The Digital Condition

lang: en
title: The Digital Condition

::: {.figure}

![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"

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

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.

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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

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

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"

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,"
[]( (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
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

::: {.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

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

::: {.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"

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

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"

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

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

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

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

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

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
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

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

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,

[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,

[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

[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

[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"

[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 gleichgeschlechtlich orientierter Personen
und Paare: Studie im Auftrag des Bundesministerium der Justiz* (Cologne:
Bundes­anzeiger, 2001).

[35](#c1-note-0035a){#c1-note-0035}  This process of internal
differentiation has not yet reached its conclusion, and thus the
acronyms have become longer and longer: LGBPTTQQIIAA+ stands for
lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, transsexual, queer,
questioning, intersex, intergender, asexual, ally.
[36](#c1-note-0036a){#c1-note-0036}  Judith Butler, *Gender Trouble:
Feminism and the Subversion of Identity* (New York: Routledge, 1989).

[37](#c1-note-0037a){#c1-note-0037}  Andreas Krass, "Queer Studies: Eine
Einführung," in Krass (ed.), *Queer denken: Gegen die Ordnung der
Sexualität* (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2003), pp. 7--27.

[38](#c1-note-0038a){#c1-note-0038}  Edward W. Said, *Orientalism* (New
York: Vintage Books, 1978).

[39](#c1-note-0039a){#c1-note-0039}  Kark August Wittfogel, *Oriental
Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power* (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 1957).

[40](#c1-note-0040a){#c1-note-0040}  Silke Förschler, *Bilder des Harem:
Medienwandel und kultereller Austausch* (Berlin: Reimer, 2010).

[41](#c1-note-0041a){#c1-note-0041}  The selection and effectiveness of
these images is not a coincidence. Camel was one of the first brands of
cigarettes for []{#Page_180 type="pagebreak" title="180"}which
advertising, in the sense described above, was used in a systematic

[42](#c1-note-0042a){#c1-note-0042}  This would not exclude feelings of
regret about the loss of an exotic and romantic way of life, such as
those of T. E. Lawrence, whose activities in the Near East during the
First World War were memorialized in the film *Lawrence of Arabia*

[43](#c1-note-0043a){#c1-note-0043}  Said has often been criticized,
however, for portraying orientalism so dominantly that there seems to be
no way out of the existing dependent relations. For an overview of the
debates that Said has instigated, see María do Mar Castro Varela and
Nikita Dhawan, *Postkoloniale Theorie: Eine kritische Ein­führung*
(Bielefeld: Transcript, 2005), pp. 37--46.

[44](#c1-note-0044a){#c1-note-0044}  "Migration führt zu 'hybrider'
Gesellschaft" (an interview with Homi K. Bhabha), *ORF Science*
(November 9, 2007), online \[--trans.\].

[45](#c1-note-0045a){#c1-note-0045}  Homi K. Bhabha, *The Location of
Culture* (New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 4.

[46](#c1-note-0046a){#c1-note-0046}  Elisabeth Bronfen and Benjamin
Marius, "Hybride Kulturen: Einleitung zur anglo-amerikanischen
Multikulturismusdebatte," in Bronfen et al. (eds), *Hybride Kulturen*
(Tübingen: Stauffenburg), pp. 1--30, at 8 \[--trans.\].

[47](#c1-note-0047a){#c1-note-0047}  "What Is Postcolonial Thinking? An
Interview with Achille Mbembe," *Eurozine* (December 2006), online.

[48](#c1-note-0048a){#c1-note-0048}  Migrants have always created their
own culture, which deals in various ways with the experience of
migration itself, but non-migrant populations have long tended to ignore
this. Things have now begun to change in this regard, for instance
through Imra Ayata and Bülent Kullukcu\'s compilation of songs by the
Turkish diaspora of the 1970s and 1980s: *Songs of Gastarbeiter*
(Munich: Trikont, 2013).

[49](#c1-note-0049a){#c1-note-0049}  The conference programs can be
found at: \<\>.

[50](#c1-note-0050a){#c1-note-0050}  "Deutschland entwickelt sich zu
einem attraktiven Einwanderungsland für hochqualifizierte Zuwanderer,"
press release by the CDU/CSU Alliance in the German Parliament (June 4,
2014), online \[--trans.\].

[51](#c1-note-0051a){#c1-note-0051}  Andreas Reckwitz, *Die Erfindung
der Kreativität: Zum Prozess gesellschaftlicher Ästhetisierung* (Berlin:
Suhrkamp, 2011), p. 180 \[--trans.\]. An English translation of this
book is forthcoming: *The Invention of Creativity: Modern Society and
the Culture of the New*, trans. Steven Black (Cambridge: Polity, 2017).

[52](#c1-note-0052a){#c1-note-0052}  Gert Selle, *Geschichte des Design
in Deutschland* (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2007).

[53](#c1-note-0053a){#c1-note-0053}  "Less Is More: The Design Ethos of
Dieter Rams," *SFMOMA* (June 29, 2011), online.[]{#Page_181
type="pagebreak" title="181"}

[54](#c1-note-0054a){#c1-note-0054}  The cybernetic perspective was
introduced to the field of design primarily by Buckminster Fuller. See
Diedrich Diederichsen and Anselm Franke, *The Whole Earth: California
and the Disappearance of the Outside* (Berlin: Sternberg, 2013).

[55](#c1-note-0055a){#c1-note-0055}  Clive Dilnot, "Design as a Socially
Significant Activity: An Introduction," *Design Studies* 3/3 (1982):

[56](#c1-note-0056a){#c1-note-0056}  Victor J. Papanek, *Design for the
Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change* (New York: Pantheon, 1972),
p. 2.

[57](#c1-note-0057a){#c1-note-0057}  Reckwitz, *Die Erfindung der

[58](#c1-note-0058a){#c1-note-0058}  B. Joseph Pine and James H.
Gilmore, *The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater and Every Business Is
a Stage* (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1999), p. ix (the
emphasis is original).

[59](#c1-note-0059a){#c1-note-0059}  Mona El Khafif, *Inszenierter
Urbanismus: Stadtraum für Kunst, Kultur und Konsum im Zeitalter der
Erlebnisgesellschaft* (Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, 2013).

[60](#c1-note-0060a){#c1-note-0060}  Konrad Becker and Martin Wassermair
(eds), *Phantom Kulturstadt* (Vienna: Löcker, 2009).

[61](#c1-note-0061a){#c1-note-0061}  See, for example, Andres Bosshard,
*Stadt hören: Klang­spaziergänge durch Zürich* (Zurich: NZZ Libro,

[62](#c1-note-0062a){#c1-note-0062}  "An alternate realty game (ARG),"
according to Wikipedia, "is an interactive networked narrative that uses
the real world as a platform and employs transmedia storytelling to
deliver a story that may be altered by players\' ideas or actions."

[63](#c1-note-0063a){#c1-note-0063}  Eric von Hippel, *Democratizing
Innovation* (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005).

[64](#c1-note-0064a){#c1-note-0064}  It is often the case that the
involvement of users simply serves to increase the efficiency of
production processes and customer service. Many activities that were
once undertaken at the expense of businesses now have to be carried out
by the customers themselves. See Günter Voss, *Der arbeitende Kunde:
Wenn Konsumenten zu unbezahlten Mitarbeitern werden* (Frankfurt am Main:
Campus, 2005).

[65](#c1-note-0065a){#c1-note-0065}  Beniger, *The Control Revolution*,
pp. 411--16.

[66](#c1-note-0066a){#c1-note-0066}  Louis Althusser, "Ideology and
Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)," in
Althusser, *Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays*, trans. Ben Brewster
(New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971), pp. 127--86.

[67](#c1-note-0067a){#c1-note-0067}  Florian Becker et al. (eds),
*Gramsci lesen! Einstiege in die Gefängnis­hefte* (Hamburg: Argument,
2013), pp. 20--35.

[68](#c1-note-0068a){#c1-note-0068}  Guy Debord, *The Society of the
Spectacle*, trans. Fredy Perlman and Jon Supak (Detroit: Black & Red,

[69](#c1-note-0069a){#c1-note-0069}  Derrick de Kerckhove, "McLuhan and
the Toronto School of Communication," *Canadian Journal of
Communication* 14/4 (1989): 73--9.[]{#Page_182 type="pagebreak"

[70](#c1-note-0070a){#c1-note-0070}  Marshall McLuhan, *Understanding
Media: The Extensions of Man* (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964).

[71](#c1-note-0071a){#c1-note-0071}  Nam Jun Paik, "Exposition of Music
-- Electronic Television" (leaflet accompanying the exhibition). Quoted
from Zhang Ga, "Sounds, Images, Perception and Electrons," *Douban*
(March 3, 2016), online.

[72](#c1-note-0072a){#c1-note-0072}  Laura R. Linder, *Public Access
Television: America\'s Electronic Soapbox* (Westport, CT: Praeger,

[73](#c1-note-0073a){#c1-note-0073}  Hans Magnus Enzensberger,
"Constituents of a Theory of the Media," in Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick
Montfort (eds), *The New Media Reader* (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003),
pp. 259--75.

[74](#c1-note-0074a){#c1-note-0074}  Paul Groot, "Rabotnik TV,"
*Mediamatic* 2/3 (1988), online.

[75](#c1-note-0075a){#c1-note-0075}  Inke Arns, "Social Technologies:
Deconstruction, Subversion and the Utopia of Democratic Communication,"
*Medien Kunst Netz* (2004), online.

[76](#c1-note-0076a){#c1-note-0076}  The term was coined at a series of
conferences titled The Next Five Minutes (N5M), which were held in
Amsterdam from 1993 to 2003. See \<\>.

[77](#c1-note-0077a){#c1-note-0077}  Mark Dery, *Culture Jamming:
Hacking, Slashing and Sniping in the Empire of Signs* (Westfield: Open
Media, 1993); Luther Blisset et al., *Handbuch der
Kommunikationsguerilla*, 5th edn (Berlin: Assoziationen A, 2012).

[78](#c1-note-0078a){#c1-note-0078}  Critical Art Ensemble, *Electronic
Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas* (New York: Autonomedia,

[79](#c1-note-0079a){#c1-note-0079}  Today this method is known as a
"distributed denial of service attack" (DDOS).

[80](#c1-note-0080a){#c1-note-0080}  Max Weber, *Economy and Society: An
Outline of Interpretive Sociology*, trans. Guenther Roth and Claus
Wittich (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978), pp. 26--8.

[81](#c1-note-0081a){#c1-note-0081}  Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, *Small
Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered*, 8th edn (New York:
Harper Perennial, 2014).

[82](#c1-note-0082a){#c1-note-0082}  Fred Turner, *From Counterculture
to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Movement and the Rise of
Digital Utopianism* (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2006), p.
21. In this regard, see also the documentary films *Das Netz* by Lutz
Dammbeck (2003) and *All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace* by
Adam Curtis (2011).

[83](#c1-note-0083a){#c1-note-0083}  It was possible to understand
cybernetics as a language of free markets or also as one of centralized
planned economies. See Slava Gerovitch, *From Newspeak to Cyberspeak: A
History of Soviet Cybernetics* (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002). The
great interest of Soviet scientists in cybernetics rendered the term
rather suspicious in the West, where it was disassociated from
artificial intelligence.[]{#Page_183 type="pagebreak" title="183"}

[84](#c1-note-0084a){#c1-note-0084}  Claus Pias, "The Age of
Cybernetics," in Pias (ed.), *Cybernetics: The Macy Conferences
1946--1953* (Zurich: Diaphanes, 2016), pp. 11--27.

[85](#c1-note-0085a){#c1-note-0085}  Norbert Wiener, one of the
cofounders of cybernetics, explained this as follows in 1950: "In giving
the definition of Cybernetics in the original book, I classed
communication and control together. Why did I do this? When I
communicate with another person, I impart a message to him, and when he
communicates back with me he returns a related message which contains
information primarily accessible to him and not to me. When I control
the actions of another person, I communicate a message to him, and
although this message is in the imperative mood, the technique of
communication does not differ from that of a message of fact.
Furthermore, if my control is to be effective I must take cognizance of
any messages from him which may indicate that the order is understood
and has been obeyed." Norbert Wiener, *The Human Use of Human Beings:
Cybernetics and Society*, 2nd edn (London: Free Association Books,
1989), p. 16.

[86](#c1-note-0086a){#c1-note-0086}  Though presented here as distinct,
these interests could in fact be held by one and the same person. In
*From Counterculture to Cyberculture*, for instance, Turner discusses
countercultural entrepreneurs.
[87](#c1-note-0087a){#c1-note-0087}  Richard Brautigan, "All Watched
Over by Machines of Loving Grace," in *All Watched Over by Machines of
Loving Grace*, by Brautigan (San Francisco: The Communication Company,

[88](#c1-note-0088a){#c1-note-0088}  David D. Clark, "A Cloudy Crystal
Ball: Visions of the Future," *Internet Engineering Taskforce* (July
1992), online.

[89](#c1-note-0089a){#c1-note-0089}  Castells, *The Rise of the Network

[90](#c1-note-0090a){#c1-note-0090}  Bill Gates, "An Open Letter to
Hobbyists," *Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter* 2/1 (1976): 2.

[91](#c1-note-0091a){#c1-note-0091}  Richard Stallman, "What Is Free
Software?", *GNU Operating System*, online.

[92](#c1-note-0092a){#c1-note-0092}  The fundamentally cooperative
nature of programming was recognized early on. See Gerald M. Weinberg,
*The Psychology of Computer Programming*, rev. edn (New York: Dorset
House, 1998 \[originally published in 1971\]).

[93](#c1-note-0093a){#c1-note-0093}  On the history of free software,
see Volker Grassmuck, *Freie Software: Zwischen Privat- und
Gemeineigentum* (Berlin: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 2002).

[94](#c1-note-0094a){#c1-note-0094}  In his first email on the topic, he
wrote: "Hello everybody out there \[...\]. I'm doing a (free) operating
system (just a hobby, won\'t be big and professional like gnu) \[...\].
This has been brewing since April, and is starting to get ready. I\'d
like any feedback on things people like/dislike." Linus Torvalds, "What
[]{#Page_184 type="pagebreak" title="184"}Would You Like to See Most in
Minix," *Usenet Group* (August 1991), online.

[95](#c1-note-0095a){#c1-note-0095}  ARD/ZDF, "Onlinestudie" (2015),

[96](#c1-note-0096a){#c1-note-0096}  From 1997 to 2003, the average use
of online media in Germany climbed from 76 to 138 minutes per day, and
by 2013 it reached 169 minutes. Over the same span of time, the average
frequency of use increased from 3.3 to 4.4 days per week, and by 2013 it
was 5.8. From 2007 to 2013, the percentage of people who were members of
private social networks like Facebook grew from 15 percent to 46
percent. Of these, nearly 60 percent -- around 19 million people -- used
such services on a daily basis. The source of this information is the
article cited in the previous note.

[97](#c1-note-0097a){#c1-note-0097}  "Internet Access Is 'a Fundamental
Right'," *BBC News* (8 March 2010), online.

[98](#c1-note-0098a){#c1-note-0098}  Manuel Castells, *The Power of
Identity* (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), pp. 7--22.

[II]{.chapterNumber} [Forms]{.chapterTitle} {#c2}

::: {.section}
With the emergence of the internet around the turn of the millennium as
an omnipresent infrastructure for communication and coordination,
previously independent cultural developments began to spread beyond
their specific original contexts, mutually influencing and enhancing one
another, and becoming increasingly intertwined. Out of a disconnected
conglomeration of more or less marginalized practices, a new and
specific cultural environment thus took shape, usurping or marginalizing
an ever greater variety of cultural constellations. The following
discussion will focus on three *forms* of the digital condition; that
is, on those formal qualities that (notwithstanding all of its internal
conflicts and contradictions) lend a particular shape to this cultural
environment as a whole: *referentiality*, *communality*, and
*algorithmicity*. It is only because most of the cultural processes
operating under the digital condition are characterized by common formal
features such as these that it is reasonable to speak of the digital
condition in the singular.

"Referentiality" is a method with which individuals can inscribe
themselves into cultural processes and constitute themselves as
producers. Understood as shared social meaning, the arena of culture
entails that such an undertaking cannot be limited to the individual.
Rather, it takes place within a larger framework whose existence and
development depend on []{#Page_58 type="pagebreak" title="58"}communal
formations. "Algorithmicity" denotes those aspects of cultural processes
that are (pre-)arranged by the activities of machines. Algorithms
transform the vast quantities of data and information that characterize
so many facets of present-day life into dimensions and formats that can
be registered by human perception. It is impossible to read the content
of billions of websites. Therefore we turn to services such as Google\'s
search algorithm, which reduces the data flood ("big data") to a
manageable amount and translates it into a format that humans can
understand ("small data"). Without them, human beings could not
comprehend or do anything within a culture built around digital
technologies, but they influence our understanding and activity in an
ambivalent way. They create new dependencies by pre-sorting and making
the (informational) world available to us, yet simultaneously ensure our
autonomy by providing the preconditions that enable us to act.

::: {.section}
Referentiality {#c2-sec-0002}

In the digital condition, one of the methods (if not *the* most
fundamental method) enabling humans to participate -- alone or in groups
-- in the collective negotiation of meaning is the system of creating
references. In a number of arenas, referential processes play an
important role in the assignment of both meaning and form. According to
the art historian André Rottmann, for instance, "one might claim that
working with references has in recent years become the dominant
production-aesthetic model in contemporary
art."[^1^](#c2-note-0001){#c2-note-0001a} This burgeoning engagement
with references, however, is hardly restricted to the world of
contemporary art. Referentiality is a feature of many processes that
encompass the operations of various genres of professional and everyday
culture. In its essence, it is the use of materials that are already
equipped with meaning -- as opposed to so-called raw material -- to
create new meanings. The referential techniques used to achieve this are
extremely diverse, a fact reflected in the numerous terms that exist to
describe them: re-mix, re-make, re-enactment, appropriation, sampling,
meme, imitation, homage, tropicália, parody, quotation, post-production,
re-performance, []{#Page_59 type="pagebreak" title="59"}camouflage,
(non-academic) research, re-creativity, mashup, transformative use, and
so on.

These processes have two important aspects in common: the
recognizability of the sources and the freedom to deal with them however
one likes. The first creates an internal system of references from which
meaning and aesthetics are derived in an essential
manner.[^2^](#c2-note-0002){#c2-note-0002a} The second is the
precondition enabling the creation of something that is both new and on
the same level as the re-used material. This represents a clear
departure from the historical--critical method, which endeavors to embed
a source in its original context in order to re-determine its meaning,
but also a departure from classical forms of rendition such as
translations, adaptations (for instance, adapting a book for a film), or
cover versions, which, though they translate a work into another
language or medium, still attempt to preserve its original meaning.
Re-mixes produced by DJs are one example of the referential treatment of
source material. In his book on the history of DJ culture, the
journalist Ulf Poschardt notes: "The remixer isn\'t concerned with
salvaging authenticity, but with creating a new
authenticity."[^3^](#c2-note-0003){#c2-note-0003a} For instead of
distancing themselves from the past, which would follow the (Western)
logic of progress or the spirit of the avant-garde, these processes
refer explicitly to precursors and to existing material. In one and the
same gesture, both one\'s own new position and the context and cultural
tradition that is being carried on in one\'s own work are constituted
performatively; that is, through one\'s own activity in the moment. I
will discuss this phenomenon in greater depth below.

To work with existing cultural material is, in itself, nothing new. In
modern montages, artists likewise drew upon available texts, images, and
treated materials. Yet there is an important difference: montages were
concerned with bringing together seemingly incongruous but stable
"finished pieces" in a more or less unmediated and fragmentary manner.
This is especially clear in the collages by the Dadaists or in
Expressionist literature such as Alfred Döblin\'s *Berlin
Alexanderplatz*. In these works, the experience of Modernity\'s many
fractures -- its fragmentation and turmoil -- was given a new aesthetic
form. In his reference to montages, Adorno thus observed that the
"negation of synthesis becomes a principle []{#Page_60 type="pagebreak"
title="60"}of form."[^4^](#c2-note-0004){#c2-note-0004a} At least for a
brief moment, he considered them an adequate expression for the
impossibility of reconciling the contradictions of capitalist culture.
Influenced by Adorno, the literary theorist Peter Bürger went so far as
to call the montage the true "paradigm of
modernity."[^5^](#c2-note-0005){#c2-note-0005a} In today\'s referential
processes, on the contrary, pieces are not brought together as much as
they are integrated into one another by being altered, adapted, and
transformed. Unlike the older arrangement, it is not the fissures
between elements that are foregrounded but rather their synthesis in the
present. Conchita Wurst, the bearded diva, is not torn between two
conflicting poles. Rather, she represents a successful synthesis --
something new and harmonious that distinguishes itself by showcasing
elements of the old order (man/woman) and simultaneously transcending

This synthesis, however, is usually just temporary, for at any time it
can itself serve as material for yet another rendering. Of course, this
is far easier to pull off with digital objects than with analog objects,
though these categories have become increasingly porous and thus
increasingly problematic as opposites. More and more objects exist both
in an analog and in a digital form. Think of photographs and slides,
which have become so easy to digitalize. Even three-dimensional objects
can now be scanned and printed. In the future, programmable materials
with controllable and reversible features will cause the difference
between the two domains to vanish: analog is becoming more and more

Montages and referential processes can only become widespread methods
if, in a given society, cultural objects are available in three
different respects. The first is economic and organizational: they must
be affordable and easily accessible. Whoever is unable to afford books
or get hold of them by some other means will not be able to reconfigure
any texts. The second is cultural: working with cultural objects --
which can always create deviations from the source in unpredictable ways
-- must not be treated as taboo or illegal, but rather as an everyday
activity without any special preconditions. It is much easier to
manipulate a text from a secular newspaper than one from a religious
canon. The third is material: it must be possible to use the material
and to change it.[^6[]{#Page_61 type="pagebreak"

In terms of this third form of availability, montages differ from
referential processes, for cultural objects can be integrated into one
another -- instead of simply being placed side by side -- far more
readily when they are digitally coded. Information is digitally coded
when it is stored by means of a limited system of discrete (that is,
separated by finite intervals or distances) signs that are meaningless
in themselves. This allows information to be copied from one carrier to
another without any loss and it allows the respective signs, whether
individually or in groups, to be arranged freely. Seen in this way,
digital coding is not necessarily bound to computers but can rather be
realized with all materials: a mosaic is a digital process in which
information is coded by means of variously colored tiles, just as a
digital image consists of pixels. In the case of the mosaic, of course,
the resolution is far lower. Alphabetic writing is a form of coding
linguistic information by means of discrete signs that are, in
themselves, meaningless. Consequently, Florian Cramer has argued that
"every form of literature that is recorded alphabetically and not based
on analog parameters such as ideograms or orality is already digital in
that it is stored in discrete
signs."[^7^](#c2-note-0007){#c2-note-0007a} However, the specific
features of the alphabet, as Marshall McLuhan repeatedly underscored,
did not fully develop until the advent of the printing
press.[^8^](#c2-note-0008){#c2-note-0008a} It was the printing press, in
other words, that first abstracted written signs from analog handwriting
and transformed them into standardized symbols that could be repeated
without any loss of information. In this practical sense, the printing
press made writing digital, with the result that dealing with texts soon
became radically different.

::: {.section}
### Information overload 1.0 {#c2-sec-0003}

The printing press made texts available in the three respects mentioned
above. For one thing, their number increased rapidly, while their price
significantly sank. During the first two generations after Gutenberg\'s
invention -- that is, between 1450 and 1500 -- more books were produced
than during the thousand years
before.[^9^](#c2-note-0009){#c2-note-0009a} And that was just the
beginning. Dealing with books and their content changed from the ground
up. In manuscript culture, every new copy represented a potential
degradation of the original, and therefore []{#Page_62 type="pagebreak"
title="62"}the oldest sources (those that had undergone as little
corruption as possible) were valued above all. With the advent of print
culture, the idea took hold that texts could be improved by the process
of editing, not least because the availability of old sources, through
reprints and facsimiles, had also improved dramatically. Pure
reproduction was mechanized and overcome as a cultural challenge.

According to the historian Elizabeth Eisenstein, one of the first
consequences of the greatly increased availability of the printed book
was that it overcame the "tyranny of major authorities, which was common
in small libraries."[^10^](#c2-note-0010){#c2-note-0010a} Scientists
were now able to compare texts with one another and critique them to an
unprecedented extent. Their general orientation turned around: instead
of looking back in order to preserve what they knew, they were now
looking ahead toward what they might not (yet) know.

In order to organize this information flood of rapidly amassing texts,
it was necessary to create new conventions: books were now specified by
their author, publisher, and date of publication, not to mention
furnished with page numbers. This enabled large numbers of texts to be
catalogued and every individual text -- indeed, every single passage --
to be referenced.[^11^](#c2-note-0011){#c2-note-0011a} Scientists could
legitimize the pursuit of new knowledge by drawing attention to specific
mistakes or gaps in existing texts. In the scientific culture that was
developing at the time, the close connection between old and new
ma­terial was not simply regarded as something positive; it was also
urgently prescribed as a method of argumentation. Every text had to
contain an internal system of references, and this was the basis for the
development of schools, disciplines, and specific discourses.

The digital character of printed writing also made texts available in
the third respect mentioned above. Because discrete signs could be
reproduced without any loss of information, it was possible not only to
make perfect copies but also to remove content from one carrier and
transfer it to another. Materials were no longer simply arranged
sequentially, as in medieval compilations and almanacs, but manipulated
to give rise to a new and independent fluid text. A set of conventions
was developed -- one that remains in use today -- for modifying embedded
or quoted material in order for it []{#Page_63 type="pagebreak"
title="63"}to fit into its new environment. In this manner, quotations
could be altered in such a way that they could be integrated seamlessly
into a new text while remaining recognizable as direct citations.
Several of these conventions, for instance the use of square brackets to
indicate additions ("\[ \]") or ellipses to indicate omissions ("..."),
are also used in this very book. At the same time, the conventions for
making explicit references led to the creation of an internal reference
system that made the singular position of the new text legible within a
collective field of work. "Printing," to quote Elizabeth Eisenstein once
again, "encouraged forms of combinatory activity which were social as
well as intellectual. It changed relationships between men of learning
as well as between systems of
ideas."[^12^](#c2-note-0012){#c2-note-0012a} Exchange between scholars,
in the form of letters and visits, intensified. The seventeenth century
saw the formation of the *respublica literaria* or the "Republic of
Letters," a loose network of scholars devoted to promoting the ideas of
the Enlightenment. Beginning in the eighteenth century, the rapidly
growing number of scientific fields was arranged and institutionalized
into clearly distinct disciplines. In the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries, diverse media-technical innovations made images, sounds, and
moving images available, though at first only in analog formats. These
created the preconditions that enabled the montage in all of its forms
-- film cuts, collages, readymades, *musique concrète*, found-footage
films, literary cut-ups, and artistic assemblages (to name only the
best-known genres) -- to become the paradigm of Modernity.

::: {.section}
### Information overload 2.0 {#c2-sec-0004}

It was not until new technical possibilities for recording, storing,
processing, and reproduction appeared over the course of the 1990s that
it also became increasingly possible to code and edit images, audio, and
video digitally. Through the networking that was taking place not far
behind, society was flooded with an unprecedented amount of digit­ally
coded information *of every sort*, and the circulation of this
information accelerated. This was not, however, simply a quantitative
change but also and above all a qualitative one. Cultural materials
became available in a comprehensive []{#Page_64 type="pagebreak"
title="64"}sense -- economically and organizationally, culturally
(despite legal problems), and materially (because digitalized). Today it
would not be bold to predict that nearly every text, image, or sound
will soon exist in a digital form. Most of the new reproducible works
are already "born digital" and digit­ally distributed, or they are
physically produced according to digital instructions. Many initiatives
are working to digitalize older, analog works. We are now anchored in
the digital.

Among the numerous digitalization projects currently under way, the most
ambitious is that of Google Books, which, since its launch in 2004, has
digitalized around 20 million books from the collections of large
libraries and prepared them for full-text searches. Right from the
start, a fierce debate arose about the legal and cultural acceptability
of this project. One concern was whether Google\'s process infringed
upon the rights of the authors and publishers of the scanned books or
whether, according to American law, it qualified as "fair use," in which
case there would be no obligation for the company to seek authorization
or offer compensation. The second main concern was whether it would be
culturally or politically appropriate for a private corporation to hold
a de facto monopoly over the digital heritage of book culture. The first
issue incited a complex legal battle that, in 2013, was decided in
Google\'s favor by a judge on the United States District Court in New
York.[^13^](#c2-note-0013){#c2-note-0013a} At the heart of the second
issue was the question of how a public library should look in the
twenty-first century.[^14^](#c2-note-0014){#c2-note-0014a} In November
of 2008, the European Commission and the cultural minister of the
European Union launched the virtual Europeana library, which occurred
after a number of European countries had already invested hundreds of
millions of euros in various digitalization
initiatives.[^15^](#c2-note-0015){#c2-note-0015a} Today, Europeana
serves as a common access point to the online archives of around 2,500
European cultural institutions. By the end of 2015, its digital holdings
had grown to include more than 40 million objects. This is still,
however, a relatively small number, for it has been estimated that
European archives and museums contain more than 220 million
natural-historical and more than 260 million cultural-historical
objects. In the United States, discussions about the future of libraries
[]{#Page_65 type="pagebreak" title="65"}led to the 2013 launch of the
Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which, like Europeana,
provides common access to the digitalized holdings of archives, museums,
and libraries. By now, more than 14 million items can be viewed there.

In one way or another, however, both the private and the public projects
of this sort have been limited by binding copyright laws. The librarian
and book historian Robert Darnton, one of the most prominent advocates
of the Digital Public Library of America, has accordingly stated: "The
main impediment to the DPLA\'s growth is legal, not financial. Copyright
laws could exclude everything published after 1964, most works published
after 1923, and some that go back as far as
1873."[^16^](#c2-note-0016){#c2-note-0016a} The legal situation in
Europe is similar to that in the United States. It, too, massively
obstructs the work of public
institutions.[^17^](#c2-note-0017){#c2-note-0017a} In many cases, this
has had the absurd consequence that certain materials, though they have
been fully digitalized, may only be accessed in part or exclusively
inside the facilities of a particular institution. Whereas companies
such as Google can afford to wage long legal battles, and in the
meantime create precedents, public institutions must proceed with great
caution, not least to avoid the accusation of using public funds to
violate copyright laws. Thus, they tend to fade into the background and
leave users, who are unfamiliar with the complex legal situation, with
the impression that they are even more out-of-date than they often are.

Informal actors, who explicitly operate beyond the realm of copyright
law, are not faced with such restrictions. UbuWeb, for instance, which
is the largest online archive devoted to the history of
twentieth-century avant-garde art, was not created by an art museum but
rather by the initiative of an individual artist, Kenneth Goldsmith.
Since 1996, he has been collecting historically relevant materials that
were no longer in distribution and placing them online for free and
without any stipulations. He forgoes the process of obtaining the rights
to certain works of art because, as he remarks on the website, "Let\'s
face it, if we had to get permission from everyone on UbuWeb, there
would be no UbuWeb."[^18^](#c2-note-0018){#c2-note-0018a} It would
simply be too demanding to do so. Because he pursues the project without
any financial interest and has saved so much []{#Page_66
type="pagebreak" title="66"}from oblivion, his efforts have provoked
hardly any legal difficulties. On the contrary, UbuWeb has become so
important that Goldsmith has begun to receive more and more material
directly from artists and their heirs, who would like certain works not
to be forgotten. Nevertheless, or perhaps for this very reason,
Goldsmith repeatedly stresses the instability of his archive, which
could disappear at any moment if he loses interest in maintaining it or
if something else happens. Users are therefore able to download works
from UbuWeb and archive, on their own, whatever items they find most
important. Of course, this fragility contradicts the idea of an archive
as a place for long-term preservation. Yet such a task could only be
undertaken by an institution that is oriented toward the long term.
Because of the existing legal conditions, however, it is hardly likely
that such an institution will come about.

Whereas Goldsmith is highly adept at operating within a niche that not
only tolerates but also accepts the violation of formal copyright
claims, large websites responsible for the uncontrolled dissemination of
digital content do not bother with such niceties. Their purpose is
rather to ensure that all popular content is made available digitally
and for free, whether legally or not. These sites, too, have experienced
uninterrupted growth. By the end of 2015, dozens of millions of people
were simultaneously using the BitTorrent tracker The Pirate Bay -- the
largest nodal point for file-sharing networks during the last decade --
to exchange several million digital files with one
another.[^19^](#c2-note-0019){#c2-note-0019a} And this was happening
despite protracted attempts to block or close down the file-sharing site
by legal means and despite a variety of competing services. Even when
the founders of the website were sentenced in Sweden to pay large fines
(around €3 million) and to serve time in prison, the site still did not
disappear from the internet.[^20^](#c2-note-0020){#c2-note-0020a} At the
same time, new providers have entered the market of free access; their
method is not to facilitate distributed downloads but rather to offer,
on account of the drastically reduced cost of data transfers, direct
streaming. Although some of these services are relatively easy to locate
and some have been legally banned -- the best-known case in Germany
being that of the popular site -- more of them continue to
appear.[^21^](#c2-note-0021){#c2-note-0021a} Moreover, this phenomenon
[]{#Page_67 type="pagebreak" title="67"}is not limited to music and
films, but encompasses all media formats. For instance, it is
foreseeable that the number of freely available plans for 3D objects
will increase along with the popularity of 3D printing. It has almost
escaped notice, however, that so-called "shadow libraries" have been
popping up everywhere; the latter are not accessible to the public but
rather to members, for instance, of closed exchange platforms or of
university intranets. Few seminars take place any more without a corpus
of scanned texts, regardless of whether this practice is legal or

The lines between these different mechanisms of access are highly
permeable. Content acquired legally can make its way to file-sharing
networks as an illegal copy; content available for free can be sold in
special editions; content from shadow libraries can make its way to
publicly accessible sites; and, conversely, content that was once freely
available can disappear into shadow libraries. As regards free access,
the details of this rapidly changing landscape are almost
inconsequential, for the general trend that has emerged from these
various dynamics -- legal and illegal, public and private -- is
unambiguous: in a comprehensive and practical sense, cultural works of
all sorts will become freely available despite whatever legal and
technical restrictions might be in place. Whether absolutely all
material will be made available in this way is not the decisive factor,
at least not for the individual, for, as the German Library Association
has stated, "it is foreseeable that non-digitalized material will
increasingly escape the awareness of users, who have understandably come
to appreciate the ubiquitous availability and more convenient
processability of the digital versions of analog
objects."[^23^](#c2-note-0023){#c2-note-0023a} In this context of excess
information, it is difficult to determine whether a particular work or a
crucial reference is missing, given that a multitude of other works and
references can be found in their place.

At the same time, prodigious amounts of new material are being produced
that, before the era of digitalization and networks, never could have
existed at all or never would have left the private sphere. An example
of this is amateur photography. This is nothing new in itself; as early
as 1899, Kodak was marketing its films and apparatus with the slogan
"You press the button, we do the rest," and ever since, []{#Page_68
type="pagebreak" title="68"}drawers and albums have been overflowing
with photographs. With the advent of digitalization, however, certain
economic and material limitations ceased to exist that, until then, had
caused most private photographers to think twice about how many shots
they wanted to take. After all, they had to pay for the film to be
developed and then store the pictures somewhere. Cameras also became
increasingly "intelligent," which improved the technical quality of
photo­graphs. Even complex procedures such as increasing the level of
detail or the contrast ratio -- the difference between an image\'s
brightest and darkest points -- no longer require any specialized
knowledge of photochemical processes in the darkroom. Today, such
features are often pre-installed in many cameras as an option (high
dynamic range). Ever since the introduction of built-in digital cameras
for smartphones, anyone with such a device can take pictures everywhere
and at any time and then store them digitally. Images can then be posted
on online platforms and shared with others. By the middle of 2015,
Flickr -- the largest but certainly not the only specialized platform of
this sort -- had more than 112 million registered users participating in
more than 2 million groups. Every user has access to free storage space
for about half a million of his or her own pictures. At that point, in
other words, the platform was equipped to manage more than 55 billion
photographs. Around 3.5 million images were being uploaded every day,
many of which could be accessed by anyone. This may seem like a lot, but
in reality it is just a small portion of the pictures that are posted
online on a daily basis. Around that same time -- again, the middle of
2015 -- approximately 350 million pictures were being posted on Facebook
*every day*. The total number of photographs saved there has been
estimated to be 250 billion. In addition, there are also large platforms
for professional "stock photos" (supplies of pre-produced images that
are supposed to depict generic situations) and the databanks of
professional agencies such Getty Images or Corbis. All of these images
can be found easily and acquired quickly (though not always for free).
Yet photography is not unique in this regard. In all fields, the number
of cultural artifacts available to the public on specialized platforms
has been increasing rapidly in recent years.[]{#Page_69 type="pagebreak"

::: {.section}
### The great disorder {#c2-sec-0005}

The old orders that had been responsible for filtering, organ­izing, and
publishing cultural material -- culture industries, mass media,
libraries, museums, archives, etc. -- are incapable of managing almost
any aspect of this deluge. They can barely function as gatekeepers any
more between those realms that, with their help, were once defined as
"private" and "public." Their decisions about what is or is not
important matter less and less. Moreover, having already been subjected
to a decades-long critique, their rules, which had been relatively
binding and formative over long periods of time, are rapidly losing
practical significance.

Even Europeana, a relatively small project based on trad­itional museums
and archives and with a mandate to make the European cultural heritage
available online, has contributed to the disintegration of established
orders: it indiscriminately brings together 2,500 previously separated
institutions. The specific semantic contexts that formerly shaped the
history and orientation of institutions have been dissolved or reduced
to dry meta-data, and millions upon millions of cultural artifacts are
now equidistant from one another. Instead of certain artifacts being
firmly anchored in a location, for instance in an ethnographic
collection devoted to the colonial history of France, it is now possible
for everything to exist side by side. Europeana is not an archive in the
traditional sense, or even a museum with a fixed and meaningful order;
rather, it is just a standard database. Everything in it is just one
search request away, and every search generates a unique order in the
form of a sequence of visible artifacts. As a result, individual objects
are freed from those meta-narratives, created by the museums and
archives that preserve them, which situate them within broader contexts
and assign more or less clear meanings to them. They consequently become
more open to interpretation. A search result does not articulate an
interpretive field of reference but merely a connection, created by
constantly changing search algorithms, between a request and the corpus
of material, which is likewise constantly changing.

Precisely because it offers so many different approaches to more or less
freely combinable elements of information, []{#Page_70 type="pagebreak"
title="70"}the order of the database no longer really provides a
framework for interpreting search results in a meaningful way.
Al­together, the meaning of many objects and signs is becoming even more
uncertain. On the one hand, this is because the connection to their
original context is becoming fragile; on the other hand, it is because
they can appear in every possible combination and in the greatest
variety of reception contexts. In less official archives and in less
specialized search engines, the dissolution of context is far more
pronounced than it is in the case of the Europeana project. For the sake
of orienting its users, for instance, YouTube provides the date when a
video has been posted, but there is no indication of when a video was
actually produced. Further information provided about a video, for
example in the comments section, is essentially unreliable. It might be
true -- or it might not. The internet researcher David Weinberger has
called this the "new digital disorder," which, at least for many users,
is an entirely apt description.[^24^](#c2-note-0024){#c2-note-0024a} For
individuals, this disorder has created both the freedom to establish
their own orders and the obligation of doing so, regardless of whether
or not they are ready for the task.

This tension between freedom and obligation is at its strongest online,
where the excess of culture and its more or less free availability are
immediate and omnipresent. In fact, everything that can be retrieved
online is culture in the sense that everything -- from the deepest layer
of hardware to the most superficial tweet -- has been made by someone
with a particular intention, and everything has been made to fit a
particular order. And it is precisely this excess of often contradictory
meanings and limited, regional, and incompatible orders that leads to
disorder and meaninglessness. This is not limited to the online world,
however, because the latter is not self-contained. In an essential way,
digital media also serve to organize the material world. On the basis of
extremely complex and opaque yet highly efficient logistical and
production processes, people are also confronted with constantly
changing material things about whose origins and meanings they have
little idea. Even something as simple to produce as yoghurt usually has
a thousand kilometers behind it before it ends up on a shelf in the
supermarket. The logistics that enable this are oriented toward
flexibility; []{#Page_71 type="pagebreak" title="71"}they bring elements
together as efficiently as possible. It is nearly impossible for final
customers to find out anything about the ingredients. Customers are
merely supposed to be oriented by signs and notices such as "new" or "as
before," "natural," and "healthy," which are written by specialists and
meant to manipulate shoppers as much as the law allows. Even here, in
corporeal everyday life, every individual has to deal with a surge of
excess and disorder that threatens to erode the original meaning
conferred on every object -- even where such meaning was once entirely
unproblematic, as in the case of

::: {.section}
### Selecting and organizing {#c2-sec-0006}

In this situation, the creation of one\'s own system of references has
become a ubiquitous and generally accessible method for organizing all
of the ambivalent things that one encounters on a given day. Such things
are thus arranged within a specific context of meaning that also
(co)determines one\'s own relation to the world and subjective position
in it. Referentiality takes place through three types of activity, the
first being simply to attract attention to certain things, which affirms
(at least implicitly) that they are important. With every single picture
posted on Flickr, every tweet, every blog post, every forum post, and
every status update, the user is doing exactly that; he or she is
communicating to others: "Look over here! I think this is important!" Of
course, there is nothing new to filtering and allocating meaning. What
is new, however, is that these processes are no longer being carried out
primarily by specialists at editorial offices, museums, or archives, but
have become daily requirements for a large portion of the population,
regardless of whether they possess the material and cultural resources
that are necessary for the task.

::: {.section}
### The loop through the body {#c2-sec-0007}

Given the flood of information that perpetually surrounds everyone, the
act of focusing attention and reducing vast numbers of possibilities
into something concrete has become a productive achievement, however
banal each of these micro-activities might seem on its own, and even if,
at first, []{#Page_72 type="pagebreak" title="72"}the only concern might
be to focus the attention of the person doing it. The value of this
(often very brief) activity is that it singles out elements from the
uniform sludge of unmanageable complexity. Something plucked out in this
way gains value because it has required the use of a resource that
cannot be reproduced, that exists outside of the world of information
and that is invariably limited for every individual: our own lifetime.
Every status update that is not machine-generated means that someone has
invested time, be it only a second, in order to point to this and not to
something else. Thus, a process of validating what exists in the excess
takes place in connection with the ultimate scarcity -- our own
lifetimes, our own bodies. Even if the value generated by this act is
minimal or diffuse, it is still -- to borrow from Gregory Bateson\'s
famous definition of information -- a difference that makes a difference
in this stream of equivalencies and
meaninglessness.[^26^](#c2-note-0026){#c2-note-0026a} This singling out
-- this use of one\'s own body to generate meaning -- does not, however,
take place by means of mere micro-activities throughout the day; it is
also a defining aspect of complex cultural strategies. In recent years,
re-enactment (that is, the re-staging of historical situ­ations and
events) has established itself as a common practice in contemporary art.
Unlike traditional re-enactments, such as those of historically
significant battles, which attempt to represent the past as faithfully
as possible, "artistic re-enactments," according to the curator Inke
Arns, "are not an affirmative confirmation of the past; rather, they are
*questionings* of the present through reaching back to historical
events," especially as they are represented in images and other forms of
documentation. Thanks to search engines and databases, such
representations are more or less always present, though in the form of
indeterminate images, ambivalent documents, and contentious
interpretations. Artists in this situation, as Arns explains,

::: {.extract}
do not ask the naïve question about what really happened outside of the
history represented in the media -- the "authenticity" beyond the images
-- instead, they ask what the images we see might mean concretely to us,
if we were to experience these situations personally. In this way the
artistic reenactment confronts the general feeling of insecurity about
the meaning []{#Page_73 type="pagebreak" title="73"}of images by using a
paradoxical approach: through erasing distance to the images and at the
same time distancing itself from the

This paradox manifests itself in that the images are appropriated and
sublated through the use of one\'s own body in the re-enactments. They
simultaneously refer to the past and create a new reality in the
present. In perhaps the best-known re-enactment of this type, the artist
Jeremy Deller revived, in 2001, the Battle of Orgreave, one of the
central episodes of the British miners\' strike of 1984 and 1985. This
historical event is regarded as a turning point in the protracted
conflict between Margaret Thatcher\'s government and the labor unions --
a key moment in the implementation of Great Britain\'s neoliberal
regime, which is still in effect today. In Deller\'s re-enactment, the
heart of the matter is not historical accuracy, which is always
controversial in such epoch-changing events. Rather, he focuses on the
former participants -- the miners and police officers alike, who, along
with non-professional actors, lived through the situation again -- in
order to explore both the distance from the events and their
representation in the media, as well as their ongoing biographical and
societal presence.[^28^](#c2-note-0028){#c2-note-0028a}

Elaborate practices of embodying medial images through processes of
appropriation and distancing have also found their way into popular
culture, for instance in so-called "cosplay." The term, which is a
contraction of the words "costume" and "play," was coined by a Japanese
man named Nobuyuki Takahashi. In 1984, while attending the World Science
Fiction Convention in Los Angeles, he used the word to describe the
practice of certain attendees to dress up as their favorite characters.
Participants in cosplay embody fictitious figures -- mostly from the
worlds of science fiction, comics/manga, or computer games -- by donning
home-made costumes and striking characteristic
poses.[^29^](#c2-note-0029){#c2-note-0029a} The often considerable
effort that goes into this is mostly reflected in the costumes, not in
the choreography or dramaturgy of the performance. What is significant
is that these costumes are usually not exact replicas but are rather
freely adapted by each player to represent the character as he or she
interprets it to be. Accordingly, "Cosplay is a form of appropriation
[]{#Page_74 type="pagebreak" title="74"}that transforms, actualizes and
performs an existing story in close connection to the fan\'s own
identity."[^30^](#c2-note-0030){#c2-note-0030a} This practice,
admittedly, goes back quite far in the history of fan culture, but it
has experienced a striking surge through the opportunity for fans to
network with one another around the world, to produce costumes and
images of professional quality, and to place themselves on the same
level as their (fictitious) idols. By now it has become a global
subculture whose members are active not only online but also at hundreds
of conventions throughout the world. In Germany, an annual cosplay
competition has been held since 2007 (it is organized by the Frankfurt
Book Fair and Animexx, the country\'s largest manga and anime
community). The scene, which has grown and branched out considerably
over the past few years, has slowly begun to professionalize, with
shops, books, and players who make paid appearances. Even in fan
culture, stars are born. As soon as the subculture has exceeded a
certain size, this gradual onset of commercialization will undoubtedly
lead to tensions within the community. For now, however, two of its
noteworthy features remain: the power of the desire to appropriate, in a
bodily manner, characters from vast cultural universes, and the
widespread combination of free interpretation and meticulous attention
to detail.

::: {.section}
### Lineages and transformations {#c2-sec-0008}

Because of the great effort tha they require, re-enactment and cosplay
are somewhat extreme examples of singling out, appropriating, and
referencing. As everyday activities that almost take place incidentally,
however, these three practices usually do not make any significant or
lasting differences. Yet they do not happen just once, but over and over
again. They accumulate and thus constitute referentiality\'s second type
of activity: the creation of connections between the many things that
have attracted attention. In such a way, paths are forged through the
vast complexity. These paths, which can be formed, for instance, by
referring to different things one after another, likewise serve to
produce and filter meaning. Things that can potentially belong in
multiple contexts are brought into a single, specific context. For the
individual []{#Page_75 type="pagebreak" title="75"}producer, this is how
fields of attention, reference systems, and contexts of meaning are
first established. In the third step, the things that have been selected
and brought together are changed. Perhaps something is removed to modify
the meaning, or perhaps something is added that was previously absent or
unavailable. Either way, referential culture is always producing
something new.

These processes are applied both within individual works (referentiality
in a strict sense) and within currents of communication that consist of
numerous molecular acts (referentiality in a broader sense). This latter
sort of compilation is far more widespread than the creation of new
re-mix works. Consider, for example, the billionfold sequences of status
updates, which sometimes involve a link to an interesting video,
sometimes a post of a photograph, then a short list of favorite songs, a
top 10 chart from one\'s own feed, or anything else. Such methods of
inscribing oneself into the world by means of references, combinations,
or alterations are used to create meaning through one\'s own activity in
the world and to constitute oneself in it, both for one\'s self and for
others. In a culture that manifests itself to a great extent through
mediatized communication, people have to constitute themselves through
such acts, if only by posting
"selfies."[^31^](#c2-note-0031){#c2-note-0031a} Not to do so would be to
risk invisibility and being forgotten.

On this basis, a genuine digital folk culture of re-mixing and mashups
has formed in recent years on online platforms, in game worlds, but also
through cultural-economic productions of individual pieces or short
series. It is generated and maintained by innumerable people with
varying degrees of intensity and ambition. Its common feature with
trad­itional folk culture, in choirs or elsewhere, is that production
and reception (but also reproduction and creation) largely coincide.
Active participation admittedly requires a certain degree of
proficiency, interest, and engagement, but usually not any extraordinary
talent. Many classical institutions such as museums and archives have
been attempting to take part in this folk culture by setting up their
own re-mix services. They know that the "public" is no longer able or
willing to limit its engagement with works of art and cultural history
to one of quiet contemplation. At the end of 2013, even []{#Page_76
type="pagebreak" title="76"}the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
initiated a re-mix competition. A year earlier, the Rijksmuseum in
Amsterdam launched so-called "Rijksstudios." Since then, the museum has
made available on its website more than 200,000 high-resolution images
from its collection. Users are free to use these to create their own
re-mixes online and share them with others. Interestingly, the
Rijksmuseum does not distinguish between the work involved in
transforming existing pieces and that involved in curating its own
online gallery.

Referential processes have no beginning and no end. Any material that is
used to make something new has a pre-history of its own, even if its
traces are lost in clouds of uncertainty. Upon closer inspection, this
cloud might clear a little bit, but it is extremely uncommon for a
genuine beginning -- a *creatio ex nihilo* -- to be revealed. This
raises the question of whether there can really be something like
originality in the emphatic sense.[^32^](#c2-note-0032){#c2-note-0032a}
Regardless of the answer to this question, the fact that by now many
people select, combine, and alter objects on a daily basis has led to a
slow shift in our perception and sensibilities. In light of the
experiences that so many people are creating, the formerly exotic
theories of deconstruction suddenly seem anything but outlandish. Nearly
half a century ago, Roland Barthes defined the text as a fabric of
quotations, and this incited vehement
opposition.[^33^](#c2-note-0033){#c2-note-0033a} "But of course," one
would be inclined to say today, "that can be statistically proven
through software analysis!" Amazon identifies books by means of their
"statistically improbable phrases"; that is, by means of textual
elements that are highly unlikely to occur elsewhere. This implies, of
course, that books contain many textual elements that are highly likely
to be found in other texts, without suggesting that such elements would
have to be regarded as plagiarism.

In the Gutenberg Galaxy, with its fixation on writing, the earliest
textual document is usually understood to represent a beginning. If no
references to anything before can be identified, the text is then
interpreted as a closed entity, as a new text. Thus, fairy tales and
sagas, which are typical elements of oral culture, are still more
strongly associated with the names of those who recorded them than with
the names of those who narrated them. This does not seem very convincing
today. In recent years, literary historians have made strong []{#Page_77
type="pagebreak" title="77"}efforts to shift the focus of attention to
the people (mostly women) who actually told certain fairy tales. In
doing so, they have been able to work out to what extent the respective
narrators gave shape to specific stories, which were written down as
common versions, and to what extent these stories reflect their
narrators\' personal histories.[^34^](#c2-note-0034){#c2-note-0034a}

Today, after more than 40 years of deconstructionist theory and a change
in our everyday practices, it is no longer controversial to read works
-- even by canonical figures like Wagner or Mozart -- in such a way as
to highlight the other works, either by the artists in question or by
other artists, that are contained within
them.[^35^](#c2-note-0035){#c2-note-0035a} This is not an expression of
decreased appreciation but rather an indication that, as Zygmunt Bauman
has stressed, "The way human beings understand the world tends to be at
all times *praxeomorphic*: it is always shaped by the know-how of the
day, by what people can do and how they usually go about doing
it."[^36^](#c2-note-0036){#c2-note-0036a} And the everyday practice of
today is one of singling out, bringing together, altering, and adding.
Accordingly, not only has our view of current cultural production
shifted; our view of cultural history has shifted as well. As always,
the past is made to suit the sensibilities of the present.

As a rule, however, things that have no beginning also have no end. This
is not only because they can in turn serve as elements for other new
contexts of meaning, but also because the attention paid to the context
in which they take on specific meaning is sensitive to the work that has
to be done to maintain the context itself. Even timelessness is an
elaborate everyday business. The attempt to rescue works of art from the
ravages of time -- to preserve them forever -- means that they regularly
need to be restored. Every restoration inevit­ably stirs a debate about
whether the planned interventions are appropriate and about how to deal
with the traces of previous interventions, which, from the current
perspective, often seem to be highly problematic. Whereas, just a
generation ago, preservationists ensured that such interventions
remained visible (as articulations of the historical fissures that are
typical of Modernity), today greater emphasis is placed on reducing
their visibility and re-creating the illusion of an "original condition"
(without, however, impeding any new functionality that a piece might
have in the present). []{#Page_78 type="pagebreak" title="78"}The
historically faithful restoration of the Berlin City Palace, and yet its
repurposed function as a museum and meeting place, are typical of this
new attitude in dealing with our historical heritage.

In everyday activity, too, the never-ending necessity of this work can
be felt at all times. Here the issue is not timelessness, but rather
that the established contexts of meaning quickly become obsolete and
therefore have to be continuously affirmed, expanded, and changed in
order to maintain the relevance of the field that they define. This
lends referentiality a performative character that combines productive
and reproductive dimensions. That which is not constantly used and
renewed simply disappears. Often, however, this only means that it will
sink into an endless archive and become unrealized potential until
someone reactivates it, breathes new life into it, rouses it from its
slumber, and incorporates it into a newly relevant context of meaning.
"To be relevant," according to the artist Eran Schaerf, "things must be

Alone, everyone is overwhelmed by the task of having to generate meaning
against this backdrop of all-encompassing meaninglessness. First, the
challenge is too great for any individual to overcome; second, meaning
itself is only created intersubjectively. While it can admittedly be
asserted by a single person, others have to confirm it before it can
become a part of culture. For this reason, the actual subject of
cultural production under the digital condition is not the individual
but rather the next-largest unit.

::: {.section}
Communality {#c2-sec-0009}

As an individual, it is impossible to orient oneself within a complex
environment. Meaning -- as well as the ability to act -- can only be
created, reinforced, and altered in exchange with others. This is
nothing noteworthy; biologically and culturally, people are social
beings. What has changed historically is how people are integrated into
larger contexts, how processes of exchange are organized, and what every
individual is expected to do in order to become a fully fledged
participant in these processes. For nearly 50 years, traditional
[]{#Page_79 type="pagebreak" title="79"}institutions -- that is,
hierarchically and bureaucratically organ­ized civic institutions such
as established churches, labor unions, and political parties -- have
continuously been losing members.[^38^](#c2-note-0038){#c2-note-0038a}
In tandem with this, the overall commitment to the identities, family
values, and lifestyles promoted by these institutions has likewise been
in decline. The great mech­anisms of socialization from the late stages
of the Gutenberg Galaxy have been losing more and more of their
influence, though at different speeds and to different extents. All
told, however, explicitly and collectively normative impulses are
decreasing, while others (implicitly economic, above all) are on the
rise. According to mainstream sociology, a cause or consequence of this
is the individualization and atomization of society. As early as the
middle of the 1980s, Ulrich Beck claimed: "In the individualized society
the individual must therefore learn, on pain of permanent disadvantage,
to conceive of himself or herself as the center of action, as the
planning office with respect to his/her own biography, abil­ities,
orientations, relationships and so
on."[^39^](#c2-note-0039){#c2-note-0039a} Over the past three decades,
the dominant neoliberal political orientation, with its strong stress on
the freedom of the individual -- to realize oneself as an individual
actor in the allegedly open market and in opposition to allegedly
domineering collective mechanisms -- has radicalized these tendencies
even further. The ability to act, however, is not only a question of
one\'s personal attitude but also of material resources. And it is this
same neoliberal politics that deprives so many people of the resources
needed to take advantage of these new freedoms in their own lives. As a
result they suffer, in Ulrich Beck\'s terms, "permanent disadvantage."

Under the digital condition, this process has permeated the finest
structures of social life. Individualization, commercialization, and the
production of differences (through design, for instance) are ubiquitous.
Established civic institutions are not alone in being hollowed out;
relatively new collectives are also becoming more differentiated, a
development that I outlined above with reference to the transformation
of the gay movement into the LGBT community. Yet nevertheless, or
perhaps for this very reason, new forms of communality are being formed
in these offshoots -- in the small activities of everyday life. And
these new communal formations -- rather []{#Page_80 type="pagebreak"
title="80"}than individual people -- are the actual subjects who create
the shared meaning that we call culture.

::: {.section}
### The problem of the "community" {#c2-sec-0010}

I have chosen the rather cumbersome expression "communal formation" in
order to avoid the term "community" (*Gemeinschaft*), although the
latter is used increasingly often in discussions of digital cultures and
has played an import­ant role, from the beginning, in conceptions of
networking. Viewed analytically, however, "community" is a problematic
term because it is almost hopelessly overloaded. Particularly in the
German-speaking tradition, Ferdinand Tönnies\'s polar distinction
between "community" (*Gemeinschaft*) and "society" (*Gesellschaft*),
which he introduced in 1887, remains
influential.[^40^](#c2-note-0040){#c2-note-0040a} Tönnies contrasted two
fundamentally different and exclusive types of social relations. Whereas
community is characterized by the overlapping multidimensional nature of
social relationships, society is defined by the functional separation of
its sectors and spheres. Community embeds every individual into complex
social relationships, all of which tend to be simultaneously present. In
the traditional village community ("communities of place," in Tönnies\'s
terms), neighbors are involved with one another, for better or for
worse, both on a familiar basis and economically or religiously. Every
activity takes place on several different levels at the same time.
Communities are comprehensive social institutions that penetrate all
areas of life, endowing them with meaning. Through mutual dependency,
they create stability and security, but they also obstruct change and
hinder social mobility. Because everyone is connected with each other,
no can leave his or her place without calling into question the
arrangement as a whole. Communities are thus structurally conservative.
Because every human activity is embedded in multifaceted social
relationships, every change requires adjustments across the entire
interrelational web -- a task that is not easy to accomplish.
Accordingly, the trad­itional communities of the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries fiercely opposed the establishment of capitalist
society. In order to impose the latter, the old community structures
were broken apart with considerable violence. This is what Marx
[]{#Page_81 type="pagebreak" title="81"}and Engels were referring to in
that famous passage from *The Communist Manifesto*: "All the settled,
age-old relations with their train of time-honoured preconceptions and
viewpoints are dissolved. \[...\] Everything feudal and fixed goes up in
smoke, everything sacred is

The defining feature of society, on the contrary, is that it frees the
individual from such multifarious relationships. Society, according to
Tönnies, separates its members from one another. Although they
coordinate their activity with others, they do so in order to pursue
partial, short-term, and personal goals. Not only are people separated,
but so too are different areas of life. In a market-oriented society,
for instance, the economy is conceptualized as an independent sphere. It
can therefore break away from social connections to be organized simply
by limited formal or legal obligations between actors who, beyond these
obligations, have nothing else to do with one another. Costs or benefits
that inadvertently affect people who are uninvolved in a given market
transaction are referred to by economists as "externalities," and market
participants do not need to care about these because they are strictly
pursuing their own private interests. One of the consequences of this
form of social relationship is a heightened social dynamic, for now it
is possible to introduce changes into one area of life without
considering its effects on other areas. In the end, the dissolution of
mutual obligations, increased uncertainty, and the reduction of many
social connections go hand in hand with what Marx and Engels referred to
in *The Communist Manifesto* as "unfeeling hard cash."

From this perspective, the historical development looks like an
ambivalent process of modernization in which society (dynamic, but cold)
is erected over the ruins of community (static, but warm). This is an
unusual combination of romanticism and progress-oriented thinking, and
the problems with this influential perspective are numerous. There is,
first, the matter of its dichotomy; that is, its assumption that there
can only be these two types of arrangement, community and society. Or
there is the notion that the