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12 03 2001 CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE
"All sort of terminology is filtered through the market"
An interview with Pauline van Mourik Broekmann



Pauline is the founder of MUTE magazine, London. She acted as chairperson at the World-Information Forum held in Vienna last November, where she spoke about the concepts of MUTE, globalization and the human cattle behavior.

Q: What was your motivation to start a magazine like MUTE?

A: It was due to a lack of debate of the new technologies in the area of arts. In the beginning it was kind of formatted like a financial newspapers, not only to give some kind of history to the current information revolution, but also to point out the financial and economic underpinnings of the digital revolution. It's a kind of playful attempt to ask yourself questions about the revolutionary nature of the medium.

In terms of the editorial, MUTE was to really generate some sense of critical engagement with new technologies and relate that to the arts as they were then - that was the passion. Since the 97 the editorial was framed more like a general analyses of the internet and new technologies on society and not looking so much at the technology-art interface, because this seemed to be sort of closing down the definitions rather than opening them up.

Q: Over the past years there has been lot of effort on the part of the industry and governments to regulate the net in a way, which seems to turn the Internet into a more restricted area than the real world. Do you think that the vision for new democratic structures and free speech, which used to be very present in the early days of the Internet, is something like a lost utopia?

A: I think you have to take it very seriously: not only that certain areas are becoming co modified but also that 'free speech' itself can also be turned into a business. The way in which different nations and their regulatory structures are oppressive varies. But I think that there's a kind of danger in saying that it's been lost just because it hasn't moved or continued in the same way that certain radical, progressive communities framed it. Just think it's taking different forms, encoded in different structures and maybe it's not what people anticipated. In terms of organizing protest or forging links between groups globally, there is a continuation. The whole point is that the two developments were always interrelated - the kind of real world political structures and the kind of online opening up of communications and some sense of civil participation.

Q: Steve Wright has given us some examples on the panel, if how business companies fight the RIP-bill. What is your opinion towards this development, where political activist seem to form alliances with cooperation's?

A: I think it's a bit depressing that it's only when business interests are threatened that something like encryption can be supported, but it's true that that's how the discussion has gone in England.

Q: In this context it sometimes seems, that governments are actually more conservative than the companies?

A: Definitely. I mean it is very dangerous to compare different national contexts even on an economic level in terms of how they're responding to globalization, let's say Austria or England. But it is nearly as if the only rule change will be possibly achieved through the rationality of business and customer services. It is a very dangerous development that all sort of terminology and thinking have to be filtered through the market, I think, especially if you're talking about the public sphere or political participation.

Q: Do you think that there's still a role for the nations and governments in the sense of balancing the market struggle?

A: The thing that is worrying is that then, in the same way you become ruled by a kind of market rationality, you start being ruled by legal rationality. Critical Art Ensemble made a very interesting comment once, that the culture of suing or even bringing the state in to protect yourself against state-rape or a work-sexual relation is very problematic, because you're handing over a certain basic human conflict to a power, the same power that is oppressing you, as an individual female or male. The same is the case if you argue for a greater familiarization with governmental and legal structures that could protect certain political rights. I think automatically the people with better access to power will be the ones that can deploy it more effectively. As an individual, small group or organization, how could you ever deploy the law as effectively as a very large media organization or the state? It's just not equal distribution of knowledge.

Q: In the digital media, it's also a problem, that people don't really know, what would be the vital interests for their data-bodies, because they don't about the possibilities, they don't see the restrictions.

A: In one of the panels Wolfgang Suetzl talked about ways in which people can strategically make themselves opaque to the data-capture system. But I think, that people are doing this on a more social level. I.e. there are some big clubs in London now, which are just cattle-farms - it's horrific. These clubs are just massive machines for moving people around and making them consume drinks and drugs, they really feel like prisons. And there are lots of different spaces like that, where the movements of people, the types of behavior, which are coded into the architecture, are very limited.

All kind of public channels are more and more restrictive. And people are thinking, how to make different kinds of public spaces, because the ones that are presented as public, aren't open.









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