McLuhan: Media as Art Forms

“The use of the term ‘mass media’ has been unfortunate. All media, especially languages, are mass media so far at least as their range in space and time is concerned. If by ‘mass media’ is meant a mechanized mode of a previous communication channel, then printing is the first of the mass media. Press, telegraph, wireless, gramophone, movie, radio, TV, are mutations of the mechanization of writing, speech, gesture. Insofar as mechanization introduces the ‘mass’ dimension, it may refer to a collective effort in the use of the medium, to larger audiences or to instantaneity of reception. Again, all of these factors may create difficulty of ‘feedback’ or lack of rapport between ‘speaker’ and audience. There has been very little discussion of any of these questions, thanks to the gratuitous assumption that communication is a matter of transmission of information, message or idea. This assumption blinds people to the aspect of communication as participation in a common situation. And it leads to ignoring the form of communication as the basic art situation which is more significant than the information or idea ‘transmitted’.”

McLuhan, Marshall. 1954. ‘Notes on the Media as Art Forms’. Explorations. Studies in Culture and Communication 2 (August): 6–13, 6. Edited by Edmund S. Carpenter.

(This is still one of my favourite McLuhan quotes. I makes a blast, and resets our intuitions. Mass mediation is just an effect of mechanization taking command – now go insert ‘cooperation’ instead of 1950s ‘communication‘!)

Materialität der Kooperation

Cover Materialität der Kooperation

Die Autorinnen der „Materialität der Kooperation“ fragen nach materiellen Bedingungen und Medienpraktiken der Kooperation – vor, während und über Situationen hinaus. Kooperation wird als ein wechselseitiges Zusammenwirken verstanden, das mit oder ohne Konsens, mit oder ohne Kopräsenz der beteiligten Akteure in verteilten Situationen vonstattengehen kann. Materielle Bedingung von Kooperation sind Medien als Artefakte, Körper, Texte, Bilder und Infrastrukturen. Sie ermöglichen, bedingen und figurieren wechselseitige Verfertigungen – und entstehen selbst durch Medienpraktiken in kooperativen Situationen.


Materialität der Kooperation zur Einleitung
Sebastian Gießmann, Tobias Röhl


„Harmony, not discord“. Kooperation im Büro der Larkin Company um 1900
Christine Schnaithmann

Schnittstelle Laderampe. Zur Infrastruktur des Schlachthofs
Christian Kassung

Version Control. Zur softwarebasierten Koordination von Ko-Laboration
Marcus Burkhardt


Über das Denken in Ko-Operationsketten. Arbeiten am Luftlagebild
Christoph Borbach, Tristan Thielmann

„Ein weiteres gemeinsames Medium zur Banken-Kooperation“. Der Fall der Eurocard
Sebastian Gießmann

Routinen des Kooperierens in der Kreativarbeit
Hannes Krämer

Schlussfolgern durch Skizzieren. „Kooperative“ Materialien des zeichnerischen Denkens
Sabine Ammon

Körper/Technik in Standby. Zur Bedeutung kooperativen Wartens für digitale Arbeit
Ronja Trischler

Strapping und Stacking. Eine Ethnografie der Suche nach einem neuen Medium
Götz Bachmann


Transsituativität herstellen. Flugreisen und ihre Medien
Larissa Schindler

Spielarten der Trans-Sequentialität. Zur Gegenwartsdiagnostik gesellschaftlicher Problembearbeitungskapazitäten entwickelt aus Ethnografien staatlicher Verfahren
Thomas Scheffer

Ökologien medialer Praktiken
Petra Löffler


Sozio-materielle Praktiken in irritierenden Situationen
Jörg Potthast

Die Irreduzibilität des technischen Könnens
Erhard Schüttpelz

Net Neutrality: Anatomy of a Controversy

There is no neutrality when it comes to net neutrality. Set up in the trenches between digital infrastructure and new media publics, net neutrality has become one of the defining controversies of internet governance, concerning fundamental questions regarding access, digital civil rights and the net’s affordances. A definition of net neutrality partly conceals its contested character, but as an artefact of an ongoing controversy, the Wikipedia entry provides some orientation:

“Net neutrality is the principle that governments should mandate Internet service providers to treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.” (Wikipedia 2018a)

Net Neutrality: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO), 1 June 2014.; screenshot taken on 22 February 2018.
Net Neutrality: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO), 1 June 2014.; screenshot taken on 22 February 2018.

By now, net neutrality is almost inseparable from other widely discussed trajectories of digitally networked media such as mass surveillance and censorship. Ever since it became an issue in itself, net neutrality is constantly under repair, flickering in and out with political changes and activist engagement.

Unlike policy-related papers, this article takes a different approach to the formation of net neutrality as a contested issue, with specific reference to US media publics. Along with Susan Leigh Star, I propose to understand it as a boundary object that has developed into a global “ideal type” (Star 1989, p. 49; Star and Griesemer 1989, p. 410). Boundary objects mediate between the informational requirements of heterogeneous social worlds (or publics). They aggregate different and even opposing viewpoints in a controversy without necessarily reconciling them. More specifically, as an “ideal-type” boundary object, net neutrality retains its interpretative flexibility for heterogeneous stake- holders from different social worlds (Pinch and Bijker 1987). It allows for different imaginations of how all data and “content” circulation should work on the internet. While an ideal-type boundary object “does not accurately describe the [technical, SG] details”, for example of non-discriminatory data package transmission and internet architecture, it is in fact “fairly vague” (Star and Griesemer 1989, p. 410).

Precisely because of its contested definition, net neutrality seems to be adaptable by all stakeholders for their purposes. This adaptability and interpretative flexibility is key to local appropriation and to the similar, yet not identical formations of net neutrality as an issue of public concern. Although there is no neutrality of stakeholders’ interests when it comes to net neutrality, even the most adversarial proponents will agree that the controversy deals with the question of how the internet should work as a global, yet techno-legally localised infrastructure. Obviously, there is no standardisation of related protocols that could ever deliver ‘real’ network neutrality. In producing an administrative and legal ideal type that is actually rather vague, the controversy is creating an abstraction from historical and actual infrastructural practice.

Want to know more? The whole text has been published within the book Infrastructuring Publics. Check out the SpringerLink PDF (and excuse the paywall), have a look at the preprint or drop me a line.

Circulating Indexicality, Cyberspace and the Early Web

logo the web that was

Looking back at 1990s representations of cyberspace always makes one feel alienated, a bit dislocated, and amazed at the same time. Did the American and Western European grasp of the World Wide Web really mix it with imaginations of cyberspace, all of the time? How could the mundane interfaces, modems, and slowly loading websites give rise to such an enthusiastic mapping of online spatiality, creating an unique visual culture of new cyberspaces? Some explanations for this are easier to give: Cyberpunk, Gaming Cultures and Media Arts had been engaged with online spatiality before the Web grew exponentially in a short time. Interlinking public, and especially urban space with representations of digital cities and information landscapes also did not start with the Web, as Kirsten Wagner has shown as early as 2006 (Wagner 2006). Yet some of the Web’s practices became quickly engaged with a translation of urbanity into cyber-urbanity, and affording a new situationist dérive while surfing. John Perry Barlow’s “Declaration of Independence” attempted to remove the cyberspace from the realm of old statehood and legality, while addressing its representatives at the highly localized 1996 World Economic Forum in Davos.

A lot of this resonates in and with Martin Dodge’s and Rob Kitchin’s seminal work of “Mapping Cyberspace” (2000), which we want to revisit here. For them, the “Web has become such a powerful interface and interaction paradigm that is the mode of cyberspace, particularly for the mass of users who only came online since the mid-1990s.” (Dodge/Kitchin 2000, p. 3). Along with Dodge and Kitchin, a slightly more systematic explanation can be made about the dynamics between locating the Internet, and the Web, topographically while at the same time accounting for its feelingly new information spaces and attaching a topological spatiality to them. Relations between topography and topology are, as I would like to argue, always shifting and relational, thereby relying on the evaluations of what kind of indexicality a mapping wants to achieve. So neither is topography bound to mimetic mappings of actual geographic space, nor is topology something only to be found in the realm of abstract diagrammatics and mathematics that refrain from any geo-indexicality. Methodologically, Dodge and Kitchin appropriated the whole range of digital cartographic options at hand, including a multitude of distributed mappings of geographers at universities and telco companies. Geo-indexicality thus almost always remained topical, even if it was absent in representations of, let us say, a hyperlink topology between websites like Ben Fry’s Valence (1999). “[G]eography continues to matter, despite recent rhetoric claiming the ‘death of distance’.” (Dodge/Kitchin 2000, p. x.)

„Circulating Indexicality, Cyberspace and the Early Web“ weiterlesen

Stadt als Meer – Antonia von Schönings „Die Administration der Dinge“

Cover "Administration der Dinge", Antonia von Schöning

Antonia von Schöning hat ein elegantes Buch geschrieben. »Die Administration der Dinge« verflechtet geschickt Imaginations-, Verwaltungs- und Mediengeschichte, um sich der Hauptstadt des 19. Jahrhunderts erneut zu nähern. Mit ihrer Neuerkundung der Pariser Kanalisation des 19. Jahrhunderts betritt von Schöning ein Souterrain, das schon seit Langem kein »anderer Ort« mehr ist. Zwar lassen sich die Touristen und Touristinnen, die das Pariser Kanalisationsmuseum (Musée des Égouts) verlassen, immer noch leicht daran erkennen, dass sie beim Verlassen erleichtert wieder aufatmen. Aber die imaginären Überschüsse, von denen dieses Buch handelt, sind heutzutage eher Erkundungen infrastruktureller Praxis gewichen, wie sie etwa Bruno Latour und Émilie Hermant mit »Paris, ville invisible« in Gestalt eines Fotoessays vorgelegt haben. An Erzählungen, die etwa der Kanalisationspoetik in Victor Hugos »Les Misérables« gleichkämen, mangelt es jedoch der Jetztzeit genauso wie an Kartenwerken, die Eugène de Fourcys monumentalen »Atlas souterrain de la ville de Paris« von 1859 das Wasser reichen könnten.

Von Schönings hier besprochenes Buch, das als Dissertationsschrift im Weimarer Graduiertenkolleg »Mediale Historiographien« entstanden ist, betont die Untrennbarkeit von medialen Darstellungsverfahren, administrativen Techniken, imaginativen Praktiken und Umgestaltungen des urbanen Raums. Es handelt sich um eine genuin medienkulturwissenschaftliche Studie, zu deren Anlage eine umfassende Durchsicht der Traktat- und Administrationsliteratur zur Pariser Kanalisation gehört – mitsamt ihrer neu entwickelten statistischen und kartografischen Verfahren.

„Stadt als Meer – Antonia von Schönings „Die Administration der Dinge““ weiterlesen

Lehrveranstaltungen im Sommersemester 2019

Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen

Im Sommersemester 2019 biete ich folgende Lehrveranstaltungen in der Siegener Medienwissenschaft an:

Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie und Akteur-Medien-Theorie
Unisono | Moodle

Werkstatt Praxistheorie
Unisono | Homepage/Plakat

Worum geht es in den Seminaren?

Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie und Akteur-Medien-Theorie
Die Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie hat sich in den letzten zehn Jahren in der Medienwissenschaft fest etabliert – zu einem Zeitpunkt, als die meisten ihrer Protagonistinnen und Protagonisten die ANT weitgehend hinter sich gelassen hatten. Die klassischen Texte der Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie, die wir uns in diesem Seminar gemeinsam erschließen werden, stammen jedoch v.a. aus den 1980er und 1990er Jahren. War ihre verspätete und zunächst auf Bruno Latour fixierte Rezeption in der Medienwissenschaft ein – glücklicher – wissenschaftshistorischer Zufall oder folgt sie einer eigenen Logik? Was lernen wir aus der verspäteten und verschobenen Aneignung, und wie muss Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie unter digitalen Bedingungen neu gedacht werden? Welche Potenziale bietet sie für medienhistorisches, medienanalytisches und medientheoretisches Arbeiten?

Werkstatt Praxistheorie
Die Werkstatt Praxistheorie widmet sich im Sommersemester 2019 Daten- und Medienpraktiken des Registrierens/Identifizierens, und Aktualisierens. Im Vordergrund steht die Diskussion mit den Gästen der Abendvorträge (Penny Harvey, Arjun Appadurai, Asko Lehmuskallio, Tanja Bogusz). Der voraussichtliche Termin für einen gemeinsamen, ganztägigen Workshop der Werkstatt ist der 9. Mai 2019, 10-18 Uhr.

Die Aktenförmigkeit von Koordination und Delegation wirft Fragen nach den Modi der Registrierung, Identifizierung und Nachverfolgbarkeit von Handlungen auf. Medienpraktiken der Registrierung und Identifizierung beginnen ebenfalls in wechselseitiger Interaktion, z. B. in sprachlichen und gestischen Praktiken des indexikalischen Verweisens und Verdeutlichens. Durch den Gebrauch registrierender und identifizierender Medien wird die Interaktionssituation transformiert, skaliert und modifiziert. Dies betrifft nicht nur die klassischen Verdatungstechniken staatlicher Registrierung und Identifizierung, darunter polizeiliche Erkennungsdienste, optische und akustische Überwachung, Staatstabellen, Statistik, Big Data. Vielmehr beinhalten Registrieren und Identifizieren ebenso alltägliche logistische Medienpraktiken: Adressierung, Einschätzen, Auffinden, Tracking und die Lieferung einer Nachricht, eines Objekts oder einer Person. Registrierungs- und Identifizierungstechniken ermöglichen die Referenz auf singularisierte Personen und Objekte, aber auch auf lokalisierte und datierte Verschickungsvorgänge.

So lassen sich Formen des registrierend-identifizierenden Mediengebrauchs in den Blick nehmen, mit denen Praktiken, Personen, Zeichen/Daten, Güter und Dienstleistungen „zurechnungsfähig“ gemacht werden, z.B. in der Nachverfolgbarkeit von literarischer Autorschaft, Produktion und Piraterie, der Kreditwürdigkeit einer Person, erwünschter/unerwünschter Beobachtung und Kontrolle, Bewegungsverfolgung, der statistischen Erhebung von Gleichheit, der Verwaltung und Adressierung in einem digitalen Telefonnetz und Nutzungspraktiken digitaler Plattformen. Leitende Fragen sind dabei: Wie verhalten sich die großen politisch-ökonomischen Registratur- und Bürokratisierungswellen seit dem 19. Jh. zur Entstehung massenmedialer Öffentlichkeiten, die von einem generalisierten, anonym adressierbaren Publikum ausgehen, dieses aber postwendend erforschen und durchleuchten wollen? Auf welche Art und Weise entstehen aus kooperativen Praktiken generalisierte Techniken und „Rechen(schafts)zentren“ (R. Rottenburg) zur Registrierung und Identifizierung? Wie integrieren sie Instrumente, und wie vollziehen Akteure die Mobilisierung mittels welcher Inskriptionen bzw. Daten? Mit welchen Wechselwirkungen zwischen ästhetischer bzw. populärkultureller und bürokratischer Registrierung und Identifizierung ist zu rechnen, d.h. wie organisieren Öffentlichkeiten die Zurechnung und Nachverfolgbarkeit von Personen, Zeichen, Dingen, Dienstleistungen?

Paranoia inklusive – Yasha Levines „Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet“

Die dreckige Wäsche wird immer zum Schluss gewaschen. Yasha Levines furiose Abrechnung mit dem Surveillance Valley setzt auf den letzten Seiten zum Rundumschlag an. Egal ob Edward Snowden, Jacob Applebaum, Roger Dingledine oder die Electronic Frontier Foundation: Für Levine spielen die Aktivisten rund um die Verschlüsselungssoftware Tor allzu naiv das Spiel von Geheimdiensten und Militärs mit, ohne sich kritisch mit der Herkunft ihrer favorisierten Technologien auseinander zu setzen. Levine, Sohn russischer Einwanderer und investigativer Journalist, hält sich hingegen an die Devise follow the money. Er beginnt sein Buch mit der bekannten Geschichte von Sputnik-Schock und Vietnamkrieg, die in den USA der 1960er-Jahre staatliche Forschungsgelder im ungeahnten Umfang mobilisierten. Er widmet sich der Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), die auf dieser Basis als Forschungsagentur des US-Verteidigungsministeriums gegründet wird.

Yasha Levine: Surveillance Valley - The Secret Military History of the Internet

Als Urszene der digitalen Überwachung fungieren in Surveillance Valley die strategischen Aktivitäten der ARPA zur Aufstandsbekämpfung im Project Agile. Sie beruhten auf einer Analyse des Militärgeheimdienstmanns William Godel: Angesichts der militärischen Fehler der französischen Kolonialmacht in Vietnam lautete dessen Schlussfolgerung, dass zukünftige counterinsurgency kleinteiliger, verdeckt, mit mehr High-Tech und psychologischer Kriegsführung operieren müsse. Noch vor Ausbruch des Vietnamkrieges baute die ARPA daher für das Pentagon gezielt Überwachungsstationen in Vietnam auf. Im Rahmen von Operation Igloo White wurden ­– weitestgehend ohne Erfolg – tausende Sensoren und Mikrofone im Dschungel platziert.

„Paranoia inklusive – Yasha Levines „Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet““ weiterlesen

Standards Revisited

Thursday, 24 January 2019, University of Siegen
Herrengarten 3, 57072 Siegen, room AH 217/218

13:15 Opening Remarks: Standards Revisited
Sebastian Gießmann (University of Siegen) / Nadine Taha (University of Siegen)

13:30 Anna Echterhölter (University of Vienna)
Red and Black Boxes: Standardization as Mesuroclasm in German New Guinea

14:30 Nadine Taha (University of Siegen)
George Eastman and the Calendar Reform

16:00 Geoffrey C. Bowker (University of California, Irvine)
Standard Time: Computers, Clocks and Turtles – via Zoom Conference

17:00 Lawrence Busch (Michigan State University)
Markets and Standards – via Zoom Conference

Friday, 25 January 2019

10:00 JoAnne Yates (MIT, Sloan School of Management)
A New Model for Standard Setting: How IETF became the Standards Body for the Internet

11:00 Thomas Haigh
(University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee / University of Siegen)
The Accidental Standard: How a Box Became an Industry

13:00 Sebastian Gießmann (University of Siegen)
Standardizing Digital Payments

14:00 Anne Helmond (University of Amsterdam)/ Fernando van der Vlist (University of Amsterdam / University of Siegen)
‘It’s Graphs All the Way Down’

Standards are not easy to come by. As infrastructural media they coordinate the social to an ever-growing extent, thus creating conditions of cooperation. Standards do so not just by their sociotechnical power, but also by public uptake and controversies that put their accountability into question. They can also be understood as engineering and bureaucratic media that form a basis and condition for cooperation.

Historically, practices of standardization can be traced back to antiquity, especially in the history of coins, writing, and measurements. But pre-modern standards were bound to flounder and dissipate. Early modern knowledge cultures – partly – realized standardization via hand-made scientific instruments that extended metrological chains. While pre-industrial attempts to standardize the aggregation of information in administrative forms have been limited in scale and scope, 19th century industrialization interconnected with nationalized politics extended the territories of standardization. Media infrastructures such as the postal service and telegraphy became transnational through their administration in international organizations and a legal foundation via international treaties. Scale and scope of – inherently political and normative – standards and metrologies were at the same time constitutive for colonial prospection and rule.

Computing has given rise to its own regimes and obsessions of non-governmental standardizing. While early digital computers were unique, the trajectories of standardization were then tied to governmental contract research, commercialization and its coordinative and delegative practices. Serial production and the diffusion of architectural norms became a matter of economic competition in the era of mainframe computing in organizations. In multiple ways both the networking of heterogeneous computers and the success of the IBM-compatible PC did create a pathway to “open standards” that made computers publicly accessible. In the transpacific and global arena of hardware and software production, hyper-standardization has been an issue ever since. This also involves the questions of formats that mediate bureaucratic processes, textual representation, visual and auditory perception, and digital audiovisuality. Formats thus have become standards that mediate digital practices in their own right, just like network protocols and Internet standards. In many ways, the ecology of the World Wide Web is an ecology due to its standardizing bodies, communities of practice, and institutions like the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Our aim is to understand how standards generalize and universalize media technologies, and to ask: How do metrology, industrialization, and imperialism/colonialism intersect with standards? What is the relation between standards, digital media, and coordination? How to explain the longue durée, ecology, and the enduring power of standards to configure cooperation? What is the relation between standards, delegative power, scale, and scope of media?

Collaborative Research Center Media of Cooperation, University of Siegen CRC project A01: “Digital Network Technologies between Specialization and Generalization

MoneyLab #6 „Infrastructures of Money“

MoneyLab 6 Infrastructures of Money

Call for contributions
[reblog from]

Siegen (Germany), 7-8 March 2019

The cryptocurrency spectacle might not be over yet, but its spectacular boom and bust has given way to the banality of the blockchain, to a more subtle and pervasive set of effects. So what is happening in this current post-hype situation? Imaginaries of a “cashless society” are becoming very real now, a vision rapidly being realised through cryptocurrencies and other token-based digital moneys. Banks are anxious to avoid falling behind. If institutions start to worry about “disruption” and “not being digital enough”, the tides might really start to shift. Yet going beyond finance to think more broadly, the affordances of blockchain applications allow for novel forms of exchange and data practices. Commercial platforms see a new architecture for extraction that might replace the crumbling ad-based model of monetisation. Artists, activists and journalists see an infrastructure ripe for critical intervention and appropriation. 

At MoneyLab #6 we want to explore the new relations between money, valuation and (digital) infrastructures. “Infrastructures of Money” addresses money both as practice and as the social infrastructure and condition for cooperation. Money is not just a number written in dollars and cents, but a medium of relation and a token of trust. Situated in Siegen University’s broader Media Studies department, the Collaborative Research Center “Media of Cooperation” invites you to inquire into the socio-materialities of monetary and valuation practices. In the tradition of MoneyLab, we encourage contributors to critique social media, to explore practices of digital infrastructures, and to investigate valorisations of social life. We aim to address the tensions between global corporate infrastructures and local practices and enactments. What if we were capable of reinventing money as a medium of cooperation?

We invite artistic, creative and activist contributions on “Infrastructures of Money”.

Please send your contributions to before 31 December 2018.


For MoneyLab #6 in Siegen, we welcome contributions on the following 6 themes:

1. Anthropology of Money 

Money is as much a question of practice as it is of infrastructure. Things are bought and sold. Money changes hands. The anthropology of money has a long tradition of exploring these localised practices of exchange through ethnographic inquiries into the relations between money, gift and credit. The quantified data units of platforms and their new digital tokens of value not only introduce new standards of exchange but also challenge anthropologists to account for situated practices and global infrastructures at the same time. It seems sociality, like everything else, can be monetised. How do these changing infrastructures alter monetary practices and our account of value? Are we in need of a new general monetary theory?

2. Finance, Automation and Surveillance

Financial surveillance is still on its way up. Though practices of surveillance date back to the 19th century, there is a new intensity and ubiquity to them today. Think of transnational transparency regimes (Basel III), think of new EU regulations concerning identification in payments technologies, think of credit card transaction leaks that are quickly de-anonymised by researchers. These developments foreground the fact that technologies of accounting, scoring, and subjectivation are at the core of digital and mobile network media now. How can we think about the new distributedness and temporalisation of monetary practices? And how does machine learning transform monetary valuation, algo-trading, fintech platforms, their APIs, and financial decision-making? As regimes that automatically intervene in real-time transactions, such technologies establish, perpetuate, and remediate “orders of worth”. Of course, this desire for automation has been part of every computerisation movement. But we also recognise that money often serves as a medium of heteromation and dis-automation. Financial surveillance is frequently accompanied by infrastructural frictions and calls for accountability. We want to hear about practices that explore the seams and ruptures, the moments of break down and manual intervention.

3. Aesthetics of Financial Flows

There is a rich tradition of visualising financial flows going all the way back to the 1920s. In the wake of the 2008 financial crash, understanding the often opaque operations of finance suddenly became more urgent. Visualisation practices have since been taken up by a broad array of artists and activists. By following internet cables, dissecting financial architecture, and mapping the timelines of flash crashes, these maps have given us renewed insights into a notoriously complex and incredibly high speed sector. But what do we do after the mapping is over? Are there routes from the visual to the political? How can knowledge of these systems lead to new regulation, local action and increased agency?

4. Blockchains Beyond Fintech

Beyond the cryptocurrency hype of the last decade, the underlying principles and technologies known as the blockchain have now become widely dispersed. From health to academic research, energy to governance, copyright law to fine art, actors and organisations in various social fields are exploring the blockchain. Unleashed from its niche origins in cryptography and electronic currency, the blockchain’s data decentralisation is now held up as the solution for every problem. Sustainable energy? Blockchain! Higher quality research? Blockchain! Fairer globalisation? Blockchain!

Today the blockchain is everywhere. But just as important as its ubiquity is its perceived maturity. No longer the risky venture of the startup or the experimental tinkering of cypherpunks, blockchains are quickly becoming part of commercial platforms with significant investment that implement the concept at scale. Alongside these corporate implementations, the blockchain has also found its way into civil society, grassroots initiatives, NGOs, and art institutions. Yet the ‘blockchain’ is ambiguous and open-ended. Whether impressive, peculiar, or even corrupt, each implementation asserts its own version of what a decentralised data practice means and what it should be used for. In this varied landscape, the tensions that make up its ‘trustless’ transactions—secure and transparent yet anonymous—become blurry or sometimes even mutually exclusive. In practice, excluding trust might require consent, or registration might trump anonymity. As new flavours and understandings of the blockchain proliferate, how can the blockchain be used “for the good”? And what are the real sociotechnical problems we need to address?

5. European Populism and the Geopolitics of Finance 

Like many places in the world, Europe is witnessing the establishment of a new political landscape where populism plays a major role. How does finance feature within this? How would the 5 Star Movement in Italy establish national sovereignty over the financial sector? How does the ECB and Brussels respond to all of this? And what is the state of Eastern European nationalism in this post-Brexit age? From its libertarian origins to our contemporary moment of alt-right nationalism, cryptocurrencies have always been as much a political vehicle as a strict medium of financial exchange.

6. Monetising the Social – Socialising Money

The monetisation of the social is proliferating far beyond the crude ad-based models on early social media platforms. From influencer marketing on Instagram to third party app economies built on platforms and the constant re-valorisation of social media data in rankings, ratings and analytics, we ask how emergent digital infrastructures monetise the social today. At the same time, we seem to be witnessing an emerging socialisation of money, from financial literacy communities to DIY investment schemes and financial products that cut out the middleman of the bank. How will our social lives be the foundation of new economic models and how is the socialisation of money informing the financial sector?

About MoneyLab

The MoneyLab network was founded by the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam. MoneyLab considers, critiques and intervenes within our new digital economy. It is a network of artists, activists, and geeks experimenting with forms of financial democratisation in contexts such as crowdfunding, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, cashless society, and Universal Basic Income. We question persistent beliefs, from Calvinist austerity, growth, and up-scaling, to trustless automated decision-making and freedom on the dark web, from (anarcho-)capitalist dreams of the days of yore to the special sauce of neoliberal entrepreneurialism and its right-wing libertarian counterparts.

The black box of finance has been etched into the imagination of the public and there has rarely been a more generous context to manifest working alternatives for the 99%. Cooperative platforms, decentralised technologies and direct democracy movements indicate profound attempts to rebalance the distribution of wealth and power. As resistance towards poverty, precarity, tax havens, algorithmic speculation, and financial crimes grows, the challenge ahead is to find ways to improve and sustain such financial experiments and to intervene in current debates both inside and outside of our established political systems.

Before arriving in Siegen, MoneyLab has included 5 international conferences and 2 globally distributed readers:

MoneyLab #1 – Coining Alternatives: Amsterdam, 2014
MoneyLab #2 – Economies of Dissent: Amsterdam, 2015
MoneyLab Reader: An Intervention in Digital Economy, 2015
MoneyLab #3 – Failing Better: Amsterdam, 2016
MoneyLab Reader #2: Overcoming the Hype, 2018
MoneyLab #4 – Art, Culture, and Financial Activism: London, 2018
MoneyLab #5 – Matters of Currency: Buffalo, NY, 2018

Practical Information

Moneylab #6 will take place from 7-8 March 2019 at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Unteres Schloß 1, 57072 Siegen. Further information about the schedule, directions and accommodations in Siegen will be released soon.

For questions about the event, please email:

We can issue letters of invitation to help you apply for travel grants.


Twitter handle: #inframoney

Organised by

Carolin Gerlitz, Sebastian Gießmann, Inte Gloerich, Geert Lovink and Ronja Trischler.

MoneyLab #6 is a collaboration between the Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam (NL) and the Cooperative Research Centre “Media of Cooperation”, Siegen (DE).