ars electronca 2007: the choir agrees

i feel like i just had a huge warning finger stuck in my face over the last two days.

wow style nametags08092007107

yes. things are bad. all our alarms should be going off. actions and countermeasures should be taken. the two day symposium “goodbye privacy! – welcome publicity?” made that much clear. datamining is happening on a massive scale, the data trails that we all leave behind online and using our mobile devices are huge and just there for the taking, waiting to be exploited, or in some cases they already are being used to profile us and classify us into citizens/customers of various standing. i did hear some new, some of it quite shocking information, most of it, the general credo i already knew.

so i really should be worried. we all should. but i somehow fail to so, in fact, i don’t seem able to come up with any sort of an emotional response, well, at least nothing beyond maybe a tiny little yelp. call me naive, but i still think the advantages of free access to all information outweighs the potentially negative outcome. yes, a lot of things need sorting, like who has access to what information, and maybe for how long. but, uhm, can please somebody else deal with this?

somehow this year’s symposium left me really indifferent. maybe, just maybe, my lack of emotional response also had to do with who and what we got to hear. it felt like most speakers were preaching to the choir, to the already converted and maybe things could have gotten a little more heated, had we heard some of the more extreme viewpoints, the conspiracy theorists in one corner (ok, we did have erich moechel), a few let-it-all-hang-out bloggers in another corner and maybe a few of the “bad guys”, surveillance software developpers, dataminers etc. – in short, some more speakers willing to express the non-consensus viewpoints in order to get some sort of discussion going. as it was, it was all pretty shallow.

and then of course it was quite funny and maybe a little sad to observe, that when one of the great critics of the festival in recent years, at least informally, suddenly sits in the driving seat, and i do mean armin medosch here, he ends up making the exact same mistakes as everybody else, inviting his compadres, his pals, his posse, and failing to step out of his own mindframe and offering a broader view. on another level the presentation was very well done, witty, informed, but the selection of speakers was too narrow to get me exited.

my personal highlight yesterday was a small, unadvertised talk by joi ito about WoW. for lack of people he turned it into an informal lets-just-get-coffee session. as it turned out all people present were WoW players, past or present, and we talked about the various aspects of the game, elite versus casual guilds, social implications, the fascination when 10, 20, 40 players are “in the zone”, what happens when children play with their parents, the potential for addiction, outlook on further develeopments.

today the pope will visit austria. ars electronica has invited michael schmidt-salomon, atheist, philosopher, co-founder of the giordano bruno foundation, to give a speech entitled “do you still believe or are you already thinking?”. should be interesting. meanwhile i am tempted to “the pope on your mobile” as one huge advert claims.

About Jan Zuppinger

Jan Zuppinger has been writing this blog since 2002. He likes to grow vegetables. He likes to eat them too. He has opinions on everything, but sadly no one cares. Jan Zuppinger is not joking, just joking, he is joking, just joking, he's not joking. *click.