tobias c. van Veen on Wed, 14 Jun 2006 16:31:04 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> what really happened at NNA [pt.1]

dear list,

Apologies for not addressing the many threads much earlier, but it has been
busy. This email is one of two parts. Here's what I realised I had to do in
response to everything so far:

1. post to Nettime a more thorough report concerning NNA as well as
address several of the subsequent threads, specifically addressing the
fact that the NNA wasn't concerned with moderation, the moderators,
Nettime's past_as_nostalgia....

2. further the discussion concerning Ken Werbin's work & others, as well as
introduce the list to Abe Burmeister's (a lurker), whose "renegade economic
objects" took on a meme_like quality at NNA. Get back to the content which
was discussed to further this energy!

In fact of 1, Gita Hashemi wrote this bit in the backroom which I think
describes the tenor of NNA rather accurately:

" what i can say, and have been saying all along, is that nettime identity
did not seem to be the key motivator for most of the people who came
together in montreal though that is not to say that many people had not been
engaged in and/or benefited from nettime over the years.  the freshness, in
my view, was in the rich display of a variety of forms of activism (from the
presenters and from the floor, many of them probably close in spirit to the
kind of theorization we might see on nettime - hence the impossibility of a
radical break between generations - but grounded more in the concrete than
in the abstract).  i think that to a large extent this showed the
organizers' ability to reach outside nettime and to engage a more diverse
range of participants.  also important seemed to be the Upgrade connection [ ] that provided an already established forum for regular
face-to-face gatherings and a dedicated group of local organizers.  this was
my reading from the outside."

As for moderation, one point that I must acknowledge here is that both Felix
& Ted (as well as David and many others) were very supportive of the
Gathering even though most of them, understandably, could not in the end
make it in person. Moderation was the least of interesting topics at NNA,
which isn't to say that the energy expressed here and elsewhere in
organising future gatherings or opening up Nettime to new forms of
responsible management or types of expression shouldn't be investigated in
full. On the contrary. But never did NNA take on the atmosphere of "the
moderation debates" to which discussion could potentially spiral here.
Spiral, perhaps, into the kind of inertia which Werbin speaks of.

A little more on moderation & the misperception of NNA.
When we asked Ted to address Nettime's history, Ted was concerned that any
discussion of Nettime or its past would turn to the old moderation debates,
but honestly -- as I raised at NNA -- the point is not negative but positive
concerning Nettime's history: more people need to know about Nettime in
places other than Europe. Cross_generational communication needs to happen,
yarns & stories need to be told to those of us under 35 or so, who weren't
around or who were too busy or lost out in rave culture or hacking or what
have you to be there. Why? Because the point is to move on, not repeat the
past, and to do that, we've got to know the history. So it's not nostalgia,
it's knowledge, reflection, analysis. Many Nettime members don't hold the
weird grudges we see dregged up all the time on the list and that was
evident at NNA.

In fact, NNA operated very differently. For the most part, though the
presenters discussed their various pockets and some remained in them,
most broke through and saw the potential of tying their work into Nettime.
This has in part resulted in the flurry of postings (not quite a storm, but
a minor squall). There are others waiting in the wings whom I am sure can be
drawn out if we can get back to the actual content.

What was discussed at NNA was both more theoretical and pragmatic, concerned
far more with the utility of pragmatic and theoretical constructs such as
tactical media, precarity, events, mailing lists, communication forms, power
structures, activist design, economics of technology and information, etc.,
and avoided these kind of power debates though acknowledging them in passing
as even ironically constitutive of Nettime's identity.

As for Nettime itself, I always saw it as a project with the list as the
focal point. The books and meetings I see as extraordinarily essential.
Whereas in Europe a book appears for most everything, in North America this
is difficult, and thus to publish something from NNA would probably be our
greatest goal. For us, such a text would be "not yet another catalogue /
proceedings" but something entirely unique to our context and special and an

We're going to try to do this for NNA.

I have always approached Nettime as a participatory structure. Nettime
exists for its members, including its moderators, and for all of its members
does it exist and thrive. And its members must make Nettime happen, not just
the moderators, not just the discussion... but *happen*. And that for
Nettime to continue to exist in a lively form that remains useful and
invigorating, it must allow its members to take whatever initiatives they
deem necessary in continuing Nettime (let's not argue extreme cases, these
rarely every manifest). If the members want more meetings, want more books,
want a Nettime retreat at a steam spa in Norway ... then why not?

Perhaps this is the kind of "unifying" activity to which even Ken would
agree would reverse the fragmention of information toward inertia and
nothingness ... not "more" ways to "read" Nettime (blogs or forums -- the
list works fine) ... but more ways of getting Nettime onto the street, so to
speak, and back in the picture.

Here in MTL, we gave it a shot, it was small, but we're damn glad to have
done it.... The effects are  evident and obvious but need to be fanned with
care so they don't fizzle out.

I'd also like to point out that Montreal was organised with Sophie Le-Phat
Ho and Anik Fournier, under the umbrella of the Upgrade Montreal, and it is
this Montreal node of the Upgrade organisation [ ]
which hosted NNA, in concert with MUTEK (the latter which mainly came down
to being listed on their website --- more could have happened here but
MUTEK... is constipated), with the financial cost born by the three
organisers personally and by the SAT (Society for Arts and Technology), in
terms of the technical space we required, staff and security.

Apologies for this long, conversational email. Now I have to properly broach
the content of NNA in what follows (probably tomorrow). But this contextual
writing is perhaps just as important.



tobias c. van Veen -----------++++ -- --
McGill Communication + Philosophy
ICQ: 18766209 | AIM: thesaibot +++ 

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