The Institute of Network Cultures is happy to announce the second Amsterdam edition of the Unlike Us conference, taking place March 22nd and 23rd, 2013 at TrouwAmsterdam. This year, the new MediaLAB Amsterdam will also be used as a community space with workshops.
In the coming weeks, ticket sales will commence. Keep checking the ‘Amsterdam 2013’ tab on the website for the most up-to-date information, including tickets, schedules, and confirmed speakers with biographies. As of now, we are pleased to share the following confirmed speakers: Bernard Stiegler (FR), Petra Löffler (DE), Tristan Thielmann (DE), Seda Gürses (NL), Reni Hofmüller (AT), Spideralex (ES), Simona Lodi (IT), Benjamin Grosser (US), Oliver Leistert (DE), Nathan Freitas (US), Marion Walton (ZA), Mirko Tobias Schäfer (NL), Thomas Boeschoten (NL) and Simone Halink (NL).
This year, speakers will be organized into the following sessions:
- Theory and Critique of ‘Social’
- Are you Distributed? The Federated Web Show
- Political Economy of Social Networks: Art & Practice
- Mobile Use of Social Media
- Facebook Riot: Join or Decline
More names to be announced soon!
Unlike Us, the Conference
Is the word ‘social’ hollowed out, or does it still have some meaning? How can we understand the thunderous growth of mobile uses in social media? Is there really something like a Facebook riot and how do we start one? Theorists, programmers and artists alike react to the monopolies that control social media – by designing decentralized networks, creating art that’s criticizing and surprising at the same time or by trying to understand the big networks from within. Meet them at the third Unlike Us conference organized by the Institute of Network Cultures on 22-23 March 2013 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
International speakers discuss both the big gestures of theory, and the ambitious plans of artists, programmers and activists. There are workshops to put Unlike Us into practice without delay and discussions on specific issues that Unlike Us hasn’t dealt with so far. The different themes will cover theory and critique, decentralization, mobile use, activism, and the art and politics of social networks.
To get a sense of the Unlike Us conference, you can watch videos from the 2012 event here.
Unlike Us is a research network of artists, designers, scholars, activists and programmers, founded in July 2011. The aim of the network is to combine a critique of the dominant social media platforms with work on ‘alternatives in social media’. Through workshops, conferences, online dialogues and publications, Unlike Us intends to both analyze the economic and cultural aspects of dominant social media monopolies and to propagate the further development and proliferation of alternative, decentralized social media software. Everyone’s invited to be a part of the public discussion on how we want the shape the network architectures and the future of social networks we are using so intensely.
2013 conference themes are as follows:
1. Theory and Critique of ‘Social’
What is the meaning of ‘social’ when social media like Facebook and Twitter are structured around the individual from the start? Social seems to require a form of collective that isn’t to be found in these networks. Let’s take the theory and critique of ‘social’ a step further, towards rethinking the power relations between the social and the technical in what are essentially software systems and platforms. We are more and more aware that social media aren’t just happy-go-lucky neutral platforms; while at the same time it’s too easy to dismiss them as the bad boys of capitalism. How are we to understand the social networking logic? Even if Twitter and Facebook implode overnight, the logic of befriending, liking and ranking will further spread across all aspects of life.
2. Are you Distributed? The Federated Web Show
The best way to criticize platform monopolies is to support alternative free and open source software that can be locally installed. In the Federated Web Show we are setting the terms of decentralization. A lot of alternative social networks are being developed with the aim to give users greater power, for example over their data. Just think of Lorea or Diaspora. Which choices have to be made for a decentralized design and what are the traps? Is it necessary to take the sharing individual as a starting point or the network? A different kind of social networking is possible, but there are many questions to attend to. Are you ready for constant decision-making? How deeply does your trust in the community you share your data with reach? In a lively talk show, guests on stage or participating on screen discuss the possible future of decentralization and concepts for alternatives. Open or closed, commercial or anarchistic, federated, distributed, decentralized: join the Federated Web Show.
3. Political Economy of Social Networks: Art & Practice
What better way to counter political economical issues than by art and creativity? Artists play a crucial role in visualizing power relationships and disrupting the daily routines of social media usage. Artistic practice is also a tool for analysis, as artists are often first to deconstruct the familiar and present an alternative vision. How can we imagine the political economy of the social – whether on the big and closed platforms or on newly arising alternatives? Artists and researchers talk about creative projects questioning and criticizing the commercial side of social media. What alternative visions do the arts presents towards free labor, commodification, alienation and the likes? And how do they manage to keep out of the web of economics themselves?
4. Mobile Use of Social Media
Everyone agrees: mobile is the next big upheaval, changing what we know about social media all around. Location matters. Tagging space and time and adding location information and context prolongs data value into new complexities. Users are embracing Facebook with their smartphones, causing trouble to revenue streams and thereby making it even more apparent that the user is the commodity. Meanwhile Facebook has developed a clever strategy to lock-in new users in the emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America by inventing the Facebook SIM Card and free apps for feature phones. You can now make friends on a black and white 200-character screen. For many first-time connected users Facebook becomes the default. Tracking mobile data streams in real time provides a gold mine that has only just been discovered. Who are the key players in the mobile data business and what are their practices?
5. Facebook Riot: Join or Decline
The tendency to praise Twitter and Facebook for their revolutionary powers has mostly passed. We might even think first about the London riots and Project X when it comes to the mobilizing qualities of these networks. Still, the concept of ‘liberation technology’ – information and communication technologies that empower grassroots movements – continues to influence our ideas about networked participation. Could there even be something like #Occupy without social media? Activists use social media to further their goals, but in that way are also dependent on the platform. Is a non-commercial, free and open network essential in that respect? But then, how do you reach as many people as possible? How do social media and the control issues of the internet influence the practice of protest? Governments can use the same social media tools for surveillance, propaganda or detection. We need to envision organized networks based on strong ties yet open enough to grow quickly if the time is right.