Compte rendu, UPFING

At last, finally, a high-tech conference that made sense to me. Mutations of public space, where a Habermasian public space is giving way to a public space marked not only by Goffman’s marking of space, forestage and backstage, but also all of the “entre” of the so-called “entrenet” — the cooperation and competition, the “coopetition”, the social forms emerging at the same time as the economic ones. The pyramid and the net, the rhysome and the elm tree.

The Internet is no longer, in this formation, some kind of great unknown or some kind of gigantic destabilizer. It is a part of an everday mediascape (to borrow Appuradai’s term, elegantly used in the thesis defence I watched this morning), and has, along with, and by producing, other kinds of social and economic formations, created a site of tension between private and public, between action and regulation, between Microsoft and the startup, between accessibility and hierarchization.

With this in mind, I feel like there are a couple of useful things to integrate into my work over the summer and beyond:

1.Questions of governance (in a general sense) are more important than ever, as the interpenetration of practices and media forms continues to expand and as Web 2.0 practices get integrated into enterprises. How do you manage the spaces in between? How can we reflect on the connections between practice, between bottom-up development, and the hierarchization of technology, power, and influence?
2.Whither democracy? This question seethed throughout the weekend and never got resolved. We can begin to talk about participatory democracy based on tools and practices that we see emerging (blogging, social networking, radical reformations of hierarchical meetings like WSIS and the World Social Forum) but democracy is still built on an idea of an individual – historically a privileged, knowledgeable one – and community efforts at reconfiguring democracy are met with fear, misunderstanding, or panic.
3.Localism, and local culture are more and more important. So is use, user innovation, experimentation that takes international standards and makes them local. WiFi might actually be a local technology, maybe even a micro-local technology. But the perception of the internet is still global . . . back to Sassen and Castells for help with this one.