Welcome to the rabbit's hole. A blog on pulp.
Alright. Today’s the second day, that I’m at the re:publica. It’s hard to say how well-known this event is, at least outside of this specific subculture. Here, especially if you live in Berlin, there’s a certain awareness about the fact that a couple of nerds (really, it’s more than a couple by now, but compared to similar events on other subjects the number is quite insignificant) meet to discuss, socialise and take part in workshops. The subject, in its vaguest description, is ‘the internets’ and ‘new media’.
But from what I’ve seen so far, the convention has changed drastically. I participated at the re:publica five years ago, and there were about 200 people at space fit for about a hundred, people who didn’t even consider themselves an avantgarde, much less a movement. I remember talking to a couple of guys who, at that point were about to start an organisation that would eventually become the AK Vorrat, an NGO lobbying for the rights of data privacy.
Be that as it may, the re:publica has evolved. More than half of the sessions, the ‘tracks’ as they are called, deal with problems of an emerging, global and networked society. It’s not just about tech – it’s about people. There are talks on how to deal with negative side effects of activism, on the dark corners of social media, on the disillusionment after the Arab Spring. It’s international and it’s focussing on the impact of networked communications on the society we live in. And, of course, on how not only the “nerds” but general society perceives and deals with these changes.
But there’s also another side. re:publica also develops, albeit slowly, into a commercial event. There are a couple of companies who started to realise that an event like this, with loads of people interested in what’s generally known as the next revolution of society, in people they call the ‘digital avantgarde’, they are able to put out a considerable amount of influence. And they’re all here: industrial giants like Daimler, Vodafone, .comdirect and Google, media organisations such as the ARD and Deutsche Welle, Spiegel Online but also Wikimedia, Aktion Mensch and the Federal Agency for Political Education (bpb). It’s an indicator that, while society in general doesn’t exactly show an interest in subjects, they perceive as either technical or secondary, major players in Germany see the need to influence the discourse that’s emerging from the patchwork interest groups they perceive as experts on this field.
Certainly this has been one of the most intellectually inspiring conventions I’ve been at. The fact that there are entities relevant to our society which seem to recognise this as well makes this even more relevant.
It’s going to be interesting to see in which direction the re:publica will develop in the following years.