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<nettime> calling all lurkers
Brian Holmes on Wed, 7 Jun 2006 22:40:30 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> calling all lurkers

It's fascinating, funny and welcome, to read the debates arising from
the efforts of that long list of people whom Tobias has named as the
movers, shakers and happening-makers of nettime's assymetrical 10th
birthday party. Wish I could've made it. Thought about it but it
proved impossible. Sounds like it was great.

For those whose "careers" allow them to live in small apartments,
nettime is basically the world in your bedroom. It's the nightcap of
delayed conversation which occasionally even gets a response, the
morning after or a few days later, or sometimes, years later in the
form of a mail, a telephone call and a visit. For me personally,
the "career" means that the apartment has expanded into the hotel
rooms, and, unfortunately, airplanes where I often spend the night,
in between those activities of dubious merit called "conferences"
aka "the rubber chicken guru circuit" (Kodwo Eshun's phrase). There
or at home, I read, amongst so many other things, whoever has been
courageous or shameless or unconscious enough to post something onto
this list. Lately a lesser flow than in the past, but whatever.

Despite the website I've developed with some friends, Nettime remains,
for me, the vehicle of choice for free distribution of what I write: a
way of sending it back to the cooperative flow it came out of, as well
as a place for some exchanges on politics and art and technology and
social movements. Free distribution of my kind of concept-crunching
may contribute to the "imposing" feeling that was talked about in
Montreal. It may also generate all kinds of more-or-less fantasmatic
ideas about the "careers" of certain people. This is the kind of
secret thought that each one of us has to deal with in their bedroom
when they're alone with their inner furnishings. But since the world
comes into our bedrooms, and what's more, as a conversation, this is a
theme that would be worth discussing a little more openly.

There are always at least 2 generations of nettime. The generation
before you got on the list, and yours. But 5 years from 1996 brings
us to 2001, which was not only the end of the tech-bubble but also
the turning-point of world politics. So there are probably also 2
generations of nettime: those who were active during the 5-year
boom, and during the "optimistic" phase of antiglobalization and
tactical media; and those who came later (or maybe just lurked
through). Through familiar patterns, those who were active during
the boom years with code and language and images - and with free
distribution - became "names" and through various kinds of insertion
into various institutions, so that some now enjoy what has been called
"careers." Whether in software development, the new media circuit, the
universities, the art circuit, or in the slipperier realm of general
media punditry, often associated with technology or social movements.

What this means must be relative to each one's position. Myself, I
have basically gone on doing what I always did, trying with some
difficulty to grasp the extreme changes and to find a language that
could make sense amidst them. The career thing is really a pretty
mixed bag. I admire those who are holding onto something interesting
on an institutional level. About a third of the events I participate
in as a panel-trotter have some connection to "new media" - and by and
large, it's pretty disappointing I must say. Not as offensive as the
old art circuits can be, but also, not as elaborate or deep. Often
a waste of time - as the old art circuits often are too. You sift
through such things the way you sift through email, exchanging glances
or backchannel comments, looking to expand the informal networks
where everything real is finally happening, at the singular level
where you can plug into it. As for travel, it's literally killing
me, but still it remains incredibly informative, the absolute most
interesting thing, and a chance to keep in touch with people who are
really doing things. For those who have a career but no job, who are
more interested in writing about what they want than publishing where
they could make money, travel is the only reason for having this
so-called career. With a constant wonder whether it's reason enough to
do it.

So, that all said, what do the lurkers think? There can easily be
another round of talking about the role of the moderators (a venerable
nettime tradition), but more interesting to my mind is just talking
with each other, about what the list is good for, and also what's
happening around us. What else is there to do?

Recently someone told me, "iDC [the Institute for Distributed
Creativity list] is actually more interesting than nettime these
days." "Yes, why not?" I said. "But isn't that a problem?" they
responded with some kind of quizzical anxiety. Well, I just laughed,
but on reflection, it is. Because nettime is a larger and more
complex group which has learned how to talk about more than just tech
and the Internet. And so I miss it at those moments when iDC, or
the neighborhood social movement, or your national politics or the
imperial disaster are suddenly also seeming so lifeless and devoid of
any possibility for conversation.

Calling all lurkers! In Montreal and elsewhere.

best, Brian

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