Art as Mirror – Slab City Internet Cafe [Pic]

Reminded of the dark side of the web by all the news lately, we’re all trying to make some sense of it all. Amidst kazillions of conferences, papers, OpEds and what have you, art can offer a more captivating snapshot of the dynamics of net technology, politics and culture. And hold up a mirror to confront you with all the madness, if you like. ‘Slab City Internet Cafe’ is a funny and quite accurate installation that captures how many feel about the web today.

My friend Ralf sent me this wonderful pic of the Slab City Internet Cafe, the place where you can get online in the deserted military base / art village in the South California desert. The anticipation, the clunky infrastructure, the act of engaging without really knowing what you’re doing, the excitement of the ride, the kick in the nuts, the nostalgia, set in this deserted environment – it’s all there. Have a look, and take your time:

slab city internet cafe - whither internet freedom

[you can click on the picture to move in for closer inspection. I think a guy named Frank made the installation]

In politics, and thus in lawmaking, the power of metaphors is enormous. I wrote about the limits of the Big Brother and Panopticon metaphors to describe the current condition of total surveillance, as well as a refreshing encounter between an ethnographer new to ‘the privacy field’ and Mr. Snowden here.

And at a major international conference this summer, In.formation In.flux, we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of my employer, the Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam. I’ve invited Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev to keynote about critical engineering and their brilliant art projects. With my friend Joris van Hoboken, I’m also organizing a panel about the metaphors we use to describe our current condition of total surveillance. We’re trying to move beyond ‘Big Brother’ and the ‘Panopticon’ mentioned before, and have invited John McGrath for a talk and a performance.  All these projects are worth your time and support, I’ll blog more about them soon.

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