Geert Lovink on Thu, 4 Mar 1999 22:59:25 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> 5 questions over/around N5M3

   ["(not edited, bad english)"]

5 Questions from Francois Laureys, for the Wereldomroep site:

FL: Since the first Next 5 Minutes conference in 1993, what have been the
major developments in the field of the so-called tactical media?
GL: Obviously, the rise of Internet, and the explosion of media channels
in general. Access to technology has risen worldwide, even in the former
Third World. Still, it remains curious to see that the proliferation of
computers, video players and other consumer electronics, not automatically
result in a 'new media culture'. Hardware and telecommunications can very
well be tamed, by governments, markets, and conservative forces to create
'pseudo media', which do not develop into a 'public sphere' within the
media realm. So public (or 'universal') access is not at all a resolved
issue. It constantly has to be redefined, and fought for. We need to claim
the new territories of broadband communication, while at the same time not
neglecting existing outlets such as print, flyers, graffiti, pirate radio,

FL: In the beginning, many tactical groups believed the Internet would
have a tremendous global emancipatory, maybe even revolutionary potential.
What is left of that feeling?
GL: By and large, this spirit is still existing. This is due to the fact
that there are still amazing new developments occurring. What we
witnessing now is not so much a disappointment on the side of programmers,
artists and activists, but a horrendous backlash due to the capitalist
takeover of the Net, which is consiously preventing, or at least slowing
down technical and social innovations. The so-called massification, in the
end, will marginalize the anarcho-liberal attempts to implement open, free
architectures of the Net. I do not want to be pessimistic here. But let's
face the sad reality of the tens of millions of AOL users, who are stuck
in these gated, and guarded communities.

FL: Can you name recent successful 'subversive' local or global
media-campaigns, and to what tactics/use of media/mechanisms do they own
their success according to you?
GL: Resistance should not be 'successful'. I would rather not think in
those terms. I love meaningless, negative, useless media cultures.
Activism recently has suffered from the pressure to perform. One of the
themes of this Next Five Minutes is the shadow side of professionalism.
The Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) seems to be the only model left,
if people want to organize themselves. This has also affected small media
initiatives. I think that successful projects these days are trying to
avoid these traps. They are either virtual, fluid, or very local, always
temporary, with an emphasis on design and esthetics, while avoiding to be
reduced to corporate, empty, demo design.

FL: One of the major questions of tactical media is of course whether they
are capable of creating change or making a difference. Through the new
media, maybe even in combination with the old media, one can reach huge
amounts of people. But does this effort make any sense if it doesn't
result in tangible change (e.g. a company withdrawal, an uprising, a
revolution etc...)?
GL: No. Media will not cause a revolution (apart from their own) - not
even a revolt or uprising. For me, we are here dealing with mini, or even
pico media, which are spreading memes (viruses). They are undermining the
current market regime on the long term, not in the present moment. I think
it remains impossible to dream of 'reaching the masses'. That's a lie.
Every attempt into that direction immediately backfires and corrupts all
the parties involved. I would rather think in terms of 'membrane design'.
To what extend would you like your counter signs/information leaked into
the the other side, the mainstream media... And when do we have to
withdraw? Recently, many initiatives died because of their over exposure
to the System. Tactics means knowing how to attack AND to withdraw, at the
right moment, before it is too late.

FL: What do you hope the N5M3 will bring about?
GL: That we will find other models to organize the alternative/indipendant
or autonomous, 'tactical' media networks. Organization is not only just
synonymous to bureaucracy. It could as well mean commitment, and
solidarity. Perhaps within smaller units. Networks these days tend to
become big, without a clear direction. It is indeed tempting to think big.
The exploding digital media realm has a lot on offer if you believe in
quantity and entertainment. Tactical these days perhaps also means to
withdraw, to not accept all offers, and channels. If we want to prevent a
further decline in the quality-research based content initiatives, it is
perhaps time to think about sustainable models which can survive the less
pleasant, second phase of the Digital Revolution, the Thermidor.
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