[iDC] Conference thoughts

Sean Cubitt scubitt at unimelb.edu.au
Thu Nov 19 00:45:52 UTC 2009

Dear Distributed Collaborators

First thanks Trebor: the event was everything the discussions had made us

Second, like everyone else, I desperately wanted to attend everything, and
of course missed many things

Our thinking is thinking - live, changing, active, participatory, dialogue.
The concepts rise and fall. This is good. I admired Jon beller's insistence
on the actually-existing Armageddon of the global poor; and henry warwick's
insistence on the environmental limits to digital media. One points to the
failure of the current regime to address poverty, pandemic, war, climate
change and toxic waste. The other suggests that as long as we keep thinking
of sustainability as a matter of sustaining human development at the expense
of non-human, nothing is sustainable. Other speakers raised the paucity of
address to other human subjects: well, I suppose we couldn't all of us speak
of everything in conference papers, but it is right to hear these arguments.

I greatly enjoyed the empirical papers, like hector's, which dragged the
hi-falutin theoreticism of mine back to the grounds of real lives. Achieving
the articulation between the specific and the general is a challenge which I
take away from the conference as a critical one  - for any of the
methodologies, from political economy to actor-network theory, that we heard
addressed. It is the key to understanding how to manoeuvre between the
pessimism of the critical tradition and the optimism - without which nothing
changes - most articulately voiced by Michael Bauwens.

Penultimately, we do need the vocabularies developed as a trade shorthand
for internal discussions, but we also need to think how - at the very least
in words, but also in diagrams and images of all kinds - to speak in ways
that the interested public can latch onto. I feely admit that without
clarity of thinking, there is little chance of clarity in language, and we
are all trying to make sense of something which neither matches our old
habits of thought nor sits still long enough for us to form new

Last: My own paper is a case in point: at 10 thousand words, it testifies to
the difficulty of thinking clearly and, in my case, a failure to do so. (the
last version of my paper is no longer the draft posted on Slideshare but
sitting here:
Perhaps it is too early for clarity, but then again, perhaps this is exactly
the moment when clearly stating the problems is the best thing we can do. So
here goes: The current system is failing and has been failing the poor, the
homeless, the migrant, the imprisoned and the planet since Bretton Woods.
There are forces - political, technical, economic - striving to bring to
birth an alternative. There are traps for the unwary, but there is also the
opportunity now, perhaps for the first time since the formation of the UN
system, to think that a roots-up alternative might be emerging. The
challenge for the emerging thing, whatever it may turn out to be, is to be
better than the existing regime in terms of human conditions, and planetary.
The fact that we concentrate on internet suggests we should look to
technologies as the key to how this might happen, though we know that they
are not autonomous - in fact they are enslaved. The problems are too great
for solo research - this also we learn as the capacity of networks. How we
set about change changes the change we bring about. This event was a great
signpost towards collaborative work to open up the future


Prof Sean Cubitt
scubitt at unimelb.edu.au
Media and Communications Program
Faculty of Arts
Room 127 John Medley East
The University of Melbourne
Parkville VIC 3010

Tel: + 61 3 8344 3667
Fax:+ 61 3 8344 5494
M: 0448 304 004
Skype: seancubitt

Editor-in-Chief Leonardo Book Series

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