East Contemporary

transmediale: Jonathan Beller, Baruch Gottlieb, Katerina Krtilova, Ewa Majewska “Confronting Social Cybernetics”

Berlin, Feb 4, 2018, https://transmediale.de

This was the concluding panel of transmediale. I was expecting some references to Norbert Wiener and Roy Ascott. Instead panelists stubbornly kept invoking Marshall McLuhan and Friedrich Kittler. Of course not only.

I found Eva Majewska’s introduction of the concept of counterpublics at least interesting (a social group delimiting itself both against the hegemonic powers and against the opposition (academic/liberal). This even lead her to accuse old Jürgen Habermas of fueling anti-democratic tendencies despite a rhetoric of the opposite, because he continues in the “democratic” tradition that since the times of the Greek polis was built on a discussion among a group of intellectuals, excluding the slave majority. Someone in the audience suggested that this leads to an alignment between “couterpublics” and the alt-right movement. Her answer was that was alt-right is not opposing the hegemonic power and therefore does not constitute a counterpublic.

Beller gave some intelligent responses, but appeared a bit toothless in this panel without any direction. I forgot what he was saying.

This panel also included interaction with whining audience members complaining they felt excluded and alienated and disappointed that there is no art. Kristopher Gansing responded by quoting newspaper reviews of the event that equally concluded it was crap.

So yes, the transmediale was demasked as what it was, “a bunch of academics congratulating each other” as some audience member noted. But for those in the know, this does not come as a big surprise. The event excludes the industry (for “moral” reasons) and it excludes the “unknowing masses” (through the language used and ticket pricing). By applying the simple “counterpublics calculus” no-one else than academics is left to attend it.

Nevertheless, sometimes these academics come up with interesting ideas. Even though the world was not saved, no conclusion reached, etc., it was still fun to observe and listen.

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