Claudia Westermann on Tue, 13 Nov 2001 17:29:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: [syndicate] Rise and Decline of the Syndicate


just resending something.

It is about human being's incababilty to deal with a subject of community,
which most of the time leads to authoritarian actions. I sent this already 
on September 9th....
a kind of abstract reply to what happened on Syndicate.

Might be also interesting in regard to responsibility of the the events of 
September 11th.

( not that I am thinking, that nn's actions can be compared to this. It's 
ridiculous. NN provides a mirror and looking at it and the reflections of 
the world I can see in it, I just think that there is a long way to go. )

When do people start to think ?

Regarding the movement excitement of Syndicate mailing list.... well a look 
into the archives will show, that
Broeckmann / Arns refused any public discussion on the list, once they 
decided to give it up. I guess many of us have these mailings in their 
mailbox. Not really necessary to resend them. Or is it ?

..... and hm..... Syndicate is by the way the most loveliest list, I 
think... I like it now, very lively.



I really think, that the text is fragmentary ( and also would need some 
editing of my English ), but ...
well anyway, impossible to put some ten years of urban / architectural 
studies into such a text ...
it's more about giving an idea

a web version is here:

From: Claudia Westermann  []

Date: Sun, 09 Sep 2001 18:23:50 +0200

Subject: [Syndicate] learning processes / no border concept

A fragmentary introduction to social issues on a level of 'city'

( I took the following text from this site anyone better informed with 
the issues of psychology than me may add or correct. The experiment 
described was done by Philip G. Zimbardo, Professor of Psychology at 
Stanford University. He has an own website at )


Broken Windows

In 1969, Zimbardo placed one 1959 Oldsmobile auto on a street across from 
the Bronx campus of New York University (a ghetto area), and one on a 
street in Palo Alto, California near the Stanford University campus (a 
rather affluent area). "The license plates of both cars were removed and 
the hoods opened to provide the necessary releaser signals (Zimbardo, 
1969)." Within three days, the car in the Bronx was completely stripped, 
the result of 23 separate incidents of vandalism. The car in Palo Alto sat 
unmolested for over a week. Zimbardo and two of his graduate students 
decided to provide an example by using a sledgehammer to bash the car. They 
found that after they had taken the first blow, it was extremely difficult 
to stop. Observers, who were shouting encouragement, finally joined in the 
vandalism until the car was completely wrecked.

This experiment is the basis of James Q. Wilson's Broken Windows Theory. 
"The thesis states that human behavior is strongly influenced by symbols of 
order and disorder. [In a neighborhood] one unrepaired broken window can 
signal that no one cares, [so that] citizens give in and give up (Wilson, 
P. L., 1997)." Therefore, the objective for preventing street crimes is to 
prevent the first window from getting broken, or prevent the first graffiti 
marks, or prevent the first drunkard from a public display. This has led to 
Neighborhood Watch programs and increased police foot patrols.

These measures have not had a significant impact on crime, but they have 
succeeded in making neighborhood residents feel safer.


the most famous example of the conclusion they made is the City of New York.
you can find the following text on the official website.


In 1989, Giuliani entered the race for mayor of New York City as a 
candidate of the Republican and Liberal parties, losing by the closest 
margin in City history. However in 1993, his campaign focusing on quality 
of life, crime, business and education made him the 107th Mayor of the City 
of New York. In 1997 he was re-elected by a wide margin, carrying four out 
of New York City's five boroughs.
As Mayor, Rudy Giuliani has returned accountability to City government and 
improved the quality of life for all New Yorkers. Under his leadership, 
overall crime is down 57%, murder has been reduced 65%, and New York City - 
once infamous around the world for its dangerous streets - has been 
recognized by the F.B.I. as the safest large city in America for the past 
five years.


a few things they do not mention on their web site is:

- the ridiculous high costs (which maybe could be excused)

- if you look at the things on a larger scale, you will notice a movement 
of crime but not a lowering
( I have no statistics available here for the US, but I know, that these 
kind of things were tried in German cities also, and it always led only to 
a collapse in other parts)

- if you want that it stays 'safe' you have to augment the protection 
methods permanently

Also known of the US is: completely secluded quarters surveilled and 
protected, excluding everyone else than the people living there and their 
guests (this is one step further).
So, what do they do actually ?
As in the above mentioned experiment described, a loss of identity leads to 
aggressive actions even by people, who you would call 'good' maybe. And in 
the beginning what was there ? An old car with a broken window apparently 
not fitting into the system. It is one of the most hardest to bare 
experiences, when you think of yourself as 'good' and you suddenly realize, 
that it is very much possible to be 'evil' in a way.
The conclusion made, protects the 'good' from the problem of realizing, 
that they could act in an aggressive way also, what no-one ever had thought 
could be possible. And to secure in this way the feeling of identity.
This is the most common way to solve these things. Does it have to be this 
way ?
There are different concepts also. It is called 'urban project' and 
contrasts the term of 'urbanistik' (sorry can not find a translation - 
maybe it's 'urban planning' , not really actually). It means 
decentralization and participation of the people living there on every 
possible level. It is based on the same idea of assuring identification, 
just that the means are different (they have tested these things in smaller 
German cities, I just speak for the examples I know). As to say for now it 
can be observed, that the system works on a level of self protection with a 
simultanous lowering of authoritarian actions. Surprising ?

'urban project'
self protection

the self moderation concept discussed on this list would go in the 
direction of an 'urban project' (actually it's even better, there are more 
possibilities on a level of virtuality ).

this is very shortly... by the way it is not said, that idealistic projects 
really work out.....

errare humanum est

Claudia - human

At 16:00 13.11.01 +0100, Broeckmann / Arns wrote:

>Rise and Decline of the Syndicate: the End of an Imagined Community
>Inke Arns & Andreas Broeckmann, Berlin, November 2001
>The Syndicate mailing list imploded and went down in August 2001,
>destroying the life-line of the Syndicate network. The network had been in
>a shaky situation for a while, due - we believe - to the destabilisation of
>the problematic balance between personal contacts of list members, lurking
>and filtering-and-not-reading-let-alone-posting subscribers, and a growing
>number of self-promoters who used the list as a personal performance space
>and disregarded the social rules of the online community.
>Some people insisted on continuing the list on a new server, taking over
>the subscriber list, while we decided to form a new list, SPECTRE, which
>has been running on the previous Syndicate list-serve in Berlin since 28
>Aug 2001. The list currently has 250 new subscribers (Nov 01) and continues
>the tradition of the Syndicate list as a low-noise, open platform for
>exchange and cooperation in media culture in Europe.
>After six years of successful work with and for the Syndicate community,
>the demise of the Syndicate list in August 2001 was a rather shocking
>experience for many of us, imposing on us the realisation how feeble such a
>community channel can be, and how easily destroyed. It proved that
>responsibility and care are essential elements in a viable social online
>environment, and we had to learn the hard way that there is no consensus
>about the rules that should guide behaviour and interaction. The following
>text gives a brief summary from our personal perspective of the Syndicate
>initiative as it developed since its inception in 1996, and attempts an
>evaluation of its end.
>Andreas started administering the Syndicate mailing list after its
>installation on the server of the Ars Electronica Center in Linz (
>in January 1996, helping people to subscribe, unsubscribe and post to the
>majordomo list. As the subscriber base grew from the original 30
>subscribers to about 300 in 1998, Inke joined in administering the list and
>- together with Arthur Bueno of the V2_Organisation in Rotterdam, who also
>maintained the Syndicate website and archive on from
>1998-2000 - mostly managed the list administration through these years. We
>taught ourselves the basic majordomo commands, had our private mail
>accounts jammed with bounced messages, and therefore installed an admin
>account. Each time we would look into this account there would be hundreds
>of mails sitting there and voraciously waiting for us ... but somehow it
>worked. Problems started appearing on an entirely different field.
>With its completely open structure (technically and socially speaking) the
>Syndicate mailing list soon proved to be vulnerable. In the beginning of
>November 1998 the list was first targeted: all the subscribers were
>unsubscribed. Luckily we had been extracting the "who"-file on an almost
>daily basis and thus were able to reconstruct the list quickly. In
>September 2000 the list software on the server faced a serious crash which
>the sysops in Linz could not take care of because of the festival they were
>in at the time. So we decided to relocate the list onto a server to which
>we would have easier access for administration and configuration. Since
>then, the Syndicate list was hosted by an ISP in Berlin (
>which also soon gave us the opportunity to switch from Majordomo to the
>more easily administratable Mailman software.
>But the Syndicate was much more than a piece of software: it was a network
>of people. The Syndicate was founded in January 1996 on the last day of the
>Next 5 Minutes 2 Festival in Rotterdam. It was a network which devoted
>itself to fostering contacts and co-operation, improvements in
>communication and an exchange between institutions and individuals in
>Eastern and Western Europe active in the media and media culture. By
>allowing regular e-mail communication between participants regarding
>forthcoming events and collaborative projects the Syndicate mailing list
>developed into an important channel and information resource for announcing
>and reporting new projects, events and developments in media culture. The
>complete mail archive is kept at
>Since the first meeting in Rotterdam in 1996, which was attended by 30
>media artists and activists, journalists and curators from 12 Eastern and
>Western European countries, the Syndicate network grew steadily. In August
>2001, it linked over 500 members from more than 30 European and a number of
>non-European countries. The original idea was to establish an East-West
>network as well as an East-East network. In the meantime, however, the
>Syndicate had increasingly developed into an all-European forum for media
>culture and art. Over the last few years the division between East and West
>had been growing less important as people cooperated in ever-changing
>constellations, in ad-hoc as well as long-lasting partnerships.
>Syndicate meetings and workshops have been held regularly, in most cases as
>part of festivals and conferences. The main meetings have taken place at
>half-yearly intervals in Rotterdam (Sept. 96), Liverpool (April 97), Kassel
>(July 97), Dessau (Nov. 97), Tirana (May 98), Skopje (Oct. 98), Budapest
>(April 99), and Helsinki (Oct. 99), with many smaller meetings and joint
>projects, presentations and workshops happening in between. Readers edited
>by Inke and published on the occasion of some of the meetings (Rotterdam
>1996, Ostranenie Dessau 1997, Junction Skopje 1998) have collected the most
>important texts from the mailing list in printed form.
>It was worth condensing Syndicate stuff in this way because most of the
>time the mail traffic was dominated by announcements. Attempts to turn the
>Syndicate list into a discussion list and encouragements for people to send
>their personal reports, views, perceptions of what was happening, were met
>by only limited response. In the beginning, when many people on the list
>still knew each other personally, this strategy was more successful, later,
>with the exploding rate of lurkers, less.
>While in the first three years of its existence, the Syndicate held its
>meetings quite regularly (almost every six months!), and organised panels
>and workshops with its members, since 1999 the Syndicate list came to be
>more like a sleeping beauty which in times of crisis would awake and show
>its full potential. Suddenly, when necessary, everybody was back on,
>communicating almost breathlessly with each other ("Have you heard about
>X?" - "The cultural center Y was closed!" - "Z received his mobilisation
>call.") The list was last activated in order to support Edi Muka,
>Tirana-based long term Syndicalist, who had been sacked from his post at
>the cultural center Pyramid by some politically malevolent officials.
>The meetings and personal contacts off-list were an essential part of the
>Syndicate network: they grounded the Syndicate in a network of friendly and
>working relationships, with strong ties and allegiances that spanned across
>Europe and made many cooperations between artists, initiatives and
>institutions possible. The Syndicate thus opened multiple channels between
>artists and cultural producers in Europe and beyond, which is probably its
>greatest achievement. It connected people and made them aware of each
>other's practice, creating multiple options for international cooperation
>A structure like that can work so long as it is supported and protected by
>a sufficient number of participants. It needs an ethical consensus about
>what is and what isn't possible on the list, which kinds of actions support
>and which may tilt the social equilibrium. The case of Andrej Tisma, a
>Yugoslav artist from multi-cultural Novi Sad and a defender of the
>Milosevic regime throughout the late 90s, is a case in point: many
>perceived his tirades against the West and against NATO as pure Serbian
>propaganda which became unbearable at some point. Later, Tisma came back to
>the list and continued his criticisms by posting links to anti-NATO web
>pages he had created. For us, he was always an interesting sign post of
>Serb nationalist ideology which it was good to be aware of. And it was good
>that he showed that people can be artists 'like you and me', and be Serb
>nationalists at the same time. The Syndicate could handle his presence
>after he agreed to tune down his rants.
>However, this consensus was further eroded through the last two years. The
>nn episode on Syndicate in August 2001, then, was a symptom, but not the
>reason for the death of Syndicate. This started way before August 2001. Not
>only that there were no more meetings after 1999, one could also notice
>that since mid 1999 people felt less and less responsible for the list.
>Many Syndicalists of the first hour grew more silent (this was partly
>incited by the hefty discussions during the NATO bombings in Yugoslavia),
>perhaps more weary, perhaps less naive, many also changed their personal
>circumstances and got involved in other things (new jobs, new families, new
>countries ...). At the same time, the number of subscribers kept growing:
>more and more newbies kept flowing onto the Syndicate list.
>The major change that occurred on the Syndicate around that time (1999) was
>the transition from a network of people and of trust to a more and more
>anonymous mailing list, a list for announcements like so many others. A
>growing majority of Syndicate subscribers now tended to see the mailing
>list merely as a quick and handy tool for spreading self promotion. The
>mailing list was to serve them for promotional goals, rather than as a tool
>of communication. When calls went out for support in the adminstration of
>the list, far too few people responded at all. Many people still do not
>understand the voluntary nature of the Syndicate initiative, and that the
>whole project depended on the sharing of work and responsibility. Too many
>people took the efforts of too few people for granted. Investing time and
>energy in the administration of such a list became more and more
>frustrating. When some fellow Syndicalists joined the admin team early
>2001, we could have realised that the project had peaked and should have
>been transformed into something different altogether.
>The net entity nn (Netochka Nezvanova, integer, antiorp, etc.), a pseudonym
>used by an international group of artists and programmers in their
>extensive and aggressive mailing list-based online-performances and for
>other art projects, had been subscribed to the Syndicate list in 1997. It
>was, as the first of less than a handful of people ever, unsubscribed
>against its will because it was spamming the list so heavily that all
>meaningful communication was blocked. In January 2001, nn sent an e-mail
>asking to again be subscribed to the Syndicate mailing list. (What nn never
>bothered to realise was that subscription to the list had always been open
>so that, at any point, it could have subscribed itself - we have always
>wondered why Majordomo is such a blind spot in this technophile entity's
>arsenal.) After getting assurances from nn that she was not out to misuse
>the list, we subscribed it to the Syndicate list.
>Naively, as we had to realise. nn went from one or two messages every day
>in February to an average of three to five message in April and up to eight
>and ten messages per day in May and June - and that on a list which had a
>regular daily traffic of three to five messages a day. The distributed
>nature of the nn collective makes it possible for them to keep posting 24
>hours a day - great for promoting your online presence, irritating for
>people who have a less frantic life rhythm. nn's messages are always
>cryptic, sometimes amusing, often tediously repetitive in their quirky
>rhetorics and style, and generally irritating for the majority of people.
>Its activity on the Syndicate - like on many other lists it has used and
>terrorised - soon came to look like a hijack. But the sheer mass of traffic
>nn was generating, the sheer amount of nn's presence, was overwhelming.
>Perhaps this phenomenon could be compared to SMEGL, short for super mental
>grid lock, a term that was developed to describe traffic jam situations in
>NYC back in the eighties (or was this term coined in Berlin-Kreuzberg's
>famous Fischbuero? Who knows, the boundaries get blurred...).
>In the spring of 2001, nn's and other people's activities who use open,
>unmoderated mailing lists for promulgating their self-promotional e-mails,
>triggered discussions about 'spam art', on Syndicate as well as on other
>lists. Actually, given the extreme openness and vulnerability of a
>structure like the Syndicate it remains quite astonishing that this
>structure survived for such a long time. What happened in the course of
>2000/2001 (not only to Syndicate, but also to several other mailing lists)
>was that the openness of these lists, i.e. the fact that they were
>unmoderated, was massively abused, and, finally, destroyed, by relentless
>'creative' spamming. One of the basic principles of the Internet - its
>openness - suddenly seemed to become a mere tool for attacking this very
>principle. 'Netiquette' did not seem to be of much value anymore and was
>sacrificed for the egotistical self-expression of (distributed) artist
>egos. The irony of this process is that, like any good parasite, this
>artistic practice depends on the existence of lively online communities: it
>not only bites, but kills the hand that feeds it. - These parasite nomads
>will find new hosts, no doubt, but they have over the past year helped to
>erode the social fabric of the wider net cultural population so much that
>communities have to protect themselves from attacks and hijacks more
>aggressively than before. Their adolescent carelessness is partly
>responsible for the withering of the romantic utopia of a completely open,
>sociable online environment. However educational that may be, we despise
>the deliberation with which these people act.
>nn got unsubscribed from the Syndicate without warning on a day when there
>had been nothing but ten messages from her. After some days of silence and
>sighs of relief, angry protests by nn came through. On the list,
>accusations of censorship and/or dictatorship were made. A small but noisy
>faction denounced unsubscribing nn as an act against the freedom of speech.
>They called the administrators fascists, murderers, and 'threatened' to
>report the case to 'Index on Censorship'. While some other list members
>welcomed the departure of nn on and off the list and the admin team again
>and again explained their move, the ludicrous allegations and vociferous
>insults continued.
>The real shock for us was that the majority of list subscribers did not
>participate in the discussion and thus silently seemed to accept what was
>going on. It was personally hurtful not to receive more support against the
>insults raised against us, but more frustrating was the indifference that
>made the whole process possible. Within few days, the alienation from the
>atmosphere on the list was so great that we admitted defeat, re-subscribed
>nn and began to withdraw from the Syndicate. The list was moved to a
>different server and is now administered by other people at
> We wanted to avoid further verbiage and conflict and
>therefore gave up the name, but we insist that from our perspective the
>Syndicate project that was founded in 1996 ended in August 2001. What
>remains under its name is a zombie kept alive by misconceptions about what
>the Syndicate really was. Maybe we should have stopped the project
>altogether in the summer?
>Filtering has, in a way, done us in. Before there were effective e-mail
>clients that could filter out lists and other mail communication, everybody
>on the list got everything more or less instantly, which also meant a
>higher level of social awareness and social control of what goes on on the
>list. Today, many people filter the lists they subscribe to and only look
>at the postings at irregular intervals - some mailboxes don't get opened
>for months. Like this, people consume the list passively and do not even
>notice a fiasco like the one that we experienced on the Syndicate list in
>the summer. I guess that some people who remain subscribed to the Syndicate
>list still have not noticed that anything has changed. For a social
>community, that kind of behaviour - automated deferance - can be fatal.
>"There's a spectre haunting Europe ..."
>In August 2001, after unsubscribing from the Syndicate, we initiated a new
>mailing list under the name SPECTRE. It is an open, unmoderated list for
>media art and culture in Deep Europe. SPECTRE offers a channel for
>practical information exchange concerning events, projects and initiatives
>organized within the field of media culture, and hosts discussions and
>critical commentary about the development of art, culture and politics in
>and beyond Europe. Deep Europe is not a particular territory, but is based
>on an attitude and experience of layered identities and histories -
>ubiquitous in Europe, yet in no way restricted by its topographical
>borders. (The term Deep Europe was coined by Anna Balint in 1996. It was
>passed on by Geert Lovink. It was used by Andreas Broeckmann and Inke Arns.
>It was interpreted by Luchezar Boyadjiev. It was used more by Sally Jane
>Norman, Iliyana Nedkova, Nina Czegledy, Edi Muka, and many others.)
>SPECTRE is a channel for people involved in old and new media in art and
>culture. Importantly, many people on this list know each other personally.
>SPECTRE aims to facilitate real-life meetings and favours real face-to-face
>(screen-to-screen) cooperation, test-bed experiences and environments to
>provoke querying of issues of cultural identity/identification and
>difference (translatable as well as untranslatable or irreducible). The new
>list was immediately welcomed by many frustrated Syndicalists who quickly
>made the move.
>SPECTRE is an unmoderated, but by not means open mailing list. With the
>Syndicate experience in mind we felt the need to explicitely formulate some
>basic, apparently no longer self-evident netiquette rules, like "meaningful
>discussions require mutual respect," and "self-advertise with care!" The
>list is initially hosted by the two of us who also have to approve requests
>for subscription. The blurb explicitely reads: "Subscriptions may be
>terminated or suspended in the case of persistent violation of netiquette."
>We regret that we have to introduce such a system of control but see no
>other effective way of protecting something that is dear to us. A lack of
>sensible protection brought down the Syndicate. Information about SPECTRE:
>We try to continue the good Syndicate tradition of amiable exchange and are
>more hesitant about the illusion of being an 'online community'. We
>maintain our romantic belief in lasting friendships and insist on the need
>to infuse networks with a strong sense of conviviality. We believe in
>people and their needs more than we believe in art.
>Inke Arns, Andreas Broeckmann
>Berlin, November 2001
>-----Syndicate mailinglist-----------------------
>Syndicate network for media culture and media art
>information and archive:
>to post to the Syndicate list: <>
>no commercial use of the texts without permission

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