Archiv der Kategorie: english

An Unsettling Question for Digital Capitalism

/****** This Essay was first published in German at „Aus Politik und Zeitgeschehen“ and also as an extended version on this blog. The translation was provided by Lisa Contag. ******/ A spectre is haunting (not only) Europe — the spectre of digital capitalism. And as is fitting for the times we live in, it comes in many shapes and colours: as information capitalism, data capitalism, platform capitalism, surveillance capitalism and cognitive capitalism. A multitude of digital capitalisms have come into existence, however, they essentially indicate the same thing: that we are witnessing fundamental changes. And this exact point leads me to the unsettling question: is this still capitalism? When using the word “unsettling”, I don’t mean the discomfort the authors of numerous and diverse characterizations of digital capitalism obsess about. My goal is not to demonstrate that capitalism’s new digital variety is worse than all its predecessors. My unease rather concerns capitalism itself. I figuratively place my hand on its shoulder, as it were, and quietly ask: “Everything ok there, capitalism?” While many authors identify capitalism to have further radicalized in its digital version, my impression is the opposite. I believe capitalism isn’t doing well at all in the digital … Weiterlesen

Veröffentlicht unter Das Neue Spiel english extern Plattformpolitik
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The History of Digitalisation in Five Phases

/**This is a shortened translation of my text „Die Geschichte der Digitalisierung in fünf Phasen“ by Julian Rybarsky for a hand-out publication of the FFT-Festival „Claiming Common Spaces II“ where I had the honor to speak. **/ There is no English word for “Digitalisierung”. Instead, one speaks of “technology”, “artificial intelligence” or “innovation”, also addressing different topics and various debates each time. In Germany, the term embraces all those processes of structural adaptation that the introduction of digital technology into our everyday lives entails. It allows us to perceive heterogenous processes as one whole, but it also makes the conspicuous vastness of the phenomenon seem intimidating. I subdivide the history of “Digitalisierung” into four phases that successively lead from the 1980s to our present day. The idea is to generate enough acceleration in the narration of the four phases to use them as a platform for the future – that is, the fifth phase – and to dare a related speculation. Phase One: Early Networking Utopias (1985 – 1995) Computers already existed in the 1970s, although they were very large, and mainly installed at universities, in military compounds or at big corporations. Most people knew of them only by way … Weiterlesen

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The Central Fate of the Blockchain (In Case There is a Future at All)

/******** Recently an essay of mine has been published in the German issue of Technology Review (TR 10/2018), in which I examine the history of the internet in order to predict the fate of the blockchain technology, especially regarding to it’s promise of decentralization. This is a translated and also extended version of the German text. ********/ „The internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.“ The sentence became the battle cry of the early internet activists in the 1990s. It was coined by John Gilmore, co-founder of the digital civil rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in a 1993 interview with Time Magazine.1 It summed up the internet’s promise of technological freedom in a nutshell: „If you put the scissors in one place on the internet, the flow of information will simply bypass that place and still arrive unhindered at the recipient.“ This uncensoredness has always been an essential part of the Internet’s promise of freedom and is based on its „decentralization“. Looking back, one can argue whether the internet has ever delivered on this promise. Today, Google, Amazon and Facebook laugh at the dreams of a hierarchy-free internet. The Internet has certainly shifted the balance of power … Weiterlesen

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Cambridge Analytica, the Kontrollverlust and the Post-Privacy Approach to Data-Regulation

There is a heated debate going on about Facebook and privacy since the revelations about Cambridge Analytica surfaced. The reaction is a cry for more privacy regulation. The European approach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will come into effect by late May this year, is seen by many as a role model for a much needed privacy regulation in the US. But they are wrong. I feel that there are a lot of misconceptions about the effectiveness of data protection in general. This is not surprising since there are few similar rules in the US and so the debate is based more on projections than on actual experiences. I want to add the perspective of someone who has lived long enough within a strict privacy regime in Germany to know the pitfalls of this approach. From this angle I want to reflect the Cambridge Analytica case regarding of how effective EU style privacy regulation would have been to prevent this event from happening. Jürgen Geuter has already published a very readworthy and detailed critic of the GDPR, but my angle will be more conceptual and theory driven. I will apply the theory of ‘Kontrollverlust’ to this case … Weiterlesen

Veröffentlicht unter Algorithmenkritik Das Neue Spiel english Kontrollverlust Plattformpolitik Postprivacy Queryology
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Blockchain For Dummies

[German Version] The ‚blockchain‘ is currently being praised as a new miracle technology. The word appears six times in the German coalition agreement for the new government – and always in the context of new and promising digital technologies. But what is behind all this? Blockchain technology was born with its first popular application: Bitcoin. Bitcoin is based on the fact that all transactions made with the digital currency are recorded in a kind of ledger. However, this ledger is not located in a central registry, but on the computers of all Bitcoin users. Everyone has an identical copy. And whenever a transaction happens, it is recorded more or less simultaneously in all these copies. It is only when most of the ledgers have written down the transaction that it is considered completed. Each transaction is cryptographically linked to the preceding transactions so that their validity is verifiable for all. For instance, if someone inserts a fake transaction in between, the calculations are no longer valid and the system raises an alarm. What we’ve got, is a storage technology that no individual can control or manipulate. Early on, even bitcoin skeptics admitted that besides the digital currency itself, it is … Weiterlesen

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What Is Platform Politics? Foundations of a New Form of Political Power

/**** First published in ‘Zeitschrift für sozialistische Politik und Wirtschaft’ (SPW), S. 44 – 49. in December 2017. ****/ [PDF] [German Original] In early 2017, shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump, the rumor began to spread that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself was planning to enter the presidential race in 2020. Following Trump’s victory, everything may seem possible, but this speculation was based solely on the so-called “Listening Tour”, Zuckerberg’s trip through the US, where he wanted to meet Facebook users in person.1 This rumor is only a symptom of the general lack of understanding of our times. For Mark Zuckerberg has long been a politician. He has an enormous impact on the daily lives of two billion people. He makes decisions that affect how these people get together, how they interact, even how they see the world. So Zuckerberg is already perhaps the most powerful politician in the world. Any job in traditional politics, including the office of US president, would be a step down. In this text, I will try to determine and analyze the ways in which platforms act politically, examining how they organize their power base and in which fields their policies are already changing … Weiterlesen

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Digital Tribalism – The Real Story About Fake News

Text by: Michael Seemann / Data Visualization by: Michael Kreil [Download as PDF] [(original) German Version] The Internet has always been my dream of freedom. By this I mean not only the freedom of communication and information, but also the hope for a new freedom of social relations. Despite all the social mobility of modern society, social relations are still somewhat constricting today. From kindergarten to school, from the club to the workplace, we are constantly fed through organizational forms that categorize, sort and thereby de-individualize us. From grassroots groups to citizenship, the whole of society is organized like a group game, and we are rarely allowed to choose our fellow players. It’s always like, „Find your place, settle down, be a part of us.“ The Internet seemed to me to be a way out. If every human being can relate directly to every other, as my naive-utopian thought went, then there would no longer be any need for communalized structures. Individuals could finally counteract as peers and organize themselves. Communities would emerge as a result of individual relationships, rather than the other way around. Ideally, there would no longer be any structures at all beyond the customized, self-determined network … Weiterlesen

Veröffentlicht unter Das Neue Spiel Digital Tribalism english Weltkontrollverlust
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Societies of Post-Control (Talk)

This was my opening keynote at the conference „Societies of Post-Control“ in January 2017 in Amsterdam.

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The Global Class – Another World is Possible, but this time, it’s a threat

[German Version] The Western world is bubbling with a kind of newfound excitement. From all reaches of the globe, cutting-edge “right-wing” movements spring forth and gain momentum. Trump, the Alternative for Germany (“AfD”), the Freedom Party of Austria (“FPÖ”), Marine Le Pen, Brexit… the list goes on, filled with people and organizations giving certain groups of citizens a voice that previously only buzzed quietly just beneath our subconscious. A voice of hatred, of displeasure, of indignation. And all the rest of us can do is sit back and wonder where all this scarcely contained umbrage could have originated from… and where it’s been hiding. It may be no coincidence that the left believes to have found it’s spooky doppelganger. They see “losers” of globalization, who have been left behind by the capitalist system, and have just re-discovered their political voice. Only, in the midst of their perceived „false consciousness,“ they’ve yet to realize that their true enemy is the capitalist. The figures don’t show this. It’s true—the army of the frustrated is a large group of low-income and poorly educated service workers. But there is also a second group, almost as large as the first, made up of the bourgeoisie, … Weiterlesen

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open!: The Kontrollverlust of the Nation-State and the Rise of the Platforms

/**** In letzter Zeit bekomme ich vermehrt Anfragen für Texte auf Englisch. Das macht mir zwar mehr Mühe, da ich nicht so erfahren bin, in dieser Sprache zu schreiben. Aber ich denke, es lohnt sich allein des anderen Leserkreises wegen. Hier ein Text, den ich für die Plattform „open!“ geschrieben habe. Es geht nur am Anfang einführend um den Kontrollverlust, der Hauptteil des Textes setzt sich mit der Politik von Plattformen auseinander. Eine kürzere Version einiger der Gedanken und Beispielen aus dem Text kann man auch auf Deutsch bei der Zeitschrift „Kunst und Kommerz“ des deutschen Kulturrates nachlesen. (Hier das PDF) ****/ The Kontrollverlust of the Nation-State and the Rise of the Platforms Since Wikileaks revealed large amounts of US intelligence to the public in 2010, most people are now more aware of the vulnerability of the nation-state: that it must keep it’s secrets safe in order to function. (At least, this is what the nation-state believes.) But as technology evolves, it seems less and less able to do so. [Weiterlesen >>>]

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