Cyberbullying or Collaborative Violence?

Media and communication technology has provided us with tools to enable and facilitate collaboration without physical participation or geographical constraints. When it comes to the impact of new media on childhood and youth, there has always been much discussion of the potential benefits, but as well as dangers of these new media tools. Along came a rise of new phenomena that cuts across the private and public space. One of these phenomena is the practice of cyberbullying. Here I want to look into the collaborative aspects of cyberbullying and set it against Christoph Spehr ’s notion of free cooperation.

Last year, I volunteered at the Cinekid Festival which is an annual event held in October. On my first day, I was responsible for a device called the “reactie machine”, which has an inbuilt camera and a screen that shows a 20-second film of the person who was filmed previously. Children are supposed to construct an interactive story by continuing the story of their predecessors. The day (or at least my day) was not very successful in terms of creating a collaborative story. But what struck me the most was the one (and only) story I got out of my participants, which revealed the story about a chicken that got eaten by a wolf. This made the (dead) chicken very mad. The boy, whose turn was right after, finished the story with a violent and vengeful resolution. The chickens took their guns and shot the wolf dead. This experience led me questioning the extent to which children are exposed to violence in the media and the possible channels (or ways) to release such effects. Cyberbullying for this matter can be seen as a way to act out violent behavior in a virtual environment that is poorly monitored by parents and teachers.


Cyberbullying according to Wikipedia is

the term used to refer to bullying and harassment by use of electronic devices through means of e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, blogs, mobile phones, pagers, and websites.

Cyberbullying is willful and involves recurring or repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic text.”
Cyberbullying comes in many forms, ranging from threats, sexual remarks, hate speech to publishing defamatory material about a person on the Internet.

Cyberbullying is also a global phenomenon with incidents around the world. With a focus on Dutch society, research showed that 20% of the youth who participated in the research find cyberbullying rather amusing. The main reason for the engagement in such practice is because one can participate and remain anonymous.

Anonymity is inherent (although not untraceable) to the new media environment. Does this necessary means that the use of new media tools accumulates to the violent effects of the media? Sometimes yes, and other times no. I think a better way to understand the effects of media violence and the possible outlets of such effects is by looking at the layers of collaboration in the practice of cyberbullying.

Christoph Spehr set out three conditions under which collaboration can be defined as free cooperation. The first one refers to a form of collaboration in which all members have equal say about the rules of the collaboration:

The traditional distribution of disposal, possession, work and the traditional rules are not sacrosanct, do not have “higher authority,” but can be negotiated anew by the members of the cooperation at any time (Lovink en Scholz 2007: 92).

The lack of supervision, whether by parents, or web or chat hosts facilitates the collaboration between (cyber) bullies. Chat hosts can only observe the dialog in some chat rooms, but everything outside a chat room or via instant messengers is solely viewable by the sender and the recipient. Furthermore, (especially) teens hardly encounter a higher authority in their online experience. Teens often know more about computers than their parents and no individual is able to monitor someone else’s online behavior 24/7.

Once the members have collectively chosen a target, or victim, they decide individually when or how to intimidate their target and it remains up to the members of the group to decide when to stop or change to another victim. This brings us to Spehr second condition of free cooperation:

all members are free to quit the cooperation, to give limits or con¬ditions for their cooperative activity, and to influence the rules of the cooperation by that (Ibid).

And lastly,

all members are equal insofar as they can do this at a price that is similar and bearable; i.e., the price of leaving the cooperation, or to give limits or conditions for one’s cooperative activity, has to be similarly high (or low) for all members but in any case reasonable” (Lovink en Scholz 2007: 93).

My argument here is that this only applies partially to cyberbullies. Members of cyberbullying are equal insofar as they have equal access to communication technology. Internet penetration in the Netherlands is rather high (the highest in Europe); the average age at which children get their first mobile phone is seven.

Equal participation and collaboration in cyberbullying are two intertwined but at the same time separate categories. Participants of such practice are the perpetrators, the ones who actually start or continue the practice by mail, spam, via instant messages etc. But belonging to the members of cyberbullying can also include “passive bystanders”; for in the case of Happy Slapping, youngsters do not necessary make the videos themselves, but participate in the consumption and distribution of the film. Whether actively or passively, participants contribute to the physical and psychological effects of cyberbullying on the victim. Up until now, there has been much discussion about cyberbullying, centering on the relationship between perpetrators and victims. I believe that we should have a much closer look at the extent to which every child can attribute (actively or passively/ consciously or “harmless” but just for fun attitude) to the outcome and effects of such practice.

Final words on cyberbullying
According to a study on children’s peer culture by William A. Corsaro (1992; 1997), children are active agents who appropriate and transform information from the adult world in the creation of their own locally shared peer cultures, cultures created from situated, face-to-face interaction. Extending this idea to the cyberworld, I would argue that children or teens are not the only ones engaged in cyberbullying. In one word to prove my point: Iggy, and it is a dog. Ellen DeGeneres pleaded on one of her shows to get her dog back. The organization, Mutts and Moms, that took away the dog, got tons of threat mails, including mails that threaten to bomb the owner’s home. It got so out of hand; the organization was shut down for days. No this time, it was not the kids. These are people or adults who watch and probably love Ellen DeGeneres show.

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Myspace started in 2003 as a stage for aspiring bands and musicians, but evolved from a subculture platform to a mainstream profiling and networking giant. I want to have a look at the social constructions within Myspace and how Myspace is being looked at after it has become the number one networking site.

Social structures

Not having a Myspace account in the digital era doesn’t make you look particularly good as a teenager. People are almost obligated to have an account, in order to exchange account-names instead of phone numbers in the bar. If everyone in my class has an account, I should have one too. But it also works the other way around, people first get to know each other via their friends on Myspace, and then later meet them in real life.

“I wasn’t the popular girl in high school. And now it’s like when I see those people, they know me because they know me from my MySpace. They’re more inclined to talk to me then than they would be just seeing me on the street.”

The example above is often the result of what you might call the ‘Myspace photo ethics.’ Most pictures are blurry, close-ups, showing abs, selfshots and exaggerated frowns and pouted lips, all that for the sole reason to appear as hot as possible. It gives teenagers the ability and the possibility to be popular online, instead of in real life.

But for the early adopters, Myspace has lost the exclusivity as a playground for people who do not walk the mainstream path. And as any good subculture member, they lose interest in the medium and neglect or delete their account (or make money selling their account!). For the other members Myspace acts as a digital hangout, favoured over local spaces such as malls and record stores.

As with any social networking site, it’s the quantity of your friends that counts as an index of your popularity. It is no surprise then that the activity of gathering friends has become an actual verb: “friending.” It is the process of finding new friends or strangers and adding them to your friendslist. This is one of the main reasons for the succes of the site, teenagers are craving for attention and the Myspace-organism supplies that need. As Danah Boyd points out a lot of ‘friends’ on Myspace don’t have an emotional background, but merely act as a tool to expand your public profile. The phrase ‘thanks for the add’ is a clear cut example of the unpersonalized and standard reply to a friend request.

But as it comes to the layout of your profile, Myspace gives the user almost unlimited freedom to fool around with the HTML and CSS of the page. This results in beautiful examples, but more frequently in hideous designs and horrible interactivity. As it shows the flexibility of the design doesn’t justify the site structure and it’s because of that the Myspace won the award for worst website in 2006.

Change of function

What started out as a platform to promote music acts, turned into a networking site, but if you examine it further you can see some other changes.

It still acts as a means to promote bands, especially emo and rockbands such as Panic! at the Disco and My Chemical Romance, and Myspace certainly wants to be associated with it. But due to the fact that NewsCorp has acquired Myspace, promoting bands isn’t about discovering new independent artists. Because of this revenue has to be made and record companies have embraced Myspace as an ideal format to push their acts. The same counts with TV-shows and movies, the entertainment industry is creatively mimicking real Myspace profiles with characters from that show or movie, to seduce people into adding them as friends and thus creating exposure. As shows in the following quote from the New York Times:

The bigger opportunity, however, is not so much selling banner ads, but finding ways to integrate advertisers into the site’s web of relationships. Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, for example, created a profile for the animated square hamburger character from its television campaign. About 100,000 people signed up to be “friends” with the square.

A whole other story to how Myspace is used other than the ordinary networking is the account of Taylor Behl, who got murdered on her first week in college. Her profile acted as a means to express condolences to the family and now, two years later, it functions as a digital grave, a place where people can talk to her and tell her how much they miss her. It is touching to see that the Myspace account acts as a memorial, but as the profile is public, it does not have the same intimacy and privacy as a real grave.

What’s the issue?

Besides the critique on the layout and structure, Myspace has also been in the news concerning security issues. A member wrote a script within a CSS that released a worm which added viewers to his account, and automatically put him as a Hero in all the added accounts. Within moments he had 1000’s of requests coming in a minute and after a short while Myspace found out and put a halt to the worm. The guy who made the worm didn’t want to cause any damage but it he did point out that it is relatively easy to harm unknowing victims in a community of millions of people.

Another problem today is the hacking of accounts, in order to use them for spam messages across friendslists. Or child molesters who act as teenagers and try to arrange meetings with real teens. Equally worse is the act of identity hijacking, as happened to Chrissy Quantrille who discovered that someone had taken her photos and created a fake page in order to set up a relationship with a boy in Canada. Imposters are a big problem and one of the main reasons why parents are either monitoring their kids heavily or just preventing them to have an account on Myspace at all. Which almost seems cruel due to the facts that kids are supposed to have a profile. To put it differently, you are nobody if you don’t have a databody. Danah Boyd again:

Because the digital world requires people to write themselves into being, profiles provide an opportunity to craft the intended expression through language, imagery and media. Explicit reactions to their online presence offers valuable feedback. The goal is to look cool and receive peer validation. Of course, because imagery can be staged, it is often difficult to tell if photos are a representation of behaviors or a re-presentation of them.

Youth are not creating digital publics to scare parents – they are doing so because they need youth space, a place to gather and see and be seen by peers. Publics are critical to the coming-of-age narrative because they provide the framework for building cultural knowledge. Restricting youth to controlled spaces typically results in rebellion and the destruction of trust. Of course, for a parent, letting go and allowing youth to navigate risks is terrifying. Unfortunately, it’s necessary for youth to mature.

In decline?

Myspace still is the biggest of the social networking site, but it’s growth is stagnating and more importantly the time spent on the site is dropping significantly. According to an article in the Washington Post sites like Myspace rise exponetially but are also being forgotten if the users get bored by it and go looking for something new.

“They’re not loyal,” Ben Bajarin, a market analyst for Creative Strategies Inc., said of the youth demographic. Young audiences search for innovative and new features. They’re constantly looking for new ways to communicate and share content they find or create, and because of that group mentality, friends shift from service to service in blocs.

Free Image Hosting at

Facebook is the one who is rising steadily and closing in on Myspace but for now the latter still is the biggest. Recently they registered account number 100 million (which happened to be a dutch account!), but if you look at the profile it illustrates the illusion of the number. The only friend is Tom (who’s everybody’s friend) and it’s clearly no active account. To conclude the article I’d like finish with a quote from Brian Carley, who uses Myspace to promote his band. He manages to capture both the attractivity and the problem of Myspace in a nutshell:

“It’s kind of like watching a train wreck,” he says. “You can’t look away.”

EVE Oline LogoWhere does play end, and work start? In the online world of the MMORPG EVE Online, this threshold might be blinded by the dazzling glitter of the stars, but it is just as easy to pass.

Delayed gratification

In EVE Online, the gathering of resources is a daily routine that traps the player in a loop of delayed gratification. Resources are needed in the first place for trade purposes – making money – and secondly to manufacture certain game-objects. Since both capital and consumerism define a gamers happiness within the hyper-capitalistic society of EVE Online, it is hard to deny the system without missing out on many important aspects of the game.

This however is not the end of the story. Experienced players of this Sci-Fi world will argue that it is not the size of your wallet that matters, nor the number of spaceships in your hangar, but the reward of collaborating on a common goal with your fellow gamers. Having something big (Titan-class spaceships, outposts) to look forward to, something that you could not possibly have achieved on your own, is a great incentive for spending hours on end doing chores. But why use the word chores? Not necessarily because these tasks are boring to many, but because they are tasks handed out by those higher in command. In other words, they are obligations. If you choose to ignore these orders you will run the risk of being called a slacker or parasite, and eventually being booted from the group. This makes two incentives: A monetary or gameplay award, and social control. Well, that sounds a bit like work already, doesn’t it?


Of course, many role-playing games require a certain temporal dedication to progress to a next level. Which really isn’t that problematic, since instant gratification would keep the gamer from pursuing any future goals, and leaving the game in sheer boredom. So what makes EVE Online stand out in that respect? In my view the main reason would be the ideological similarity of the virtual world’s game mechanics with those of Western society. Assuming capitalism as an end, you can either choose to conform to its rules or be left out. There are no support structures in place for those seeking freedom from the dominance of capital. To take full advantage of the game’s possibilities gamers thus join forces in corporations. Although there may be vast differences between the way individual corporations are organized, there are already basic structures in place which push them in a specific mould. This is illustrated by the fact that there always is a CEO in charge, at least formally. Even though the gamer in question might delegate his or her responsibilities, the time invested in training the skills which are demanded for such a position discourage such a scenario. Then, on descending the hierarchy we will find that lower positions of power are defined by access to resources and information. A leader of combat operations might have unlimited access to ammunition, while an internal security agent might be granted access to information on the whereabouts and transactions of corporation members. These are not just efficient methods of organizing a group of people, they are also explicitly supported by interface functionality. In doing so, the game willingly keeps structures of inequality in place. Whether this constitutes the main attraction of EVE Online – a ordinary employee could command his boss in-game – or the source of real-life frustration remains to be seen.

A disciplinary society

The conflicts we see here are Foucauldian in their sense of collaboration through discipline, and the enclosure of its spaces. Although I do possess some valuable experience being a former member of one EVE’s largest corporations, we have to keep in mind that this article can only provide preliminary observations: The EVE galaxy might have already started to modulate. More definite conclusions can therefor only be drawn after a more intensive stay in-game, focusing on those parts where enclosed spaces emerge and possibly collide. Until then I can’t help to wonder why I spend my free time doing assignments “for fun”.

On the morning of the Recalling RFID public program at Amsterdam’s De Balie, I passed one of the newly installed OV chipcard terminals at the metro station. It proved to be the beginning of a day that aimed to recall Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID). And through heated debate, recalling seemed to be two-fold: regain awareness of the topic to build on the past or, as Katherine Albrecht proposed, cancel the technology as a whole.

Flickr photo coverage by Anne Helmond
Full report at Virtueel Platform

After having escaped the RFID terminals in Amsterdam’s metro station, the audience was introduced to the subject by a short film/demonstration -see embedded video- in which people are shown walking, running, chatting and more importantly being watched in a shopping mall. The voyeuristic camera caught everyone in sight and showed detailed information of the avatars in the physical space and a flickering red warning in the case of an untagged person. The cyberpunk science-fiction of the 1980s has now almost become a reality, the fairy tale vision of first session moderator Rob van Kranenburg takes us even further into a possible future: ‘I see myself walking through the woods and suddenly a screen pops up from a tree and has info about the place’.

The Recalling RFID program put a strong focus on the question where are we now, and more importantly on the question: where are we heading? Session moderator Rob van Kranenburg mentions the concept of (Un)common Ground as a way to debate this move towards RFID and bring together people from various disciplines, in this case the field of RFID, and share experiences to perhaps create new visions.

Different definitions, or interpretations if you will, have been linked to words like ‘collaboration’ and ‘cooperation’. One example of this is a part of ‘The Art of Free Cooperation’ (2007). In the chapter ‘Collaboration on the Fence’ (by Geert Lovink and Trebor Scholz) Chris Shipley is mentioned with her essay ‘The Year of Working Together!’ (2006). Accordingly a difference is made between three different forms of working together:

Collaboration is a risky, interconnected thing. It is an intensive affair in which individuals who are part of a group share a common goal. They split benefits or losses. Cooperation is a much less-involved affair in which sole, independent participants advance separately. And finally, consultation is the loosest model of working together. “

What it even more important is determining the kind and the level of participation. This is the conclusion (or one of them) of Jeremy Rifkin’s book “The Age of Access” (2001). In this book he also mentions ‘the dialectics of a play ethos’ (p.260);

“The assumptions and rules governing play are quite distinct from those traditionally governing work. First, play is enjoyable; it’s fun. While some kinds of work also are enjoyable, most work – 75 percent or more of the tasks in industrial society – are simple and repetitive in nature and for that reason tedious and laborious. Second, play is a voluntary activity. People can’t be coerced or forced to play. It has to be entered into freely by choice. (…)
Real play also is deeply participatory in nature and generally takes place face-to-face, in close environments. Play is spontaneous. While there are rules – some implicit, others explicit – and the play is often serious, directed, and goal-oriented, it is generally far less rigid than traditional work schedules on the factory fool or in offices.”

The assumptions and rules governing play are a cause and consequence of each other. If play wasn’t enjoyable, it wouldn’t be a voluntary act to participate. This is very essential if you focus on online collaboration. People who participate in any online collaboration need to get some kind of enjoyment out of it. Especially if you look to collaborations like Wikipedia. Even an administrator, a title that often guarantees that this person has put a lot of time and energy in it, does this aside from his/her day-job. And isn’t forced to participate in any way. Stil this person does put a lot of time in it and enjoys this. Wikipedia is built on people like that and relies on them.

With this in mind I would like to analyze a collaboration I have with a friend of mine (Mariska de Groot). We vj together under the name Viaduktape. This collaboration has nothing to do with teamwork as it has more to do with team-play. In the definition as stated above, it is definitely a collaboration. Although we don’t strive for one common goal, but we have several:

  1. Having fun.
  2. Experiment.
    • Trying out new material/techniques.
  3. Experience.
    • Getting bookings.
    • Meeting new people.
    • Getting attention.
    • Coming in new places.

And to reach these goals we depend not only on each other, but on a lot of factors. Not all of them are decisive whether we can do our job, but they work together with us in achieving a common goal: making a great party. This sounds like a rather short-term goal, which it is. If it weren’t for the fact that we wouldn’t exist without this specific target. Except for the fact that we don’t have fun if a party fails, it also slims the chance of being booked again. Let me show you how this game is being played;

01 First player in the game is the organisation or most often one person that organizes the party;

We have to get in touch with him/her. Or the other way around. This goes mostly through a common friend or a previous party (and the connections that followed from that). He/She helps us by booking us, we help him/her by performing on the party.

02 Location;

The location can vary. There is always an owner, who most of the times is aware of the party that is being held in his property. He is anyway responsible of the maintenance of the property. Every building has safety regulations. If these are not met, then the fire brigade can shut it down. The location can have neighbours. As long as they don’t complain, they won’t be of any influence.

03 No party without music, enter dj(‘s);

The dj brings his own music. Sometimes these are records he has bought. But nowadays a lot of the music has been downloaded. With this music he performs on equipment that is either his own, borrowed of is owned by the club.

04 Drinks and food;

These need to be served or sold by bartenders. But first of all it needs to be bought and delivered. This is either done by the owner or the organisation.

05 Atmosphere;

Light is indispensable, especially when it’s done by someone with knowledge: the man of the light. This is often also the person that helps out with other technical issues like sound. But sometimes this is done by seperate persons. The decoration is sometimes just the interior of the club, then it would be a responsibility of the owner and how he has maintained this. And sometimes the organisation has people who decorate it especially for a certain party.

06 Special Acts;

This is additional to the atmosphere, but optional.

07 Guests;

Of course there need to be people at a party. Some of them will pay to get in, others are on the guest-list.

08 PR;

To get people at the party, they need to know when it is and where. So flyer’s, posters and other handouts need to be made (preferably by a designer) and distributed. Also online advertising is a must. Either on the website of the organisation, the club or on other sites.

09 Security;

To secure everyone’s safety there needs to be security. These are either employees of a club or hired externally. If things do run out of hand, the police might get involved.
10 Employees;

Besides having people work behind the bar, there are people needed to buy a ticket from at the entrance, to hang your coat, to buy special coins for consumption and/or at the toilet. Which, by the way, needs to be cleaned by someone. As does the club itself the next day.


Summed up like that it almost becomes a sort of algorithm and all the people involved become parameters for a successful party. Together they form both a collaboration as well as a cooperation, according to the definition in the beginning of this post. In a collaboration, “the participants share a common goal and the benefits or losses are split”. All of the ‘parameters’ mentioned above share the common goal (make the party a succes), but not all of them are at a loss when it fails to do so. At least if you would look at it from the financial side of the story. Of course they split the losses in the sense that ego’s are crushed or a night is wasted, but I won’t take this in account. If a party fails the direct financial losses are for the organisation. And the indirect financial losses are for the owner, because the reputation of his club has been hurt. All the other people will still get payed or already have been payed by either the owner and/or organisation. Of course if things keep going badly, everyone that is employed by either the owner or organisation directly will suffer financial consequences or perhaps lose their jobs eventually. Participants like the dj, security, designer and vj will basically not suffer any financial consequences, except for maybe reputation damage. They form the cooperation part, they are “independent participants (that) advance separately”. And have their own goals beside the one common goal. And with that their own specific motivations to participate in this party. A dj might want to get his name known, a designer wants to expand his portfolio and perhaps security wants to built up a certain reputation. But this would mean that the others that take part in this collaboration/cooperation don’t have any other goals, which I am sure they have. It could be that the barman is just bartending to finance his study. Or the owner just wants to make money, so he can buy that condo in Malibu. In that sense everyone mentioned above is an independent participant who advances separately in in the long term. But the short-term goals need to be met to get to that long-term finish. So the party needs to be a succes (now and then).

That there are different goals to be met by the ‘parameters’ themselves, does not change the algorithm so to say. The rules of the game stay the same. And especially someting seemingly unimportant as a party makes the play element work in this form of working together. If you would only take in account the working hours, you must conclude that everyone that’s part of it enjoys it. No one forces a dj to play music untill 5 am. And, like Wikipedia, a lot of the participants do it voluntarily next to their day-job.

The role of us as vj in this, is the same as the role of all the others. We have our own goals, but on the short-term we are just helping to make one party a success. We are just another parameter in the algorithm. But it doesn’t feel like that, because we’re too busy playing and having fun. And that’s exactly why it works. I don’t need any consultation for that.

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cover from Masters of Rietveld: Dutch Design from the 21st CenturyMASTERS OF RIETVELD

SAT. 27|10 | 2007 at 20 : 00h

Yesterday the graduation of the Sandberg Institute was held at Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam. Together with the presentations of the graduates it was also the launch of the book ‘Masters of Rietveld: Dutch Design in the 21st Century’, made by Coralie Vogelaar to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Sandberg Institute. The book is 388 pages and contains 2500 pictures. It shows the work of designers that graduated from Sandberg, which are linked to each other through work that already exists ordered by form.

page from Masters of Rietveld: Dutch Design from the 21st Century
page from Masters of Rietveld: Dutch Design from the 21st Century

It illustrates the fact that “we live amid a flood of superficial images whose original points of reference have disappeared”. She invites the reader, or rather viewer, along the path of recognition that she has made, while making the book. Fragments of popular culture (e.g. Madonna) are next to haute couture. And images of are followed up by an image that brings you back to your childhood (e.g. Spirograph).The pictures parody, criticize and resemble each other. This shows a copy+paste world that goes beyond the design world. It’s everywhere. And you had to be shut off of society if you don’t recognize a single image in the whole book. Except for the fact that it’s a nice book, this type of book is nothing new as well. Something like Taschen thrives on this fact, by publishing books filled with nothing but images. Coralie recognizes this fact and mentions three other examples of where she has seen these type of books before. This just illustrates the point she’s trying to make. She’s is well aware of what has been done and this is probably why this book works. Making no judgement calls, just showing it as she sees it.

From an academic perspective (New Media Studies), you could say a lack of originality forms a pitfall here (as well). If you look for instance at Wikipedia (not implying that this is an academic environment, just using it to make a point); the main reason given, if an article isn’t up to the standards, is the lack of references being made in the article. This is a fundamental rule in the academic world, making references to other work is not only preferred. It is compulsory. But within an area as new as New Media Studies, don’t we have to be on the lookout that we don’t put too much weight on what has been written. Or let me put that in other words, to stay critical at what is being written in this field. Every essay does add something, but is it new? And so much is already being copy+pasted, even at universities in general that students have to admit their papers to online sites like Turnitin to check it for plagiarism. The net has become a flood of superficial texts as well as images. It is no more the case of what is true or not, but is it relevant? Just like Coralie did with her book, she believes that the designers task is not so much to make new original images as to give new meaning to the bombardment of images around us. It is time for the academic world to acknowledge this fact (for text that is) as well, and reflect on it. And you have to be informed to stay critical. So stop reading and start scanning.

I would like to point out that this post wasn’t written out of discontent about the literature within new media studies, it just made me think.

20:00 uur Welcome by Mieke Gerritzen (head Sandberg Instituut design dept.)
+ Graduation presentations by: Amir Admoni, Teun Castelein, Hendrik-Jan Grievink, Ruben van Leer, Ogül Oz, Ricardo Portilho, Jessy Rietdijk, Dima Stefanova en Coralie Vogelaar
21:30 uur Bookpresentation ‘Masters of Rietveld: Dutch Design in the 21st Century’ made by Coralie Vogelaar + borrel
22:00 uur Reaction on the graduation by the commitee
22:20 uur Party
01:00 uur End

Tracy Metz, author/editor NRC Handelsblad
Max Bruinsma, design editor and curator
Marten Jongema, curator presentation and exhibitions Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Rob Schröder, designer/moviemaker and teacher Sandberg Institute

Skypephone A nice addition to previous posts on this blog by Laura en Daphne on ‘skype alternatives’, here a pro-skype announcement. Today, mobile phone company 3 unveiled its Skypephone, which supports free calls over the internet with the use of Skype. Here a summary of some pros and cons from the web:


  • Guardian Unlimited: “3, owned by Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, will use its own mobile network to carry VoIP (voice-over-internet protocol) calls. This should mean the service is better quality than mobile VoIP calls that are carried over the public internet.”
  • CNN: ” 3’s U.K. Chief Executive Kevin Russell said that due to the cheap pricing of the phone, he hopes to make internet telephony more appealing to the mass market.”


  • ITPro: “unlike the traditional Skype service, the Skypephone does not allow users to make cheap global calls to other phone numbers.” This contradicts however what Frank Sixt, finance director of 3-owner Hutchison Whampoa, told reporters: “(…) the phone’s non-Skype tariffs were the same as on its other phones, with call minutes and texts priced the same way, and the phone will have a special Skype button” (
  • ITPro: “In order to qualify for Skype calls, customers will need to top up their account with at least ё10 each month, or be on a contract.
  • Both callers need to have a Skype account and software. Of course this is free downloadable, but “alternatively they can create a Skype account directly from their 3 Skypephone”(press release).
  • Will Skype by phone keep all of its original Skype-features? Of course I cannot answer this question yet, for you have to use it to find this out. But already on the forum of 3skypephone questions like “Is it possible to have group calls via the new skypephone?” are asked.
  • The extinction of the word ‘phone’. Although this isn’t a result of just the Skypephone, it does showcase why by its supported features: Free Skype, Facebook, 3MusicStore, Yahoo! Search, Google Search, Google YouTube, Google Mail, Games and eBay. The phone of the future isn’t a phone anymore, it’s a personalized computer. And the consequences for the service providers themselves is well put in the CNN article: ” If 3 customers make phone calls via Skype, Hotmail for messaging, Google for search and YouTube for television, the operator could be undermining its position as a service provider, said Delaney. “What do you need your mobile operator for? The answer could turn out to be: subsidising phones, carrying data packets, and dealing with problems and complaints. Does that add up to an attractive business?” questioned Delaney.”

images.jpgZaadz is a social network in two senses: first of all it is a social network like MySpace or Hyves because people can communicate share and many other things on this site if they have an account. The difference with Zaadz is that it also has this other social network meaning: it is social in the sense that it is concerned for others. These others can be interpreted in a very broad manner because you can be concerned for other cultures, for the environment and for any animal of your choice. The mission of Zaadz is to make the world a better place in every sense and it’s motto is: “Zaadz: Connect. Grow. Inspire. Empower.”
The name comes from the dutch word for seed which is zaad, which is used to imply the idea of growth. Why there is the additional ‘z’ is not mentioned and nor why the dutch language is chosen for this great honour.
It is clear that this site differs from other social networks because it has set a purpose for itself: it wants more than the ‘meaningless’ connection that Hyves offers.
This is an admirable idea but it achieves little more than connecting people that share this goal. The site gives away an ‘alternative hippie’ feeling but perhaps that is not the right way to describe it. In dutch the right name for it is ‘geitenwollensokken’ but there is no English word for that as far as I know.
When you become a member at Zaadz you have to give yourself a title. If it is hard to imagine what this title may be a few examples are given such as Philosopher or Thinker. Also, at Hyves it is possible to join a ‘Hyve’ and at Zaadz there are ‘ideas’ and ‘goals’ that can be joined. Another very lovely part of the Zaadz page is that if you have no ‘friends’ at Zaadz it still says on your page: You have many friends! 0 of them are here at Zaadz. Everything about the site is very nice, very lovely and very sweet. The goals however are being talked about but no action comes from it as far as I’ve seen on the page: the world changing has yet to be taken place. I asked about this on a forum but unfortunately there was no answer. Next to that it is not always that easy to find your way through the site but that is no different from other networks like Hyves in my opinion. The basics of social networks are all there at Zaadz: a blog, a possibility to share photos and videos, to chat with others, etc.

It is nice that there are other sites that people use, other than the monopolies in this area; MySpace worldwide and Hyves on a smaller more regional scale. What is important for some may not be for others and the possibilities at Hyves are different from the ones at Zaadz, looking from the visual perspective. Zaadz is different because its network is more homogeneous, all it’s members share a certain ideology. Hyves and MySpace are for everyone, Zaadz is for everyone who cares about the world and wants to talk about it. I will probably not become an active member of Zaadz because it is too idealistic for me. It gives me an itchy feeling because the site makes me laugh but I feel I shouldn’t because the intentions are so good.

It is a lovely site because it is nice to see people care, to see the pure idealism it is about. It would be nice if something practical came from it but nevertheless it is no doubt a nice place for idealistic idealists.

A web 2.0 review in Twitter-style:


In order to get some experience using a new media tool, I experimented with the Wikiscanner a bit.

Ofcourse I had to see the changes made by Mabel Wisse Smit for myself. I figured it would be a bit unclear, but I was quite amazed by the fact that it actually said ‘Koninklijk Paleis Huis Ten Bosch’ .[1]

And ofcourse the changes made by Shell were really funny as well. Changing their position from ‘a major British-Dutch [[energy]] company’ to ‘the best [[energy]] company in the world’ .[2]

Expecting to do an amazing discovery myself I scanned every potentially controversial person, company and organization. After scanning for a couple of hours I was pretty disappointed to not do a great discovery myself. If I was famous enough to have my own Wikipedia-page I guess I would definitely have edited it myself.

However I was quite surprised at the amount of information available connecting the ‘virtual’ to the ‘real’ world. Trying to connect anonymous IP-adresses to a real life adress myself I used the Whois for the first time. Whois is: ‘a TCP-based query/response protocol which is widely used for querying a database in order to determine the owner of a domain name, an IP address, or an autonomous system number on the Internet.’ [3]

It was really amazing to see how much information is available online. I guess most people aren’t aware of the fact that all the information is going to be freely available when they fill in the form to request a domainname.

I tried a couple of URL’s on the dutch ‘Stichting Internet Domeinregistratie Nederland (SIDN)’ of websites owned by friends of mine, and discovered there was more personal information to be found there than in the Dutch online version of the phonebook and the Yellow Pages put together: home address, mobile phone number and e-mail.

Despite the fact that I didn’t find anything shocking using the Wikiscanner, it turned out to be quite a revelation anyway.

After the talk Alex Galloway gave on The Game of War Rosie asked him to give us an introduction to Protocol, which is key literature for one of our courses. This is the first spontaneously organized event by Geeks for World Domination aka g4wd. Anne has made a great post related to her thesis topic and I cover the session we had.

Did we somewhere switch internets?
The perfect Saturday morning is getting up a little too early, cycling to the Crea2 building at University of Amsterdam and attend a spontaneously organized meeting with Alex Galloway. After setting up our laptops, opening up a skype video chat with one of our mom-mers who was unfortunately out of the country but wouldn’t want to miss it, the meeting started. Michael opened up the conversation by introducing two contradictory notions of the internet. The 80s expression of “information wants to be free” is followed ten years later with the “great firewall of china.” Did we somewhere switch internets? Or is there something inherent in the medium for both to exist at the same time? At the basis of Galloway’s book is the technical infrastructure of the internet, which includes both these opposing logics. In fact, it was exactly this opposition that made him curios about how power works on the internet when he learned how to program in 1996 at Rhizhome. The then dominant idea that networks get around everything (for instance censorship) and the “information wants to be free” expression struck him as very utopian. If this is so, how is it possible that at the same time big power structures such as the US military and Microsoft are adopting this new system? Taking the technical architecture of the internet that is publicly documented in Requests for Comments (RFCs) protocols as his corpus, Foucault and Deleuze‘s writings on power as conceptual foundation, this eventually led to his Phd and later on published as the book Protocol.

Panopticon and rhizome
In this introduction to Protocol the main focus was on how power is distributed through the internet. Especially how this relates to ideas of power from Foucault and Deleuze. Foucault developed his theory of disciplines that are the dominant form of power in the 18th and 19th century by studying institutions such as the church and the school. Deleuze’s short but influential piece Postscript on Control Societies claims Foucault’s disciplinary societies are over, control societies taking its place. Galloway says Foucault didn’t live long enough to fully theorize into the 20th century, although his ideas on biopower are a start and currently very popular among scholars. Deleuze did live long enough to develop his theory. Where Panopticon served as a blue print or diagram for disciplinary societies, control societies have the rhizome. However, Deleuze didn’t study the rhizome as extensively as Foucault did with the Panopticon.

Galloway asks in Protocol, do we actually know how flat rizhomes work? Like Foucault did with Bentham’s architectural plan of the Panopticon, he further developed and matured the concept of the rhizome by taking the very technical architecture of the internet as his archive. The internet is built up of different layers and protocols that each govern specific parts of the internet. Important in thinking about the physical technology of the internet is that it is constituted by a bi-level logic. On the one hand protocols such as Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) enable the internet to create horizontal distributions of information from one computer to the other (rhizomatic). On the other, the Domain Name System (DNS) vertically stratifies that horizontal logic through a set of regulatory bodies that manage internet addresses and names (panoptic). Although an important difference with the Panopticon is that there are no central bosses like police or prison guards on the net, the Domain Name System is managed by a central body, ICANN. Following this line of thought, the architecture of the internet can’t be seen as purely rhizomatic, but also incorporates some Panoptic features. This is what creates a dialectical tension which defines the net and makes notions of “information wants to be free” as well as the “great firewall of china” possible in the same net.

The social built in protocol
Anne remarks that in her research on blog software she has found that although blog comments are distributed, there are forces that want them to be centralized. Take the comment aggregator Software like this is developed to centralize distributed comments which seems to be in contrast with the logic of the net from the perspective of the rhizome. Should an extra layer be considered on the net? Maybe an extra social layer?

Galloway replies to this by stating that this has changed since his book was published in 2004. There is a tension between the flat distributed mode of the rhizome and a coalescing power. A power that aims at bringing things back together. This tension can also be found in Google for example. Google is both highly distributed and coalescing, massifying and centralized at the same time. The question whether another more social layer that governs software should be considered relates to questions addressing the extent to which the social is built into technology. In his research into RFCs he came across a variety of protocols. TCP/IP are the most important ones and very technical. The subset of RFCs, such as RFC FYI (informational) and RFC BCP (Best Common Practices) are however about ethics. These social ethics are therefore also built into the architecture of the net. These RFCs are therefore very tangible examples of where the social is built into technology.

Michael takes this line of thought a step further by moving away from technical protocols instead focusing on purely social protocols on the net. As an example he takes Wikipedia. Wikipedia works because of policy, which can be seen as social protocols. He elaborated on the effective functioning of Wikipedia by referring to articles made by mom-mers such as spinplant. Protocols, technical or social, can be seen as these empty boxes which serve as wrappers for the content within it. Wikipedia’s empty box is its universal knowledge goal which puts an enormous prohibition on what you can write. The stylistics of Wikipedia social protocols is what you have to engage in.

Protocol as creative power
Galloway agrees protocols are the major standards ever. This radical standardization is however also progressive. It is universalization and standardization but at the same time not at expense of the specific. That’s not how protocol works. Control is often thought about in negative terms. The contribution Deleuze made, however, is that control is not about erecting walls, not about prohibition. Rather about taking down walls and creating freedom. The free way metaphor serves as an example, it allows you to drive but also within rules. You could drive on the grass but is not in your interest, it is slow etc. In short control is a system of incentives. Thinking about power not only as internalized discipline, which is about prohibition, repression, but also as expressive, being creative. That’s why protocols aren’t necessarily evil, there’s also a lot of progressive power that has totally gone into the rhizome, coexisting with other models. Think for example about politically progressive software development such as p2p.

Thinking about protocological power in this way made him move to play and immaterial labor in his book Gaming: Essays On Algorithmic Culture. He didn’t think of that in Protocol. The new metaphor is surfing: on the surface, push, maneuver a little, tweak. Other media are good at fixing, games are good at making rules, but within the rules many things are possible. It is again this contradiction, openness and closeness. This is what we call a model, or simulation, worlds, this is the new dominant media format.

Last question
Do you have any tips? Yes, don’t read Protocol, read The Exploit: A Theory of Networks. The Exploit is the recently published 2.0 version of Protocol and we placed a batch order right after this spontaneous and inspiring meeting.

Like blogging about cats, gadgets, or iThinkthereisyetanotherappleproducttoblogabout, another one of the most popular blog-phenomena can be found in the celebrity gossip corner. In contrast to the paper tabloids these weblogs can be way faster with the latest gossip and are generally more sarcastic. I will bring forth 4 different digital tabloids and introduce all of them before concluding on the differences and similarities. Between brackets is the Technorati listing and below the title is the description of the website according to the owners.

What Would Tyler Durden Do? (nr. 549)
“What Would Tyler Durden Do? (WWTDD) is a blog focused on bringing you the latest gossip and news about rich and famous celebrities. And then making fun of them. Why? Because fuck them, that’s why.”

WWTDD is a blog with fast new items which feature suggestive titles accompanied by large photos of the celebrity in question, or a close-up of a bodypart of that same celebrity. Examples of headlines are: “Jennifer Lopez is a pain in the ass”, “This ho has nog legs” and “Paris love jesus, drinking, climbing.” Popular victims include Britney, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson and any other popculture Hollywood darlings, which he gives their own nicknames like El Chupacabre (Nicole Richie) and freckletits (Lindsey Lohan) The website is the product of a guy named Brendon Donnelly and he supplies every blog entry with his own personal opinion, for instance:

It’s with no small amount of pride that I mention I’ve hated Dane Cook since the first minute I saw him. He’s always sucked, he’s never been funny. This dude couldn’t make me laugh unless he got me high and tickled my feet while puppies licked my face. And before anyone defends him, watch the video Best Week Ever put together for Danes new single. You read that right, by the way. Dane sings. Not only that, but he sings some emo cry baby nonsense. All he’s missing is eyeliner and a heart filled with doom. This couldn’t be any gayer unless he sang it with capri pants on and some snakeskin boots with little bells on the tips.

The user comments show that the site is visited by regulars and they know the blog and the other users well and have the tendency to post multiple time on a single blog post. With an average 100+ comments to each blog post it seems a like a well read blog.

The Superficial (nr. 61)
“The Superficial is a brutally honest look at society and its obsession with the superficial. It is not satire. It is not social commentary. It is the voice of our society at its worst. It is first impressions without sense of social obligation. It is the truth of our generation. It is ugly racism. It is jealousy. It is honest…Just kidding. Our goal is to make fun of as many people as possible.”

The Superficial is the former employer of Brendon from WWTDD, who was the main writer there, and it’s easy to see where they got each others writing style from. Not only the style but the threads are similar as well, same subjects same witty comments and absolutely no problem to show what they think of Hollywood. With a name like this they have to NOT be subtle in their tone of voice and here’s an example to show that they absolutely have no problem to live up to that expectation:

Sweet mother of Jebus, Britney Spears doesn’t have a driver’s license? How is that even possible? I mean, I’m not surprised, but how did it take the authorities this long to figure it out? You’d think they would’ve cracked the case when she was caught driving with her baby on her lap, or when she had her baby seat strapped in the wrong way, or basically every time she has ever been behind the wheel ever. I could blindfold a monkey, punch it in the head, and throw it in a car and it’d end up driving better than Britney Spears. Probably take better care of her children too.

As with WWTDD the Superficial also targets on the bad behavior of spoiled celebrities and as said before they are strikingly similar. The only real difference is that The Superficial is bigger and launched spin-off sites targeted at gadgets and movies which make use of the same tone of voice.

TMZ (nr. 11)
“Named one of the year’s 50 coolest websites by Time magazine, TMZ- a joint venture between Telepictures Productions and AOL- has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence by breaking the biggest stories in entertainment. From Mel Gibson’s DUI arrest and subsequent encounter with law enforcement to Michael Richards’ ill-fated trip to the Laugh Factory to the breakup of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline’s marriage, TMZ dominates the entertainment news landscape by changing the way the public gets their news.”

Tmz is definitely one of the weblogs which bares the most resemblance with the paper counterparts, it’s more formal and calls itself an entertainment news source rather than a gossip weblog. It’s more diverse in their choice of celebrities, not as sharp and biting as the Superficial or WWTDD. Which is logical, because TMZ is owned by AOL. Comments on TMZ vary between the occasional “first post,” celebrity-support comments and sarcastic reactions.

Perez Hilton (nr. 13)
“He is the Internet’s most devilish gossip columnist. He currently resides in Manhattan with his pet poodle Mariel. His signature colors are blush and bashful. His favorite drink is a Viagra Martini, and his motto is “I’m gay, but I’m not as big a slut as Paris.” He loves animals, enemas and animus.”

Again a one man blog, the creator Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr. is one of the most notorious celebrity bloggers. The tone of voice is not as bitey as the first two blogs, but he does have a very distinct style, it sounds a lot more queer than comparable sites such as WWTDD. The imagery he uses to support his blogposts are accompanied by MS Paint styled drawings, which are mostly added arrows and penises. The style, the writing and the images are all over-the-top gay which gives the same old news a different feel.


Celebrity gossip blogs have got a diverse audience and are not as dependend on their publishers as paper tabloids, that said, they can be a lot sharper and bitchier than the normal gossip magazines. TMZ is the one which has the same content and tone of voice as the tabloids magazines, the only advantage that the blog has over the paper equivalent is that it probably costs less and is more up-to-date. The Superficial, WWTDD and Perez Hilton are in my eyes real sarcastic internet blogs. They know how to appeal the internet audience and entertain the visitors with (sometimes) hilarious posts about (almost always) non-news. The news is quite similar on most of the sites, same with paper tabloids, so the style really makes the difference. Being quite similar in style, The Superficial and WWTDD actually complement each other, it’s entertaining how eacht of the blogs manage to write something funny about the same news. If you are looking for a more screamish and camp weblog, Perez Hilton is here to satisfy your needs.

Socially speaking gossip magazines are located at the bottom of what is considered decent, but that doesn’t mean that a lot of these blogs are located on the top of the Technorati ranking. Due to the fact that people can limitedly and anonymously access these sources without having to fysically buy tabloids, celebrity gossip is still very popular. Especially in it’s digital form, it is able to entertain very diverse audiences without the costs of having to print expensive magazines. Welcome to the new dirt!

p.s. This article is a real spam magnet as I have experienced on my own site, sorry for that…

načechrané obláčky and Flebb is the kick-off video for my new ‘one video a week’-project, that I started together with Extraboy.
načechrané obláčky and Flebb is a response to the Video Vortex conference MOM attended last month, in Brussels. In this conference Adrian Miles talked about YouTube, and all video distributing sites on the web. In his talk, Miles main issues were, as Michael put it in a post one month ago:

“Where does an online video end – at what point is it ‘complete’? Are those limits imposed by technology or are they lingering clichés of narrative form (as opposed to Manovich’s ‘database’)? Can online video be imagined differently, outside the frames of cinema and TV?”

Please let both videos load completely before watching them.

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Miles wants to rethink video. According to him, online video distributing sites will only have a future if they make their content granular; tagging scenes and shots, linking between them and in so doing making it easy to remix content at the level of the smallest possible unit. He wants to open up a space that he calls soft video.

Because blip (the video distribution site I use) or any other video distributing website doesn’t incorporate the options that make soft video possible, I wanted to try if there are other ways to get closer to at least some sense of granularity. načechrané obláčky and Flebb is my experiment.

načechrané obláčky and Flebb is a music video consisting of two separate screens. One, (the upper) screen is linear and synced with the music. The second, lower screen is a random video that can be remixed or scratched by the viewer, using the timeline as a tagging system.
načechrané obláčky and Flebb doesn’t realize Miles’ soft video. But it might be a start for thinking through options for getting there.

načechrané obláčky and Flebb.
Music made by Extraboy.
Video by Rosa Menkman.


Besides playing games, one of the greatest pleasures would be watching other people’s expressions while playing games. When people are playing games they totally forget to how look normal and start showing their real emotions. What is more fun than watching people who forget that they are being watched? That’s also what Philip Toledano was thinking when he made this series of photos:

Game faces by Philip Toledano

Game faces by Philip Toledano Game faces by Philip Toledano Game faces by Philip Toledano Game faces by Philip Toledano Game faces by Philip Toledano Game faces by Philip Toledano

Yesterday I watched some of my friends play against each other on the Nintendo Wii, which is even more fun considering the gamefaces come with frantic arm gestures and physical exhaustion afterwards.

Honestly if you do not like gaming, try second-hand gaming!

Course Description

Protocol Chapters 1 and 2: Physical Media, and Form
By Felice Plijter

Presentation on Protocol Chapter 1 and 2

Protocol Chapter 3: Power
By Erik Borra

Presentation on Protocol Chapter 3: Power

Protocol Chapter 4: Institutionalization
By Paulien Dresscher

Presentation on Protocol Chapter 4: Insitutionalization

Protocol Chapter 5: Hacking
By Maarten van Sprang

Presentation on Protocol Chapter 5: Hacking

Protocol Chapter 6: Tactical Media
by Carolien van der Vorst

Presentation on Protocol Chapter 6: Tactical Media

Protocol Chapter 7: Internet Art

Control and Freedom Chapter 1: Why Cyberspace?
By Fleur Dujardin

Presentation on Control and Freedom Chapter 1: Why Cyberspace?

Control and Freedom Chapter 1+2
By Bas Bisseling, Daphne Ben Shachar, Fleur Dujardin

Presentation on Control and Freedom Chapter 1+2

Chun, pp. 129-245 (chapter 2 and 3)
by Laura, Rikus and Tjerk.
Presentation chun chapter 2 and 3

Chun, pp. 247-302 (chapter 5)
by Piet, Rosa & Minke

Presentation Chun chap.5

Course Description

Week 2 (14-09) – Thinking Machines or Machines to Think With?

Vannevar Bush, ‘As We May Think’ (1945), pp. 35-48.
by Paulien Dresscher

Douglas Engelbart. ‘Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework’ (1962), pp. 93-109.
by Tjerk Timan

Norbert Wiener. ‘Men, Machines, and the World About’ (1954), pp. 65-72.
by Carolien van der Vorst

Presentation on Alan Turing, ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ (1950), pp. 49-65.
by Erik Borra

Week 3 (21-09)Culture and Computers

Presentation on William S. Burroughs ‘The Cut-up Method of Brion Gysin’ (1963), pp. 89-93.
by Bas Bisseling

Presentation on ‘Sketchpad’ by Ivan Sutherland (1963), pp.109-126; due to technical aspect of the article , I made use of a movie instead of using a ppt. Movie can be found here. by Minke Kampman

Week 5 (05-10)Van tekst naar dynamische structuren

Paul Fournel. ‘Computer and Writer: The Centre Pompidou Experiment’ (1981)
by Paulien Dresscher

Roy Ascott. ‘The Construction of Change'(1964)
by Fleur Dujardin

Week 6 (12-10)Media en mediatheoriën, Massamedia of Informatietechnologie?

Jean Baudrillard. ‘Requiem for the Media’ (1972), pp. 277-288.
by Paulien Dresscher

Guy Debord. ‘Theory of the Dérive’
by Tjerk Timan

Hans Magnus Enzensberger. ‘Constituents of a Theory of the Media’ (1970), pp.259-275. . Summary
by Minke Kampman

Week 7 (19-10)Van desktop naar aardappels

Weizenbaum. ‘Computer Power and Human Reason (1976), pp.367
by Laura

Negroponte. ‘Soft Architecture Machines’ (1975), pp.353. PDF
by Minke Kampman

Week 8 (02-11) – Mens-machine-interactie

Presentation on Gilles Deleuze. Society of Control (1998)
by Erik Borra

Week 9 (09-11)Mens als machine

Presentation on Donna Haraway. ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’ (1985), pp. 515-542
by Bas Bisseling

Sherry Turkle. ‘Video Games and Computer Holding Power’ (1984), pp.499
by Minke Kampman

Week 10 (16-11)Staging Interaction

two by laurel presentation
by Tjerk Timan

Bill Nichols.’The Work of Culture in the Age of Cybernetics'(1988)
by Fleur Dujardin

Week 11 (23-11)Transforming Culture(s)

Negroponte: A Laptop for Every Kid Wired News, 17 nov. 2005.
by Carolien van der Vorst

by Laura

Langdon Winner. ‘Mythinformation’ (1986), pp.587
by Minke Kampman

Week 12 (30-11)Parallel Universes

by Rikus Wegman

Week 13 (07-12)Revolution, evolution, or what?

J. David Bolter. ‘Seeing and Writing’ (1991), pp. 679-690.
presentation by Tjerk Timan

The Internet, the city, and recently augmented space are flooded with disinformation, meaningless images, contrasting interpretations, unreliable sources and corporate spam. Public space is filled with images that consequently construct, direct and control our reality. Attempts to countervail, reform and improve should start at roots of our society; our children. Knowing how to acquire the appropriate information lays at the basis of survival. Society has changed in fundamental ways, the world’s wealth has been drastically redistributed, and individuality and locality are drowning in a pool of homogeneity. Finding your way around is essential; knowing how the key.

In 2005 the Locative Media department of Waag Society developed a mobile learning game, in which “students are transported to the medieval Amsterdam of 1550 via a medium that’s familiar to this age group: the mobile phone”. Frequency 1550 took place again in June 2007. The game uses 3G cell phones and network to allow students to compete in finding answers to questions about the old city of Amsterdam, for history class excursion and assignment. Frequency 1550 explores the social potential of location-aware devices, inspired by the use of tracking technology and wireless media, human relationships, movement and identity; the project seeks to extend and re-appropriate the functions of locative technologies by exploring ways in which they can be socially constructive and facilitate new dynamics to occur within everyday school life. Children are taught to look beyond city facades, interact socially and technically, and move through the city in new ways.

Frequency 1550 is an annotation of the current transition of social and traveling space, moreover, it is concerned with the medium and plays with its possibilities, ultimately shaping and advancing it. Frequency 1550 is, like Internet art, formed by commercial interests. Corporate minded sponsors, such as phone providers and cell phone producers, are constantly seeking how to control the market. Projects such Frequency 1550 are an ideal way of testing commercial applications and practices. Furthermore, introducing cell phones in the domain of education, as Frequency 1550 intends, offers a new market, one which is able to acquire governmental sponsoring as well as annex potential customers at an early age. Likewise, the city is used as testing ground for creative, commercial and governmental institutions to assess flaws and threats.

However, there are many problems regarding usability, expense, network stability and game design. Frequency 1550 is most certainly not the first Locative Media project that is constrained by the limitations of the available technology. Central in the game play is the challenge of roaming the environment while deciphering the presented information on a miniature screen and interacting with the device through a bad designed cell phone keyboard (in ten years it probably will be considered ridiculous to use your thumb to text messages on a 10 button keyboard). Furthermore, at this commencing stage the mobile network, the Bluetooth and GPS connection, and communication to a central server are simply not advanced enough to separate the world and the presented scenario. These barriers make it almost impossible to engage with the plot and temporarily escape from reality. Frequency 1550 does not go beyond positioning; engagement is limited to location, not its context. Of course the project is not only about concentrating context in a coordinate point, nor is the project merely about gaining greater understanding of place through the cell phone screen. Frequency 1550 is not a museum or digital touring guide; the focus is on opening up spaces of play through in which context may be discovered.

Frequency 1550 is protocological in many ways; besides the technical protocols enabling communication and information visualization, the users are presented a scenario that directs and narrates the city. The project differs from an ordinary excursion or contemporary artistic practices because the users are voluntarily engaged in the situation whilst following a set of rules. These rules instruct historical facts, social interaction, coordination and navigation. The children are stimulated to actively participate in the ‘lesson’ – and this is generally different in a disciplinary form of education. Currently the University of Utrecht and the University of Amsterdam are collaborating with Waag Society to research the learning effects of learning games. Furthermore Frequency 1550 aptly demonstrates the dominant presence of the control society. Disciplinary institutions, such as schools, are crumbling down and turned over to a more pervasive form of training that uses both the privacy intrusive technology and also the corporate means.


The concept of “the overman” (Ubermensch) is one of the most significant ideas in the thinking of Friedrich Nietzsche. He plead for more individualism in stead of being “one of the crowd”.

Nowadays society is a so called “individualistic society”, everything moves around the individual itself. But is it still? Besides the individualistic appearance lies the upcoming network society. Is it still so individualistic as they say? Social networks are more popular then ever, and can social networks be seen as something individualistic or is it more a dualism? One man isn’t a network right, individuals should cooperate together in order to get a network started.

The Ubermensch thought of by Nietszche is totally independent and makes his own decisions on what’s good or not; he doesn’t allow religion or society to determine it for him. Nietszche thought of the Ubermensch as a creation of his own world, the idea of “will to power”.

In todays society everything seems “choosable” but isn’t it really all about suiting the protocols? Protocols of society, internet and/or religion. Or speaking in terms of Michel Foucault, confirm ourselves to “normal” human behaviour?

The “control” isn’t what it was before, is more loosened up. It’s not all about the institutionalized society anymore. The government relies on the responsibility of the citizen itself, his own Norms and Values and that of society itself. In that case, society is still based on individualism. But as it comes to the working society or social society it’s a network society. So basically it’s both?

Maybe the definition of “individualism” changed in time?

The Ubermensch doesn’t place himself above others, he will never help his fellow man out of responsibility or sense of duty, but out of compassion. Everybody is equal and deserves a change to develop themselves as good as possible.

The Networkmensch is, as mentioned above, both individualistic and at the same time focused to work together. He’s involved in society, both online and offline. Nietszsche plead for more individualism in stead of being “one of the crowd”. But the Networkmensch wants both. He wants to be individualistic, independent and at the same time wants to be one of the crowd, one of the network society.

“Sometimes, the complex human-machine constructions are intentional. Often they are the emergent result of aggregating a large number of individual interactions. And occasionally they are both.” [Rheingold: 32]

Online cooperation has become one of the fastest developping areas of the web 2.0. Many of the ways in which we can currently cooperate online have not been foreseen by it’s developpers. According to Rheingold the protocol designers built an architectural freedom into the Internet, because they suspected the users would think of uses that they couldn’t imagine yet. [Rheingold: 32]

This architectural freedom gives the users the opportunity to find solutions for their own problems. Ironically, it oftentimes solves problems that have arisen due to the fact that everyone is now able to contribute to the web.

Take for example Slashdot. Slashdot has ‘invented’ a system that specifically solves a problem that has arisen due to the fact that everybody is now able to publish. As described earlier, a system had to be developped to make sure the good comments weren’t lost in a sea of average or bad comments. Not very new anymore, but still going strong, Slashdots moderation system is still exemplary to online cooperation.

Slashdot needed to be able to create a reputation for it’s users. In our day-to-day lives, we have a sense of who to trust and whose remarks to ignore. After years of experience in dealing with people, we are able to rely on our instincts in judging people. If we meet new people, very often his or her reputation plays part in our judgement. It hardly ever happens that we have to cooperate with someone we don’t have any background information on.

In the online world however, we meet people who seem to be completely without background all the time. Due to the fact that anyone can take on an unlimited number of aliases, it is very difficult to establish a sense of who we are dealing with and how reliable their contributions are.

The problem that Slashdot had to solve was how to give it’s users a way to rebuild this reputation in the virtual world. It does so by giving the users ‘karma’. Each comment is rated and the better your comments are rated, the better your reputation gets. This way we are able to get a sense of a persons reputation and reliability. This is important because:

Trust increases the value of a market. [Rheingold: 55]

Howard Rheingold. Technologies of Cooperation. In: Geert Lovink & Trebor Scholz, eds. The Art Of Free Cooperation. Institute of Network Cultures, 2007.

While traveling through networks she discovered she existed. Then one day somebody committed burglary into her brain. Her shell was cracked and she became one of those people with hacked souls. She thought she had seen it all, but now she was a cyborg with a parallel memory.
She must be a decompression.

When everything around you changes it is so hard to stay yourself.

Inspired by Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995), which we saw this week because of our class reading of Chun’s Control and Freedom (2006). And because of Skype.

Cross posted on Sunshine in my Throat.

Although it should still be ratified by national parliaments, today the Lisbon Treaty was signed by all EU countries. Interestingly enough, there is a clause which allows EU citizens, upon collecting a minimum of one million signatures, to invite the Commission to submit a legislative proposal. ((Constitution, Article I-47.4: “Not less than one million citizens coming from a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Constitution. A European law shall determine the provisions for the procedures and conditions required for such a citizens’ initiative, including the minimum number of Member States from which they must come”.))

Also today, for the first time in Dutch history, the Dutch parliament similarly debated a citizens’ initiative, ‘Stop fout vlees‘ (‘Stop Wrong Meat’). For a Dutch citizen initiative to be debated there need to be at least 40.000 signatures (although there were 106.000 signatures, the proposal was rejected).

Some websites have cleverly jumped into this area by providing platforms to set up email campaigns. Take for example the new This site allows everyone to set up an email campaign as long as its content does not violate the Dutch constitution. This way there is an easy to use interface to quickly send thousands of personal emails to the politicians concerned. With a simple Google query one can find more of these systems. Future EU and current Dutch legislation, in combination with these systems thus provide citizens with a way to “press the legislative button”.

Today I came across the extremely original search site Baigoogledu. They claim to combine the search results of both Google and Baidu. Sounds nice but does it work? Yes, after punching in a search term it shows the results in a split screen. Unfortunately it is not available in English yet. I think this site can be helpfull for for example a comparative research on search engines.


<update> For our Dutch readers, also check goeiemoogle, another google spoof – Pieter-Paul (added: 19/12/07) </update>