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<nettime> Winter Camp 09: How Would You Organize Your Network?
Geert Lovink on Mon, 16 Feb 2009 16:12:16 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Winter Camp 09: How Would You Organize Your Network?


(Dear nettimers, in two weeks we're organizing a networks-of-networks  
event in Amsterdam called Wintercamp. It looks a bit like Hybrid  
WorkSpace in 1997 or Temp MediaLab in 1999 but then it is 12 networks  
gathering at the same time, for five days. Around 150 participants  
were invited to come to Amsterdam. Like a decade ago it is a mix of  
artists, hackers, activists and researchers, but the topics are, of  
course, different -- and so are the people. It's the biggest event so  
far in the five years existence of the Institute of Network Cultures.  
Attached are two intro texts and the program. Please note, this not a  
conference. There are some plenary sessions, though, that are open to  
the public, in particular the closing session on Saturday afternoon  
where the results of all the networks and the event as such will be  
presented. There is a group of bloggers that will post their reports  
on the main INC website during the week, and video interviews with  
participants will be posted on the Net. A so-called meta-group is in  
charge of the plenaries and the documentation. We'll keep you updated!  
Ciao, Geert)

See also: http://www.networkcultures.org/wintercamp

Participating networks: Blender, Bricolabs, Creative Labour, Dyne.org,  
Edufactory, Floss Manuals, freeDimensional Network, Genderchangers,  
GOTO10, Microvolunteerism, MyCreativity, Upgrade!

--

Winter Camp 09 Introduction

If we take network technologies seriously, we have to ask ourselves:  
What’s next after the initial excitement? What happens after we have  
linked up, found old classmates, become friends and even meet up? Will  
networking be seen as an additional loose level of social interaction  
or will the ties become more serious? What do networks do to our  
culture in the long term? Will we constantly move from one platform to  
the next initiative, following the global swarm? Do we really wish to  
carry our social network with us, wherever we go? How do you cope with  
Web 2.0 hype? Are the constant requests to be linked a plague, and  
should we see those sites as a modern telephone book or rather as  
something that fosters new forms of cooperation? Will we return to our  
busy everyday life after the fashion is over or go for a deep  
commitment to the virtual? As artists, researchers and cultural  
workers are drawn into the network paradigm, it seems pertinent to  
collectively inquire into what happens when networks become driving  
forces. How can networks maintain their critical edge while aiming for  
professional status? Doesn’t everyone want to get paid for their ‘free  
labour’?

When a network settles down, and is suddenly not so new anymore, it  
can be quite a challenge to maintain the level of initial activity.  
Should a network then transform into a so-called ‘organized network’?  
Organizing a network does not mean canceling spontaneity and making  
way for rules and hierarchy: it can provide a place for sustainable  
knowledge sharing and production. As Ned Rossiter argues in his book  
Organized Networks (2006), face-to face meetings are crucial ‘if the  
network is to maintain momentum, revitalize energy, consolidate old  
friendships and discover new ones, recast ideas, undertake further  
planning activities, and so on’. This event is therefore meant for  
those networks and (potential) network members that cry for support to  
gather in real life, conspire, discuss and make the necessary steps  
forward. Winter Camp does not have an (academic) educational or  
training component, even if there is a lot to learn.

The political concept of organized networks is clear: the invention of  
new institutional forms immanent to the logic of networks. The Winter  
Camp is an exploration in how to do that, what such institutions might  
looks like, what they might do, how they might operate in different  
geopolitical contexts, how they are financed, speculate and reassess  
what their relation is to other institutions and each other, etc. As a  
meta-network, the event aims to produce an overview of network  
strategies that hold a combinatory potential for trans-network  
collaborations. This is the scalar dimension of organizing networks:  
how can we scale and keep-up, not become introverted and not only  
invent and innovate but, in the end, use the network form in the  
implementation of changes that we envision on a society-wide level?

With the Winter Camp, the Institute of Network Cultures intends to  
facilitate this transformation for a dozen existing and new networks  
around the topic of new media, art and culture. Some have emerged  
within the context of the INC, such as Video Vortex and MyCreativity,  
others have existed beforehand (Incommunicado) or are on the verge of  
becoming a network (Bricolabs). The format is a mix of a conference  
and workshop with the emphasis on getting things done. We hope to find  
a balance between intense sessions of groups, plenary sessions, mid- 
size meetings  and lots of possibilities for informal gatherings.

The Winter Camp is mainly focused on theorists, artists, producers,  
researchers, curators, activists and other new media experts and  
interested people.

Winter Camp 09 will be a week-long program of workspaces/workgroups  
and plenary presentations, in which 12 groups can work on specific  
current topics. The maximum capacity is 150 participants. Experiences  
with temporary media labs go back to the 1990s (for instance Hybrid  
WorkSpace/Documenta X and Temp Media Lab/Kiasma). The Wintercamp 09  
format was inspired by the special card box architecture, built by  
Paco Gonzalez for the 10th edition of the Zemos98 festival in Sevilla,  
Spain, in March 2008. Here, unlike the Hybrid WorkSpace, where groups  
showed up one after the other during a three months period, in Sevilla  
10 groups worked for 5 days in groups of 10 participants under the  
guidance of a 'professor' (workshop leader) on contemporary web 2.0/ 
new media topics, accompanied by a plenary program.

The Winter Camp is framed around parallel workshops that convene once  
a day for (public) lectures and debates. The outcomes will vary from  
code and interfaces to research proposals and manifestoes. Plenary  
sessions will be held during this working conference as  
contextualization as well as a dialogue or debate about the limits and  
possibilities of the networks at hand. For the moment it is not  
completely clear what that will be like. The program will probably end  
with a public session where results of the workgroups will be  
presented, varying from wikis to maps and interventions, and from  
radio stations to performances.

Crucial to the concept of the Winter Camp is the intention of  
'antagonistic encounters'. Existing and emerging networks will be  
challenged and interrupted by polemic contributions from outsiders,  
either online or in real-life. Self-referential ghettoization is the  
last thing that has to happen. The preparation and programming stage  
of this event will develop a collaborative database that adopts  
negation and difference as a productive principle. In this way, we  
begin to contour the borders of networks and in so doing establish the  
materiality of collaborative potentials. There is no single model for  
networks to become sustainable. To get all the options on the table is  
a first necessary step in order to move to the next step. Networks,  
Get Organized!

Given the constraints of participation – limited numbers – the format  
of the Winter Camp places an immediate organizational challenge upon  
networks: who participates? The issue of ‘governance’ and openness is  
one that each network at some stage has to address. The process of  
building a network of networks thus begins well before the time of the  
Winter Camp meeting, and will be incorporated into the discussions  
before, during and after the event.

Along with a great curiosity about how networks do what they do, one  
of our key motivations in putting this event together has been the  
question of institutions. Whether we like it or not, institutions are  
part of our daily life. Just as economic globalization has massively  
transformed the world on a seemingly annual basis, so too have  
institutions as we usually understand them – those whose foundations  
are built from concrete and steel, bricks and mortar – been subject to  
considerable change in the age of electronic networks. While many  
primary institutions of social and political life (the state, firms,  
unions, universities) have struggled to adapt to changing  
circumstances, they have nonetheless made recognizable and frequently  
substantive changes. Indeed, many have reinvented themselves as  
‘networked organizations’.

Having said that, the prime focus of Winter Camp 09 is not on those  
established organizations and how networks are used to increase, and  
optimize, inter-institutional exchanges. While it could be said that  
such institutions have undergone a crisis – both in terms of  
legitimacy and ontology – it would be a serious mistake to suggest  
their hegemony has diminished. Counter-sites of power are needed to  
contest the assumption that once a dominant institution becomes  
networked it somehow operates in a more soft, benign mode. Network  
surveillance through data-mining and user-profiling is only becoming  
more sophisticated as a biopolitical technology of control.

At the same time, and particularly with the advent of the neoliberal  
state over the past 30 or so years, space has been created for new  
institutional players. Witness the renewed role of religious  
organizations in the management and provision of social services, or  
the rise of NGOs and community organizations. Civil society has not so  
much ‘withered’, as Michael Hardt once put it, but rather proliferated  
due, in part, to the economic logic of outsourcing.

Where, then, does all this leave the culture of networks? This, in  
many ways, is one of the guiding questions that has shaped the  
organization of this event. It seems perfectly sensible and strategic  
to us that the organization of networks is a process of instituting  
new social-technical relations that have unique and special capacities  
to do things in the world, to effect change and transform  
subjectivities. How might networks take advantage of this new  
institutional condition, retaining their strengths – which include the  
culture of free distribution and sharing – while securing (or, more  
likely, inventing) the possibility of real sustainability of social  
and economic life?

Organized networks move between informality and structure, and it is  
this yet unexplored terrain that Winter Camp would like to  
investigate. There could be events that are totally ‘structure’ free  
but for us that would defeat a central purpose of this meeting, namely  
the cross-pollination of ideas and practices across the various  
networks, most of whom do not know each other, and who the organizers  
also do not know. The study of network cultures is, as the name  
already indicates, the core business of the Institute of Network  
Cultures, the initiator and organizer of Winter Camp 09. It is in this  
light that we would like to gather both practical and conceptual  
knowledge from networks themselves, document these ideas and make them  
accessible to an ever-growing range of groups and individuals that  
have started to work under the ‘network condition’.

There are many more questions to ask, critiques to be made, and  
agendas to be tested. No doubt, this will be the stuff of the Winter  
Camp and beyond. For now, we just wish to register the connection  
between the culture of networks and the need for new institutional  
arrangements in which networks can play a vital role.

--

Framing Thoughts by the Winter Camp Meta-Group

The Winter Camp Meta-Group is responsible for the programming and  
production details of the event. This group of researchers will report  
and reflect on the Winter Camp project, and the network dynamics that  
unfold during the event. The Meta-Group is responsible for producing a  
comprehensive documentation in the months following the Winter Camp so  
that those who did not attend can also benefit from its outcomes.

The research of the Meta-Group revolves around the two aims of Winter  
Camp: giving existing (online) networks the possibility to come  
together and work on their own issues and collectively developing  
sustainable network models. The group will facilitate the collective  
debates and further theorize the pitfalls and possibilities of the  
'networked condition'. In addition to critical concepts such as  
organized networks (new institutions), the Meta-Group would like to  
address a range of practical and theoretical issues along the  
following lines:

• Scaling up or down: To stay active and vibrant, should a network  
scale up? What does growth mean to the core of dedicated contributors?  
Sometimes, for no obvious reason, networks remain too small. But is  
expansion always the answer to a stagnated network? What procedures  
and policies should groups institute, if at all, to integrate new  
participants? What role do conferences and face-to-face gatherings  
play in allowing networks to scale? Sometimes networks just need time,  
often years to find their productive synergy. One of the reasons for  
this might be the early age of the topics we're dealing with. However,  
the massive involvement in Web 2.0 platforms and social networks  
indicates that the critical mass is reached much earlier, compared to  
five or ten years ago. Internet culture is now mainstream culture.  
Social mobilization is done so much easier these days. Networks can be  
fooled by the erratic ruptures of today's online engagement. Is the  
size of 150 members still the ideal size of a network? Are networked  
conversations in which more than 500 users participate doomed to fall  
apart, as stated in the past? Would 'small is beautiful' be the right  
response to the Facebook masses?

• Dealing with Conflict: Networks can get caught up in recurring  
instances of social conflict between participants (flamewars,  
territoriality, etc.), which can lead to the collapse of the larger  
network. How do we overcome such obstacles? Is it enough to let time  
pass? Is it a good idea to bring in new people, in the hope of over- 
ruling the ongoing differences? What role might codes of conduct or  
other procedures play in mitigating these types of interpersonal  
conflicts?

• Collaborations: How do these organizations form alliances and  
collaborations with other like-minded groups? What coalitions are  
possible? How to relate to the brick and mortar institutions? Is  
membership an option? How does this relate back to the question of  
finance and legal structures, but also the modes of relation that  
define the network?

• Let's talk financial matters and legal structures. Suppose you take  
your network VERY seriously. It's fun and you all develop the right  
vibe. There are tonnes of plans. Would writing a grant proposal be the  
way to go? But for that you need to become a legal body. Most networks  
do not have a legal structure, but in order to enter the money economy  
or funding systems, this might be necessary. Online networks also have  
to deal with money, even if it’s just site hosting and the cost of a  
domain name. It is a farce to believe everything can and will be for  
free (meaning gratis). What, then, are the most suitable legal forms  
for distributed collaboration? What if you don't want a board, or a  
director? Or on the contrary, what if you are tired of the 'terror of  
the casual'? Is the legal road a way out or the perfect recipe for  
disaster? Are there ways out such predicaments? Would it be possible  
to operate as a parasite institute? Piggyback on an existing NGO? Or  
even snatch a (dead) legal body? Perhaps there's unexpected  
opportunities in the society of fakes?

• What role might culture – conceived loosely – play in the  
constitution of networks? F/OSS emerges from and helps consolidate  
geek culture, whose history precedes this mode of production and which  
may account for the strength of these particular networks. Are similar  
dynamics at play (or not) with other networks? Then there is the  
related question of the political culture of these networks, which  
range from anarchist/left to liberal/reformist. How do these political  
philosophies shape the constitution of these networks?

• Ownership and copyright: While there are current alternatives to  
copyright (such as copyleft licenses and those of Creative Commons),  
what are the limits, pitfalls, and problems in using these or any  
legal solution for creative and knowledge production? The core lies at  
the level of the individual participant, and the ownership over his or  
her ideas. If the network accepts the idiom of intellectual property,  
what are models of IP that allow personal attribution as well as  
recognition for the group effort? Is it is a major conflict for the  
network to have legal discourses inscribed upon their mode of  
production?

• Software and the Technology Fix: What are suitable tools for  
collaboration? What are the limits of current communication protocols  
(email, mailing lists, web pages, social networking sites)? What new  
tools are being created to address these needs? How to keep the  
network together without getting caught up in difficult or  
differentiated channels of communication? How does a network of non- 
experts learn a new language of programming? Is this an opportunity to  
expand the network, invite in the experts, or is this an occasion of  
getting down to the labour of acquiring new skills? Perhaps both are  
necessary. Either way, it seems the software question has to be  
addressed for those networks wishing to enter the world of open source  
cultural production and political invention.

• Dissemination: What type of publications and series can be  
developed? Without much trouble, networks jump into the grey zone  
between print and online publications – what are the opportunities here?

• Winter Camp's overall aim is to strengthen the network(ed) form of  
organization. It might also be important in this context to go back to  
basics and to ask how an (organized) network defines itself. What  
could a network institution look like? What are its dynamics and how  
might it become a source of power vis-à-vis the production of new  
standards and social relations? What forms of self-reflexivity and  
translation are part of these modes of relation? How does the network  
learn to institute sharing, democratize its own production of  
expertise, establish collaborative forms of decision-making and  
address the question of borders?

Meta-Group:

from Amsterdam:
Margreet Riphagen (INC, producer)
Minke Kampman (INC,  assistant producer)
Sabine Niederer (INC,  producer & researcher)
Anne Helmond (INC, blogging coordinator) & 6 bloggers
Annet Wolfsberger (external member, Virtual Platform, Amsterdam)
Geert Lovink (INC, researcher)

from elsewhere:
Ned Rossiter (external member, Ningbo-Shanghai/China)
Soenke Zehle (external member, Saarbruecken/Germany)
Gabriella Coleman (external member, NY/USA)

--

PROGRAM WINTER CAMP 09

Monday 2st of March
WHOLE DAY    ARRIVAL GUESTS / STAYOKAY
17.00 – 19.00    COORDINATORS MEETING / HOGESCHOOL VAN AMSTERDAM,  
RAADZAAL

Tuesday 3rd of March
WHOLE DAY    ARRIVAL GUESTS / STAYOKAY
11.00 – 13.00     META GROUP MEETING / RESTAURANT STAYOKAY
13.00 – 14.00     LUNCH / RESTAURANT STAYOKAY
14.30 – 17.30    REGISTRATION, Q&A / STUDIO K INFORMATIONPOINT
14.30 – 17.30    PREPARATION WORKSHOP ROOM / WORKSHOP SPACE
18.30 – 20.00    DINNER / RESTAURANT STAYOKAY
20.00 – 22.30    OFFICIAL OPENING BY GEERT LOVINK, INTRODUCTION  
‘ORGANIZED NETWORKS’ NED ROSSITER, INTRODUCTION NETWORKS BY  
MODERATOR / STUDIO K / SK1

Wednesday 4th of March
08.30 – 09.30    REGISTRATION / STUDIO K INFORMATIONPOINT
08.30 – 09.30    COFFEE AND TEA / STAYOKAY
09.30 – 13.00    WORKSHOP, 1ST ROUND / WORKSHOP SPACE
13.00 – 14.00     LUNCH / RESTAURANT STAYOKAY
14.00 – 17.00    WORKSHOP, 2ND ROUND / WORKSHOP SPACE
17.00 – 18.30    PLENARY SESSION / STUDIO K / SK1
18.30 – 20.30    DINNER / RESTAURANT STAYOKAY
20.30 – 22.30    EVENING PROGRAM / CINEMA / STUDIO K / SK1

Thursday 5th of March
08.30 – 09.30    DOORS OPEN, COFFEE AND TEA / STAYOKAY
09.30 – 13.00    WORKSHOP, 3RD ROUND / WORKSHOP SPACE
13.00 – 14.00     LUNCH / RESTAURANT STAYOKAY
14.00 – 17.00    WORKSHOP, 4TH ROUND / WORKSHOP SPACE
17.00 – 18.30    PLENARY SESSION / STUDIO K / SK1
18.30 – 20.30    DINNER / RESTAURANT STAYOKAY
20.30 – 22.30    EVENING PROGRAM

Friday 6th of March
08.30 – 09.30    DOORS OPEN, COFFEE AND TEA / STAYOKAY
09.30 – 13.00    WORKSHOP, 5TH ROUND / WORKSHOP SPACE
13.00 – 14.00     LUNCH / RESTAURANT STAYOKAY
14.00 – 17.00    WORKSHOP, 6TH ROUND / WORKSHOP SPACE
17.00 – 18.30    PLENARY SESSION / STUDIO K / SK1
18.30 – 20.30    DINNER / RESTAURANT STAYOKAY
20.30 – 22.30    EVENING PROGRAM

Saturday 7th of March
12.00 – 13.00     LUNCH / RESTAURANT STAYOKAY
13.00 – 13.20    UPGRADE! / STUDIO K / SK1
13.20 – 13.40    GOTO10 / STUDIO K / SK1
13.40 – 14.00    MYCREATIVITY / STUDIO K / SK1
14.00 – 14.20    GENDERCHANGERS / STUDIO K / SK1
14.20 – 14.40    MICROVOLUNTEERISM / STUDIO K / SK1
14.40 – 15.00    FLOSS MANUALS / STUDIO K / SK1
15.00 – 15.30     BREAK
15.30 – 15.50    FREEDIMENSIONAL NETWORK / STUDIO K / SK1
15.50 – 16.10    EDUFACTORY / STUDIO K / SK1
16.10 – 16.30    DYNE.ORG / STUDIO K / SK1
16.30 – 16.50    CREATIVE LABOUR / STUDIO K / SK1
16.50 – 17.10    BRICOLABS / STUDIO K / SK1
17.10 – 17.30    BLENDER / STUDIO K / SK1
17.30 – 18.00    PLENARY CLOSING DEBATE / STUDIO K / SK1
19.00 – 21.00    DINNER / RESTAURANT STAYOKAY
22.00 – 01.30    PARTY / STUDIO K BAR

Sunday 7th of March
WHOLE DAY    DEPARTURE GUESTS





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