[iDC] Introduction to Mobility Shifts and the quest for a sustainable immobility

Eric Kluitenberg epk at xs4all.nl
Wed Jun 29 21:53:55 UTC 2011

Helllo everyone,

As others before me I would like to introduce myself to the list and the Mobility Shifts participants. For those who don't know me, I work as an independent theorist and writer on culture, media and technology, and have been working as head of the media and technology program of De Balie centre for culture and politics in Amsterdam till recently. I've also taught extensively in new media art and design education (mostly postgraduate levels) as well as in different universities.

The reason to be involved in this event is two-fold. Just before the start of Mobility Shifts we more less accidentally were destined to launch the new issue of Open - Journal for Art and the Public Domain published by the Foundation for Art and the Public Domain and NAi Publishers, which is titled Im/Mobility  - Exploring the Boundaries of Hypermobility. We do this as part of the 'Immigrant Movement International / Useful Art' project by Tania Bruguera
Open #21: www.skor.nl/artefact-5491-en.html
Immigrant Movement International: http://immigrant-movement.us/?cat=28
The second reason is the ambiguous experience we had organising the ElectroSmog INternational Festival for Sustainable Immobility, in March 2010. This was an extensive international event, that abided by the rule that no presenter was allowed to travel beyond their own region, yet every event had to be staged in at least tow locations simultaneously. We built up a network of 8 major organisations who engaged actively in the creation of this event, distributed over 5 continents with many point to point connections added beyond  the core group.

While this all worked beautifully technically, both the editorial process, and particularly the audience dynamics were very problematic. We learned that many things worked really well (active links between active members in s hared networked conversation / exchange) while as an audience event it never took off, despite best efforts. Technology was not the bottle neck either. It showed us so clearly the limits and the directions of opportunity for these kind of connected gatherings that I think are highly relevant for a discussion on mobile and tele-connected learning.

I will try for this event to put these points together in a more focused manner, and this will be presented as a short talk.

A first take on the outcomes of the festival / ElectroSmog project can be found on the website of the festival here ("Distance versus Desire"):

The full documentation of the festival, including archived web casts can be found here:

One aim of ElectroSmog was to find an alternative for excessive travel often connected to these international gatherings - and we feel we failed in that, not because of we didn't organise it properly but rather despite the level of 'organisedness' (although there['s always much room for improvement, obviously).

For us it mean that we had to go back to the drawing board, and part of that was to more deeply explore the inherent contradictions of new and emerging regimes of mobility and immobility and the role of networking technologies within that. That resulted in the Open IM/Mobility issue we're presenting in NYC, October 9.

I think there is a lot to discuss and as I understand we will first do this via this list - looking forward to that!

Best wishes,


-> formal info below...

ElectroSmog: the quest for 'sustainable immobility' and the tele-presence conundrum.

The ElectroSmog festival organised in March 2010, was both a practical and theoretical exploration of the idea of a 'sustainable immobility' - a response to global mobility out of control and the desire to use networked connections to counterbalance the exponential growth of global mobility. Conducted entirely through remote connections, the festival linked up well over 20 locations distributed over 5 continents and a 20 hour time-zone spread.

No presenter was allowed to travel beyond their regional context while all events were staged in at least two locations, the aim was to investigate the possibility of staging a new type of international public gathering without the usual travel and mobility patterns attached. While the festival spurred a series of highly engaged debates, experimental projects, and remarkably few technical failures, it collided with audience dynamics.

The outcomes raised serious questions about the importance of embodied encounter to galvanise public experience and exchange, and the limits of the tele-presence paradigm. [1] They also discarded the somewhat naive idea that public involvement facilitated by physical encounter could be easily replaced by electronically mediated connections (real-time or otherwise).

Continued research focusses on a much deeper understanding of the contradictions of emerging regimes of im/mobility, which hold important implications for on-line learning and distance education. The first result of this continued investigation is the recent theme-issue Im/Mobility, Open, Journal for Art and the Public Domain [2], which expands the analysis considerably.


1 - The text: Distance versus Desire, provides a first breakdown and analysis of the outcomes of the festival:

2 - Open #21: Im/Mobility - Exploring the Boundaries of Hypermobility,, Spring 2011.

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