Transmediale (http://www.transmediale.de) is an annual festival that brings together practitioners and scholars in the fields of art, design, human computer interaction and social sciences. It takes place once a year in Berlin, it is publicly funded primarily since 2004 by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (Federal Culture Foundation), and it involves exhibitions, keynote talks and a conference with workshops and panel sessions with the aim to draw out new connections between art, culture and technology.
The festival’s conference has a different theme every year and its curation foregrounds important topics that derive out of practice. This year’s theme was Capture all – data, work, play. Developed around these three main streams, the conference looked into how work and play are being transformed by data accumulation and systems of surveillance and control, how the lines between private/public and labour/leisure are blurred, and how they all constitute inseparable components of an accelerated capitalism. The speakers of this year’s conference were invited to shed light on the implications of the ‘capture all’ logic, and its leveling consequences, and to discuss how new forms of living and being may still be possible.
Algorithms and data, and their ubiquity in all aspects of work and play, were the central point of discussion and reflection for many of the talks and exhibits this year. The art exhibition, curated by Daphne Dragona and Robert Sakrowski, included pieces by 14 artists addressing the dissolving borders between private and public sphere through the manipulation of existing algorithms, for example Google Search in Erica Scourti’s ‘Body Scan’ (2014). Of particular interest was a guest exhibition called “Time and Motion: Redefining working life,” curated by FACT Liverpool. Using again algorithms, the art works conveyed a strong ‘stand still and reflect’ moment on the life affecting work practices of the rapid-paced western world to the exploitation of human labour outside of it.
In all the panels and workshops that I attended, I was involved in many interesting and relevant discussions about social relations embedded in network topologies, datafication, affective networking, the control systems that support online and offline creative practice (and ways to create outside these power structures), the emerging commons which shift cultural practice paradigms, and the evolving sharing economy.
Corporate-accelerated maker practices and the lack thereof of many alternatives was a central point of many of the discussions. Elvia Wilk analyse this in her very informative article, transmediale 2015: Why we need spaces for art and tech beyond corporate influence.
My initial reason for attending Transmediale was an invitation to participate in a workshop that was run by the CN:FM network, an online/offline network of researchers, artists, curators and digital creative practitioners with the goals to explore how to apply feminist methodologies in tech environmants. The workshop was about a feminist approach to ways of commoning the networks, the process involved in the course of making shared resources and reclaiming the commons (http://p2pfoundation.net/Commoning) . Here is a link with some more details about the topics that we discussed: http://www.transmediale.de/content/commoning-the-networks-a-feminist-methodology-i
With many discussions speculating about the future of maker practices outside the corporate environments and the search for methods to re-invent and resurrect digital, cultural commons, with lots of debates on conflicting views about the future of work and play in the prospect of mass dataficiation, and listening to talks by people such as Peter Sunde, the former Pirate Bay founder, and Jennifer Lyn Morone, who has turned herself into a corporation (http://jenniferlynmorone.com/), Transmediale was a very interesting event to be at this year.