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This week Germany’s most important internet and blogger’s conference re:publica 2013 took place in Berlin (May 6-8) with about 5,000 participants and a mass of panels and workshops on many, many topics related to current developments on the Internet.

republica13

One main subject of this year’s discussions (in official panels as well as in private discussions and in related media coverage) was a differentiation of tariffs for internet services recently announced by Germany’s biggest provider Deutsche Telekom. The company started a new tariff policy by the beginning of May and now demands extra fees from users of large amounts of data. Those who are not willing or able to pay these extra fees will be confronted with degraded network performance. Net neutrality, until now discussed theoretically as a potential threat for a free Internet, seems to become a real problem.

On the other side, re:publica also featured activists’ reflections on how to use the Internet in a more democratic or a more humanistic sense. For example, Sascha Lobo, sort of Germany’s beacon light when it comes to the internet, spoke about his newly launched Reclaim Social Media”-project. His idea is to develop a tool for reclaiming control of your own data produced and stored in different social networks.

sascha-lobo

Tuppens minut: Sascha Lobo at re:publica 13. Behind him on the screen it says ‘anger’.

Another example: Laurie Penny, blogger and journalist from Great Britain, talked about Cybersexism. Penny explained that there is not only a problem with Cybersexim on the internet, the web also provides potential solutions – if used in a proper way.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of discussions focused on the commercial potential of the internet. For example, Tero Kaukomaa from Finland spoke about experiences with partly crowdfunding the movie Iron Sky. And, equally unsurprising, you could hear several talks by scholars and scientists as well, for example about ethics of algorithms (in German).

For those who are interested, several presentations and lectures are available on YouTube.

November comes with high hopes. For some, it’s an excuse to grow a moustache. A men’s health campaign of sorts. For others, or more specifically academics, it’s apparently a time for the stuff we’re suppose to do – writing. But only more so. The AcWriMo-campaign came about last year and has grown into a social media movement where researchers alike publically declare how much he or she intends to write during the month’s 30 days. Writing goals flourishes on Twitter (#AcWriMo) and a not so definite yet highly interesting Google-doc is circulating where you find certain academics’ writing goals and their day-to-day progress. The movement, gathering 350 researchers last year, is like “a giant, global academic, aerobics session”, as one blogger commented. Visit the official website for a more detailed story (including the rules!). The Guardian ran an interesting article on the subject as well.

Considering how stressful the academic culture is perhaps such pressure might end up defeating its own purpose, sucking the joy out of the very thing it supposedly advocates – writing. Perhaps it is easier to grow moustaches.

Yesterday ISK:s guest researcher Hagen Schölzel gave a presentation as a part of our department’s research seminar series. His talk, which was based on his soon to be published dissertation, focused on guerilla communication or the political act of transforming dominant political expressions into new forms of meanings, often with subversive twists. Schölzel traced the meaning of the term itself – guerilla communication – starting from its use within art movements such as surrealism, Dadaism and the situationists and up to its contemporary use in PR-handbooks. Today, perhaps the most common examples used when explaining this form of communication are the acts of ad busting, the Yes Men-films or the Anonymous movement.

But perhaps such transformations of meaning are more prevalent today than we realize. The idea that we live in a remix culture was made popular, but certainly not created, within academic discourses by Lawrence Lessig and his notion of read/write-culture, as oppose to our pre-digital society where we were confined to the more passive use of media – we were stuck in reading culture, as oppose to the more creative acts of being able to (re)write media. The documentary A Remix Manifesto is a good example of this.

A few hours after Schölzel’s presentation the Swedish Royal House released a video depicting Sweden’s princess Madeleine and her fiancé announcing their engagement. What was supposed to be a simple portrayal of (heteronormative) love turned into juicy digital pieces highly suitable for distorting, molding and remixing the video’s intentional meaning. All because of that four letter word: tihi.

It was a word (?) Madeleine uttered at the very end, seeking to signal joy perhaps, or nervousness, but perhaps more so an automatic wish to please, a point made explicit by Birgitta Stenberg (website in Swedish). But regardless of her intentions, it was there. It was a bit absurd. And it created a storm. Tihi-gate was unleashed and the remixers flooded the social media.

Perhaps the most poignant distortion was created by public radio SR where they simply but so accurately enhanced the video with a little bit of Twin Peaks-surrealism. I am completely struck by how the added layer of musical spookiness subverts the intended message completely and makes the viewer realize the absurdity and inauthenticity of something so neatly staged. The viewers are divided between the staleness of Royalty and the dark forests of Twin Peaks where characters such as the Log Lady roams; a mental zigzag excercise between a fixed reality to a reality where little or anything makes sense whatsoever. In other words, a match made in heaven.

Perhaps this shows that strategic communication is not about control. It is about the realization that nothing can be taken for granted. All because of that four letter word, tihi.

And here is the reason why Bettina Wulff is suing Google RIGHT NOW. In case you wondered. The rumours have been around since 2006.

Autobiography out right now. Don’t buy it. You can borrow it from my mother later. Just savour the elegant execution of one of the oldest PR-tricks in the box. It makes my eyes water. It’s wonderful. It’s like a comeback of Engelbert Humperdinck.

Be aware that the tattoo divided the country. It’s a subtle form of defiance, too.

Germany’s Ex-First-Lady Bettina Wulff (38), a former PR professional, sues Google. The search engine’s auto-complete function suggests she has a racy past as a prostitute. If you enter her name, Google says you might want to try the following searches.

You can read more about the affair. Here are the links that come up when you do a Google Search.

http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/07/germanys-former-first-lady-sues-google-for-defamation-over-autocomplete-suggestions/

http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,16230823,00.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19542938

Wait a minute. Have to try it for myself.

Can live with the results so far. Phew.