Jon Ippolito on Wed, 5 Mar 2014 19:33:01 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Hans Magnus Enzensberger: Rules for the digital world

I enjoyed Florian Cramer's "What Is 'Post-digital'" essay and share his disdain for our overuse of the word digital. Calling Cornelia Sollfrank's or John Hopkin's work "digital art" seems to me like calling a tiger a large housecat--a convenient identification for zookeepers and curators. 

So much of this work has already bent the "digital" category. If Enzensberger wants us to send our secrets via postcards, he need look no further than "digital artist" Aram Bartholl's practice of printing postcards with pictures of WiFi passwords (

Enzensberger's essay and the typewriter-in-the-park meme are deceptively quaint. Both seem to be throwbacks until you examine them a bit more closely, at which point  references to the contemporary culture of Facebook and PRISM emerge. I grew up writing on a typewriter and certainly never saw one in the park before the age of netbooks and iPads.

On the other hand, neither the manifesto nor the meme is nuanced enough to apply to my life. When I hear an octogenarian say, "Whoever offers something for free is suspicious," I'm glad he's paying some attention to today's social media critics but I wish he'd thought more carefully before parroting this cliche. Most of the software I use today is "free" and I make most of my software available to others for the same price. I worry that the "free-as-in-Facebook" meme plays easily into the old Microsoft "open source isn't trustworthy" campaign of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. 

So for me, whoever claims whoever offers something for free is suspicious is suspicious.

What happened to the Enzensberger who advocated being "as free as dancers, as aware as football players, as surprising as guerillas?" I'm not surprised (if I understand Andreas Broeckmann correctly) that Enzensberger's essay was published in a conservative newspaper. As much as I despise Facebook, I think we can summon a better response than a curmudgeonly "get off my lawn."


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