Report Transmediale 2016

From 4 to 7 February 2016, I attended the 29th edition of Transmediale, an annual festival for media art and digital culture in Berlin. It is the place to be for artists, scholars, critics, and activists that seek to express and address a critical understanding of contemporary culture and politics as saturated by media technologies.

This year’s theme was ‘Conversation Piece’, through which Transmediale rebooted the format of the post-digital culture event and aimed to create a transitory space for the discussion of late capitalist anxieties. The theme is based on the inertia of conversations as a result of today’s global competitions between states, corporations, networks, and individuals to create the contexts and frameworks for conversations. The curatorial statement mentions that this competition has turned matters of urgent global concern (e.g. the war on terror, economic growth, refugee crisis, climate change, and big data) into pre-emptied conversations. Since Transmediale has dealt with these topics in the past, this year it was time to turn a reflective gaze on the medium of conversation itself. The program consisted of four thematic streams that functioned as conversation starters: Anxious to Act, Anxious to Make, Anxious to Share, and Anxious to Secure. Each stream had its own keynote talk, and subsequently unfold itself through panel discussions, workshops, and various hybrid formats.

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The Anxious to Act stream addressed today’s challenges of action and activism. Its aim was to reflect on the need for renewed convergences beyond the technological in a time that offers great scopes for interaction, and many reasons to intervene. Anxious to Make reflected on mainstreamed maker culture, aiming to provide a broader appreciation of contemporary making practices, in terms of their limits, potentials, and (dis)associated cultures. The Anxious to Share stream started with anxieties about the unexpected consequences of the sharing economy, since the global expanse of seemingly well-intentioned endeavors have led to greater inequality (17 percent of the world’s population consumes 80 percent of the world’s resources). Lastly, Anxious to Secure aimed to investigate cultures of security in reaction to anxieties on both micro and macro scales, and ask: why do we secure the way we do, and does it actually provide security in the way we envision it?

Although these four anxious streams seem very pessimistic at first glance, this edition was, at least during some conversation pieces I attended, more optimistic than the previous one. The program was packed and FOMO was present, but fortunately, you can listen to or watch most of the talks online (the videos are not yet online). In what follows l will enumerate some of my personal highlights.

This report was first published on networkcultures.org

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