XLT Guide to TM19 v.2 : Incarcerating Technologies


… / …      . … / …       …./…

XLT Guide to #Tm19

( and if you’re just tuning in, see the XLt Soft and Fuzzy Intro v.1 )


We don’t have a lot of time for a thorough review, so let’s cut-to-the-chase and start by analyzing the closing round:

“What Moves You?” with Donatella Della Ratta, Geert Lovink, Fernanda Monteiro, Carolina García Cataño, Sumugan Sivanesan.

>> The present political moment is marked by the two global phenomena of neoliberalism and neo-nationalism, co-existing in a tension that sees both convergences and conflicts. There seems to be little room for the formulation of radical alternatives outside of these powerful forces as the liberal and progressive middles alike have lost their faces to financialization and austerity politics.
This closing discussion of transmediale 2019 focuses on new impetuses for transversal organization and political mobilisation, picking up on the thematic threads of the festival on affect and politics. The participants will present and discuss initiatives and practices, interlinking social, affective and technical capacities that articulate a politics of making society matter again.

Transmediale ( wikipedia ) – the festival – began in 1988 as a new media arts event  ( primarily video art, that Berlinale film fest wasn’t covering ) + naturally migrated into the broader digital culture as it exploded and now ripples into ( and penetrates ) every part of our lives, which is exactly what makes TM such a pertinent annual event to investigate and analyze. And the TM team assembles an incredible arsenal of sharp minds to investigate our times through the frames and personas of … primarily… we-the-transmediated…  society and culture as it is being shaped by these new technologies. In the end, it often becomes a little predictable, unsatisfying and myopic in that its prescriptions for the paths ahead are MORE media, MORE tech, MORE Data, MORE digital culture…

We fully respect the work of all who spoke on this panel… their work on the ongoing tactical tech developments and crucial battles of resistance ( to corporate infrastructures ) is invaluable ! But we cannot help but perceive that most of their closing remarks revealed a kind of undying faith in a digital culture expansionism … open source /free software, alt. data accumulation, alt A.i, alt. networked cultures… were all in the advocated mix.

THIS (expansionism), at a time when our planetary habitat is already getting baked by the detached operating systems, with us, the dim users and consumers deeply immersed or trapped inside its burning house. ( See Greta Thunberg: she makes the environmental challenges a quick and easy read… and unavoidable !)

THIS, (expansionism), at a time when our investments in the “datasphere” have bleakly, gruesomely unfolded as gargantuan windfalls for corporate power over our lives and livelihoods ?! A short recap of the history of the digital + the netz if you’re just tuning in : Some very few reap billions ( harvesting the lion’s share of net value ) and maintain total overseer control, while we get to amuse ourselves with cat videos.

In many aspects, it’s very much as though we lost the war, and are in denial. ( Yes, even us who scream about it daily, even as we enter our blog rants to an online community.) And in fact this grave, unfathomable loss has been claimed, reluctantly yet multiple times,… i.e. in the hacker scenes such as Chaos Congresses, and even last year at TM ( Rasmus Fleischer : ” This is what you get when the digital revolution has failed” ).

When Carolina García Cataño states that Technologies WILL BE what shapes us and our future, and of course that currently rings very ( sadly ) true…  it is easy to forget in the midst of a Transmediale weekend platform, that there are OTHER technologies than digital culture and those (d)evolutions of the machine-to-screen ( or vice versa ) cultures. ( Agriculture, Energy, perhaps even our own Biologies are a few that come to mind first … )

And from an XLterrestrials orientation, we immediately began to question this general assumption about our tech + destiny… And perhaps it will be more positive and more human+planet-friendly to say it SHOULD BE our passions, our creativity and our responsibilities that WILL BE what shapes our future… and naturally technologies will play A PART in that. And then it is also essential to remember that there is an infinitely wider palette to shaping the worlds we inhabit, than to imagine it just unfolding from within these narrow, abstracted, alien and reductionist cybernetic / coded landscapes which have so occupied our visions of what is possible and what is to come, and what has so-dominated the market of ideas for the last couple decades.

Even more strange to notice:  This all felt in contradiction or a paradox regarding the deep and lengthier discourses that played out during the weekend… which included astounding moments like Jackie Wang’s extremely heart-baring and gut-wrenching testimonies of “Carceral Capitalism” ( MIT Press ). She also managed to be the FIRST keynote speaker at HKW ( Haus Der Kulturen ) in the decade(s) we have been attending to FINALLY address “TECHNO-FASCISM”, though only in relation to Nick Bostrom’s outlines for a PRESCRIBED technodystopian scenario, whereas we have been arguing that it is already a political+krapitalist nightmare expanding all around us ! If you have any doubts about this, just check any region that is engaged in the resource wars and the widespread exploitation required for your 24/7 instant access to that wondrous churning Webz. In any case, truly impressive work on complex political economy issues, the new indentured servitude, prison industrial complex and other themes? ( book, not yet researched ) from an author still in their twenties ! But perhaps more on her work later.





( these pics are not slides used in architect Andreas Rumpfhuber’s presentation, we picked out our own ( for added humor ) … but he made his own stark analogy to carceral developments in the new housing trends, but juxtaposing the new start-up culture dormitory designs to prison cells, and connecting it to the cybernetic-driven socio-political disruptions, designs and objectives. )

OR, let’s examine these Incarcerating Technologies – and (their symptomatic? ) Economies – from another angle, as in the afternoon discussion on: How To Disrupt Yourself: Life in the Entrepreneurial Home session, just prior to the close of the festival …

>> Airbnb, Uber, Taskrabbit, and many other platform-based companies build their marketing narratives on the notions of sharing, community, and human empowerment. These terms are also pivotal in a new iteration of a platform: “the entrepreneurial home”; an evolved co-working space where one can carry on an entire life without leaving the house—sleep, work, network, and explore oneself 24/7. This event invites a selection of entrepreneurs and scholars from, among others, the fields of sociology, anthropology, architecture theory, and political science to converse on key notions concerning the Entrepreneurial Home.The discussion will be structured according to scenes from Marta Dauliute’s and Viktorija Šiaulyte’s documentary film and research project Good Life. In it, the filmmakers present a case study of a collective house for entrepreneurs, established by a real-estate startup in Stockholm, Sweden. Here corporate culture and community building make an extraordinary match, while algorithmic management techniques accompany programs of self-improvement and spaces of collective belonging. With: Edoardo Archetti, Patrick Hoffmann, Travis Hollingsworth <<<

This presented in its oddly imbalanced way ( no precarious/evicted tenants nor housing activists on the panel ) the battles over physical space in urban living. And yet it revealed a territory that should be at the center of our liberation and resistance movements: Fighting for Physical Space + Social Spaces …and Fighting Against Displacement and Krapitalist Disruption…  and nevermind sure, free open source software, but what about FREE! HOUSING !? Or at the very least, HOUSING FOR ALL and HOUSING AS A HUMAN RIGHT ! And nevermind a ubiquitously data-sucking netz ( and its endless surfability – and new forms of unpaid labors ) what about (returning to) a dream of embodied and shared luxurious communalism ?!


( pic: 10,00o homeless, on the opening day of Tm19, a flashmob of housing activists and eviction defense groups… occupied the new East Side Mall in Friedrichshain to protest displacement and the shitty Btropolis politics that promotes and subsidizes a wide range of endless krapitalist expansion, but lacks any solutions for affordable housing )

Let’s be honest, when it comes to the essential needs of living in this world, and living with any quality and dignity: Food and shelter are at the core, primary, prerequisites. The infrastructures for the future of food and shelter will provide the only means to any achievable, co-liveable peace. But we seem way too busy catching up with latest tools + rapidly shifting tech landscapes – and all their demands upon our attention – to manage these essential priorities, and to do so on OUR COMMUNITY TERMS that will provide full, or at least increased, autonomy.

Digital culture, on the other Other hand, has become that extremely metastisized evil-appendage roommate that moved in like a Cronenbergian artificial limb, which grows its own brain, and then takes over your entire living quarters. You, your being, your full body, your relationships, your neighborhood, your real nourishment have all been sucked dry and hollowed out, vacuum-packed + sealed, and jammed into a tiny cupboard. The world transmigrated into urban evil pod designs / couture from which you must now serve this Digital Master of your Incredible Shrinking Habitat; Within which we become a ghost machine of our former multi-faceted selves. How they manage to make these new automated, plundering and ecocidal land+space+time-lords appear to be the hip new thing will probably remain a mysterious puzzle for the historians centuries from now, that is, if any are left alive.

( Btw, check out PKD’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, for similar intra-neo-colonial and/or neural-hijacking scenarios ).

To its credit, TM often goes way beyond its own established parameters ( and specialty ) to explore our current predicaments. This 3-hour session on “affect” and “space” was curated and constructed by two scandanavian filmmakers – Marta Dauliute & Viktorija Šiaulyte – working on a document about this new “Entreprenurial Home” ( better called a neoliberal House of (t)Errors ) … and thus far is an essay doc focused on the “co-living” market-phenomenon.

They took a big risk and invited into the HKW some unexpected participants, to be handled by anthropologist gloves ( Judith Albrecht, Thomas Stodulka ) and then left to their own devices to be sweetly mauled by an inquiring (housing crisis’d) public. Three business players who have recently landed in Berlin to capitalize on the housing market/ crisis and the new trends. The results could have been far more volatile than they were, but as it was, a bloody mouthful of indigestable material was spit out onto the circle carpet. And that was a good thing !

to be cont.

to be added:

- Sumugan Sivanesan’s own critique that the festival hardly provides enough critique of the plunder and exploitation that the whole of our technological landscape requires to perform for the global north’s high-tech-driven culture, industries, profits. Impacts on indigenous lives and other cultures.

- the local story, the forced eviction of the 40-year old jugendzentrum / an autonomous social center for youth…  #potse + #drugstore … 40 years of FREE SHOWS FOR ALL being replaced by an international transplant – Rent24’s co-live/working spaces business. And they think they are a part of solving the housing crisis ?!!

- co-living – this is not new, this is what we do in cities. we co-habit… and there were many other such co-living experiments that were NOT driven by krapitalism in Berlin, and the ones that have survived entail far more evolved practices of co-creating a way forward into the future.

- Kiez sovereignty, the Berlin model.  Barcelona’s model for peoples’ sovereignty. Rebel cities, Solidarity cities, Sanctuary cities, etc.

- XLTerrestrials are not advocating “returning to the caves” and not giving up our computers or the web, we are proposing a scaling down, and using less. And returning? to a dream of pragmatic luxury communalism and the city as a commons. This is not going backwards, this is the only non-delusional forwards. And tactical tech will definitely be a necessary part of that. Clarify the real significance of Ludditism as a rational defense against the exploitation of labor and livelihoods. We must regulate the tech domains in order to protect livelihoods. We will likely have to do that as direct action and direct democracy. A parallel politics ( i.e Zapatista ), so long as the technofascists and the corporates rule the rotten and festering necropolitque of all our krapitalist govts.

- Scorched earth policies: The more the neoliberal agenda destroys our habitats, the more it forces us into the DIGITAL + VIRTUAL REALITY CAVES. Digital culture and A.I. as a new ( installed ) religion ( see: Lanier  + other resources to be added). The worst versions of digital cult come out of a desperation in the situations of our decimated social space… all those places for face-to-face and on-the-ground community building. The current predatory monopolizing digital is built upon Atomization, Cubicle-ization, Separation, Alienation, imposed Finacialization.

- the affect theme… is it an outdated Deluzian concept ? that does not fit the predicaments of today’s advanced stage of technologically-induced dementia ( research required ).

- Donatella Della Ratta, while expressing what sounded to us like an unlikely route out of surveillance krapitalism by suggesting alt. A.I. and alt open data accumulations… DID mention a shift from Global to Local engagements… And triggered our counterpoint that if indeed we returned to the local struggles and defending our access to local material non-krapitalized spaces… then we would probably be more free to withdraw from the neo-colonial infrastructures of the tech world, we would need less digital. And that would help us to begin decreasing the abuses occurring in digital culture industries… creating more possibilities to liberate ourselves form the incarcerating technologies !


foto: project Kunstblock projecting in solidarity with Potse and Drugstore ( social space being evicted / displaced )  on the walls of the Rotes Rathaus in January.

Please come back and check for updates, edits, additional links, more deconstructions of net growth and digital cult expansionism ? … or not. We are FAR from done ranting and strategizing…

Added resources:

” There’s a saying: When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Computers are our hammers. It’s time to stop rushing blindly into the digital future and start making better, more thoughtful decisions about when and why to use technology.” – via Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World by Meredith Broussard (The MIT Press)

… a quote which came our way via Librarian Shipwreck’s reading picks from 2018, a wordpress blog that does a crack job at analyzing the technological mess we’ve gotten in way above our heads.





Leave a Reply