A number of key-trends unfold alongside each other: First of all a radical expansion of policing and surveillance powers on the part of police and investigative authorities, manifested in new laws and increased budgets, apparently meant to counter a deep anxiety about security. In the process of the expansion of policing powers, especially in the field of electronic communications, concerns about privacy and civil liberty are given a significantly lower priority. Secondly new legislation directives have been passed governing Intellectual Property rights, almost simultaneously in the United States and the European Union. These new legal frameworks significantly restrict the free use of intellectual products and threaten the free-flow of information, which for a long time was considered one of the key characteristics of the Internet.
These trends seem quite at odds with the open ended, exchange-based character of the network society. Increased openness of networks and exchange apparently conjures up severe anxieties about security and control. While these trends could already be observed for a longer time, they have gained true momentum after the 9-11 events. They exert increasing pressure on the formerly sovereign domains of the individual; privacy and (informational) self-determination.
World-Info-Con intends to bring together a wide variety of speakers and participants: researchers, politicians, policy makers in the field of justice, economic and technology policy, representatives of social interest groups, intellectual property rights specialist, activists, journalists and cultural workers.
Beyond addressing the immediate and urgent questions of recent developments in legislation, surveillance and the implementation of information politics, the conference will explore the more hidden social and cultural dimensions of these developments. Information is one of the primary materials that cultural products are made off. The choices that are currently being made about how information will be handled, valued, and controlled determine the space for future cultural production in the informational domain; the space of information and communication networks, and the media at large.
The themes of World-Info-Con lie at the heart of information politics. The conference will address the balance that has to be struck between security and control in the infosphere, and the concerns about freedom of expression, privacy and informational self-determination. World-Info-Con questions to what extent private ownership of intellectual products is warranted and legitimate, and where the demands and urgency of a digital commons needs to impose restrictions on the commodification of information.
A critical analysis from the side of cultural producers and mediators is essential to establish the frameworks of future cultural production in the network society. In a democratic tradition art and culture are spaces of freedom and self-realisation. We want to work together with researchers, policy makers, social interest groups, cultural agents and politicians to make sure that such an open space will continue to exist as we move further into the ‘Information Age’.