Re:publica began on Monday. Our plane from Stockholm was going to land at 11.40 at Tegel, so I optimistically thought that there would be a chance to catch Mikael Colville-Andersen’s keynote at 12.30. Well, we landed on time, got our parking position exactly at 11.40. But Tegel being Tegel, it took them 20 minutes to send out the buses and another ten before we stepped out of the terminal. Add replacement buses and carsharing failures to the mix and you get … stress. Quite a lot of it. How I missed my bike that takes me anywhere in Berlin within half an hour. Notes to self (things I already knew):
- Berlin is a slow city – accept it.
- Don’t get attached to Plan A for small things like this.
- Learn to handle stress better.
Eventually it didn’t matter and I watched the keynote online instead.
Reflecting afterwards, I realise that my experience is very similar to the discrepance between the perfect, imagined timetable for Japanese commuter trains – 基本ダイヤ (kihon daiya) – and how the trains actually run – 実施ダイヤ (jisshi daiya). Michael Fisch describes in An Anthropology of the Machine how the gap between the ideal state and the actual outcome is continuously finessed by the commuters. Handling stress better would in my case mean to better finesse the margin of indeterminacy in life.
As for the rest of the conference, I probably I chose my talks badly, because I was disappointed by the low quality and lack of substance of several of them. Obvious exception: Cory Doctorow and a couple of others, especially Eva Wolfangel. I think the organisers want to create the feeling of a multitude of talks, whereas the real attractions actually always take place on stage 1 and 2. The rest are fillers, put bluntly. But seriously, if you choose to speak at a conference, at least show some showmanship! Entertain us!
I also joined in an intimate Ask Me Anything with Cory:
(Top/featured image by P. Shiah.)
I did two classes from the conference, Poetic Framing on Monday and Media Activism on Tuesday. The former is not graded, and with all the exciting content coming up in Immersive Technologies, I think I will choose that one as my other course to be graded it (alongside Space & Place). We only choose two graded courses. I could also write an essay in Transcultural Film Workshop and choose to be graded in that one, but it would almost be a bit too easy. I don’t want to feel as if I’m doing a job – I want to be truly interested in the subjects I write about.
I spent the weekend writing the first half of the “shitty first draft” of my essay for Theory and History. It’s wonderful to finally start writing after spending the last two months or so devouring relevant papers!
- Boyer, Dominic (2012): From Media Anthropology to the Anthropology of Mediation. In Fardon, R. et al: The SAGE Handbook of Social Anthropology (?), pp. 383-392.
- Grau, Oliver (1999): Into the Belly of the Image: Historical Aspects of Virtual Reality. In Leonardo, Volume 32, No. 5, pp. 365-371.
We watched two videos in preparation for class, and I think they were each other’s opposites:
- Nonny de la Peña’s TED talk The Future of News? Virtual Reality was a great example of how VR is the logical next step in the evolution of how we take in news and other stories. My spontaneous comparison would be TV’s impact on the Vietnam war. It had an impact because it took the viewer there, to the middle of the action, in a way that print journalism had not managed to. Likewise, VR takes us further than TV. But it’s basically the same – just an enhancement, an amplification of the sensory experience.
- Alex Kipman’s TED talk The dawn of the age of holograms, on the other hand, was a mishmash of empty phrases that mixed up key concepts such as reality and technical terms like holograms, AR, VR. He tried to convince us that his product lets us break free from our screens and connect to people for real, like we used to. Revolution rather than evolution, that is. When in fact the main difference is that the screens are closer to our eyes in VR/AR. And the dismissal of smartphone technology, rudimentary as it is, completely forgets that the smartphone too lets us connect to real people. At the end of the day the interface doesn’t matter. Human interaction (or the gameplay) does, and we’re willing to see through the rough edges if the main purpose is fulfilled. Save us the this-product-will-change-your-life crap!
Theory and History essay
- Colligan, Colette (2003): “A Race of Born Pederasts”: Sir Richard Burton, Homosexuality, and the Arabs. In Nineteenth-Century Contexts, Vol. 25, No. 1, p. 1-20.
- The Economist:
- Soranews24: 40 things our loveless reporter felt using Tinder in Japan
- The Book of Life: On Self-Assertion (via Youtube)