[iDC] *2006*

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Sat Dec 30 09:55:50 EST 2006

Thanks to all who contributed to the iDC mailing list in 2006. We have 985 subscribers as of today. Once a discourse network matures it needs to critically self-assess and
sharpen its focus. 

The year started with a discussion about Foucault's comments on Iran as well as a re-thinking of traditional conferencing formats.
<http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-January/thread.html> February continued this topic with the thread "The Social Event Machine" and a discussion of the
future of the Internet and I2 in particular. <http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-February/thread.htm>

March featured an interview with Simon Penny and was dedicated to debates about Free, Libre, and Open Software (Floss).
<http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-March/thread.html> In April, a brief exchange about MIT Open Courseware proceeded to a critical conversation about Lev
Manovich's comments on Remix Culture. After my report from the Art-Place-Technology conference in Liverpool a discussion about curating new media art followed. Also in
April, a discussion thread about gender, race, and ethnicity ensued. 

List posts in May focused on a critique of Tim O'Reilly's dopey term "Web 2.0." <http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-May/thread.html> In June we continued this
and then tackled questions related to The Internet in China. <http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-June/thread.html> Threads about collective action and net
neutrality marked the end of this month. <http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-June/000457.html> 

It is very hard to predict what inspires people. As moderator I learned that a narrow focus of a discussion cannot be forced. Rather, it evolves naturally based on the passion
and interests of subscribers. A moderator can filter inappropriate posts (contributions that are not aligned with the guidelines of the list) but he cannot easily steer the
direction of the discussion. The rules of this mailing list are, in difference to some other lists, transparent. There are no announcements, no chatty half sentence exchanges
and no anonymous posts. Trolls will not be tolerated.  A moderator is neither a power broker nor the "knowledge police." The moderator simply endorses submissions and
invites people to join the discussion. 

There are many aspects that contribute to a lively association of individuals online. To make a discussion function, the tone, length, and rhythm of posts matter a great
deal. Also a balance between formality and the slightly casual, humorous, and revealing tone that is needed when writing for the web needs to be considered. In addition,
reciprocity and the signal-to-noise-ratio will determine the success of a web-based discourse network. 

Another question is comprehensibility for "outsiders" to the field. This list strives for concentrated debate on the shifting paradigm of new media without going into the trap
of homogenized special interest groups online in which disparities don't surface. How easy is it for a filmmaker to understand what it said by architects? Should we write in a
way that is comprehensible for her because her contribution would be important or do we look for translators who port professional and precise terms into commonly
understood language? Despite its close to 1000 subscribers, the iDC list has not simply become a broadcast platform and surely is not an old boys network. There is plenty
of exchange, dialogue, and responses going beyond the one-way publication of many page-long essays or forwards of website information (as useful as those are).

In July we started to introduce the ideas that led to the Architecture and Situated Technologies symposium (co-organized by the iDC,
http://www.situatedtechnologies.net/). Discussing participation in the networked public sphere, the number of posts to the list was at an all time high (and remained at
that level for the next two months). Also in July the question came up why there are fewer women than men contributing to this list. 2007 will hit off with several two-week
sessions moderated by women. <http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-July/thread.html> 

About twenty iDCers met at ISEA in San Jose that month (yes, face-to-face), which was a pleasure. In August, Omar Khan moderated the list pushing the discussion about
Architecture and Situated Technologies forward. <http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-August/thread.html> On Sunday August 13, Catherine D'Ignazio (a.k.a.
Kanarinka) made an excellent post confronting ISEA "The festival's imagination of the "Interactive City" seemed to be characterized by a spirit of play which feels
increasingly oriented towards middle-class consumer spectacle and the experience economy." This led to a very lively exchange.

In September we started to collect a bibliography related to situated technologies and architecture. <http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-September/thread.html>
While the result was not exactly a focused bibliography, a rich reading list emerged, which, for me, demonstrated the great potential of a knowledge network such as this
one. It's really hard to single out the top 8 posts of any month (that will vary for each person), but Mark Shepard's contributions of that month remained strongly in my
memory. <http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-September/thread.html> Omar Khan's remarks about performance were also important for me and others:

There were just too many inspiring and thoughtful posts; I can definitely not do them justice. Just go through the archive. Some people think that books are for reflection
and lists are for quick responses that only matter that one week. Who goes back and reads posts to a mailing list? Maybe some of us can make a difference here and actually
do that. 

In October we worked up to the symposium with threads like "animism and such" and Bruce Sterling made a guest appearance with "Why Magic Stinks," which got some
people going (i.e. "Why Magic Stinks, NOT" by Natalie Jeremijenko). <http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-October/000843.html>. After the symposium a few
people left nice words about it on the list, including Charlie Gere. <http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2006-October/000857.html>.

In November the list took a deep breath. The lack of contributions caused many emails in my personal inbox, people asked me if I unsubscribed them, or what is going on...
Well, I cannot spur the discussion all the time- that'd be a lost battle. 

Finally, in December, Joshua Levy introduced his Bronx Blog project and I opened a thread on new media education, which will continue in the spring of 2007.

The potential of a mailing list is to inspire people, exchange knowledge and gain confidence through the ability to check in with colleagues worldwide, discuss questions in
the domain of sociable media and organize events. There is also the possibility to call up dormant capabilities of a social network. There have not been many specific case
studies of artworks or tools or communities on the iDC list so far. From such specific examples we could move to theoretical reflections. I'd also like to focus more on politics.
These would be useful foci for 2007 in my opinion. My main hope is for lively, rich debate on media theory, art, and politics. I know, however, that it is hard to preconceive a
selected outcome or destination for any online conversation.    

Participation on the list has increased significantly over the past year. It takes place on many different levels: from re-posting texts on other lists, blogs like Turbulence and
Grandtextauto to simple forwarding to friends or colleagues. In addition, there is a core group of die-hard contributors and a looser group of frequent posters. What did you
learn from the iDC discussions of the past year?

Thank you to all who moderated, contributed, re-blogged, forwarded, and read. Stay tuned for 2007.


Trebor Scholz

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