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<nettime> ttip: digital respect and resistance
Kristoffer Gansing on Sat, 10 Oct 2015 01:29:40 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> ttip: digital respect and resistance


Dear old nettimers,

I am not a particularly regular contributor here, but as long time
lurker, occasional event announcer and artistic director of transmediale
in Berlin, I would like to share with you a short statement that I
prepared for my presentation at the Werkleitz Festival 2015 ".move ON"
in Halle on October 10.

As this day coincides with a big anti-TTIP demo in Berlin, I choose not
to prepare the usual festival presentation but to offer some reflections
on the troubling relation between the digital art and culture field to
this and other free trade agreements currently in negotiation.

My apologies for the somewhat raw, underresearched, possibly naive and
spoken word like form of this text - I am just curious to see what kind
of response it will evoke! Especially I am curious if the nettime
community has anything to say about the supposed fear of dealing with
TTIP within digital art and culture, well knowing of course that there
is an assumed "field" here that might already be declared obsolete or
for which there are many names and definitions.

best,
Kristoffer Gansing


First of all I would like to say that I am extremely happy to be here
among many respected colleagues and to enjoy the impressive programme of
this year's move.on werkleitz festival.

I and transmediale are very happy to have occasionally taken part in the
different cross-border exchanges that Peter Zorn and his team have so
impressively set up over the years. And I am very happy to have hosted
the work of the artist Robyn Moody at the transmediale festival earlier
this year and to see its finished iteration later here today.

This said, I am painfully aware of the fact that while we are gathering
here we are missing out on a manifestation going on in Berlin that deals
critically with a completely different kind of cross-border exchange.

I am talking about today's big demonstration against the TTIP ??? The
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  And I am saying that I
am painfully aware since I was really planning to join this demo and if
not possible physically then at least by publishing a critical article
that asks why it is that the digital art and culture scene has so far
shown so little engagement in the debate of TTIP. This is paradoxical
since it seems as if the area of digital culture is highly implicated in
the scarce info we have on the ongoing secret negotiations. The little I
have been able to read up on TTIP and similar current trade deals has
led me to assume that digital art and culture has what one in German
calls a ???ber??hrungsangst??? that is a kind of fearful respect towards
critically engaging with this topic precisely because it is steeped in
rhetorics and strategies of border-crossing, access, digital freedom and
innovation. It would not be a new critique of our field that it exploits
hype waves of technological development that are intimately connected to
neoliberal agendas. But I think we are also all in agreement that we are
trying to change such schemes from within and provide the space for
artists, activists and other critical thinkers to formulate
alternatives. The recent drive of media art to capitalise on the EU's
interest in promoting innovation through funding collaboration between
the technology sector and artists is a case in point ??? and it is yet to
be seen if projects formulated in this framework will really be able to
break out of the bubble of quantification and profit oriented conditions
of production that are now being established.  

So where do actors in digital art and culture stand in relation TTIP? A
cynical interpretation could be that in this field, we are already so
accustomed to simultaneously adapt and bending the rules of changing
economic and political agendas that there is a kind laissez-fair
attitude ??? come whatever come and we will use it to our gain somehow.
And especially regarding transnational trade agreements there seems to
be a language at play that comes close to the border-crossing ideals of
digital art and culture ??? BUT, I would argue that the actual practice
associated with these ideals in the end are among the ones that could be
most endangered by TTIP and that there is now an urgent need within
digital culture to drop the ???ber??hrungsangst??? and formulate a critique
of these free trade agreements and their post-digital brand of
neoliberalism.

But as I hinted at in the beginning, part of the problem is that we are
always busy somewhere else. This might be both the biggest asset and
curse of media art and digital culture : that it is always moving on.
The next place, the next site, the next discourse, the next big trend.
When is digital art and culture going to really grow up and deal with
the here and now? How can you formulate a real alternative in the
present when you are always too busy being tele-present?

These questions haunts me on a daily basis as I try to balance my
intensive working life of being the artistic director of a big digital
art and culture festival such as transmediale with also being an engaged
citizen who wants to write articles about topics like TTIP. The one
certainly should provide the platform to do the other but paradoxically
also ends up being prohibiting. I guess I am not alone in feeling that
professional life sucks up all acting power outside of the boundaries of
the institution, all the while we tell ourselves that we are doing all
we can to provide the space for others to do the stuff we cannot
ourselves anylonger. But maybe it does not have to be that way?
That is why instead of doing the regular institutional presentation here
today, I decided to start writing that contribution to the discussion of
TTIP that I already since long wanted to do. Of course it falls short of
all initial ambitions due to time compromises but still. Of course, I
cannot pretend to be an authority on this topic by any means but I do
have some intuitive critical points that I would like to quickly make on
why TTIP and other similar agreements are potentially dangerous for our
field.

We all know that TTIP is basically a free trade agreement in negotiation
between the EU and the US with the goal to create economic growth by way
of market liberalisation including standardisation of products and
services and the easening of corporate access to various areas ???
including, among many other things but also significantly,
Telecommunications and Intellectual Property. Among the biggest
critiques of the whole deal is of course that it entails setting up so
called Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanisms that means that
companies operating in a foreign country could sue governments through
special tribunals over what they might consider unfair trade conditions.
There is a lot of different debates on the possible disastrous effects
of this on the strong public sector in the EU and you might have heard
about the probable exceptions to the Culture sector and Audiovisual
sector in respect of cultural diversity.

But one of the major blindspots in this process seems to be that
distribution and even production of cultural goods in todays digital
markets is increasingly carried out by companies outside of these
sectors. How to classify Amazon or Google ??? they do not fall into the
traditional culture or Audiovisual sectors yet they are quickly becoming
major players with their various media outlets like YouTube, Google
Books or Amazon Cloud and Studios. And these are only some of the most
obvious examples. Think about the digital art and culture field or the
legacy of critical net and hacker culture in Europe. It is since long
characterised by hybridity, it does not fit into any established
cultural category and would not easily be included in the idea of
creating areas of exception. Looking at not only TTIP but how the other
major agreements currently being negotiated between the US, EU, Canada
and Australia reveal a scary set of common traits that seem to go
against all that the media art or digital art scene has been trying to
build up. The deals I am here thinking of have names like TISA
(The Trade in Services Agreement that includes Canada and Australia),
CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the
EU) and TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership). And the common traits are that
they all in some form include measures to increase copyright protection
(from a corporate position) and in many instances inhibit free speech
and destroy net neutrality. Just take a look at the papers put out by
WikiLeaks just two days ago on the TPP for a scary picture of how this
agreement affects Canadian digital culture including downright
censorship of websites and incrimination encryption practices in the
interest of US corporations. Not to speak about how these agreements
negatively impact states not included or those with little negotiation
power.

Further, the ideology of cross-border market access, development
schemes, innovation hyperbole and the standardisation of
telecommunications infrastructure and regulation all sound too good for
digital culture while in reality this is the usual neoliberal agendas
that really needs to be resisted by creating counter-imaginaries and
vocabularies.

The bottom line is that as Ma??a Pal wrote in a recent issue of Radical
Philosophy, TTIP is about ???the regulation of the regulation???. This makes
it so elusive and difficult to effectively resist or even understand in
relation to previous struggles against ACTA or SOPA which were about
specific measures on conditions of audiovisual and cultural production.
We can think about TTIP and the other deals as operating similarly to
the ubiquitous TOS ??? Terms of Service texts that we all have to agree to
in order to at all participate in the user exploiting economies of
Facebook or Google.

As we know, the coming about of such TOS, their legal status and their
ongoing revision is not exactly characterised by transparency. And if
you want to participate you have top opt-in and once you have done that
there is very little room to opt-out on anything including of course the
reselling of your data. Once TTIP is in place, there will similarly be a
very limited possibility to opt out ??? the TOS are already there and we
risk to have outsourced ourselves into simply being users of resources
and services whose terms of use at least should have been formulated in
common not to even speak about being commonly created, owned or shared.

In short: Let's form a coalition of digital culture against TTIP! (even
if in this case, it really is too late)

Kristoffer Gansing 10/10 2015


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