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<nettime> The Corpse that Kicked: The Digital City Seven Years Later
Patrice Riemens on 13 Jan 2001 00:33:10 -0000


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<nettime> The Corpse that Kicked: The Digital City Seven Years Later


The Corpse that Kicked. The Digital City Seven Years Later.


In three days time, Amsterdam' s famous Digital City will have been  exactly
seven years in existence.  Usually, this anniversary is the occasion of a
festive gathering (a regrettable infestations of 'suits' in recent years
notwithstanding) in the august and 'grand canal' located Felix Meritis (of
1789) Academy premises, but up to now, invitations have not yet been
forthcoming.  But then the Digital City has been gravely under the weather of
late, and rumours over its impending demise have gathered momentum.

Its afflictions, indeed, were not benign. What had been a living monument of  a
networked community in construction, a laboratory of social experiments in the
digital age, had slowly, and in recent times, frighteningly  fast, fallen on
hard times. The commercialisation of the Net, the explosion of the number of
people and organisations on-line, but also the relentless advances in
technology, bandwidth, and application ranges had not been kind to what had
once begun as a temporary experiment to familiarise with the opportunities of
communication offered by the then still fledgling (public) Internet. 

Plagued by various problems and predicaments (which have been frequently 
discussed in Nettime), and lured by the opportunities and challenges the 'new 
economy' seemed to offer, the DDS management decided to go for an all-out 
commercialisation (and a management buy-out) in the beginning of 2000.  This 
entailed the transformation of the Digital City from a foundation into a 
registered company, with the goal to attract some serious investment from the 
market place. Alas, as the year went by the conjuncture turned ever more sour 
for e-business, and attempts to market the DDS as a whole failed.

The new owners then resorted, and where more successful at selling the DDS - 
which had been partitioned in four separate companies - in bits and pieces. The 
first to go was DDS-Ventures, which consisted of a sole, education related 
project, and it went to a specialised publisher. Then, the hosting part 
(DDS-Services) was sold to Energis (http://www.energis.co.uk/) with the staff 
going there. This left DDS holding with not much more than a run-of the mill 
web-design bureau (DDS-Projects), plus the 'community' of old, now renamed 
DDS-City Ltd, and its 80.000 (or 145.000, depending on the figures) inhabitants 
with their free mailboxes, homepages, and various activities.

This 'spending department' could only become an increasingly hopeless burden on 
the cash-strapped remainder of the DDS holding, and its management had already 
curtailed the editorial activities by December, thus folding up as a content 
provider. In a subsequent interview with a Dutch computer magazine, DDS 
(self-appointed) director and co-owner Joost Flint bluntly stated that 'tough
decisions' would have to be taken by the end of the month, and that this might
mean 'pulling the plug' on the DDS as we knew it. My premise was then that the
traditional DDS red letter day would be coloured black, and that the
anniversary would turn into a burial.

But now it seems that news about the death our beloved Digital City have been 
greatly exaggerated! In December already, one of its more active inhabitants, 
Reinder Rustema had started an initiative to self-rescue the DDS by its own 
users in the Dutch e-zine Smallzine. (http://www.smallzine.nl/   & goto DDS
forum). Over the past few days, the momentum has gathered tremendously, with
many inhabitants, but also former (and we may presume, disgruntled) employees
of DDS joining the fray. A mailing list  has been established (contact
powertothepeople {AT} dds.nl) and plans are a foot to set up a foundation (again!
;-), attract support, fish for subsidies, and get the community back on the
rails. Will a 'refounded'  DDS make digital history again, this time in the
form of a 'netizen take-over'? The prospects have never looked so good.  I am,
to quote cypherpunk Lucky Green, putting my money where my mouth is, and I
thereby pledge CHF 1000.- (One Thousand Swiss Francs) towards the realisation
of this initiative. I enjoin the members of the nettime community to engage
also and to express their support in the manner they think appropriate. Please
correspond with Reinder Rustema,  rrr {AT} dds.nl or myself,  patrice {AT} dds.nl 

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