Meta-Group Dispatch #2

“If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution.”

The Winter Camp mix – artists, activists, academics, programmers – has a certain history in local net cultural events (at least since the Next Five Minutes conference series). Activism without a sophisticated visual language does not appeal to many. In the same way, code without an attractive functional interface design doesn’t make sense either. However, we harbour no illusions regarding the possibility of a grand we-are-in-this-together, in fact the opposite seems the case, an important reminder of why the very questions of ‘borders’ continues to matter. There are clearly points of overlap and synergy between the political activists and the coders, or the artists and academics. And yet, the points of contact are certainly partial and often contentious as well. Different networks organize around different political and even affective logics. As people from various backgrounds and professions are placed in one (composite) space, distinctions between art and activism, academia and the work of software development appear to become more entrenched, borders are not completely porous, the very possibility of translation between and among the many idioms – jargons – particular to each effort seem to constitute yet another limit to the very idea of a network of networks.

Let’s talk about the plenary where we convened after a day of work. Resisted by a number of participants at the beginning, the idea of one event where everyone checks in did take on a life of its own, as questions and comments and counter-comments both illustrated the tremendous diversity of efforts, including commonalities, as much as tensions and mutual misunderstandings. And the debates continue to unfold outside the plenary space as groups informally meet in the evening to reflect on the day, but also put their work in the broader context of an exchange across networks.

Winter Camp

Some groups do not refer to themselves as networks, others describe their collaborative efforts with terms drawn from a broad and quite overwhelming array of conceptual and political practices. Idioms – languages – by which to reflect on network activity vary widely, including friendship and the desire to create spaces of comfort to act and learn in common as well as the attempt to elaborate translation as a new mode of relation.

Interviews with participants continued, with some surprises. Including, for instance, the reminder that representation is often an ambivalent practice . Some groups welcome the opportunity to broadcast their agenda through the video interviews and blogging, which can contribute another resource to sustain and perhaps stabilize their efforts. Others are uncomfortable to speak on behalf of others at all, suggesting that the very idea of representation may in fact weaken the very effort to relate and sustain their common effort.