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[Nettime-nl] Conferentie: Tulipomania Dotcom, A Critique of the New Econ
geert lovink on Fri, 17 Mar 2000 15:15:42 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-nl] Conferentie: Tulipomania Dotcom, A Critique of the New Economy (Amsterdam/Frankfurt, 2-4 Juni)

(sorry, deze tekst is nog niet beschikbaar in het Nederlands...)

Tulipomania Dotcom

A Critique of the New Economy

A Conference  {AT}  De Balie, Amsterdam, June 2 & 3, 2000
&  {AT}  Kunstverein (not confirmed), Frankfurt am Main, June 4, 2000

Aim of the Conference ---------------------

In a three day conference we intend to develop an informed critique of the
politics of electronic finance and internet economics. The aim of the
conference is to raise the level of economic competence of the cultural and
social sector, and simultaneously inject economic analysis with a
sensitivity to on- and offline cultures, as well as a hands-on
understanding of the new communication spaces. By bringing together
critical discourse in these different domains we intend to find
alternatives to deadly adapt-or-die rhetorics, as well as to dire
structural inevitability (aka 'TINA', "There Is No Alternative") or
simplifying activism.

The conference aims to set an agenda for possible models of intervention in
this new domain of networked communication, and to reclaim vital public
functions of the new information and communication environments. To achieve
this, the level of 'economic competence' in the cultural and social
activism sectors has to be raised substantially, and this is another prime
aim of the conference.

Structure of the Event ----------------------

The conference will take place in Amsterdam, on Friday June 2, and Saturday
June 3, and in Frankfurt am Main on Sunday June 4, 2000.

The selection of the speakers will be such that a debate on the premises of
the New Economy can take place. We neither have to glorify global
capitalism nor do we have to fall back into economistic dogmatism or
cultural pessimism about imperial Americanism. Finance and the New Economy
create new zones of contestation. The conference will facilitate a debate,
which has yet to start, in which globalisation, finance and the Internet
will be discussed in their ever growing, intrinsic relationship.

 Possible Topics of the Conference:

* The New Economy: Premises and Pitfalls

* A critique of Electronic Finance

* Silicon Valley as a Global Business Model

* Gift Economies and Free Services

* Horizontal and Vertical Integration in the International Economy

* The Public Sector and the Network Society

* In Defence of Internet Culture    (Reclaim the Net Campaign)

Conceptual Background ---------------------

 Until recently, the global financial networks, in which billions of
dollars in stocks, bonds and currencies are being shifted around the world
in seconds, have operated as a closed entity that relied on proprietary
networks and was enshrined in notoriously opaque organisations. Certainly,
the first major economic boom of mid-1980s was driven by convergence of new
technologies and the behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts.

Since the mid-1990s, this is changing. Multiple gateways to the Internet
allow everybody with the necessary capital to become a day trader. Online
brokers such as Schwab and e-Trade are booming. In parallel movement, the
financial markets have become prime-time news with dedicated channels.

The changes seem to have strengthened the grip of these networks. More and
more people have tied their savings to the fate of the market, and more and
more media outlets promote the ideologies of speculation. The neo-liberal
agenda seems to have become what Ignacio Ramonet calls the 'one-idea
system': the deregulated market, seemingly, without alternative. (text at:

However, rounds of systemic crises in Mexico, Southeast Asia, Russia, and
Brazil have had devastating effects, putting tens of millions of people
into poverty. The world economy, which has not yet recovered from these
shocks, will sooner or later head into the next recession, probably more
destructive than any recent one. Faced with this reality, people have begun
to question the global autonomy of financial networks, and the neo-liberal
agenda of free trade and globalisation behind it.

Thus far, the hardcore macro-economic analysis has not yet been subjected
to a thoroughgoing critique, nor have cultural-technological and artistic
perspectives been brought to bear. Instead, in the current situation, moral
judgements prevail. Radical critique all too easily reverts to emotional
defences--of the nation-state and its historically associated institutions
of conflict resolution and social compromise such as the trade unions or
social welfare (themselves undergoing rapid transformation); of political
parties; of public opinion; and so on. Democracy as such seems to be at
stake when this defence acts in collusion with reinvented nationalisms, to
arm the population against evil outside forces (so-called Jewish
speculators, Arab Eurodollars, U.S. imperialism, Japanese expansion,
Anglo-Saxon world government, and so forth).

Formerly innovative academic paradigms such as postmodernism and cultural
studies are unable to deal with these phenomena adequately; instead, they
circle around themselves in increasingly entrenched fights and irrelevant
jargon wars, condemning their practitioners and followers to the
comfortable jail of self-referential discourses. Since the 'crisis of
Marxism' in the mid-1970s, the humanities have seemingly lost track of
economics altogether. Social sciences have retreated into the secure
domains of fundable academic research. This results in the dominance of the
business journalist, the chroniquer of our times, who, in most case, does
little more than re-working of PR press reviews on yet another glorious

If the centres of discourse are caught in their own contradictions, though,
the fringes are becoming very active. It is now becoming increasingly
possible to bring together separate disciplines and practices: the new
generation of political economists, anti-MAI, anti-IMF, and anti-WTO
activists (June 18/Reclaim the Streets), critical analysts of Internet
economics and Wall Street 'casino capitalism,' combined with new media
critics and software developers, such as the open source community.

The aim should be to develop attractive and productive concepts for a
progressive, non-regressive critique of the very core logic of networked
economics. It could be our task--that is, the task of the emerging
translocal, virtual intelligentsia situated in the very heart of these
networks of power--to understand the very mechanisms, and not just the
consequences, of the networked, global economy. It is time to catch up,
develop concepts, in order to go beyond the adapt-or-die speech of the
Third Way 'visionaries' and their reactionary nationalistic counterparts.
It is time to devise strategies to escape the leftist gloom and move beyond
activist simplification, which so often confuses the locus with the logic:
attacking empty lobbies. The protests against the WTO meeting in Seattle
(December 1999) have shown that it is possible for a broad and diverse
coalitions of NGOs, trade unions and concerned citizen to put the lack of
transparency on the agenda of the global media, and the politicians.

It is of strategic importance to no longer separate the closed world of
finance and the so-called 'new economy.' The overvalued Internet stocks and
the incredible buying power they produce are but one aspect. The crash of
these technology stocks might or might not initiate the next economic
crisis. Still, a lot of undercurrents are actually happening which urgently
need to be analysed and discussed in public. Is the ICT-sector really
boosting productivity? What will be the long-term consequences of
decentralised, non-local, 24-hour trading systems? Has anyone imagined what
will happen if entire stock-owning populations lose their savings
overnight? What is the future of Internet as a public forum when all
research and development is going into e-commerce and e-business? Who will
own the future backbones? In short, will the once open and decentralised
structure of the Internet still be accountable in the 21st century?

Research by Saskia Sassen (The Global City) and Manuel Castells (The
Network Society) have been important sources of inspiration in the making
of this concept. The phase of introduction of the new media, in most
Western countries is now rapidly coming to a close - and so is networking
of the world of finance.  The Net is no longer 'commercialised,' it is now
the backbone of commerce and business-to-business. Internet and the economy
are becoming inseparable.

Public Internet facilities (in both the real and virtual senses) that are
not structured for commercial use, or regulated to exclude dangerous
content, have been marginalised, or even ceased to exist. Public funding
has dried up and, as an effect, the Net has been conceptually 'cleansed,'
making way for business. Governments who have once funded basic research
into computer network standards, are now merely interested in content
regulation and rush to put together legislation for e-commerce.
Communication has turned into a residual of e-commerce, with the fate of
virtual communities as a sad example. Even the 'Californian' ideology of
Wired Magazine is about to be pushed out by the really big players, who
aren't much interested in libertarian hippie talk, by now common knowledge
for the on-line masses anyway.

The recent merger of America On Line and Time Warner, the hype around
technology stocks, and the prominence of the NASDAQ Index together
symbolise the new formation of networked economic power. But for how long?

Hence, what is called for, is not an alternative trendwatching, but an
attempt to formulate a comprehensive critique of the 'New Economy', and to
shape a collaborative discourse for those who are developing networks.  An
informed and pro-active analysis of these new formation should create
opportunities to act and intervene in this new environment.

Conference Organisers----------------------

* Concept:
Geert Lovink - geert {AT} xs4all.nl

* Editorial Team:
Ted Byfield (New York)
Menno Hurenkamp (De Balie)
Andreas Kallfelz (Frankfurt)
Eric Kluitenberg (De Balie)
Geert Lovink

* Advisory Board:
David Hudson (Berlin)
Korinna Patelis (Athens)
Felix Stalder (Toronto)

* Production Amsterdam:
De Balie - Centre for Culture and Politics

* Production Frankfurt:
Frankfurter Kunstverein (not confirmed)

* Contact:
De Balie - balie {AT} balie.nl
Frankfurt - andreas.kallfelz {AT} db.com

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