in a way
that supports Peter Osborne’s claim that art is defined not by its aesthetic
or medium-based status, but by its poetics: “Postconceptual art articulates a post-aesthetic poetics.”22 This means going beyond criticality and
bringing into the world something defined not by its opposition to the real,
but by its creation of the fiction of a shared present, which, for Osborne,
is what makes art truly contemporary. And if projects like these become a
kind of political trophy for art institutions, the side the institutions choose
nevertheless affects the common sense of our future.

22

Osborne, Anywhere or Not at All, p. 33.

306

What, How & for Whom / WHW

“There is something political in the city air”

307


Stalder
The Digital Condition
2018


---
lang: en
title: The Digital Condition
---

::: {.figure}
[]{#coverstart}

![Cover page](images/cover.jpg)
:::

Table of Contents

1. [Preface to the English Edition](#fpref)
2. [Acknowledgments](#ack)
3. [Introduction: After the End of the Gutenberg Galaxy](#cintro)
1. [Notes](#f6-ntgp-9999)
4. [I: Evolution](#c1)
1. [The Expansion of the Social Basis of Culture](#c1-sec-0002)
2. [The Culturalization of the World](#c1-sec-0006)
3. [The Technologization of Culture](#c1-sec-0009)
4. [From the Margins to the Center of Society](#c1-sec-0013)
5. [Notes](#c1-ntgp-9999)
5. [II: Forms](#c2)
1. [Referentiality](#c2-sec-0002)
2. [Communality](#c2-sec-0009)
3. [Algorithmicity](#c2-sec-0018)
4. [Notes](#c2-ntgp-9999)
6. [III: Politics](#c3)
1. [Post-democracy](#c3-sec-0002)
2. [Commons](#c3-sec-0011)
3. [Against a Lack of Alternatives](#c3-sec-0017)
4. [Notes](#c3-ntgp-9999)

[Preface to the English Edition]{.chapterTitle} {#fpref}

::: {.section}
This book posits that we in the societies of the (transatlantic) West
find ourselves in a new condition. I call it "the digital condition"
because it gained its dominance as computer networks became established
as the key infrastructure for virtually all aspects of life. However,
the emergence of this condition pre-dates computer networks. In fact, it
has deep historical roots, some of which go back to the late nineteenth
century, but it really came into being after the late 1960s. As many of
the cultural and political institutions shaped by the previous condition
-- which McLuhan called the Gutenberg Galaxy -- fell into crisis, new
forms of personal and collective orientation and organization emerged
which have been shaped by the affordances of this new condition. Both
the historical processes which unfolded over a very long time and the
structural transformation which took place in a myriad of contexts have
been beyond any deliberate influence. Although obviously caused by
social actors, the magnitude of such changes was simply too great, too
distributed, and too complex to be attributed to, or molded by, any
particular (set of) actor(s).

Yet -- and this is the core of what motivated me to write this book --
this does not mean that we have somehow moved beyond the political,
beyond the realm in which identifiable actors and their projects do
indeed shape our collective []{#Page_vii type="pagebreak"
title="vii"}existence, or that there are no alternatives to future
development already expressed within contemporary dynamics. On the
contrary, we can see very clearly that as the center -- the established
institutions shaped by the affordances of the previous condition -- is
crumbling, more economic and political projects are rushing in to fill
that void with new institutions that advance their competing agendas.
These new institutions are well adapted to the digital condition, with
its chaotic production of vast amounts of information and innovative
ways of dealing with that.

From this, two competing trajectories have emerged which are
simultaneously transforming the space of the political. First, I used
the term "post-democracy" because it expands possibilities, and even
requirements, of (personal) participation, while ever larger aspects of
(collective) decision-making are moved to arenas that are structurally
disconnected from those of participation. In effect, these arenas are
forming an authoritarian reality in which a small elite is vastly
empowered at the expense of everyone else. The purest incarnation of
this tendency can be seen in the commercial social mass media, such as
Facebook, Google, and the others, as they were newly formed in this
condition and have not (yet) had to deal with the complications of
transforming their own legacy.

For the other trajectory, I applied the term "commons" because it
expands both the possibilities of personal participation and agency, and
those of collective decision-making. This tendency points to a
redefinition of democracy beyond the hollowed-out forms of political
representation characterizing the legacy institutions of liberal
democracy. The purest incarnation of this tendency can be found in the
institutions that produce the digital commons, such as Wikipedia and the
various Free Software communities whose work has been and still is
absolutely crucial for the infrastructural dimensions of the digital
networks. They are the most advanced because, again, they have not had
to deal with institutional legacies. But both tendencies are no longer
confined to digital networks and are spreading across all aspects of
social life, creating a reality that is, on the structural level,
surprisingly coherent and, on the social and political level, full of
contradictions and thus opportunities.[]{#Page_viii type="pagebreak"
title="viii"}

I traced some aspects of these developments right up to early 2016, when
the German version of this book went into production. Since then a lot
has happened, but I resisted the temptation to update the book for the
English translation because ideas are always an expression of their
historical moment and, as such, updating either turns into a completely
new version or a retrospective adjustment of the historical record.

What has become increasingly obvious during 2016 and into 2017 is that
central institutions of liberal democracy are crumbling more quickly and
dramatically than was expected. The race to replace them has kicked into
high gear. The main events driving forward an authoritarian renewal of
politics took place on a national level, in particular the vote by the
UK to leave the EU (Brexit) and the election of Donald Trump to the
office of president of the United States of America. The main events
driving the renewal of democracy took place on a metropolitan level,
namely the emergence of a network of "rebel cities," led by Barcelona
and Madrid. There, community-based social movements established their
candidates in the highest offices. These cities are now putting in place
practical examples that other cities could emulate and adapt. For the
concerns of this book, the most important concept put forward is that of
"technological sovereignty": to bring the technological infrastructure,
and its developmental potential, back under the control of those who are
using it and are affected by it; that is, the citizens of the
metropolis.

Over the last 18 months, the imbalances between the two trajectories
have become even more extreme because authoritarian tendencies and
surveillance capitalism have been strengthened more quickly than the
commons-oriented practices could establish themselves. But it does not
change the fact that there are fundamental alternatives embedded in the
digital condition. Despite structural transformations that affect how we
do things, there is no inevitability about what we want to do
individually and, even more importantly, collectively.

::: {.poem}
::: {.lineGroup}
Zurich/Vienna, July 2017[]{#Page_ix type="pagebreak" title="ix"}
:::
:::
:::

[Acknowledgments]{.chapterTitle} {#ack}

::: {.section}
While it may be conventional to cite one person as the author of a book,
writing is a process with many collective elements. This book in
particular draws upon many sources, most of which I am no longer able to
acknowledge with any certainty. Far too often, important references came
to me in parenthetical remarks, in fleeting encounters, during trips, at
the fringes of conferences, or through discussions of things that,
though entirely new to me, were so obvious to others as not to warrant
any explication. Often, too, my thinking was influenced by long
conversations, and it is impossible for me now to identify the precise
moments of inspiration. As far as the themes of this book are concerned,
four settings were especially important. The international discourse
network "nettime," which has a mailing list of 4,500 members and which I
have been moderating since the late 1990s, represents an inexhaustible
source of internet criticism and, as a collaborative filter, has enabled
me to follow a wide range of developments from a particular point of
view. I am also indebted to the Zurich University of the Arts, where I
have taught for more than 10 years and where the students have been
willing to explain to me, again and again, what is already self-evident
to them. Throughout my time there, I have been able to observe a
dramatic shift. For today\'s students, the "new" is no longer new but
simply obvious, whereas they []{#Page_x type="pagebreak" title="x"}have
experienced many things previously regarded as normal -- such as
checking out a book from a library (instead of downloading it) -- as
needlessly complicated. In Vienna, the hub of my life, the World
Information Institute has for many years provided a platform for
conferences, publications, and interventions that have repeatedly raised
the stakes of the discussion and have brought together the most
interesting range of positions without regard to any disciplinary
boundaries. Housed in Vienna, too, is the Technopolitics Project, a
non-institutionalized circle of researchers and artists whose
discussions of techno-economic paradigms have informed this book in
fundamental ways and which has offered multiple opportunities for me to
workshop inchoate ideas.

Not everything, however, takes place in diffuse conversations and
networks. I was also able to rely on the generous support of several
individuals who, at one stage or another, read through, commented upon,
and made crucial improvements to the manuscript: Leonhard Dobusch,
Günther Hack, Katja Meier, Florian Cramer, Cornelia Sollfrank, Beat
Brogle, Volker Grassmuck, Ursula Stalder, Klaus Schönberger, Konrad
Becker, Armin Medosch, Axel Stockburger, and Gerald Nestler. Special
thanks are owed to Rebina Erben-Hartig, who edited the original German
manuscript and greatly improved its readability. I am likewise grateful
to Heinrich Greiselberger and Christian Heilbronn of the Suhrkamp
Verlag, whose faith in the book never wavered despite several delays.
Regarding the English version at hand, it has been a privilege to work
with a translator as skillful as Valentine Pakis. Over the past few
years, writing this book might have been the most import­ant project in
my life had it not been for Andrea Mayr. In this regard, I have been
especially fortunate.[]{#Page_xi type="pagebreak"
title="xi"}[]{#Page_xii type="pagebreak" title="xii"}
:::

Introduction [After the End of the Gutenberg Galaxy]{.chapterTitle} []{.chapterSubTitle} {#cintro}

::: {.section}
The show had already been going on for more than three hours, but nobody
was bothered by this. Quite the contrary. The tension in the venue was
approaching its peak, and the ratings were through the roof. Throughout
all of Europe, 195 million people were watching the spectacle on
television, and the social mass media were gaining steam. On Twitter,
more than 47,000 messages were being sent every minute with the hashtag
\#Eurovision.[^1^](#f6-note-0001){#f6-note-0001a} The outcome was
decided shortly after midnight: Conchita Wurst, the bearded diva, was
announced the winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. Cheers erupted
as the public celebrated the victor -- but also itself. At long last,
there was more to the event than just another round of tacky television
programming ("This is Ljubljana calling!"). Rather, a statement was made
-- a statement in favor of tolerance and against homophobia, for
diversity and for the right to define oneself however one pleases. And
Europe sent this message in the midst of a crisis and despite ongoing
hostilities, not to mention all of the toxic rumblings that could be
heard about decadence, cultural decay, and Gayropa. Visibly moved, the
Austrian singer let out an exclamation -- "We are unity, and we are
unstoppable!" -- as she returned to the stage with wobbly knees to
accept the trophy.

With her aesthetically convincing performance, Conchita succeeded in
unleashing a strong desire for personal []{#Page_1 type="pagebreak"
title="1"}self-discovery, for community, and for overcoming stale
conventions. And she did this through a character that mainstream
society would have considered paradoxical and deviant not long ago but
has since come to understand: attractive beyond the dichotomy of man and
woman, explicitly artificial and yet entirely authentic. This peculiar
conflation of artificiality and naturalness is equally present in
Berndnaut Smilde\'s photographic work of a real indoor cloud (*Nimbus*,
2010) on the cover of this book. Conchita\'s performance was also on a
formal level seemingly paradoxical: extremely focused and completely
open. Unlike most of the other acts, she took the stage alone, and
though she hardly moved at all, she nevertheless incited the audience to
participate in numerous ways and genuinely to act out the motto of the
contest ("Join us!"). Throughout the early rounds of the competition,
the beard, which was at first so provocative, transformed into a
free-floating symbol that the public began to appropriate in various
ways. Men and women painted Conchita-like beards on their faces,
newspapers printed beards to be cut out, and fans crocheted beards. Not
only did someone Photoshop a beard on to a painting of Empress Sissi of
Austria, but King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands even tweeted a
deceptively realistic portrait of his wife, Queen Máxima, wearing a
beard. From one of the biggest stages of all, the evening of Wurst\'s
victory conveyed an impression of how much the culture of Europe had
changed in recent years, both in terms of its content and its forms.
That which had long been restricted to subcultural niches -- the
fluidity of gender iden­tities, appropriation as a cultural technique,
or the conflation of reception and production, for instance -- was now
part of the mainstream. Even while sitting in front of the television,
this mainstream was no longer just a private audience but rather a
multitude of singular producers whose networked activity -- on location
or on social mass media -- lent particular significance to the occasion
as a moment of collective self-perception.

It is more than half a century since Marshall McLuhan announced the end
of the Modern era, a cultural epoch that he called the Gutenberg Galaxy
in honor of the print medium by which it was so influenced. What was
once just an abstract speculation of media theory, however, now
describes []{#Page_2 type="pagebreak" title="2"}the concrete reality of
our everyday life. What\'s more, we have moved well past McLuhan\'s
diagnosis: the erosion of old cultural forms, institutions, and
certainties is not just something we affirm, but new ones have already
formed whose contours are easy to identify not only in niche sectors but
in the mainstream. Shortly before Conchita\'s triumph, Facebook thus
expanded the gender-identity options for its billion-plus users from 2
to 60. In addition to "male" and "female," users of the English version
of the site can now choose from among the following categories:

::: {.extract}
Agender, Androgyne, Androgynes, Androgynous, Asexual, Bigender, Cis, Cis
Female, Cis Male, Cis Man, Cis Woman, Cisgender, Cisgender Female,
Cisgender Male, Cisgender Man, Cisgender Woman, Female to Male (FTM),
Female to Male Trans Man, Female to Male Transgender Man, Female to Male
Transsexual Man, Gender Fluid, Gender Neutral, Gender Nonconforming,
Gender Questioning, Gender Variant, Genderqueer, Hermaphrodite,
Intersex, Intersex Man, Intersex Person, Intersex Woman, Male to Female
(MTF), Male to Female Trans Woman, Male to Female Transgender Woman,
Male to Female Transsexual Woman, Neither, Neutrois, Non-Binary, Other,
Pangender, Polygender, T\*Man, Trans, Trans Female, Trans Male, Trans
Man, Trans Person, Trans\*Female, Trans\*Male, Trans\*Man,
Trans\*Person, Trans\*Woman, Transexual, Transexual Female, Transexual
Male, Transexual Man, Transexual Person, Transexual Woman, Transgender
Female, Transgender Person, Transmasculine, T\*Woman, Two\*Person,
Two-Spirit, Two-Spirit Person.
:::

This enormous proliferation of cultural possibilities is an expression
of what I will refer to below as the digital condition. Far from being
universally welcomed, its growing presence has also instigated waves of
nostalgia, diffuse resentments, and intellectual panic. Conservative and
reactionary movements, which oppose such developments and desire to
preserve or even re-create previous conditions, have been on the rise.
Likewise in 2014, for instance, a cultural dispute broke out in normally
subdued Baden-Würtemberg over which forms of sexual partnership should
be mentioned positively in the sexual education curriculum. Its impetus
was a working paper released at the end of 2013 by the state\'s
[]{#Page_3 type="pagebreak" title="3"}Ministry of Culture. Among other
things, it proposed that adolescents "should confront their own sexual
identity and orientation \[...\] from a position of acceptance with
respect to sexual diversity."[^2^](#f6-note-0002){#f6-note-0002a} In a
short period of time, a campaign organized mainly through social mass
media collected more than 200,000 signatures in opposition to the
proposal and submitted them to the petitions committee at the state
parliament. At that point, the government responded by putting the
initiative on ice. However, according to the analysis presented in this
book, leaving it on ice creates a precarious situation.

The rise and spread of the digital condition is the result of a
wide-ranging and irreversible cultural transformation, the beginnings of
which can in part be traced back to the nineteenth century. Since the
1960s, however, this shift has accelerated enormously and has
encompassed increasingly broader spheres of social life. More and more
people have been participating in cultural processes; larger and larger
dimensions of existence have become battlegrounds for cultural disputes;
and social activity has been intertwined with increasingly complex
technologies, without which it would hardly be possible to conceive of
these processes, let alone achieve them. The number of competing
cultural projects, works, reference points, and reference systems has
been growing rapidly. This, in turn, has caused an escalating crisis for
the established forms and institutions of culture, which are poorly
equipped to deal with such an inundation of new claims to meaning. Since
roughly the year 2000, many previously independent developments have
been consolidating, gaining strength and modifying themselves to form a
new cultural constellation that encompasses broad segments of society --
a new galaxy, as McLuhan might have
said.[^3^](#f6-note-0003){#f6-note-0003a} These days it is relatively
easy to recognize the specific forms that characterize it as a whole and
how these forms have contributed to new, contradictory and
conflict-laden political dynamics.

My argument, which is restricted to cultural developments in the
(transatlantic) West, is divided into three chapters. In the first, I
will outline the *historical* developments that have given rise to this
quantitative and qualitative change and have led to the crisis faced by
the institutions of the late phase of the Gutenberg Galaxy, which
defined the last third []{#Page_4 type="pagebreak" title="4"}of the
twentieth century.[^4^](#f6-note-0004){#f6-note-0004a} The expansion of
the social basis of cultural processes will be traced back to changes in
the labor market, to the self-empowerment of marginalized groups, and to
the dissolution of centralized cultural geography. The broadening of
cultural fields will be discussed in terms of the rise of design as a
general creative discipline, and the growing significance of complex
technologies -- as fundamental components of everyday life -- will be
tracked from the beginnings of independent media up to the development
of the internet as a mass medium. These processes, which at first
unfolded on their own and may have been reversible on an individual
basis, are integrated today and represent a socially domin­ant component
of the coherent digital condition. From the perspective of cultural
studies and media theory, the second chapter will delineate the already
recognizable features of this new culture. Concerned above all with the
analysis of forms, its focus is thus on the question of "how" cultural
practices operate. It is only because specific forms of culture,
exchange, and expression are prevalent across diverse var­ieties of
content, social spheres, and locations that it is even possible to speak
of the digital condition in the singular. Three examples of such forms
stand out in particular. *Referentiality* -- that is, the use of
existing cultural materials for one\'s own production -- is an essential
feature of many methods for inscribing oneself into cultural processes.
In the context of unmanageable masses of shifting and semantically open
reference points, the act of selecting things and combining them has
become fundamental to the production of meaning and the constitution of
the self. The second feature that characterizes these processes is
*communality*. It is only through a collectively shared frame of
reference that meanings can be stabilized, possible courses of action
can be determined, and resources can be made available. This has given
rise to communal formations that generate self-referential worlds, which
in turn modulate various dimensions of existence -- from aesthetic
preferences to the methods of biological reproduction and the rhythms of
space and time. In these worlds, the dynamics of network power have
reconfigured notions of voluntary and involuntary behavior, autonomy,
and coercion. The third feature of the new cultural landscape is its
*algorithmicity*. It is characterized, in other []{#Page_5
type="pagebreak" title="5"}words, by automated decision-making processes
that reduce and give shape to the glut of information, by extracting
information from the volume of data produced by machines. This extracted
information is then accessible to human perception and can serve as the
basis of singular and communal activity. Faced with the enormous amount
of data generated by people and machines, we would be blind were it not
for algorithms.

The third chapter will focus on *political dimensions*. These are the
factors that enable the formal dimensions described in the preceding
chapter to manifest themselves in the form of social, political, and
economic projects. Whereas the first chapter is concerned with long-term
and irreversible histor­ical processes, and the second outlines the
general cultural forms that emerged from these changes with a certain
degree of inevitability, my concentration here will be on open-ended
dynamics that can still be influenced. A contrast will be made between
two political tendencies of the digital condition that are already quite
advanced: *post-democracy* and *commons*. Both take full advantage of
the possibilities that have arisen on account of structural changes and
have advanced them even further, though in entirely different
directions. "Post-democracy" refers to strategies that counteract the
enormously expanded capacity for social communication by disconnecting
the possibility to participate in things from the ability to make
decisions about them. Everyone is allowed to voice his or her opinion,
but decisions are ultimately made by a select few. Even though growing
numbers of people can and must take responsibility for their own
activity, they are unable to influence the social conditions -- the
social texture -- under which this activity has to take place. Social
mass media such as Facebook and Google will receive particular attention
as the most conspicuous manifestations of this tendency. Here, under new
structural provisions, a new combination of behavior and thought has
been implemented that promotes the normalization of post-democracy and
contributes to its otherwise inexplicable acceptance in many areas of
society. "Commons," on the contrary, denotes approaches for developing
new and comprehensive institutions that not only directly combine
participation and decision-making but also integrate economic, social,
and ethical spheres -- spheres that Modernity has tended to keep
apart.[]{#Page_6 type="pagebreak" title="6"}

Post-democracy and commons can be understood as two lines of development
that point beyond the current crisis of liberal democracy and represent
new political projects. One can be characterized as an essentially
authoritarian system, the other as a radical expansion and renewal of
democracy, from the notion of representation to that of participation.

Even though I have brought together a number of broad perspectives, I
have refrained from discussing certain topics that a book entitled *The
Digital Condition* might be expected to address, notably the matter of
copyright, for one example. This is easy to explain. As regards the new
forms at the heart of this book, none of these developments requires or
justifies copyright law in its present form. In any case, my thoughts on
the matter were published not long ago in another book, so there is no
need to repeat them here.[^5^](#f6-note-0005){#f6-note-0005a} The theme
of privacy will also receive little attention. This is not because I
share the view, held by proponents of "post-privacy," that it would be
better for all personal information to be made available to everyone. On
the contrary, this position strikes me as superficial and naïve. That
said, the political function of privacy -- to safeguard a degree of
personal autonomy from powerful institutions -- is based on fundamental
concepts that, in light of the developments to be described below,
urgently need to be updated. This is a task, however, that would take me
far beyond the scope of the present
book.[^6^](#f6-note-0006){#f6-note-0006a}

Before moving on to the first chapter, I should first briefly explain my
somewhat unorthodox understanding of the central concepts in the title
of the book -- "condition" and "digital." In what follows, the term
"condition" will be used to designate a cultural condition whereby the
processes of social meaning -- that is, the normative dimension of
existence -- are explicitly or implicitly negotiated and realized by
means of singular and collective activity. Meaning, however, does not
manifest itself in signs and symbols alone; rather, the practices that
engender it and are inspired by it are consolidated into artifacts,
institutions, and lifeworlds. In other words, far from being a symbolic
accessory or mere overlay, culture in fact directs our actions and gives
shape to society. By means of materialization and repetition, meaning --
both as claim and as reality -- is made visible, productive, and
negotiable. People are free to accept it, reject it, or ignore
[]{#Page_7 type="pagebreak" title="7"}it altogether. Social meaning --
that is, meaning shared by multiple people -- can only come about
through processes of exchange within larger or smaller formations.
Production and reception (to the extent that it makes any sense to
distinguish between the two) do not proceed linearly here, but rather
loop back and reciprocally influence one another. In such processes, the
participants themselves determine, in a more or less binding manner, how
they stand in relation to themselves, to each other, and to the world,
and they determine the frame of reference in which their activity is
oriented. Accordingly, culture is not something static or something that
is possessed by a person or a group, but rather a field of dispute that
is subject to the activities of multiple ongoing changes, each happening
at its own pace. It is characterized by processes of dissolution and
constitution that may be collaborative, oppositional, or simply
operating side by side. The field of culture is pervaded by competing
claims to power and mechanisms for exerting it. This leads to conflicts
about which frames of reference should be adopted for different fields
and within different social groups. In such conflicts,
self-determination and external determination interact until a point is
reached at which both sides are mutually constituted. This, in turn,
changes the conditions that give rise to shared meaning and personal
identity.

In what follows, this broadly post-structuralist perspective will inform
my discussion of the causes and formational conditions of cultural
orders and their practices. Culture will be conceived throughout as
something heterogeneous and hybrid. It draws from many sources; it is
motivated by the widest possible variety of desires, intentions, and
compulsions; and it mobilizes whatever resources might be necessary for
the constitution of meaning. This emphasis on the materiality of culture
is also reflected in the concept of the digital. Media are relational
technologies, which means that they facilitate certain types of
connection between humans and
objects.[^7^](#f6-note-0007){#f6-note-0007a} "Digital" thus denotes the
set of relations that, on the infrastructural basis of digital networks,
is realized today in the production, use, and transform­ation of
material and immaterial goods, and in the constitution and coordination
of personal and collective activity. In this regard, the focus is less
on the dominance of a certain class []{#Page_8 type="pagebreak"
title="8"}of technological artifacts -- the computer, for instance --
and even less on distinguishing between "digital" and "analog,"
"material" and "immaterial." Even in the digital condition, the analog
has not gone away. Rather, it has been re-evaluated and even partially
upgraded. The immaterial, moreover, is never entirely without
materiality. On the contrary, the fleeting impulses of digital
communication depend on global and unmistakably material infrastructures
that extend from mines beneath the surface of the earth, from which rare
earth metals are extracted, all the way into outer space, where
satellites are circling around above us. Such things may be ignored
because they are outside the experience of everyday life, but that does
not mean that they have disappeared or that they are of any less
significance. "Digital" thus refers to historically new possibilities
for constituting and connecting various human and non-human actors,
which is not limited to digital media but rather appears everywhere as a
relational paradigm that alters the realm of possibility for numerous
materials and actors. My understanding of the digital thus approximates
the concept of the "post-digital," which has been gaining currency over
the past few years within critical media cultures. Here, too, the
distinction between "new" and "old" media and all of the ideological
baggage associated with it -- for instance, that the new represents the
future while the old represents the past -- have been rejected. The
aesthetic projects that continue to define the image of the "digital" --
immateriality, perfection, and virtuality -- have likewise been
discarded.[^8^](#f6-note-0008){#f6-note-0008a} Above all, the
"post-digital" is a critical response to this techno-utopian aesthetic
and its attendant economic and political perspectives. According to the
cultural theorist Florian Cramer, the concept accommodates the fact that
"new ethical and cultural conventions which became mainstream with
internet communities and open-source culture are being retroactively
applied to the making of non-digital and post-digital media
products."[^9^](#f6-note-0009){#f6-note-0009a} He thus cites the trend
that process-based practices oriented toward open interaction, which
first developed within digital media, have since begun to appear in more
and more contexts and in an increasing number of
materials.[^10[]{#Page_9 type="pagebreak"
title="9"}^](#f6-note-0010){#f6-note-0010a}

For the historical, cultural-theoretical, and political perspectives
developed in this book, however, the concept of the post-digital is
somewhat problematic, for it requires the narrow context of media art
and its fixation on technology in order to become a viable
counter-position. Without this context, certain misunderstandings are
impossible to avoid. The prefix "post-," for instance, is often
interpreted in the sense that something is over or that we have at least
grasped the matters at hand and can thus turn to something new. The
opposite is true. The most enduringly relevant developments are only now
beginning to adopt a specific form, long after digital infrastructures
and the practices made popular by them have become part of our everyday
lives. Or, as the communication theorist and consultant Clay Shirky puts
it, "Communication tools don\'t get socially interesting until they get
technologically boring."[^11^](#f6-note-0011){#f6-note-0011a} For it is
only today, now that our fascination for this technology has waned and
its promises sound hollow, that culture and society are being defined by
the digital condition in a comprehensive sense. Before, this was the
case in just a few limited spheres. It is this hybridization and
solidification of the digital -- the presence of the digital beyond
digital media -- that lends the digital condition its dominance. As to
the concrete realities in which these things will materialize, this is
currently being decided in an open and ongoing process. The aim of this
book is to contribute to our understanding of this process.[]{#Page_10
type="pagebreak" title="10"}
:::

::: {.section .notesSet type="rearnotes"}
[]{#notesSet}Notes {#f6-ntgp-9999}
------------------

::: {.section .notesList}
[1](#f6-note-0001a){#f6-note-0001}  Dan Biddle, "Five Million Tweets for
\#Eurovision 2014," *Twitter UK* (May 11, 2014), online.

[2](#f6-note-0002a){#f6-note-0002}  Ministerium für Kultus, Jugend und
Sport -- Baden-Württemberg, "Bildungsplanreform 2015/2016 -- Verankerung
von Leitprinzipien," online \[--trans.\].

[3](#f6-note-0003a){#f6-note-0003}  As early as 1995, Wolfgang Coy
suggested that McLuhan\'s metaphor should be supplanted by the concept
of the "Turing Galaxy," but this never caught on. See his introduction
to the German edition of *The Gutenberg Galaxy*: "Von der Gutenbergschen
zur Turingschen Galaxis: Jenseits von Buchdruck und Fernsehen," in
Marshall McLuhan, *Die Gutenberg Galaxis: Das Ende des Buchzeitalters*,
(Cologne: Addison-Wesley, 1995), pp. vii--xviii.[]{#Page_176
type="pagebreak" title="176"}

[4](#f6-note-0004a){#f6-note-0004}  According to the analysis of the
Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells, this crisis began almost
simultaneously in highly developed capitalist and socialist societies,
and it did so for the same reason: the paradigm of "industrialism" had
reached the limits of its productivity. Unlike the capitalist societies,
which were flexible enough to tame the crisis and reorient their
economies, the socialism of the 1970s and 1980s experienced stagnation
until it ultimately, in a belated effort to reform, collapsed. See
Manuel Castells, *End of Millennium*, 2nd edn (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell,
2010), pp. 5--68.

[5](#f6-note-0005a){#f6-note-0005}  Felix Stalder, *Der Autor am Ende
der Gutenberg Galaxis* (Zurich: Buch & Netz, 2014).

[6](#f6-note-0006a){#f6-note-0006}  For my preliminary thoughts on this
topic, see Felix Stalder, "Autonomy and Control in the Era of
Post-Privacy," *Open: Cahier on Art and the Public Domain* 19 (2010):
78--86; and idem, "Privacy Is Not the Antidote to Surveillance,"
*Surveillance & Society* 1 (2002): 120--4. For a discussion of these
approaches, see the working paper by Maja van der Velden, "Personal
Autonomy in a Post-Privacy World: A Feminist Technoscience Perspective"
(2011), online.

[7](#f6-note-0007a){#f6-note-0007}  Accordingly, the "new social" media
are mass media in the sense that they influence broadly disseminated
patterns of social relations and thus shape society as much as the
traditional mass media had done before them.

[8](#f6-note-0008a){#f6-note-0008}  Kim Cascone, "The Aesthetics of
Failure: 'Post-Digital' Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music,"
*Computer Music Journal* 24/2 (2000): 12--18.

[9](#f6-note-0009a){#f6-note-0009}  Florian Cramer, "What Is
'Post-Digital'?" *Post-Digital Research* 3 (2014), online.

[10](#f6-note-0010a){#f6-note-0010}  In the field of visual arts,
similar considerations have been made regarding "post-internet art." See
Artie Vierkant, "The Image Object Post-Internet,"
[jstchillin.org](http://jstchillin.org) (December 2010), online; and Ian
Wallace, "What Is Post-Internet Art? Understanding the Revolutionary New
Art Movement," *Artspace* (March 18, 2014), online.

[11](#f6-note-0011a){#f6-note-0011}  Clay Shirky, *Here Comes Everybody:
The Power of Organizing without Organizations* (New York: Penguin,
2008), p. 105.
:::
:::

[I]{.chapterNumber} [Evolution]{.chapterTitle} {#c1}
=
::: {.section}
Many authors have interpreted the new cultural realities that
characterize our daily lives as a direct consequence of technological
developments: the internet is to blame! This assumption is not only
empirically untenable; it also leads to a problematic assessment of the
current situation. Apparatuses are represented as "central actors," and
this suggests that new technologies have suddenly revolutionized a
situation that had previously been stable. Depending on one\'s point of
view, this is then regarded as "a blessing or a
curse."[^1^](#c1-note-0001){#c1-note-0001a} A closer examination,
however, reveals an entirely different picture. Established cultural
practices and social institutions had already been witnessing the
erosion of their self-evident justification and legitimacy, long before
they were faced with new technologies and the corresponding demands
these make on individuals. Moreover, the allegedly new types of
coordination and cooperation are also not so new after all. Many of them
have existed for a long time. At first most of them were totally
separate from the technologies for which, later on, they would become
relevant. It is only in retrospect that these developments can be
identified as beginnings, and it can be seen that much of what we regard
today as novel or revolutionary was in fact introduced at the margins of
society, in cultural niches that were unnoticed by the dominant actors
and institutions. The new technologies thus evolved against a
[]{#Page_11 type="pagebreak" title="11"}background of processes of
societal transformation that were already under way. They could only
have been developed once a vision of their potential had been
formulated, and they could only have been disseminated where demand for
them already existed. This demand was created by social, political, and
economic crises, which were themselves initiated by changes that were
already under way. The new technologies seemed to provide many differing
and promising answers to the urgent questions that these crises had
prompted. It was thus a combination of positive vision and pressure that
motivated a great variety of actors to change, at times with
considerable effort, the established processes, mature institutions, and
their own behavior. They intended to appropriate, for their own
projects, the various and partly contradictory possibilities that they
saw in these new technologies. Only then did a new technological
infrastructure arise.

This, in turn, created the preconditions for previously independent
developments to come together, strengthening one another and enabling
them to spread beyond the contexts in which they had originated. Thus,
they moved from the margins to the center of culture. And by
intensifying the crisis of previously established cultural forms and
institutions, they became dominant and established new forms and
institutions of their own.
:::

::: {.section}
The Expansion of the Social Basis of Culture {#c1-sec-0002}
--------------------------------------------

Watching television discussions from the 1950s and 1960s today, one is
struck not only by the billows of cigarette smoke in the studio but also
by the homogeneous spectrum of participants. Usually, it was a group of
white and heteronormatively behaving men speaking with one
another,[^2^](#c1-note-0002){#c1-note-0002a} as these were the people
who held the important institutional positions in the centers of the
West. As a rule, those involved were highly specialized representatives
from the cultural, economic, scientific, and political spheres. Above
all, they were legitimized to appear in public to articulate their
opinions, which were to be regarded by others as relevant and worthy of
discussion. They presided over the important debates of their time. With
few exceptions, other actors and their deviant opinions -- there
[]{#Page_12 type="pagebreak" title="12"}has never been a time without
them -- were either not taken seriously at all or were categorized as
indecent, incompetent, perverse, irrelevant, backward, exotic, or
idiosyncratic.[^3^](#c1-note-0003){#c1-note-0003a} Even at that time,
the social basis of culture was beginning to expand, though the actors
at the center of the discourse had failed to notice this. Communicative
and cultural pro­cesses were gaining significance in more and more
places, and excluded social groups were self-consciously developing
their own language in order to intervene in the discourse. The rise of
the knowledge economy, the increasingly loud critique of
heteronormativity, and a fundamental cultural critique posed by
post-colonialism enabled a greater number of people to participate in
public discussions. In what follows, I will subject each of these three
phenomena to closer examin­ation. In order to do justice to their
complexity, I will treat them on different levels: I will depict the
rise of the knowledge economy as a structural change in labor; I will
reconstruct the critique of heteronormativity by outlining the origins
and transformations of the gay movement in West Germany; and I will
discuss post-colonialism as a theory that introduced new concepts of
cultural multiplicity and hybridization -- concepts that are now
influencing the digital condition far beyond the limits of the
post-colonial discourse, and often without any reference to this
discourse at all.

::: {.section}
### The growth of the knowledge economy {#c1-sec-0003}

At the beginning of the 1950s, the Austrian-American economist Fritz
Machlup was immersed in his study of the polit­ical economy of
monopoly.[^4^](#c1-note-0004){#c1-note-0004a} Among other things, he was
concerned with patents and copyright law. In line with the neo-classical
Austrian School, he considered both to be problematic (because
state-created) monopolies.[^5^](#c1-note-0005){#c1-note-0005a} The
longer he studied the monopoly of the patent system in particular, the
more far-reaching its consequences seemed to him. He maintained that the
patent system was intertwined with something that might be called the
"economy of invention" -- ultimately, patentable insights had to be
produced in the first place -- and that this was in turn part of a much
larger economy of knowledge. The latter encompassed government agencies
as well as institutions of education, research, and development
[]{#Page_13 type="pagebreak" title="13"}(that is, schools, universities,
and certain corporate laboratories), which had been increasing steadily
in number since Roosevelt\'s New Deal. Yet it also included the
expanding media sector and those industries that were responsible for
providing technical infrastructure. Machlup subsumed all of these
institutions and sectors under the concept of the "knowledge economy," a
term of his own invention. Their common feature was that essential
aspects of their activities consisted in communicating things to other
people ("telling anyone anything," as he put it). Thus, the employees
were not only recipients of information or instructions; rather, in one
way or another, they themselves communicated, be it merely as a
secretary who typed up, edited, and forwarded a piece of shorthand
dictation. In his book *The Production and Distribution of Knowledge in
the United States*, published in 1962, Machlup gathered empirical
material to demonstrate that the American economy had entered a new
phase that was distinguished by the production, exchange, and
application of abstract, codified
knowledge.[^6^](#c1-note-0006){#c1-note-0006a} This opinion was no
longer entirely novel at the time, but it had never before been
presented in such an empirically detailed and comprehensive
manner.[^7^](#c1-note-0007){#c1-note-0007a} The extent of the knowledge
economy surprised Machlup himself: in his book, he concluded that as
much as 43 percent of all labor activity was already engaged in this
sector. This high number came about because, until then, no one had put
forward the idea of understanding such a variety of activities as a
single unit.

Machlup\'s categorization was indeed quite innovative, for the dynamics
that propelled the sectors that he associated with one another not only
were very different but also had originated as an integral component in
the development of the industrial production of goods. They were more of
an extension of such production than a break with it. The production and
circulation of goods had been expanding and accelerating as early as the
nineteenth century, though at highly divergent rates from one region or
sector to another. New markets were created in order to distribute goods
that were being produced in greater numbers; new infrastructure for
transportation and communication was established in order to serve these
large markets, which were mostly in the form of national territories
(including their colonies). This []{#Page_14 type="pagebreak"
title="14"}enabled even larger factories to be built in order to
exploit, to an even greater extent, the cost advantages of mass
production. In order to control these complex processes, new professions
arose with different types of competencies and working conditions. The
office became a workplace for an increasing number of people -- men and
women alike -- who, in one form or another, had something to do with
information processing and communication. Yet all of this required not
only new management techniques. Production and products also became more
complex, so that entire corporate sectors had to be restructured.
Whereas the first decisive inventions of the industrial era were still
made by more or less educated tinkerers, during the last third of the
nineteenth century, invention itself came to be institutionalized. In
Germany, Siemens (founded in 1847 as the Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von
Siemens & Halske) exemplifies this transformation. Within 50 years, a
company that began in a proverbial workshop in a Berlin backyard became
a multinational high-tech corporation. It was in such corporate
laboratories, which were established around the year 1900, that the
"industrialization of invention" or the "scientification of industrial
production" took place.[^8^](#c1-note-0008){#c1-note-0008a} In other
words, even the processes employed in factories and the goods that they
produced became knowledge-intensive. Their invention, planning, and
production required a steadily growing expansion of activities, which
today we would refer to as research and development. The informatization
of the economy -- the acceleration of mass production, the comprehensive
application of scientific methods to the organization of labor, and the
central role of research and development in industry -- was hastened
enormously by a world war that was waged on an industrial scale to an
extent that had never been seen before.

Another important factor for the increasing significance of the
knowledge economy was the development of the consumer society. Over the
course of the last third of the nineteenth century, despite dramatic
regional and social disparities, an increasing number of people profited
from the economic growth that the Industrial Revolution had instigated.
Wages increased and basic needs were largely met, so that a new social
stratum arose, the middle class, which was able to spend part of its
income on other things. But on what? First, []{#Page_15 type="pagebreak"
title="15"}new needs had to be created. The more production capacities
increased, the more they had to be rethought in terms of consumption.
Thus, in yet another way, the economy became more knowledge-intensive.
It was now necessary to become familiar with, understand, and stimulate
the interests and preferences of consumers, in order to entice them to
purchase products that they did not urgently need. This knowledge did
little to enhance the material or logistical complexity of goods or
their production; rather, it was reflected in the increasingly extensive
communication about and through these goods. The beginnings of this
development were captured by Émile Zola in his 1883 novel *The Ladies\'
Paradise*, which was set in the new world of a semi-fictitious
department store bearing that name. In its opening scene, the young
protagonist Denise Baudu and her brother Jean, both of whom have just
moved to Paris from a provincial town, encounter for the first time the
artfully arranged women\'s clothing -- exhibited with all sorts of
tricks involving lighting, mirrors, and mannequins -- in the window
displays of the store. The sensuality of the staged goods is so
overwhelming that both of them are not only struck dumb, but Jean even
blushes.
It was the economy of affects that brought blood to Jean\'s cheeks. At
that time, strategies for attracting the attention of customers did not
yet have a scientific and systematic basis. Just as the first inventions
in the age of industrialization were made by amateurs, so too was the
economy of affects developed intuitively and gradually rather than as a
planned or conscious paradigm shift. That it was possible to induce and
direct affects by means of targeted communication was the pioneering
discovery of the Austrian-American Edward Bernays. During the 1920s, he
combined the ideas of his uncle Sigmund Freud about unconscious
motivations with the sociological research methods of opinion surveys to
form a new discipline: market
research.[^9^](#c1-note-0009){#c1-note-0009a} It became the scientific
basis of a new field of activity, which he at first called "propa­ganda"
but then later referred to as "public
relations."[^10^](#c1-note-0010){#c1-note-0010a} Public communication,
be it for economic or political ends, was now placed on a systematic
foundation that came to distance itself more and more from the pure
"conveyance of information." Communication became a strategic field for
corporate and political disputes, and the mass media []{#Page_16
type="pagebreak" title="16"}became their locus of negotiation. Between
1880 and 1917, for instance, commercial advertising costs in the United
States increased by more than 800 percent, and the leading advertising
firms, using the same techniques with which they attracted consumers to
products, were successful in selling to the American public the idea of
their nation entering World War I. Thus, a media industry in the modern
sense was born, and it expanded along with the rapidly growing market
for advertising.[^11^](#c1-note-0011){#c1-note-0011a}

In his studies of labor markets conducted at the beginning of the 1960s,
Machlup brought these previously separ­ate developments together and
thus explained the existence of an already advanced knowledge economy in
the United States. His arguments fell on extremely fertile soil, for an
intellectual transformation had taken place in other areas of science as
well. A few years earlier, for instance, cybernetics had given the
concepts "information" and "communication" their first scientifically
precise (if somewhat idiosyncratic) definitions and had assigned to them
a position of central importance in all scientific disciplines, not to
mention life in general.[^12^](#c1-note-0012){#c1-note-0012a} Machlup\'s
investigation seemed to confirm this in the case of the economy, given
that the knowledge economy was primarily concerned with information and
communication. Since then, numerous analyses, formulas, and slogans have
repeated, modified, refined, and criticized the idea that the
knowledge-based activities of the economy have become increasingly
important. In the 1970s this discussion was associated above all with
the notion of the "post-industrial
society,"[^13^](#c1-note-0013){#c1-note-0013a} in the 1980s the guiding
idea was the "information society,"[^14^](#c1-note-0014){#c1-note-0014a}
and in the 1990s the debate revolved around the "network
society"[^15^](#c1-note-0015){#c1-note-0015a} -- to name just the most
popular concepts. What these approaches have in common is that they each
diagnose a comprehensive societal transformation that, as regards the
creation of economic value or jobs, has shifted the balance from
productive to communicative activ­ities. Accordingly, they presuppose
that we know how to distinguish the former from the latter. This is not
unproblematic, however, because in practice the two are usually tightly
intertwined. Moreover, whoever maintains that communicative activities
have taken the place of industrial production in our society has adopted
a very narrow point of []{#Page_17 type="pagebreak" title="17"}view.
Factory jobs have not simply disappeared; they have just been partially
relocated outside of Western economies. The assertion that communicative
activities are somehow of "greater value" hardly chimes with the reality
of today\'s new "service jobs," many of which pay no more than the
minimum wage.[^16^](#c1-note-0016){#c1-note-0016a} Critiques of this
sort, however, have done little to reduce the effectiveness of this
analysis -- especially its political effectiveness -- for it does more
than simply describe a condition. It also contains a set of political
instructions that imply or directly demand that precisely those sectors
should be promoted that it considers economically promising, and that
society should be reorganized accordingly. Since the 1970s, there has
thus been a feedback loop between scientific analysis and political
agendas. More often than not, it is hardly possible to distinguish
between the two. Especially in Britain and the United States, the
economic transformation of the 1980s was imposed insistently and with
political calculation (the weakening of labor unions).

There are, however, important differences between the developments of
the so-called "post-industrial society" of the 1970s and those of the
so-called "network society" of the 1990s, even if both terms are
supposed to stress the increased significance of information, knowledge,
and communication. With regard to the digital condition, the most
important of these differences are the greater flexibility of economic
activity in general and employment relations in particular, as well as
the dismantling of social security systems. Neither phenomenon played
much of a role in analyses of the early 1970s. The development since
then can be traced back to two currents that could not seem more
different from one another. At first, flexibility was demanded in the
name of a critique of the value system imposed by bureaucratic-bourgeois
society (including the traditional organization of the workforce). It
originated in the new social movements that had formed in the late
1960s. Later on, toward the end of the 1970s, it then became one of the
central points of the neoliberal critique of the welfare state. With
completely different motives, both sides sang the praises of autonomy
and spontaneity while rejecting the disciplinary nature of hierarchical
organization. They demanded individuality and diversity rather than
conformity to prescribed roles. Experimentation, openness to []{#Page_18
type="pagebreak" title="18"}new ideas, flexibility, and change were now
established as fundamental values with positive connotations. Both
movements operated with the attractive idea of personal freedom. The new
social movements understood this in a social sense as the freedom of
personal development and coexistence, whereas neoliberals understood it
in an economic sense as the freedom of the market. In the 1980s, the
neoliberal ideas prevailed in large part because some of the values,
strategies, and methods propagated by the new social movements were
removed from their political context and appropriated in order to
breathe new life -- a "new spirit" -- into capitalism and thus to rescue
industrial society from its crisis.[^17^](#c1-note-0017){#c1-note-0017a}
An army of management consultants, restructuring experts, and new
companies began to promote flat hierarchies, self-responsibility, and
innovation; with these aims in mind, they set about reorganizing large
corporations into small and flexible units. Labor and leisure were no
longer supposed to be separated, for all aspects of a given person could
be integrated into his or her work. In order to achieve economic success
in this new capitalism, it became necessary for every individual to
identify himself or herself with his or her profession. Large
corporations were restructured in such a way that entire departments
found themselves transformed into independent "profit centers." This
happened in the name of creating more leeway for decision-making and of
optimizing the entrepreneurial spirit on all levels, the goals being to
increase value creation and to provide management with more fine-grained
powers of intervention. These measures, in turn, created the need for
computers and the need for them to be networked. Large corporations
reacted in this way to the emergence of highly specialized small
companies which, by networking and cooperating with other firms,
succeeded in quickly and flexibly exploiting niches in the expanding
global markets. In the management literature of the 1980s, the
catchphrases for this were "company networks" and "flexible
specialization."[^18^](#c1-note-0018){#c1-note-0018a} By the middle of
the 1990s, the sociologist Manuel Castells was able to conclude that the
actual productive entity was no longer the individual company but rather
the network consisting of companies and corporate divisions of various
sizes. In Castells\'s estimation, the decisive advantage of the network
is its ability to customize its elements and their configuration
[]{#Page_19 type="pagebreak" title="19"}to suit the rapidly changing
requirements of the "project" at
hand.[^19^](#c1-note-0019){#c1-note-0019a} Aside from a few exceptions,
companies in their trad­itional forms came to function above all as
strategic control centers and as economic and legal units.

This economic structural transformation was already well under way when
the internet emerged as a mass medium around the turn of the millennium.
As a consequence, change became more radical and penetrated into an
increasing number of areas of value creation. The political agenda
oriented itself toward the vision of "creative industries," a concept
developed in 1997 by the newly elected British government under Tony
Blair. A Creative Industries Task Force was established right away, and
its first step was to identify "those activities which have their
origins in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have the
potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and
exploit­ation of intellectual
property."[^20^](#c1-note-0020){#c1-note-0020a} Like Fritz Machlup at
the beginning of the 1960s, the task force brought together existing
areas of activity into a new category. Such activities included
advertising, computer games, architecture, music, arts and antique
markets, publishing, design, software and computer services, fashion,
television and radio, and film and video. The latter were elevated to
matters of political importance on account of their potential to create
wealth and jobs. Not least because of this clever presentation of
categories -- no distinction was made between the BBC, an almighty
public-service provider, and fledgling companies in precarious
circumstances -- it was possible to proclaim not only that the creative
industries were contributing a relevant portion of the nation\'s
economic output, but also that this sector was growing at an especially
fast rate. It was reported that, in London, the creative industries were
already responsible for one out of every five new jobs. When compared
with traditional terms of employment as regards income, benefits, and
prospects for advancement, however, many of these positions entailed a
considerable downgrade for the employees in question (who were now
treated as independent contractors). This fact was either ignored or
explicitly interpreted as a sign of the sector\'s particular
dynamism.[^21^](#c1-note-0021){#c1-note-0021a} Around the turn of the
new millennium, the idea that individual creativity plays a central role
in the economy was given further traction by []{#Page_20
type="pagebreak" title="20"}the sociologist and consultant Richard
Florida, who argued that creativity was essential to the future of
cities and even announced the rise of the "creative class." As to the
preconditions that have to be met in order to tap into this source of
wealth, he devised a simple formula that would be easy for municipal
bureaucrats to understand: "technology, tolerance and talent." Talent,
as defined by Florida, is based on individual creativity and education
and manifests itself in the ability to generate new jobs. He was thus
able to declare talent a central element of economic
growth.[^22^](#c1-note-0022){#c1-note-0022a} In order to "unleash" these
resources, what we need in addition to technology is, above all,
tolerance; that is, "an open culture -- one that does not discriminate,
does not force people into boxes, allows us to be ourselves, and
validates various forms of family and of human
identity."[^23^](#c1-note-0023){#c1-note-0023a}

The idea that a public welfare state should ensure the social security
of individuals was considered obsolete. Collective institutions, which
could have provided a degree of stability for people\'s lifestyles, were
dismissed or regarded as bureaucratic obstacles. The more or less
directly evoked role model for all of this was the individual artist,
who was understood as an individual entrepreneur, a sort of genius
suitable for the masses. For Florida, a central problem was that,
according to his own calculations, only about a third of the people
living in North American and European cities were working in the
"creative sector," while the innate creativity of everyone else was
going to waste. Even today, the term "creative industry," along with the
assumption that the internet will provide increased opportunities,
serves to legitimize the effort to restructure all areas of the economy
according to the needs of the knowledge economy and to privilege the
network over the institution. In times of social cutbacks and empty
public purses, especially in municipalities, this message was warmly
received. One mayor, who as the first openly gay top politician in
Germany exemplified tolerance for diverse lifestyles, even adopted the
slogan "poor but sexy" for his city. Everyone was supposed to exploit
his or her own creativity to discover new niches and opportunities for
monet­ization -- a magic formula that was supposed to bring about a new
urban revival. Today there is hardly a city in Europe that does not
issue a report about its creative economy, []{#Page_21 type="pagebreak"
title="21"}and nearly all of these reports cite, directly or indirectly,
Richard Florida.

As already seen in the context of the knowledge economy, so too in the
case of creative industries do measurable social change, wishful
thinking, and political agendas blend together in such a way that it is
impossible to identify a single cause for the developments taking place.
The consequences, however, are significant. Over the last two
generations, the demands of the labor market have fundamentally changed.
Higher education and the ability to acquire new knowledge independently
are now, to an increasing extent, required and expected as
qualifications and personal attributes. The desired or enforced ability
to be flexible at work, the widespread cooperation across institutions,
the uprooted nature of labor, and the erosion of collective models for
social security have displaced many activities, which once took place
within clearly defined institutional or personal limits, into a new
interstitial space that is neither private nor public in the classical
sense. This is the space of networks, communities, and informal
cooperation -- the space of sharing and exchange that has since been
enabled by the emergence of ubiquitous digital communication. It allows
an increasing number of people, whether willingly or otherwise, to
envision themselves as active producers of information, knowledge,
capability, and meaning. And because it is associated in various ways
with the space of market-based exchange and with the bourgeois political
sphere, it has lasting effects on both. This interstitial space becomes
all the more important as fewer people are willing or able to rely on
traditional institutions for their economic security. For, within it,
personal and digital-based networks can and must be developed as
alternatives, regardless of whether they prove sustainable for the long
term. As a result, more and more actors, each with their own claims to
meaning, have been rushing away from the private personal sphere into
this new interstitial space. By now, this has become such a normal
practice that whoever is *not* active in this ever-expanding
interstitial space, which is rapidly becoming the main social sphere --
whoever, that is, lacks a publicly visible profile on social mass media
like Facebook, or does not number among those producing information and
meaning and is thus so inconspicuous online as []{#Page_22
type="pagebreak" title="22"}to yield no search results -- now stands out
in a negative light (or, in far fewer cases, acquires a certain prestige
on account of this very absence).
:::

::: {.section}
### The erosion of heteronormativity {#c1-sec-0004}

In this (sometimes more, sometimes less) public space for the continuous
production of social meaning (and its exploit­ation), there is no
question that the professional middle class is
over-represented.[^24^](#c1-note-0024){#c1-note-0024a} It would be
short-sighted, however, to reduce those seeking autonomy and the
recognition of individuality and social diversity to the role of poster
children for the new spirit of
capitalism.[^25^](#c1-note-0025){#c1-note-0025a} The new social
movements, for instance, initiated a social shift that has allowed an
increasing number of people to demand, if nothing else, the right to
participate in social life in a self-determined manner; that is,
according to their own standards and values.

Especially effective was the critique of patriarchal and heteronormative
power relations, modes of conduct, and
identities.[^26^](#c1-note-0026){#c1-note-0026a} In the context of the
political upheavals at the end of the 1960s, the new women\'s and gay
movements developed into influential actors. Their greatest achievement
was to establish alternative cultural forms, lifestyles, and strategies
of action in or around the mainstream of society. How this was done can
be demonstrated by tracing, for example, the development of the gay
movement in West Germany.

In the fall of 1969, the liberalization of Paragraph 175 of the German
Criminal Code came into effect. From then on, sexual activity between
adult men was no longer punishable by law (women were not mentioned in
this context). For the first time, a man could now express himself as a
homosexual outside of semi-private space without immediately being
exposed to the risk of criminal prosecution. This was a necessary
precondition for the ability to defend one\'s own rights. As early as
1971, the struggle for the recognition of gay life experiences reached
the broader public when Rosa von Praunheim\'s film *It Is Not the
Homosexual Who Is Perverse, but the Society in Which He Lives* was
screened at the Berlin International Film Festival and then, shortly
thereafter, broadcast on public television in North Rhine-Westphalia.
The film, which is firmly situated in the agitprop tradition,
[]{#Page_23 type="pagebreak" title="23"}follows a young provincial man
through the various milieus of Berlin\'s gay subcultures: from a
monogamous relationship to nightclubs and public bathrooms until, at the
end, he is enlightened by a political group of men who explain that it
is not possible to lead a free life in a niche, as his own emancipation
can only be achieved by a transformation of society as a whole. The film
closes with a not-so-subtle call to action: "Out of the closets, into
the streets!" Von Praunheim understood this emancipation to be a process
that encompassed all areas of life and had to be carried out in public;
it could only achieve success, moreover, in solidarity with other
freedom movements such as the Black Panthers in the United States and
the new women\'s movement. The goal, according to this film, is to
articulate one\'s own identity as a specific and differentiated identity
with its own experiences, values, and reference systems, and to anchor
this identity within a society that not only tolerates it but also
recognizes it as having equal validity.

At first, however, the film triggered vehement controversies, even
within the gay scene. The objection was that it attacked the gay
subculture, which was not yet prepared to defend itself publicly against
discrimination. Despite or (more likely) because of these controversies,
more than 50 groups of gay activists soon formed in Germany. Such
groups, largely composed of left-wing alternative students, included,
for instance, the Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin (HAW) and the Rote
Zelle Schwul (RotZSchwul) in Frankfurt am
Main.[^27^](#c1-note-0027){#c1-note-0027a} One focus of their activities
was to have Paragraph 175 struck entirely from the legal code (which was
not achieved until 1994). This cause was framed within a general
struggle to overcome patriarchy and capitalism. At the earliest gay
demonstrations in Germany, which took place in Münster in April 1972,
protesters rallied behind the following slogan: "Brothers and sisters,
gay or not, it is our duty to fight capitalism." This was understood as
a necessary subordination to the greater struggle against what was known
in the terminology of left-wing radical groups as the "main
contradiction" of capitalism (that between capital and labor), and it
led to strident differences within the gay movement. The dispute
escalated during the next year. After the so-called *Tuntenstreit*, or
"Battle of the Queens," which was []{#Page_24 type="pagebreak"
title="24"}initiated by activists from Italy and France who had appeared
in drag at the closing ceremony of the HAW\'s Spring Meeting in West
Berlin, the gay movement was divided, or at least moving in a new
direction. At the heart of the matter were the following questions: "Is
there an inherent (many speak of an autonomous) position that gays hold
with respect to the issue of homosexuality? Or can a position on
homosexuality only be derived in association with the traditional
workers\' movement?"[^28^](#c1-note-0028){#c1-note-0028a} In other
words, was discrimination against homosexuality part of the social
divide caused by capitalism (that is, one of its "ancillary
contradictions") and thus only to be overcome by overcoming capitalism
itself, or was it something unrelated to the "essence" of capitalism, an
independent conflict requiring different strategies and methods? This
conflict could never be fully resolved, but the second position, which
was more interested in overcoming legal, social, and cultural
discrimination than in struggling against economic exploitation, and
which focused specifically on the social liberation of gays, proved to
be far more dynamic in the long term. This was not least because both
the old and new left were themselves not free of homophobia and because
the entire radical student movement of the 1970s fell into crisis.

Over the course of the 1970s and 1980s, "aesthetic self-empowerment" was
realized through the efforts of artistic and (increasingly) commercial
producers of images, texts, and
sounds.[^29^](#c1-note-0029){#c1-note-0029a} Activists, artists, and
intellectuals developed a language with which they could speak
assertively in public about topics that had previously been taboo.
Inspired by the expression "gay pride," which originated in the United
States, they began to use the term *schwul* ("gay"), which until then
had possessed negative connotations, with growing confidence. They
founded numerous gay and lesbian cultural initiatives, theaters,
publishing houses, magazines, bookstores, meeting places, and other
associations in order to counter the misleading or (in their eyes)
outright false representations of the mass media with their own
multifarious media productions. In doing so, they typically followed a
dual strategy: on the one hand, they wanted to create a space for the
members of the movement in which it would be possible to formulate and
live different identities; on the other hand, they were fighting to be
accepted by society at large. While []{#Page_25 type="pagebreak"
title="25"}a broader and broader spectrum of gay positions, experiences,
and aesthetics was becoming visible to the public, the connection to
left-wing radical contexts became weaker. Founded as early as 1974, and
likewise in West Berlin, the General Homosexual Working Group
(Allgemeine Homosexuelle Arbeitsgemeinschaft) sought to integrate gay
politics into mainstream society by defining the latter -- on the basis
of bourgeois, individual rights -- as a "politics of
anti-discrimination." These efforts achieved a milestone in 1980 when,
in the run-up to the parliamentary election, a podium discussion was
held with representatives of all major political parties on the topic of
the law governing sexual offences. The discussion took place in the
Beethovenhalle in Bonn, which was the largest venue for political events
in the former capital. Several participants considered the event to be a
"disaster,"[^30^](#c1-note-0030){#c1-note-0030a} for it revived a number
of internal conflicts (not least that between revolutionary and
integrative positions). Yet the fact remains that representatives were
present from every political party, and this alone was indicative of an
unprecedented amount of public awareness for those demanding equal
rights.

The struggle against discrimination and for social recognition reached
an entirely new level of urgency with the outbreak of HIV/AIDS. In 1983,
the magazine *Der Spiegel* devoted its first cover story to the disease,
thus bringing it to the awareness of the broader public. In the same
year, the non-profit organization Deutsche Aids-Hilfe was founded to
prevent further cases of discrimination, for *Der Spiegel* was not the
only publication at the time to refer to AIDS as a "homosexual
epidemic."[^31^](#c1-note-0031){#c1-note-0031a} The struggle against
HIV/AIDS required a comprehensive mobilization. Funding had to be raised
in order to deal with the social repercussions of the epidemic, to teach
people about safe sexual practices for everyone and to direct research
toward discovering causes and developing potential cures. The immediate
threat that AIDS represented, especially while so little was known about
the illness and its treatment remained a distant hope, created an
impetus for mobilization that led to alliances between the gay movement,
the healthcare system, and public authorities. Thus, the AIDS Inquiry
Committee, sponsored by the conservative Christian Democratic Union,
concluded in 1988 that, in the fight against the illness, "the
homosexual subculture is []{#Page_26 type="pagebreak"
title="26"}especially important. This informal structure should
therefore neither be impeded nor repressed but rather, on the contrary,
recognized and supported."[^32^](#c1-note-0032){#c1-note-0032a} The AIDS
crisis proved to be a catalyst for advancing the integration of gays
into society and for expanding what could be regarded as acceptable
lifestyles, opinions, and cultural practices. As a consequence,
homosexuals began to appear more frequently in the media, though their
presence would never match that of hetero­sexuals. As of 1985, the
television show *Lindenstraße* featured an openly gay protagonist, and
the first kiss between men was aired in 1987. The episode still provoked
a storm of protest -- Bayerische Rundfunk refused to broadcast it a
second time -- but this was already a rearguard action and the
integration of gays (and lesbians) into the social mainstream continued.
In 1993, the first gay and lesbian city festival took place in Berlin,
and the first Rainbow Parade was held in Vienna in 1996. In 2002, the
Cologne Pride Day involved 1.2 million participants and attendees, thus
surpassing for the first time the attendance at the traditional Rose
Monday parade. By the end of the 1990s, the sociologist Rüdiger Lautmann
was already prepared to maintain: "To be homosexual has become
increasingly normalized, even if homophobia lives on in the depths of
the collective disposition."[^33^](#c1-note-0033){#c1-note-0033a} This
normalization was also reflected in a study published by the Ministry of
Justice in the year 2000, which stressed "the similarity between
homosexual and heterosexual relationships" and, on this basis, made an
argument against discrimination.[^34^](#c1-note-0034){#c1-note-0034a}
Around the year 2000, however, the classical gay movement had already
passed its peak. A profound transformation had begun to take place in
the middle of the 1990s. It lost its character as a new social movement
(in the style of the 1970s) and began to splinter inwardly and
outwardly. One could say that it transformed from a mass movement into a
multitude of variously networked communities. The clearest sign of this
transformation is the abbreviation "LGBT" (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender), which, since the mid-1990s, has represented the internal
heterogeneity of the movement as it has shifted toward becoming a
network.[^35^](#c1-note-0035){#c1-note-0035a} At this point, the more
radical actors were already speaking against the normalization of
homosexuality. Queer theory, for example, was calling into question the
"essentialist" definition of gender []{#Page_27 type="pagebreak"
title="27"}-- that is, any definition reducing it to an immutable
essence -- with respect to both its physical dimension (sex) and its
social and cultural dimension (gender
proper).[^36^](#c1-note-0036){#c1-note-0036a} It thus opened up a space
for the articulation of experiences, self-descriptions, and lifestyles
that, on every level, are located beyond the classical attributions of
men and women. A new generation of intellectuals, activists, and artists
took the stage and developed -- yet again through acts of aesthetic
self-empowerment -- a language that enabled them to import, with
confidence, different self-definitions into the public sphere. An
example of this is the adoption of inclusive plural forms in German
(*Aktivist\_innen* "activists," *Künstler\_innen* "artists"), which draw
attention to the gaps and possibilities between male and female
identities that are also expressed in the language itself. Just as with
the terms "gay" or *schwul* some 30 years before, in this case, too, an
important element was the confident and public adoption and semantic
conversion of a formerly insulting word ("queer") by the very people and
communities against whom it used to be
directed.[^37^](#c1-note-0037){#c1-note-0037a} Likewise observable in
these developments was the simultaneity of social (amateur) and
artistic/scientific (professional) cultural production. The goal,
however, was less to produce a clear antithesis than it was to oppose
rigid attributions by underscoring mutability, hybridity, and
uniqueness. Both the scope of what could be expressed in public and the
circle of potential speakers expanded yet again. And, at least to some
extent, the drag queen Conchita Wurst popularized complex gender
constructions that went beyond the simple woman/man dualism. All of that
said, the assertion by Rüdiger Lautmann quoted above -- "homophobia
lives on in the depths of the collective dis­position" -- continued to
hold true.

If the gay movement is representative of the social liber­ation of the
1970s and 1980s, then it is possible to regard its transformation into
the LGBT movement during the 1990s -- with its multiplicity and fluidity
of identity models and its stress on mutability and hybridity -- as a
sign of the reinvention of this project within the context of an
increasingly dominant digital condition. With this transformation,
however, the diversification and fluidification of cultural practices
and social roles have not yet come to an end. Ways of life that were
initially subcultural and facing existential pressure []{#Page_28
type="pagebreak" title="28"}are gradually entering the mainstream. They
are expanding the range of readily available models of identity for
anyone who might be interested, be it with respect to family forms
(e.g., patchwork families, adoption by same-sex couples), diets (e.g.,
vegetarianism and veganism), healthcare (e.g., anti-vaccination), or
other principles of life and belief. All of them are seeking public
recognition for a new frame of reference for social meaning that has
originated from their own activity. This is necessarily a process
characterized by conflicts and various degrees of resistance, including
right-wing populism that seeks to defend "traditional values," but many
of these movements will ultimately succeed in providing more people with
the opportunity to speak in public, thus broadening the palette of
themes that are considered to be important and legitimate.
:::

::: {.section}
### Beyond center and periphery {#c1-sec-0005}

In order to reach a better understanding of the complexity involved in
the expanding social basis of cultural production, it is necessary to
shift yet again to a different level. For, just as it would be myopic to
examine the multiplication of cultural producers only in terms of
professional knowledge workers from the middle class, it would likewise
be insufficient to situate this multiplication exclusively in the
centers of the West. The entire system of categories that justified the
differentiation between the cultural "center" and the cultural
"periphery" has begun to falter. This complex and multilayered process
has been formulated and analyzed by the theory of "post-colonialism."
Long before digital media made the challenge of cultural multiplicity a
quotidian issue in the West, proponents of this theory had developed
languages and terminologies for negotiating different positions without
needing to impose a hierarchical order.

Since the 1970s, the theoretical current of post-colonialism has been
examining the cultural and epistemic dimensions of colonialism that,
even after its end as a territorial system, have remained responsible
for the continuation of dependent relations and power differentials. For
my purposes -- which are to develop a European perspective on the
factors ensuring that more and more people are able to participate in
cultural []{#Page_29 type="pagebreak" title="29"}production -- two
points are especially relevant because their effects reverberate in
Europe itself. First is the deconstruction of the categories "West" (in
the sense of the center) and "East" (in the sense of the periphery). And
second is the focus on hybridity as a specific way for non-Western
actors to deal with the dominant cultures of former colonial powers,
which have continued to determine significant portions of globalized
culture. The terms "West" and "East," "center" and "periphery," do not
simply describe existing conditions; rather, they are categories that
contribute, in an important way, to the creation of the very conditions
that they presume to describe. This may sound somewhat circular, but it
is precisely from this circularity that such cultural classifications
derive their strength. The world that they illuminate is immersed in
their own light. The category "East" -- or, to use the term of the
literary theorist Edward Said,
"orientalism"[^38^](#c1-note-0038){#c1-note-0038a} -- is a system of
representation that pervades Western thinking. Within this system,
Europe or the West (as the center) and the East (as the periphery)
represent asymmetrical and antithetical concepts. This construction
achieves a dual effect. As a self-description, on the one hand, it
contributes to the formation of our own identity, for Europeans
attrib­ute to themselves and to their continent such features as
"rationality," "order," and "progress," while on the other hand
identifying the alternative with "superstition," "chaos," or
"stagnation." The East, moreover, is used as an exotic projection screen
for our own suppressed desires. According to Said, a representational
system of this sort can only take effect if it becomes "hegemonic"; that
is, if it is perceived as self-evident and no longer as an act of
attribution but rather as one of description, even and precisely by
those against whom the system discriminates. Said\'s accomplishment is
to have worked out how far-reaching this system was and, in many areas,
it remains so today. It extended (and extends) from scientific
disciplines, whose researchers discussed (until the 1980s) the theory of
"oriental despotism,"[^39^](#c1-note-0039){#c1-note-0039a} to literature
and art -- the motif of the harem was especially popular, particularly
in paintings of the late nineteenth
century[^40^](#c1-note-0040){#c1-note-0040a} -- all the way to everyday
culture, where, as of 1913 in the United States, the cigarette brand
Camel (introduced to compete with the then-leading brand, Fatima) was
meant to evoke the []{#Page_30 type="pagebreak" title="30"}mystique and
sensuality of the Orient.[^41^](#c1-note-0041){#c1-note-0041a} This
system of representation, however, was more than a means of describing
oneself and others; it also served to legitimize the allocation of all
knowledge and agency on to one side, that of the West. Such an order was
not restricted to culture; it also created and legitimized a sense of
domination for colonial projects.[^42^](#c1-note-0042){#c1-note-0042a}
This cultural legitimation, as Said points out, also persists after the
end of formal colonial domination and continues to marginalize the
postcolonial subjects. As before, they are unable to speak for
themselves and therefore remain in the dependent periphery, which is
defined by their subordinate position in relation to the center. Said
directed the focus of critique to this arrangement of center and
periphery, which he saw as being (re)produced and legitimized on the
cultural level. From this arose the demand that everyone should have the
right to speak, to place him- or herself in the center. To achieve this,
it was necessary first of all to develop a language -- indeed, a
cultural landscape -- that can manage without a hegemonic center and is
thus oriented toward multiplicity instead of
uniformity.[^43^](#c1-note-0043){#c1-note-0043a}

A somewhat different approach has been taken by the literary theorist
Homi K. Bhabha. He proceeds from the idea that the colonized never fully
passively adopt the culture of the colonialists -- the "English book,"
as he calls it. Their previous culture is never simply wiped out and
replaced by another. What always and necessarily occurs is rather a
process of hybridization. This concept, according to Bhabha,

::: {.extract}
suggests that all of culture is constructed around negotiations and
conflicts. Every cultural practice involves an attempt -- sometimes
good, sometimes bad -- to establish authority. Even classical works of
art, such as a painting by Brueghel or a composition by Beethoven, are
concerned with the establishment of cultural authority. Now, this poses
the following question: How does one function as a negotiator when
one\'s own sense of agency is limited, for instance, on account of being
excluded or oppressed? I think that, even in the role of the underdog,
there are opportunities to upend the imposed cultural authorities -- to
accept some aspects while rejecting others. It is in this way that
symbols of authority are hybridized and made into something of one\'s
own. For me, hybridization is not simply a mixture but rather a
[]{#Page_31 type="pagebreak" title="31"}strategic and selective
appropriation of meanings; it is a way to create space for negotiators
whose freedom and equality are
endangered.[^44^](#c1-note-0044){#c1-note-0044a}
:::

Hybridization is thus a cultural strategy for evading marginality that
is imposed from the outside: subjects, who from the dominant perspective
are incapable of doing so, appropriate certain aspects of culture for
themselves and transform them into something else. What is decisive is
that this hybrid, created by means of active and unauthorized
appropriation, opposes the dominant version and the resulting speech is
thus legitimized from another -- that is, from one\'s own -- position.
In this way, a cultural engagement is set under way and the superiority
of one meaning or another is called into question. Who has the right to
determine how and why a relationship with others should be entered,
which resources should be appropriated from them, and how these
resources should be used? At the heart of the matter lie the abilities
of speech and interpretation; these can be seized in order to create
space for a "cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an
assumed or imposed hierarchy."[^45^](#c1-note-0045){#c1-note-0045a}

At issue is thus a strategy for breaking down hegemonic cultural
conditions, which distribute agency in a highly uneven manner, and for
turning one\'s own cultural production -- which has been dismissed by
cultural authorities as flawed, misconceived, or outright ignorant --
into something negotiable and independently valuable. Bhabha is thus
interested in fissures, differences, diversity, multiplicity, and
processes of negotiation that generate something like shared meaning --
culture, as he defines it -- instead of conceiving of it as something
that precedes these processes and is threatened by them. Accordingly, he
proceeds not from the idea of unity, which is threatened whenever
"others" are empowered to speak and needs to be preserved, but rather
from the irreducible multiplicity that, through laborious processes, can
be brought into temporary and limited consensus. Bhabha\'s vision of
culture is one without immutable authorities, interpretations, and
truths. In theory, everything can be brought to the table. This is not a
situation in which anything goes, yet the central meaning of
negotiation, the contextuality of consensus, and the mutability of every
frame of reference []{#Page_32 type="pagebreak" title="32"}-- none of
which can be shared equally by everyone -- are always potentially
negotiable.

Post-colonialism draws attention to the "disruptive power of the
excluded-included third," which becomes especially virulent when it
"emerges in the middle of semantic
structures."[^46^](#c1-note-0046){#c1-note-0046a} The recognition of
this power reveals the increasing cultural independence of those
formerly colonized, and it also transforms the cultural self-perception
of the West, for, even in Western nations that were not significant
colonial powers, there are multifaceted tensions between dominant
cultures and those who are on the defensive against discrimination and
attributions by others. Instead of relying on the old recipe of
integration through assimilation (that is, the dissolution of the
"other"), the right to self-determined difference is being called for
more emphatically. In such a manner, collective identities, such as
national identities, are freed from their questionable appeals to
cultural homogeneity and essentiality, and reconceived in terms of the
experience of immanent difference. Instead of one binding and
unnegotiable frame of reference for everyone, which hierarchizes
individual pos­itions and makes them appear unified, a new order without
such limitations needs to be established. Ultimately, the aim is to
provide nothing less than an "alternative reading of
modernity,"[^47^](#c1-note-0047){#c1-note-0047a} which influences both
the construction of the past and the modalities of the future. For
European culture in particular, such a project is an immense challenge.

Of course, these demands do not derive their everyday relevance
primarily from theory but rather from the experiences of
(de)colonization, migration, and globalization. Multifaceted as it is,
however, the theory does provide forms and languages for articulating
these phenomena, legitimizing new positions in public debates, and
attacking persistent mechanisms of cultural marginalization. It helps to
empower broader societal groups to become actively involved in cultural
processes, namely people, such as migrants and their children, whose
identity and experience are essentially shaped by non-Western cultures.
The latter have been giving voice to their experiences more frequently
and with greater confidence in all areas of public life, be it in
politics, literature, music, or
art.[^48^](#c1-note-0048){#c1-note-0048a} In Germany, for instance, the
films by Fatih Akin (*Head-On* from 2004 and *Soul Kitchen* from 2009,
to []{#Page_33 type="pagebreak" title="33"}name just two), in which the
experience of immigration is represented as part of the German
experience, have reached a wide public audience. In 2002, the group
Kanak Attak organized a series of conferences with the telling motto *no
integración*, and these did much to introduce postcolonial positions to
the debates taking place in German-speaking
countries.[^49^](#c1-note-0049){#c1-note-0049a} For a long time,
politicians with "migration backgrounds" were considered to be competent
in only one area, namely integration policy. This has since changed,
though not entirely. In 2008, for instance, Cem Özdemir was elected
co-chair of the Green Party and thus shares responsibility for all of
its political positions. Developments of this sort have been enabled
(and strengthened) by a shift in society\'s self-perception. In 2014,
Cemile Giousouf, the integration commissioner for the conservative
CDU/CSU alliance in the German Parliament, was able to make the
following statement without inciting any controversy: "Over the past few
years, Germany has become a modern land of
immigration."[^50^](#c1-note-0050){#c1-note-0050a} A remarkable
proclamation. Not ten years earlier, her party colleague Norbert Lammert
had expressed, in his function as parliamentary president, interest in
reviving the debate about the term "leading culture." The increasingly
well-educated migrants of the first, second, or third gener­ation no
longer accept the choice of being either marginalized as an exotic
representative of the "other" or entirely assimilated. Rather, they are
insisting on being able to introduce their specific experience as a
constitutive contribution to the formation of the present -- in
association and in conflict with other contributions, but at the same
level and with the same legitimacy. It is no surprise that various forms
of discrimin­ation and violence against "foreigners" not only continue
in everyday life but have also been increasing in reaction to this new
situation. Ultimately, established claims to power are being called into
question.

To summarize, at least three secular historical tendencies or movements,
some of which can be traced back to the late nineteenth century but each
of which gained considerable momentum during the last third of the
twentieth (the spread of the knowledge economy, the erosion of
heteronormativity, and the focus of post-colonialism on cultural
hybridity), have greatly expanded the sphere of those who actively
negotiate []{#Page_34 type="pagebreak" title="34"}social meaning. In
large part, the patterns and cultural foundations of these processes
developed long before the internet. Through the use of the internet, and
through the experiences of dealing with it, they have encroached upon
far greater portions of all societies.
:::
:::

::: {.section}
The Culturalization of the World {#c1-sec-0006}
--------------------------------

The number of participants in cultural processes, however, is not the
only thing that has increased. Parallel to that development, the field
of the cultural has expanded as well -- that is, those areas of life
that are not simply characterized by unalterable necessities, but rather
contain or generate competing options and thus require conscious
decisions.

The term "culturalization of the economy" refers to the central position
of knowledge-based, meaning-based, and affect-oriented processes in the
creation of value. With the emergence of consumption as the driving
force behind the production of goods and the concomitant necessity of
having not only to satisfy existing demands but also to create new ones,
the cultural and affective dimensions of the economy began to gain
significance. I have already discussed the beginnings of product
staging, advertising, and public relations. In addition to all of the
continuities that remain with us from that time, it is also possible to
point out a number of major changes that consumer society has undergone
since the late 1960s. These changes can be delineated by examining the
greater role played by design, which has been called the "core
discipline of the creative
economy."[^51^](#c1-note-0051){#c1-note-0051a}

As a field of its own, design originated alongside industrialization,
when, in collaborative processes, the activities of planning and
designing were separated from those of carrying out
production.[^52^](#c1-note-0052){#c1-note-0052a} It was not until the
modern era that designers consciously endeavored to seek new forms for
the logic inherent to mass production. With the aim of economic
efficiency, they intended their designs to optimize the clearly defined
functions of anonymous and endlessly reproducible objects. At the end of
the nineteenth century, the architect Louis Sullivan, whose buildings
still distinguish the skyline of Chicago, condensed this new attitude
into the famous axiom []{#Page_35 type="pagebreak" title="35"}"form
follows function." Mies van der Rohe, working as an architect in Chicago
in the middle of the twentieth century, supplemented this with a pithy
and famous formulation of his own: "less is more." The rationality of
design, in the sense of isolating and improving specific functions, and
the economical use of resources were of chief importance to modern
(industrial) designers. Even the ten design principles of Dieter Rams,
who led the design division of the consumer products company Braun from
1965 to 1991 -- one of the main sources of inspiration for Jonathan Ive,
Apple\'s chief design officer -- aimed to make products "usable,"
"understandable," "honest," and "long-lasting." "Good design," according
to his guiding principle, "is as little design as
possible."[^53^](#c1-note-0053){#c1-note-0053a} This orientation toward
the technical and functional promised to solve problems for everyone in
a long-term and binding manner, for the inherent material and design
qual­ities of an object were supposed to make it independent from
changing times and from the tastes of consumers.

::: {.section}
### Beyond the object {#c1-sec-0007}

At the end of the 1960s, a new generation of designers rebelled against
this industrial and instrumental rationality, which was now felt to be
authoritarian, soulless, and reductionist. In the works associated with
"anti-design" or "radical design," the objectives of the discipline were
redefined and a new formal language was developed. In the place of
tech­nical and functional optimization, recombination -- ecological
recycling or the postmodern interplay of forms -- emerged as a design
method and aesthetic strategy. Moreover, the aspiration of design
shifted from the individual object to its entire social and material
environment. The processes of design and production, which had been
closed off from one another and restricted to specialists, were opened
up precisely to encourage the participation of non-designers, be it
through interdisciplinary cooperation with other types of professions or
through the empowerment of laymen. The objectives of design were
radically expanded: rather than ending with the completion of an
individual product, it was now supposed to engage with society. In the
sense of cybernetics, this was regarded as a "system," controlled by
feedback processes, []{#Page_36 type="pagebreak" title="36"}which
connected social, technical, and biological dimensions to one
another.[^54^](#c1-note-0054){#c1-note-0054a} Design, according to this
new approach, was meant to be a "socially significant
activity."[^55^](#c1-note-0055){#c1-note-0055a}

Embedded in the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, this new
generation of designers was curious about the social and political
potential of their discipline, and about possibilities for promoting
flexibility and autonomy instead of rigid industrial efficiency. Design
was no longer expected to solve problems once and for all, for such an
idea did not correspond to the self-perception of an open and mutable
society. Rather, it was expected to offer better opportun­ities for
enabling people to react to continuously changing conditions. A radical
proposal was developed by the Italian designer Enzo Mari, who in 1974
published his handbook *Autoprogettazione* (Self-Design). It contained
19 simple designs with which people could make, on their own,
aesthetically and functionally sophisticated furniture out of pre-cut
pieces of wood. In this case, the designs themselves were less important
than the critique of conventional design as elitist and of consumer
society as alienated and wasteful. Mari\'s aim was to reconceive the
relations among designers, the manufacturing industry, and users.
Increasingly, design came to be understood as a holistic and open
process. Victor Papanek, the founder of ecological design, took things a
step further. For him, design was "basic to all human activity. The
planning and patterning of any act towards a desired, foreseeable end
constitutes the design process. Any attempt to separate design, to make
it a thing-by-itself, works counter to the inherent value of design as
the primary underlying matrix of
life."[^56^](#c1-note-0056){#c1-note-0056a}

Potentially all aspects of life could therefore fall under the purview
of design. This came about from the desire to oppose industrialism,
which was blind to its catastrophic social and ecological consequences,
with a new and comprehensive manner of seeing and acting that was
unrestricted by economics.

Toward the end of the 1970s, this expanded notion of design owed less
and less to emancipatory social movements, and its socio-political goals
began to fall by the wayside. Three fundamental patterns survived,
however, which go beyond design and remain characteristic of the
culturalization []{#Page_37 type="pagebreak" title="37"}of the economy:
the discovery of the public as emancipated users and active
participants; the use of appropriation, transformation, and
recombination as methods for creating ever-new aesthetic
differentiations; and, finally, the intention of shaping the lifeworld
of the user.[^57^](#c1-note-0057){#c1-note-0057a}

As these patterns became depoliticized and commercialized, the focus of
designing the "lifeworld" shifted more and more toward designing the
"experiential world." By the end of the 1990s, this had become so
normalized that even management consultants could assert that
"\[e\]xperiences represent an existing but previously unarticulated
*genre of economic output*."[^58^](#c1-note-0058){#c1-note-0058a} It was
possible to define the dimensions of the experiential world in various
ways. For instance, it could be clearly delimited and product-oriented,
like the flagship stores introduced by Nike in 1990, which, with their
elaborate displays, were meant to turn shopping into an experience. This
experience, as the company\'s executives hoped, radiated outward and
influenced how the brand was perceived as a whole. The experiential
world could also, however, be conceived in somewhat broader terms, for
instance by design­ing entire institutions around the idea of creating a
more attractive work environment and thereby increasing the commitment
of employees. This approach is widespread today in creative industries
and has become popularized through countless stories about ping-pong
tables, gourmet cafeterias, and massage rooms in certain offices. In
this case, the process of creativity is applied back to itself in order
to systematize and optimize a given workplace\'s basis of operation. The
development is comparable to the "invention of invention" that
characterized industrial research around the end of the nineteenth
century, though now the concept has been re­located to the field of
knowledge production.

Yet the "experiential world" can be expanded even further, for instance
when entire cities attempt to make themselves attractive to
international clientele and compete with others by building spectacular
museums or sporting arenas. Displays in cities, as well as a few other
central locations, are regularly constructed in order to produce a
particular experience. This also entails, however, that certain forms of
use that fail to fit the "urban
script"[^59^](#c1-note-0059){#c1-note-0059a} are pushed to the margins
or driven away.[^60^](#c1-note-0060){#c1-note-0060a} Thus, today, there
is hardly a single area of life to []{#Page_38 type="pagebreak"
title="38"}which the strategies and methods of design do not have
access, and this access occurs at all levels. For some time, design has
not been a purely visible matter, restricted to material objects; it
rather forms and controls all of the senses. Cities, for example, have
come to be understood increasingly as "sound spaces" and have
accordingly been reconfigured with the goal of modulating their various
noises.[^61^](#c1-note-0061){#c1-note-0061a} Yet design is no longer
just a matter of objects, processes, and experiences. By now, in the
context of reproductive medicine, it has even been applied to the
biological foundations of life ("designer babies"). I will revisit this
topic below.
:::

::: {.section}
### Culture everywhere {#c1-sec-0008}

Of course, design is not the only field of culture that has imposed
itself over society as a whole. A similar development has occurred in
the field of advertising, which, since the 1970s, has been integrated
into many more physical and social spaces and by now has a broad range
of methods at its disposal. Advertising is no longer found simply on
billboards or in display windows. In the form of "guerilla marketing" or
"product placement," it has penetrated every space and occupied every
discourse -- by blending with political messages, for instance -- and
can now even be spread, as "viral marketing," by the addressees of the
advertisements themselves. Similar processes can be observed in the
fields of art, fashion, music, theater, and sports. This has taken place
perhaps most radically in the field of "gaming," which has drawn upon
technical progress in the most direct possible manner and, with the
spread of powerful computers and mobile applications, has left behind
the confines of the traditional playing field. In alternate reality
games, the realm of the virtual and fictitious has also been
transcended, as physical spaces have been overlaid with their various
scripts.[^62^](#c1-note-0062){#c1-note-0062a}

This list could be extended, but the basic trend is clear enough,
especially as the individual fields overlap and mutually influence one
another. They are blending into a single interdependent field for
generating social meaning in the form of economic activity. Moreover,
through digitalization and networking, many new opportunities have
arisen for large-scale involvement by the public in design processes.
Thanks []{#Page_39 type="pagebreak" title="39"}to new communication
technologies and flexible production processes, today\'s users can
personalize and create products to suit their wishes. Here, the spectrum
extends from tiny batches of creative-industrial products all the way to
global processes of "mass customization," in which factory-based mass
production is combined with personalization. One of the first
applications of this was introduced in 1999 when, through its website, a
sporting-goods company allowed customers to design certain elements of a
shoe by altering it within a set of guidelines. This was taken a step
further by the idea of "user-centered innovation," which relies on the
specific knowledge of users to enhance a product, with the additional
hope of discovering unintended applications and transforming these into
new areas of business.[^63^](#c1-note-0063){#c1-note-0063a} It has also
become possible for end users to take over the design process from the
beginning, which has become considerably easier with the advent of
specialized platforms for exchanging knowledge, alongside semi-automated
production tools such as mechanical mills and 3D printers.
Digitalization, which has allowed all content to be processed, and
networking, which has created an endless amount of content ("raw
material"), have turned appropriation and recombination into general
methods of cultural production.[^64^](#c1-note-0064){#c1-note-0064a}
This phenomenon will be examined more closely in the next chapter.

Both the involvement of users in the production process and the methods
of appropriation and recombination are extremely information-intensive
and communication-intensive. Without the corresponding technological
infrastructure, neither could be achieved efficiently or on a large
scale. This was evident in the 1970s, when such approaches never made it
beyond subcultures and conceptual studies. With today\'s search engines,
every single user can trawl through an amount of information that, just
a generation ago, would have been unmanageable even by professional
archivists. A broad array of communication platforms (together with
flexible production capacities and efficient logistics) not only weakens
the contradiction between mass fabrication and personalization; it also
allows users to network directly with one another in order to develop
specialized knowledge together and thus to enable themselves to
intervene directly in design processes, both as []{#Page_40
type="pagebreak" title="40"}willing participants in and as critics of
flexible global production processes.
:::
:::

::: {.section}
The Technologization of Culture {#c1-sec-0009}
-------------------------------

That society is dependent on complex information technologies in order
to organize its constitutive processes is, in itself, nothing new.
Rather, this began as early as the late nineteenth century. It is
directly correlated with the expansion and acceleration of the
circulation of goods, which came about through industrialization. As the
historian and sociologist James Beniger has noted, this led to a
"control crisis," for administrative control centers were faced with the
problem of losing sight of what was happening in their own factories,
with their suppliers, and in the important markets of the time.
Management was in a bind: decisions had to be made either on the basis
of insufficient information or too late. The existing administrative and
control mechanisms could no longer deal with the rapidly increasing
complexity and time-sensitive nature of extensively organized production
and distribution. The office became more important, and ever more people
were needed there to fulfill a growing number of functions. Yet this was
not enough for the crisis to subside. The old administrative methods,
which involved manual information processing, simply could no longer
keep up. The crisis reached its first dramatic peak in 1889 in the
United States, with the realization that the census data from the year
1880 had not yet been analyzed when the next census was already
scheduled to take place during the subsequent year. In the same year,
the Secretary of the Interior organized a conference to investigate
faster methods of data processing. Two methods were tested for making
manual labor more efficient, one of which had the potential to achieve
greater efficiency by means of novel data-processing machines. The
latter system emerged as the clear victor; developed by an engineer
named Hermann Hollerith, it mechanically processed and stored data on
punch cards. The idea was based on Hollerith\'s observations of the
coup­ling and decoupling of railroad cars, which he interpreted as
modular units that could be combined in any desired order. The punch
card transferred this approach to information []{#Page_41
type="pagebreak" title="41"}management. Data were no longer stored in
fixed, linear arrangements (tables and lists) but rather in small units
(the punch cards) that, like railroad cars, could be combined in any
given way. The increase in efficiency -- with respect to speed *and*
flexibility -- was enormous, and nearly a hundred of Hollerith\'s
machines were used by the Census
Bureau.[^65^](#c1-note-0065){#c1-note-0065a} This marked a turning point
in the history of information processing, with technical means no longer
being used exclusively to store data, but to process data as well. This
was the only way to avoid the impending crisis, ensuring that
bureaucratic management could maintain centralized control. Hollerith\'s
machines proved to be a resounding success and were implemented in many
more branches of government and corporate administration, where
data-intensive processes had increased so rapidly they could not have
been managed without such machines. This growth was accompanied by that
of Hollerith\'s Tabulating Machine Company, which he founded in 1896 and
which, after a number of mergers, was renamed in 1924 as the
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). Throughout the
following decades, dependence on information-processing machines only
deepened. The growing number of social, commercial, and military
processes could only be managed by means of information technology. This
largely took place, however, outside of public view, namely in the
specialized divisions of large government and private organizations.
These were the only institutions in command of the necessary resources
for operating the complex technical infrastructure -- so-called
mainframe computers -- that was essential to automatic information
processing.

::: {.section}
### The independent media {#c1-sec-0010}

As with so much else, this situation began to change in the 1960s. Mass
media and information-processing technologies began to attract
criticism, even though all of the involved subcultures, media activists,
and hackers continued to act independently from one another until the
1990s. The freedom-oriented social movements of the 1960s began to view
the mass media as part of the political system against which they were
struggling. The connections among the economy, politics, and the media
were becoming more apparent, not []{#Page_42 type="pagebreak"
title="42"}least because many mass media companies, especially those in
Germany related to the Springer publishing house, were openly inimical
to these social movements. Critical theor­ies arose that, borrowing
Louis Althusser\'s influential term, regarded the media as part of the
"ideological state apparatus"; that is, as one of the authorities whose
task is to influence people to accept social relations to such a degree
that the "repressive state apparatuses" (the police, the military, etc.)
form a constant background in everyday
life.[^66^](#c1-note-0066){#c1-note-0066a} Similarly influential,
Antonio Gramsci\'s theory of "cultural hegemony" emphasized the
condition in which the governed are manipulated to form a cultural
consensus with the ruling class; they accept the latter\'s
presuppositions (and the politics which are thus justified) even though,
by doing so, they are forced to suffer economic
disadvantages.[^67^](#c1-note-0067){#c1-note-0067a} Guy Debord and the
Situationists attributed to the media a central role in the new form of
rule known as "the spectacle," the glittery surfaces and superficial
manifestations of which served to conceal society\'s true
relations.[^68^](#c1-note-0068){#c1-note-0068a} In doing so, they
aligned themselves with the critique of the "culture industry," which
had been formulated by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno at the
beginning of the 1940s and had become a widely discussed key text by the
1960s.

Their differences aside, these perspectives were united in that they no
longer understood the "public" as a neutral sphere, in which citizens
could inform themselves freely and form their opinions, but rather as
something that was created with specific intentions and consequences.
From this grew an interest in "counter-publics"; that is, in forums
where other actors could appear and negotiate theories of their own. The
mass media thus became an important instrument for organizing the
bourgeois--capitalist public, but they were also responsible for the
development of alternatives. Media, according to one of the core ideas
of these new approaches, are less a sphere in which an external reality
is depicted; rather, they are themselves a constitutive element of
reality.
:::

::: {.section}
### Media as lifeworlds {#c1-sec-0011}

Another branch of new media theories, that of Marshall McLuhan and the
Toronto School of Communication,[^69^](#c1-note-0069){#c1-note-0069a}
[]{#Page_43 type="pagebreak" title="43"}reached a similar conclusion on
different grounds. In 1964, McLuhan aroused a great deal of attention
with his slogan "the medium is the message." He maintained that every
medium of communication, by means of its media-specific characteristics,
directly affected the consciousness, self-perception, and worldview of
every individual.[^70^](#c1-note-0070){#c1-note-0070a} This, he
believed, happens independently of and in addition to whatever specific
message a medium might be conveying. From this perspective, reality does
not exist outside of media, given that media codetermine our personal
relation to and behavior in the world. For McLuhan and the Toronto
School, media were thus not channels for transporting content but rather
the all-encompassing environments -- galaxies -- in which we live.

Such ideas were circulating much earlier and were intensively developed
by artists, many of whom were beginning to experiment with new
electronic media. An important starting point in this regard was the
1963 exhibit *Exposition of Music -- Electronic Television* by the
Korean artist Nam June Paik, who was then collaborating with Karlheinz
Stockhausen in Düsseldorf. Among other things, Paik presented 12
television sets, the screens of which were "distorted" by magnets. Here,
however, "distorted" is a problematic term, for, as Paik explicitly
noted, the electronic images were "a beautiful slap in the face of
classic dualism in philosophy since the time of Plato. \[...\] Essence
AND existence, essentia AND existentia. In the case of the electron,
however, EXISTENTIA IS ESSENTIA."[^71^](#c1-note-0071){#c1-note-0071a}
Paik no longer understood the electronic image on the television screen
as a portrayal or representation of anything. Rather, it engendered in
the moment of its appearance an autonomous reality beyond and
independent of its representational function. A whole generation of
artists began to explore forms of existence in electronic media, which
they no longer understood as pure media of information. In his work
*Video Corridor* (1969--70), Bruce Nauman stacked two monitors at the
end of a corridor that was approximately 10 meters long but only 50
centimeters wide. On the lower monitor ran a video showing the empty
hallway. The upper monitor displayed an image captured by a camera
installed at the entrance of the hall, about 3 meters high. If the
viewer moved down the corridor toward the two []{#Page_44
type="pagebreak" title="44"}monitors, he or she would thus be recorded
by the latter camera. Yet the closer one came to the monitor, the
farther one would be from the camera, so that one\'s image on the
monitor would become smaller and smaller. Recorded from behind, viewers
would thus watch themselves walking away from themselves. Surveillance
by others, self-surveillance, recording, and disappearance were directly
and intuitively connected with one another and thematized as fundamental
issues of electronic media.

Toward the end of the 1960s, the easier availability and mobility of
analog electronic production technologies promoted the search for
counter-publics and the exploration of media as comprehensive
lifeworlds. In 1967, Sony introduced its first Portapak system: a
battery-powered, self-contained recording system -- consisting of a
camera, a cord, and a recorder -- with which it was possible to make
(black-and-white) video recordings outside of a studio. Although the
recording apparatus, which required additional devices for editing and
projection, was offered at the relatively expensive price of \$1,500
(which corresponds to about €8,000 today), it was still affordable for
interested groups. Compared with the situation of traditional film
cameras, these new cameras considerably lowered the initial hurdle for
media production, for video tapes were not only much cheaper than film
reels (and could be used for multiple recordings); they also made it
possible to view recorded material immediately and on location. This
enabled the production of works that were far more intuitive and
spontaneous than earlier ones. The 1970s saw the formation of many video
groups, media workshops, and other initiatives for the independent
production of electronic media. Through their own distribution,
festivals, and other channels, such groups created alternative public
spheres. The latter became especially prominent in the United States
where, at the end of the 1960s, the providers of cable networks were
legally obligated to establish public-access channels, on which citizens
were able to operate self-organized and non-commercial television
programs. This gave rise to a considerable public-access movement there,
which at one point extended across 4,000 cities and was responsible for
producing programs from and for these different
communities.[^72[]{#Page_45 type="pagebreak"
title="45"}^](#c1-note-0072){#c1-note-0072a}

What these initiatives shared in common, in Western Europe and the
United States, was their attempt to close the gap between the
consumption and production of media, to activate the public, and at
least in part to experiment with the media themselves. Non-professional
producers were empowered with the ability to control who told their
stories and how this happened. Groups that previously had no access to
the medial public sphere now had opportunities to represent themselves
and their own interests. By working together on their own productions,
such groups demystified the medium of television and simultaneously
equipped it with a critical consciousness.

Especially well received in Germany was the work of Hans Magnus
Enzensberger, who in 1970 argued (on the basis of Bertolt Brecht\'s
radio theory) in favor of distinguishing between "repressive" and
"emancipatory" uses of media. For him, the emancipatory potential of
media lay in the fact that "every receiver is \[...\] a potential
transmitter" that can participate "interactively" in "collective
production."[^73^](#c1-note-0073){#c1-note-0073a} In the same year, the
first German video group, Telewissen, debuted in public with a
demonstration in downtown Darmstadt. In 1980, at the peak of the
movement for independent video production, there were approximately a
hundred such groups throughout (West) Germany. The lack of distribution
channels, however, represented a nearly insuperable obstacle and ensured
that many independent productions were seldom viewed outside of
small-scale settings. Tapes had to be exchanged between groups through
the mail, and they were mainly shown at gatherings and events, and in
bars. The dynamic of alternative media shifted toward a small subculture
(though one networked throughout all of Europe) of pirate radio and
television broadcasters. At the beginning of the 1980s and in the space
of Radio Dreyeckland in Freiburg, which had been founded in 1977 as
Radio Verte Fessenheim, operations began at Germany\'s first pirate or
citizens\' radio station, which regularly broadcast information about
the political protest movements that had arisen against the use of
nuclear power in Fessenheim (France), Wyhl (Germany), and Kaiseraugst
(Switzerland). The epicenter of the scene, however, was located in
Amsterdam, where the group known as Rabotnik TV, which was an offshoot
[]{#Page_46 type="pagebreak" title="46"}of the squatter scene there,
would illegally feed its signal through official television stations
after their programming had ended at night (many stations then stopped
broadcasting at midnight). In 1988, the group acquired legal
broadcasting slots on the cable network and reached up to 50,000 viewers
with their weekly experimental shows, which largely consisted of footage
appropriated freely from elsewhere.[^74^](#c1-note-0074){#c1-note-0074a}
Early in 1990, the pirate television station Kanal X was created in
Leipzig; it produced its own citizens\' television programming in the
quasi-lawless milieu of the GDR before
reunification.[^75^](#c1-note-0075){#c1-note-0075a}

These illegal, independent, or public-access stations only managed to
establish themselves as real mass media to a very limited extent.
Nevertheless, they played an important role in sensitizing an entire
generation of media activists, whose opportunities expanded as the means
of production became both better and cheaper. In the name of "tactical
media," a new generation of artistic and political media activists came
together in the middle of the
1990s.[^76^](#c1-note-0076){#c1-note-0076a} They combined the "camcorder
revolution," which in the late 1980s had made video equipment available
to broader swaths of society, stirring visions of democratic media
production, with the newly arrived medium of the internet. Despite still
struggling with numerous technical difficulties, they remained constant
in their belief that the internet would solve the hitherto intractable
problem of distributing content. The transition from analog to digital
media lowered the production hurdle yet again, not least through the
ongoing development of improved software. Now, many stages of production
that had previously required professional or semi-professional expertise
and equipment could also be carried out by engaged laymen. As a
consequence, the focus of interest broadened to include not only the
development of alternative production groups but also the possibility of
a flexible means of rapid intervention in existing structures. Media --
both television and the internet -- were understood as environments in
which one could act without directly representing a reality outside of
the media. Television was analyzed down to its own legalities, which
could then be manipulated to affect things beyond the media.
Increasingly, culture jamming and the campaigns of so-called
communication guerrillas were blurring the difference between media and
political activity.[^77[]{#Page_47 type="pagebreak"
title="47"}^](#c1-note-0077){#c1-note-0077a}

This difference was dissolved entirely by a new generation of
politically motivated artists, activists, and hackers, who transferred
the tactics of civil disobedience -- blockading a building with a
sit-in, for instance -- to the
internet.[^78^](#c1-note-0078){#c1-note-0078a} When, in 1994, the
Zapatista Army of National Liberation rose up in the south of Mexico,
several media projects were created to support its mostly peaceful
opposition and to make the movement known in Europe and North America.
As part of this loose network, in 1998 the American artist collective
Electronic Disturbance Theater developed a relatively simple computer
program called FloodNet that enabled networked sympathizers to shut down
websites, such as those of the Mexican government, in a targeted and
temporary manner. The principle was easy enough: the program would
automatic­ally reload a certain website over and over again in order to
exhaust the capacities of its network
servers.[^79^](#c1-note-0079){#c1-note-0079a} The goal was not to
destroy data but rather to disturb the normal functioning of an
institution in order to draw attention to the activities and interests
of the protesters.
:::

::: {.section}
### Networks as places of action {#c1-sec-0012}

What this new generation of media activists shared in common with the
hackers and pioneers of computer networks was the idea that
communication media are spaces for agency. During the 1960s, these
programmers were also in search of alternatives. The difference during
the 1960s is that they did not pursue these alternatives in
counter-publics, but rather in alternative lifestyles and communication.
The rejection of bureaucracy as a form of social organization played a
significant role in the critique of industrial society formulated by
freedom-oriented social movements. At the beginning of the previous
century, Max Weber had still regarded bureaucracy as a clear sign of
progress toward a rational and method­ical
organization.[^80^](#c1-note-0080){#c1-note-0080a} He based this
assessment on processes that were impersonal, rule-bound, and
transparent (in the sense that they were documented with files). But
now, in the 1960s, bureaucracy was being criticized as soulless,
alienated, oppressive, non-transparent, and unfit for an increasingly
complex society. Whereas the first four of these points are in basic
agreement with Weber\'s thesis about "disenchanting" []{#Page_48
type="pagebreak" title="48"}the world, the last point represents a
radical departure from his analysis. Bureaucracies were no longer
regarded as hyper-efficient but rather as inefficient, and their size
and rule-bound nature were no longer seen as strengths but rather as
decisive weaknesses. The social bargain of offering prosperity and
security in exchange for subordination to hierarchical relations struck
many as being anything but attractive, and what blossomed instead was a
broad interest in alternative forms of coexistence. New institutions
were expected to be more flexible and more open. The desire to step away
from the system was widespread, and many (mostly young) people set about
doing exactly that. Alternative ways of life -- communes, shared
apartments, and cooperatives -- were explored in the country and in
cities. They were meant to provide the individual with greater autonomy
and the opportunity to develop his or her own unique potential. Despite
all of the differences between these concepts of life, they nevertheless
shared something of a common denominator: the promise of
reconceptualizing social institutions and the fundamentals of
coexistence, with the aim of reformulating them in such a way as to
allow everyone\'s personal potential to develop fully in the here and
now.

According to critics of such alternatives, bureaucracy was necessary in
order to organize social life as it radically reduced the world\'s
complexity by forcing it through the bottleneck of official procedures.
However, the price paid for such efficiency involved the atrophying of
human relationships, which had to be subordinated to rigid processes
that were incapable of registering unique characteristics and
differences and were unable to react in a timely manner to changing
circumstances.

In the 1960s, many countercultural attempts to find new forms of
organization placed personal and open communication at the center of
their efforts. Each individual was understood as a singular person with
untapped potential rather than a carrier of abstract and clearly defined
functions. It was soon realized, however, that every common activity and
every common decision entailed processes that were time-intensive and
communication-intensive. As soon as a group exceeded a certain size, it
became practically impossible for it to reach any consensus. As a result
of these experiences, an entire worldview emerged that propagated
"smallness" as a central []{#Page_49 type="pagebreak" title="49"}value
("small is beautiful"). It was thought that in this way society might
escape from bureaucracy with its ostensibly disastrous consequences for
humanity and the environment.[^81^](#c1-note-0081){#c1-note-0081a} But
this belief did not last for long. For, unlike the majority of European
alternative movements, the counterculture in the United States was not
overwhelmingly critical of technology. On the contrary, many actors
there sought suitable technologies for solving the practical problems of
social organization. At the end of the 1960s, a considerable amount of
attention was devoted to the field of basic technological research. This
field brought together the interests of the military, academics,
businesses, and activists from the counterculture. The common ground for
all of them was a cybernetic vision of institutions, or, in the words of
the historian Fred Turner:

::: {.extract}
a picture of humans and machines as dynamic, collaborating elements in a
single, highly fluid, socio-technical system. Within that system,
control emerged not from the mind of a commanding officer, but from the
complex, probabilistic interactions of humans, machines and events
around them. Moreover, the mechanical elements of the system in question
-- in this case, the predictor -- enabled the human elements to achieve
what all Americans would agree was a worthwhile goal. \[...\] Over the
coming decades, this second vision of benevolent man-machine systems, of
circular flows of information, would emerge as a driving force in the
establishment of the military--industrial--academic complex and as a
model of an alternative to that
complex.[^82^](#c1-note-0082){#c1-note-0082a}
:::

This complex was possible because, as a theory, cybernetics was
formulated in extraordinarily abstract terms, so much so that a whole
variety of competing visions could be associated with
it.[^83^](#c1-note-0083){#c1-note-0083a} With cybernetics as a
meta-science, it was possible to investigate the common features of
technical, social, and biological
processes.[^84^](#c1-note-0084){#c1-note-0084a} They were analyzed as
open, interactive, and information-processing systems. It was especially
consequential that cybernetics defined control and communication as the
same thing, namely as activities oriented toward informational
feedback.[^85^](#c1-note-0085){#c1-note-0085a} The heterogeneous legacy
of cybernetics and its synonymous treatment of the terms "communication"
and "control" continue to influence information technology and the
internet today.[]{#Page_50 type="pagebreak" title="50"}

The various actors who contributed to the development of the internet
shared a common interest for forms of organ­ization based on the
comprehensive, dynamic, and open exchange of information. Both on the
micro and macro level (and this is decisive at this point),
decentralized and flexible communication technologies were meant to
become the foundation of new organizational models. Militaries feared
attacks on their command and communication centers; academics wanted to
broaden their culture of autonomy, collaboration among peers, and the
free exchange of information; businesses were looking for new areas of
activity; and countercultural activists were longing for new forms of
peaceful coexistence.[^86^](#c1-note-0086){#c1-note-0086a} They all
rejected the bureaucratic model, and the counterculture provided them
with the central catchword for their alternative vision: community.
Though rather difficult to define, it was a powerful and positive term
that somehow promised the opposite of bureaucracy: humanity,
cooperation, horizontality, mutual trust, and consensus. Now, however,
humanity was expected to be reconfigured as a community in cooperation
with and inseparable from machines. And what was yearned for had become
a liberating symbiosis of man and machine, an idea that the author
Richard Brautigan was quick to mock in his poem "All Watched Over by
Machines of Loving Grace" from 1967:

::: {.poem}
::: {.lineGroup}
I like to think (and

the sooner the better!)

of a cybernetic meadow

where mammals and computers

live together in mutually

programming harmony

like pure water

touching clear sky.[^87^](#c1-note-0087){#c1-note-0087a}
:::
:::

Here, Brautigan is ridiculing both the impatience (*the sooner the
better!*) and the naïve optimism (*harmony, clear sky*) of the
countercultural activists. Primarily, he regarded the underlying vision
as an innocent but amusing fantasy and not as a potential threat against
which something had to be done. And there were also reasons to believe
that, ultimately, the new communities would be free from the coercive
nature that []{#Page_51 type="pagebreak" title="51"}had traditionally
characterized the downside of community experiences. It was thought that
the autonomy and freedom of the individual could be regained in and by
means of the community. The conditions for this were that participation
in the community had to be voluntary and that the rules of participation
had to be self-imposed. I will return to this topic in greater detail
below.

In line with their solution-oriented engineering culture and the
results-focused military funders who by and large set the agenda, a
relatively small group of computer scientists now took it upon
themselves to establish the technological foundations for new
institutions. This was not an abstract goal for the distant future;
rather, they wanted to change everyday practices as soon as possible. It
was around this time that advanced technology became the basis of social
communication, which now adopted forms that would have been
inconceivable (not to mention impracticable) without these
preconditions. Of course, effective communication technologies already
existed at the time. Large corporations had begun long before then to
operate their own computing centers. In contrast to the latter, however,
the new infrastructure could also be used by individuals outside of
established institutions and could be implemented for all forms of
communication and exchange. This idea gave rise to a pragmatic culture
of horizontal, voluntary cooperation. The clearest summary of this early
ethos -- which originated at the unusual intersection of military,
academic, and countercultural interests -- was offered by David D.
Clark, a computer scientist who for some time coordinated the
development of technical standards for the internet: "We reject: kings,
presidents and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running
code."[^88^](#c1-note-0088){#c1-note-0088a}

All forms of classical, formal hierarchies and their methods for
resolving conflicts -- commands (by kings and presidents) and votes --
were dismissed. Implemented in their place was a pragmatics of open
cooperation that was oriented around two guiding principles. The first
was that different views should be discussed without a single individual
being able to block any final decisions. Such was the meaning of the
expression "rough consensus." The second was that, in accordance with
the classical engineering tradition, the focus should remain on concrete
solutions that had to be measured against one []{#Page_52
type="pagebreak" title="52"}another on the basis of transparent
criteria. Such was the meaning of the expression "running code." In
large part, this method was possible because the group oriented around
these principles was, internally, relatively homogeneous: it consisted
of top-notch computer scientists -- all of them men -- at respected
American universities and research centers. For this very reason, many
potential and fundamental conflicts were avoided, at least at first.
This internal homogeneity lends rather dark undertones to their sunny
vision, but this was hardly recognized at the time. Today these
undertones are far more apparent, and I will return to them below.

Not only were technical protocols developed on the basis of these
principles, but organizational forms as well. Along with the Internet
Engineering Task Force (which he directed), Clark created the so-called
Request-for-Comments documents, with which ideas could be presented to
interested members of the community and simultaneous feedback could be
collected in order to work through the ideas in question and thus reach
a rough consensus. If such a consensus could not be reached -- if, for
instance, an idea failed to resonate with anyone or was too
controversial -- then the matter would be dropped. The feedback was
organized as a form of many-to-many communication through email lists,
newsgroups, and online chat systems. This proved to be so effective that
horizontal communication within large groups or between multiple groups
could take place without resulting in chaos. This therefore invalidated
the traditional trend that social units, once they reach a certain size,
would necessarily introduce hierarchical structures for the sake of
reducing complexity and communication. In other words, the foundations
were laid for larger numbers of (changing) people to organize flexibly
and with the aim of building an open consensus. For Manuel Castells,
this combination of organizational flexibility and scalability in size
is the decisive innovation that was enabled by the rise of the network
society.[^89^](#c1-note-0089){#c1-note-0089a} At the same time, however,
this meant that forms of organization spread that could only be possible
on the basis of technologies that have formed (and continue to form)
part of the infrastructure of the internet. Digital technology and the
social activity of individual users were linked together to an
unprecedented extent. Social and cultural agendas were now directly
related []{#Page_53 type="pagebreak" title="53"}to and entangled with
technical design. Each of the four original interest groups -- the
military, scientists, businesses, and the counterculture -- implemented
new technologies to pursue their own projects, which partly complemented
and partly contradicted one another. As we know today, the first three
groups still cooperate closely with each other. To a great extent, this
has allowed the military and corporations, which are willingly supported
by researchers in need of funding, to determine the technology and thus
aspects of the social and cultural agendas that depend on it.

The software developers\' immediate environment experienced its first
major change in the late 1970s. Software, which for many had been a mere
supplement to more expensive and highly specialized hardware, became a
marketable good with stringent licensing restrictions. A new generation
of businesses, led by Bill Gates, suddenly began to label co­operation
among programmers as theft.[^90^](#c1-note-0090){#c1-note-0090a}
Previously it had been par for the course, and above all necessary, for
programmers to share software with one another. The former culture of
horizontal cooperation between developers transformed into a
hierarchical and commercially oriented relation between developers and
users (many of whom, at least at the beginning, had developed programs
of their own). For the first time, copyright came to play an important
role in digital culture. In order to survive in this environment, the
practice of open cooperation had to be placed on a new legal foundation.
Copyright law, which served to separate programmers (producers) from
users (consumers), had to be neutralized or circumvented. The first step
in this direction was taken in 1984 by the activist and programmer
Richard Stallman. Composed by Stallman, the GNU General Public License
was and remains a brilliant hack that uses the letter of copyright law
against its own spirit. This happens in the form of a license that
defines "four freedoms":

1. The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom
0).
2. The freedom to study how the program works and change it so it does
your computing as you wish (freedom 1).
3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor
(freedom 2).[]{#Page_54 type="pagebreak" title="54"}
4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others
(freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance
to benefit from your changes.[^91^](#c1-note-0091){#c1-note-0091a}

Thanks to this license, people who were personally unacquainted and did
not share a common social environment could now cooperate (freedoms 2
and 3) and simultaneously remain autonomous and unrestricted (freedoms 0
and 1). For many, the tension between the need to develop complex
software in large teams and the desire to maintain one\'s own autonomy
represented an incentive to try out new forms of
cooperation.[^92^](#c1-note-0092){#c1-note-0092a}

Stallman\'s influence was at first limited to a small circle of
programmers. In the middle of the 1980s, the goal of developing a
completely free operating system seemed a distant one. Communication
between those interested in doing so was often slow and complicated. In
part, program codes still had to be sent by mail. It was not until the
beginning of the 1990s that students in technical departments at many
universities could access the
internet.[^93^](#c1-note-0093){#c1-note-0093a} One of the first to use
these new opportunities in an innovative way was a Finnish student named
Linus Torvalds. He built upon Stallman\'s work and programmed a kernel,
which, as the most important module of an operating system, governs the
interaction between hardware and software. He published the first free
version of this in 1991 and encouraged anyone interested to give him
feedback.[^94^](#c1-note-0094){#c1-note-0094a} And it poured in.
Torvalds reacted promptly and issued new versions of his software in
quick succession. Instead of understanding his software as a finished
product, he treated it like an open-ended process. This, in turn,
motiv­ated even more developers to participate, because they saw that
their contributions were being adopted swiftly, which led to the
formation of an open community of interested programmers who swapped
ideas over the internet and continued writing software. In order to
maintain an overview of the different versions of the program, which
appeared in parallel with one another, it soon became necessary to
employ specialized platforms. The fusion of social processes --
horizontal and voluntary cooperation among developers -- and
technological platforms, which enabled this form of cooperation
[]{#Page_55 type="pagebreak" title="55"}by providing archives, filter
functions, and search capabil­ities that made it possible to organize
large amounts of data, was thus advanced even further. The programmers
were no longer primarily working on the development of the internet
itself, which by then was functioning quite reliably, but were rather
using the internet to apply their cooperative principles to other
arenas. By the end of the 1990s, the free-software movement had
established a new, internet-based form of organization and had
demonstrated its efficiency in practice: horizontal, informal
communities of actors -- voluntary, autonomous, and focused on a common
interest -- that, on the basis of high-tech infrastructure, could
include thousands of people without having to create formal hierarchies.
:::
:::

::: {.section}
From the Margins to the Center of Society {#c1-sec-0013}
-----------------------------------------

It was around this same time that the technologies in question, which
were already no longer very new, entered mainstream society. Within a
few years, the internet became part of everyday life. Three years before
the turn of the millennium, only about 6 percent of the entire German
population used the internet, often only occasionally. Three years after
the millennium, the number of users already exceeded 53 percent. Since
then, this share has increased even further. In 2014, it was more than
97 percent for people under the age of
40.[^95^](#c1-note-0095){#c1-note-0095a} Parallel to these developments,
data transfer rates increased considerably, broadband connections ousted
the need for dial-up modems, and the internet was suddenly "here" and no
longer "there." With the spread of mobile devices, especially since the
year 2007 when the first iPhone was introduced, digital communication
became available both extensively and continuously. Since then, the
internet has been ubiquitous. The amount of time that users spend online
has increased and, with the rapid ascent of social mass media such as
Facebook, people have been online in almost every situation and
circumstance in life.[^96^](#c1-note-0096){#c1-note-0096a} The internet,
like water or electricity, has become for many people a utility that is
simply taken for granted.

In a BBC survey from 2010, 80 percent of those polled believed that
internet access -- a precondition for participating []{#Page_56
type="pagebreak" title="56"}in the now dominant digital condition --
should be regarded as a fundamental human right. This idea was most
popular in South Korea (96 percent) and Mexico (94 percent), while in
Germany at least 72 percent were of the same
opinion.[^97^](#c1-note-0097){#c1-note-0097a}

On the basis of this new infrastructure, which is now relevant in all
areas of life, the cultural developments described above have been
severed from the specific historical conditions from which they emerged
and have permeated society as a whole. Expressivity -- the ability to
communicate something "unique" -- is no longer a trait of artists and
know­ledge workers alone, but rather something that is required by an
increasingly broader stratum of society and is already being taught in
schools. Users of social mass media must produce (themselves). The
development of specific, differentiated identities and the demand that
each be treated equally are no longer promoted exclusively by groups who
have to struggle against repression, existential threats, and
marginalization, but have penetrated deeply into the former mainstream,
not least because the present forms of capitalism have learned to profit
from the spread of niches and segmentation. When even conservative
parties have abandoned the idea of a "leading culture," then cultural
differences can no longer be classified by enforcing an absolute and
indisputable hierarchy, the top of which is occupied by specific
(geographical and cultural) centers. Rather, a space has been opened up
for endless negotiations, a space in which -- at least in principle --
everything can be called into question. This is not, of course, a
peaceful and egalitarian process. In addition to the practical hurdles
that exist in polarizing societies, there are also violent backlashes
and new forms of fundamentalism that are attempting once again to remove
certain religious, social, cultural, or political dimensions of
existence from the discussion. Yet these can only be understood in light
of a sweeping cultural transformation that has already reached
mainstream society.[^98^](#c1-note-0098){#c1-note-0098a} In other words,
the digital condition has become quotidian and dominant. It forms a
cultural constellation that determines all areas of life, and its
characteristic features are clearly recognizable. These will be the
focus of the next chapter.[]{#Page_57 type="pagebreak" title="57"}
:::

::: {.section .notesSet type="rearnotes"}
[]{#notesSet}Notes {#c1-ntgp-9999}
------------------

::: {.section .notesList}
[1](#c1-note-0001a){#c1-note-0001}  Kathrin Passig and Sascha Lobo,
*Internet: Segen oder Fluch* (Berlin: Rowohlt, 2012) \[--trans.\].

[2](#c1-note-0002a){#c1-note-0002}  The expression "heteronormatively
behaving" is used here to mean that, while in the public eye, the
behavior of the people []{#Page_177 type="pagebreak" title="177"}in
question conformed to heterosexual norms regardless of their personal
sexual orientations.

[3](#c1-note-0003a){#c1-note-0003}  No order is ever entirely closed
off. In this case, too, there was also room for exceptions and for
collective moments of greater cultural multiplicity. That said, the
social openness of the end of the 1920s, for instance, was restricted to
particular milieus within large cities and was accordingly short-lived.

[4](#c1-note-0004a){#c1-note-0004}  Fritz Machlup, *The Political
Economy of Monopoly: Business, Labor and Government Policies*
(Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1952).

[5](#c1-note-0005a){#c1-note-0005}  Machlup was a student of Ludwig von
Mises, the most influential representative of this radically
individualist school. See Hans-Hermann Hoppe, "Die Österreichische
Schule und ihre Bedeutung für die moderne Wirtschaftswissenschaft," in
Karl-Dieter Grüske (ed.), *Die Gemeinwirtschaft: Kommentarband zur
Neuauflage von Ludwig von Mises' "Die Gemeinwirtschaft"* (Düsseldorf:
Verlag Wirtschaft und Finanzen, 1996), pp. 65--90.

[6](#c1-note-0006a){#c1-note-0006}  Fritz Machlup, *The Production and
Distribution of Knowledge in the United States* (New York: John Wiley &
Sons, 1962).

[7](#c1-note-0007a){#c1-note-0007}  The term "knowledge worker" had
already been introduced to the discussion a few years before; see Peter
Drucker, *Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New* (New York: Harper,
1959).

[8](#c1-note-0008a){#c1-note-0008}  Peter Ecker, "Die
Verwissenschaftlichung der Industrie: Zur Geschichte der
Industrieforschung in den europäischen und amerikanischen
Elektrokonzernen 1890--1930," *Zeitschrift für Unternehmensgeschichte*
35 (1990): 73--94.

[9](#c1-note-0009a){#c1-note-0009}  Edward Bernays was the son of
Sigmund Freud\'s sister Anna and Ely Bernays, the brother of Freud\'s
wife, Martha Bernays.

[10](#c1-note-0010a){#c1-note-0010}  Edward L. Bernays, *Propaganda*
(New York: Horace Liverlight, 1928).

[11](#c1-note-0011a){#c1-note-0011}  James Beniger, *The Control
Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information
Society* (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 350.

[12](#c1-note-0012a){#c1-note-0012}  Norbert Wiener, *Cybernetics: Or
Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine* (New York: J.
Wiley, 1948).

[13](#c1-note-0013a){#c1-note-0013}  Daniel Bell, *The Coming of
Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting* (New York:
Basic Books, 1973).

[14](#c1-note-0014a){#c1-note-0014}  Simon Nora and Alain Minc, *The
Computerization of Society: A Report to the President of France*
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1980).

[15](#c1-note-0015a){#c1-note-0015}  Manuel Castells, *The Rise of the
Network Society* (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996).

[16](#c1-note-0016a){#c1-note-0016}  Hans-Dieter Kübler, *Mythos
Wissensgesellschaft: Gesellschaft­licher Wandel zwischen Information,
Medien und Wissen -- Eine Einführung* (Wiesbaden: Verlag für
Sozialwissenschaften, 2009).[]{#Page_178 type="pagebreak" title="178"}

[17](#c1-note-0017a){#c1-note-0017}  Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello,
*The New Spirit of Capitalism*, trans. Gregory Elliott (London: Verso,
2005).

[18](#c1-note-0018a){#c1-note-0018}  Michael Piore and Charles Sabel,
*The Second Industrial Divide: Possibilities of Prosperity* (New York:
Basic Books, 1984).

[19](#c1-note-0019a){#c1-note-0019}  Castells, *The Rise of the Network
Society*. For a critical evaluation of Castells\'s work, see Felix
Stalder, *Manuel Castells and the Theory of the Network Society*
(Cambridge: Polity, 2006).

[20](#c1-note-0020a){#c1-note-0020}  "UK Creative Industries Mapping
Documents" (1998); quoted from Terry Flew, *The Creative Industries:
Culture and Policy* (Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2012), pp. 9--10.

[21](#c1-note-0021a){#c1-note-0021}  The rise of the creative
industries, and the hope that they inspired among politicians, did not
escape criticism. Among the first works to draw attention to the
precarious nature of working in such industries was Angela McRobbie\'s
*British Fashion Design: Rag Trade or Image Industry?* (New York:
Routledge, 1998).

[22](#c1-note-0022a){#c1-note-0022}  This definition is not without a
degree of tautology, given that economic growth is based on talent,
which itself is defined by its ability to create new jobs; that is,
economic growth. At the same time, he employs the term "talent" in an
extremely narrow sense. Apparently, if something has nothing to do with
job creation, it also has nothing to do with talent or creativity. All
forms of creativity are thus measured and compared according to a common
criterion.

[23](#c1-note-0023a){#c1-note-0023}  Richard Florida, *Cities and the
Creative Class* (New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 5.

[24](#c1-note-0024a){#c1-note-0024}  One study has reached the
conclusion that, despite mass participation, "a new form of
communicative elite has developed, namely digitally and technically
versed actors who inform themselves in this way, exchange ideas and thus
gain influence. For them, the possibilities of platforms mainly
represent an expansion of useful tools. Above all, the dissemination of
digital technology makes it easier for versed and highly networked
individuals to convey their news more simply -- and, for these groups of
people, it lowers the threshold for active participation." Michael
Bauer, "Digitale Technologien und Partizipation," in Clara Landler et
al. (eds), *Netzpolitik in Österreich: Internet, Macht, Menschenrechte*
(Krems: Donau-Universität Krems, 2013), pp. 219--24, at 224
\[--trans.\].

[25](#c1-note-0025a){#c1-note-0025}  Boltanski and Chiapello, *The New
Spirit of Capitalism*.

[26](#c1-note-0026a){#c1-note-0026}  According to Wikipedia,
"Heteronormativity is the belief that people fall into distinct and
complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life. It
assumes that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation or only
norm, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only)
fitting between people of opposite sexes."[]{#Page_179 type="pagebreak"
title="179"}

[27](#c1-note-0027a){#c1-note-0027}  Jannis Plastargias, *RotZSchwul:
Der Beginn einer Bewegung (1971--1975)* (Berlin: Querverlag, 2015).

[28](#c1-note-0028a){#c1-note-0028}  Helmut Ahrens et al. (eds),
*Tuntenstreit: Theoriediskussion der Homosexuellen Aktion Westberlin*
(Berlin: Rosa Winkel, 1975), p. 4.

[29](#c1-note-0029a){#c1-note-0029}  Susanne Regener and Katrin Köppert
(eds), *Privat/öffentlich: Mediale Selbstentwürfe von Homosexualität*
(Vienna: Turia + Kant, 2013).

[30](#c1-note-0030a){#c1-note-0030}  Such, for instance, was the
assessment of Manfred Bruns, the spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay
Association in Germany, in his text "Schwulenpolitik früher" (link no
longer active). From today\'s perspective, however, the main problem
with this event was the unclear position of the Green Party with respect
to pedophilia. See Franz Walter et al. (eds), *Die Grünen und die
Pädosexualität: Eine bundesdeutsche Geschichte* (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck
& Ruprecht, 2014).

[31](#c1-note-0031a){#c1-note-0031}  "AIDS: Tödliche Seuche," *Der
Spiegel* 23 (1983) \[--trans.\].

[32](#c1-note-0032a){#c1-note-0032}  Quoted from Frank Niggemeier, "Gay
Pride: Schwules Selbst­bewußtsein aus dem Village," in Bernd Polster
(ed.), *West-Wind: Die Amerikanisierung Europas* (Cologne: Dumont,
1995), pp. 179--87, at 184 \[--trans.\].

[33](#c1-note-0033a){#c1-note-0033}  Quoted from Regener and Köppert,
*Privat/öffentlich*, p. 7 \[--trans.\].

[34](#c1-note-0034a){#c1-note-0034}  Hans-Peter Buba and László A.
Vaskovics, *Benachteiligung gleichgeschlechtli