Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Culture of the Information Age (2)

Arts and sociology

At Budapest airport I was picked up by a hostess of the Kodolanyi Janos University College. We arrived late at Siófok, a lakeside town at the Balaton lake. As the season has passed it is very quiet in town; the railway station is deserted. Today I hope to have a glance of the lake.

The conference will start today. I have been thinking about the title of the conference and looked at the presentations to be given. There are roughly two streams. In one stream culture is narrowed down to art in the information age; this gives way to presentations about contemporary art, an exposition on art education and media design studies, but also to preservation of net art. There will even be a presentation on a digital installation. On the other there is the sociological stream about mass media, culture 2.0, private and professional publishing and even e-commerce.

I have chosen for the more sociological stream in my presentation, stressing the change in the use of technology, looking at the use of the computer and the influence of computing. In 1970 I returned from the USA to the Netherlands to start a career in publishing. I got a job with a publishing company which was just setting up a new general encyclopaedia. The project remotely introduced me to the computer, which was hidden in a locked room and closely guarded by a small group of people. In the next ten years I remained in the encyclopaedia domain and saw computing as a production improvement and perhaps as a new way of publishing. By the end of the decade there were roughly 100 people in the Netherlands who could spell the word online and most of them had a library or a publishing background. In 1980 I moved into digital media setting up a studio which produced videotext pages. Without knowing, we were busy with e-commerce, producing pages with advertisements and job vacancies.

But the culture started to change when by 1990 internet was transferred from the academic realm to the business and consumer environments. The personal computer became a household product, and e-mail was the main trigger. From 2004 internet started to change from a social point of view. For the first time a link was laid between culture and technology with Web 2.0. The French sociologist Dominique Wolton had already remarked that the greatest renewal of digital media was the two-way communication which worked from a clear cultural identity. “Communication is not only a technical phenomenon”, he said, “it is an anthropological phenomenon. Communication is more than an exchange of messages. It is also the ability to listen to and understand the sender of the message. No message makes any sense in itself, but the sense comes only within a context, a cultural identity within which the message can be understood.” (NRC Handelsblad, Nov. 20, 1998). (This quote I have borrowed from an article by my business partner Hans Sleurink on open source)

Information changed from one way information from a sender to a receiver to e-content: “E-Content is digital information delivered over network-based electronic devices, i.e. symbols that can be utilised and interpreted by human actors during communication processes, which allow them to share visions and influence each other’s knowledge, attitudes or behaviour. E-Content allows for user involvement and may change dynamically according to the user’s behaviour. It is a subcategory both of digital and electronic content, marked by the involvement of a network, which leads to a constant renewal of content (contrary to the fixed set of content stored on a carrier such as a CD-ROM, or the content broad-cast via TV and Radio). This constant renewal of content in tie with its dynamic change allows for a qualitative difference, thus making it E-Content.” (Bruck, Peter A. et al. (2005), E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market. Berlin, New York, pg. 8)

And not only internet started to change, but professional publishing and broadcasting in general started to change. Private publishing, called fancy publishing up to that time, became en vogue with user generated content such as blogs, Flickr, YouTube and social networks such as Linkedin, MySpace, Facebook started to show up as well as mobile social services like Twitter and Jaiku. Internet has penetrated our life deep into our nerves.

It looks like it will be an challenging day intellectually. Yet I hope to catch a glimpse of the Balaton lake.

Two students have set up a blog on the conference. It will report on the lectures and have photographs of the sessions and event.

Blog Posting Number: 890

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