Institute of Network Cultures
The Institute of Network Cultures (INC) analyzes and shapes the terrain of network cultures through events, publications, and online dialogue. Our projects evolve around digital publishing, alternative revenue models, online video and design, digital counter culture and much more.
The INC was founded in 2004 by Geert Lovink, following his appointment within the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. A key focus is the establishment of sustainable research networks. Emerging critical topics are identified and shaped in a practical sense. Interdisciplinary in character, the INC brings together researchers, artists, activists, programmers, designers, and students and teachers.
The field of network cultures revolves around the interaction between new forms of media, and the users of such new forms. With a strong focus on the transdisciplinary nature of new media and its DIY and open source components, the INC gives equal attention to the artistic, political and technical aspects of the internet and other emergent media. As such, the INC’s area of research extends to design, activism, art, philosophy, political theory, and urban studies and is not confined to the internet alone. Indeed, the INC maintains that the internet can only be understood at the conjuncture of these various fields and lines of inquiry. ‘Network cultures’ is seen as a strategic instrument to diagnose political and aesthetic developments in user-driven communication. Network cultures rapidly assemble, and can just as quickly disappear, creating a sense of spontaneity, transience, even uncertainty. Yet these forms are here to stay. However self-evident it is, collaboration is a foundation of network cultures.
The aim of the INC is to create sustainable research networks around emerging topics in which a critical contribution can be made. The formation of a small group of international people, both inside and outside of the academy, may result in a larger online discussion. Together with the researchers and a group of students, interns and volunteers, an event is organized to gather key questions and thinkers. Many of these events, such as a conference, seminar or workshop, culminate in a publication. Formats of publication may include a printed reader, a book, video interviews, wikis, blogs and special online magazine issues, along with conference documentation (photos, video files and podcasts). The publication functions as an important vehicle for the sustainability of the research network.
These days images form part and parcel of every message when surfing, searching and interacting. On dedicated platforms like YouTube and Pinterest images are gathered, annotated and shared. Images are more than just illustration: they have retained an autonomous status, digitalization notwithstanding. Online video has to observe its own rules with respect to editing, light, framing, use of sound, and so on. How has this been changed under the influence of digitalization and the ubiquity of digital cameras? What relationship should visual education have to this? And the key question: is the image taking over from the written word? Alongside the technical, economic and social aspects of the network, its aesthetic component is becoming increasingly important. To understand this better we need to engage in an open, critical dialogue with visual artists, designers and film-makers at all levels of the network culture.
The publishing world is perhaps one of the last big media organizations to be making the transition to the digital domain. So it is now going through a sea-change moment in which new relationships will emerge between writer, publisher, designer and distributor. Many of its older mechanisms may soon no longer work, but in their place new possibilities will arise with regard to formats, reading experiences, social reading, do-it-yourself, business models, and so on. Is the book business – like other media industries – headed towards an iTunes model in which content is cut up into parts? What about e-reading and the digital library?
More and more young professionals are entering the market and it is getting harder to find a solid job. Remuneration for web design and app development is falling all the time, while content itself has been more or less written off and is made available for free. A freelancer’s life is an insecure one. In a moribund economy, finding new income sources is a matter of urgency. IT is getting ever more important, but outsourcing continues to expand. Online funding of the creative sector is still in its infancy and badly needs more research and development. What will future YouTube earnings models look like? Will crowdfunding and Bitcoins supply enough ‘supplementary income’? And where will the basic income come from?
Political action and social involvement are no longer isolated, underground activities, or limited to a small group of activists. People are experimenting with new media and digital technologies everywhere and all the time. Post-2000 a new relationship has arisen between politics and aesthetics, and the technical knowledge needed to effectively deploy new media has spread quickly. Today, ‘compassion fatigue’ and nihilism are the greatest problems; where do we draw the line between ‘clicktivism’ and real involvement? Is going offline the only option? How can social movements organize themselves, beyond social media? We are in the middle of a quest to find the right balance between virtuality and the street, between networks and squares, as public spaces used to be called in the old days. What do the newest tactics look like to today’s social mix of artists, programmers, researchers and designers?
Design is more than just the optimization of business processes and information streams. For INC, design is above all an aesthetic expression that asks questions. Design is a skill and an applied art that is essential to anyone building systems for the media and information industries. Without a solid knowledge of visual language, and a critical attitude towards form and functionality, designers end up simply copying standard protocols: the filling in of empty templates. A world without aesthetic practice is a bleak and barren environment, dominated by a pure functionality in which the spirits of both the maker and the user are absent. In design education it is essential that links are forged between functional informatics and interaction design, not just for students but for everyone who goes online. How do we break out of this ‘urge to optimize’?
Internet platforms like Google, Wikipedia, and online university modules such as MOOCs are increasingly determining what we mean by ‘knowledge’. In education, digital databases are replacing not only the old-fashioned library but also the teacher’s role as the dispenser of knowledge to the student. If something isn’t on Google then it might as well not exist. What does this mean for a student’s view on the world? Who gets to decide what is important and what is not? It is vital to know what websites like Wikipedia and search engines like Google look like on the inside, and to understand how they work, while the process of knowledge production is being increasingly left to software algorithms. What are the real-world politics behind these algorithms, editing bots and online courses?
Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool van Amsterdam)
The Institute of Network Cultures is part the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA), domain Media, Creation and Information. Within this domain the INC is part of knowledge centre CREATE-IT applied research. Within the context of CREATE-IT, the responsibilities of the INC include the provision of internships, lectures, BA thesis supervision and courses on media and design theory. Geert Lovink’s appointment was one of 300 ‘lector’ positions across national Applied Universities assigned to formulate the research agenda for Dutch vocational education.
Who is who
The Institute of Network Cultures works with a small team from the office in Amsterdam. Researchers and interns from the Netherlands and abroad join on project basis, adding value, expertise, and new perspectives. Together they form the widespread collaboration network of the INC.
Geert Lovink, founding director of the Institute of Network Cultures, is a Dutch-Australian media theorist and critic. He holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne and in 2003 was at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Queensland. In 2004 Lovink was appointed as Research Professor at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and Associate Professor at University of Amsterdam. He is the founder of Internet projects such as nettime and fibreculture. In 2005-06 he was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin Institute for Advanced Study where he finished his third volume on critical Internet culture, Zero Comments (2007). Since then he published the book Networks Without a Cause (2012), which has been translated into German and Italian. Other books titles by Geert Lovink are The Art of Free Cooperation (2007), The Principle of Notworking (2005), and My First Recession (2003). Email: geert[at]xs4all[dot]nl. Geert’s weblog: www.networkcultures.org/geert
Miriam Rasch started working as a publication manager at the Institute of Network Cultures in June 2012. She holds a masters degree in Literary Studies (2002) and Philosophy (2005). Since graduating she worked as a (web)editor and from 2008 on as a programmer for the public lectures department at Utrecht University, Studium Generale, organizing events and taking care of digital broadcasts and online representation. Next to that she worked as a lecturer for Liberal Arts and Sciences, and will be teaching philosophy and media theory at the Media, Information and Communication department. She writes book reviews and guest posts for different websites and magazines; her personal blog can be found on miriamrasch.nl. Email: miriam[at]networkcultures[dot]org.
Margreet Riphagen, project manager at INC, graduated in 2000 in Integrated Communication Management at the Hogeschool of Utrecht. After graduating, Margreet worked at an advertising agency in Utrecht. In June 2003 she started working at Waag Society as a producer. After three and a half years at Waag Society she switched to the Media Guild, which is a not for profit organisation that fosters innovative starters in the field of new media and ICT. After setting up the Media Guild, she left for Blender, which is a 3D open source animation suite. There she was co-producer of Big Buck Bunny (Peach open movie project) and producing an open game. Since August 2008 she works at the Institute for Network Cultures managing and producing projects for the INC. In 2009 she finished her postbachelor Business Science. Currently she is studying Information Studies, Human Centered Multimedia. Email: margreet[at]networkcultures[dot]org.
Kimberley Spreeuwenberg is a new media researcher and graphic designer with a special interest in the areas where these two disciplines intersect. She is currently project coordinator of the Digital Publishing Toolkit research project initiated by the Institute of Network Cultures, with whom she collaborates regularly, and teaches at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. Email: kimmy[at]networkcultures[dot]org.
Patricia de Vries is project coordinator at the Institute of Network Cultures, and is responsible for coordinating current research projects. Patricia has an academic formation in Media Studies (BA), Cultural Analysis (MA) and Liberal Studies (MA). Over the years, working with several media, cultural and research institutions in different capacities, she gained a wide range of work experience in research, editing, and project and event management. Among other things, she worked as a film programmer at Studio K, as an editor of the art magazine Simulacrum, and as a marketing and PR assistant at Boom Publishing House. From 2010 until 2012 she was based in New York where she served as a research and communications associate at the think tank World Policy Institute, and as a teaching assistant of prof. James Miller at The New School for Social Research. Patricia joined INC in August 2013. Email: patricia[at]networkcultures[dot]org.
Irina Enache is a new media enthusiast and researcher within the MoneyLab project at the Institute of Network Cultures. She gained her BA in Communication and Public Relations in Bucharest, Romania (2011) and the MA in New Media and Digital Culture in Amsterdam, Netherlands (2013). Her MA thesis addressed the reconfiguration of money’s meaning, brought about by an exploding activity of online currencies. She has been part of TimeBank Romania since 2012. Email: irina[at]networkcultures.org[dot]org.
Sebastian Olma Sebastian Olma works internationally as researcher, author and consultant at the interface between creativity and economy. He was trained as organization economist and cultural theorist at universities in Germany, New York and London. At the Institute of Network Cultures, he prepares a book publication on the conditions of creative production in the age of manufactured serendipity and creative industries. Email: seb[at]networkcultures[dot]org.
Current INC interns
Matthijs Weijers, research intern on the Digital Publishing Toolkit project, as part of his final thesis of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Media, Information and Communication, direction Media, Markating and Publishing.
INC has collaborated with:
Lily Antflick, research intern for the project the Unbound Book and Theory on Demand series;
Srividya Balasubramanian, research intern for the project Society of the Query, as a part of the Bachelor of Social Sciences in Communications and New Media from the National University of Singapore;
Juliana Brunello, research intern for the project Wikipeda, as part of the Bachelor of Arts degree from the Universitaet Siegen (DE) in Social Sciences with emphasis in Media Studies;
Marije Brom, research intern on the Society of the Query project and the MyCreativity project;
Francesca Coluzzi worked as a research intern at INC from September 2012 – January 2013, conducting interviews and blogging for the Oor of Ink project;
Marta Burugorri, intern involved in the Video Vortex project (2013-2014);
Morgan Currie, researcher for the project Economies of the Commons and the Unbound Book;
Vicentiu Dinga, research intern at INC for Society of the Query #2 and the MoneyLab project (2013-2014);
Marije van Eck, wrote her BA-thesis, an analysis of the phenomenon of user generated content on YouTube, in order to complete the New Media and Digital Culture program at Utrecht University (NL);
Dennis Deicke, research intern for the project Society of the Query as part of his study of Communication and Cultural Management at the Zeppelin University (DE);
Andrew Erlanger, research intern from February – April 2013, working on the Unlike Us #3 conference on social media;
Cecilia Guida, is a Ph.D. candidate at the IULM University of Milan (IT) where she is conducting a research on the social and political functions of art practice in the networked society. She was involved in the Video Vortex project;
Larissa Hildebrandt, produced the Unlike Us #3 conference in Amsterdam.
Minke Kampman, research intern as part of writing her thesis for MA New Media at the University of Amsterdam (NL). She was involved in the WinterCamp project;
René König, PhD researcher and INC intern from September 2012 – January 2013, working on the Society of the Query project on search engines;
Silvio Lorusso, PhD Candidate in Design Sciences at IUAV University of Venice. Currently investigating the intersections between publishing and digital technology from the perspective of art and design;
Stijn Peeters, research intern from February – April 2013, working on the Unlike Us #3 conference on social media;
Rachel Somers Miles, worked at INC from April 2010 – April 2011 on the Culture Vortex and Video vortex program and was editor of the VVII Reader;
Sabine Niederer, worked at INC from September 2004 – January 2012 as the managing director of the Institute of Network Cultures;
Shirley Niemans, worked at INC as a producer and researcher, involved in many projects, September 2006 – Augustus 2008.
Michelle Oosthuyzen, is working at the INC as intern and researcher, Februari 2012 – April 2012.
Frederiek Pennink was an intern for the Society of the Query #2 conference, 2013.
Marc Stumpel, worked at INC as a producer and researcher, involved in Unlike Us, September 2011 – April 2012
Carlos García Moreno-Torres, worked at INC as an intern involved in the Video Vortex project from September 2010 to April 2011.
Serena Westra started as an intern involved with the Critical Point of View event (2008) and worked in different functions for the INC up till 2013.