re:publica Berlin 2018 – POP


This is a short recap of thoughts on, from and about re:publica 2018 while on the train back from Berlin.

It’s been three days with a heap of ideas and aspects to pick up and process. I leave Berlin feeling connected to relevant topics for how human society struggles and strives in the face of change. This is a gift. Thanks for all who put work and energy into making this happen.

My impression is that while having some all-time-favorite speakers and participants #rp18 managed to provide an open stage for various opinions without imposing too many restrictions. This is quite an achievement. I’d even hope for some positive followup between the organizers and the bundeswehr to show off on how open minded communication without escalating for publicity gets results.

Thinking back to three days of POP my main point to remember and think about is how with increased connection and publicity you get opportunities and troubles. Trouble is, that there are and always will be individuals and media trying to capture and twist whatever happens. Piggybacking at scale to get attention, readers, followers, ad-money is here to stay. Life and the net is messy and there are no easily defined borders between publishing ones oppinion, trying to make an argument, trying to reach some relevant audience, inspiring, motivating or promoting action and exposing oneself with emotional rage when concerned about a topic that touches your heart. There’s no clear boundaries all the way to trolling and the dark side.

There is continuity while moving from authenticity and engagement to shouting and hating. Openness and connectedness need courage because they are risky positions to hold and this is true for individuals and society. How do we mitigate these risks without loosing freedom and privacy?

The opportunity is, parties involved in whatever conflict can easily connect with one another. If they wish, it is easy to engage in direct and true discussion of needs. It is perfectly possible to cut through all the indirections, filters and distortions. There is no excuse for why anyone must keep his distance, stick to strategies while hiding intentions. If we believe cooperation to be more effective in solving problems than competition this is very good news. If we don’t, if we need to accept that struggling for power is at the very heart of progress or even survival, well then it’s good news, too. Because being able to cut through the noise enables a hell of a lot more competition than ever before. So there will be progress and it will come fast. It will be progress by establishing new rules. Including standards of behavior, gatekeepers for those rules and quite some struggle about how to balance conflicting interests and values.

Maybe it’s Never-let-a-good-crisis-go-to-waste-Time. We can use crisis to build trust by acting respectfully and resisting the urge to panic and trigger survival mode.

It was especially inspiring to hear Richard Gutjahr and how he copes with escalating hatespeach directed at him and his family. His talk happens to provide a frame of reference for everything else I listened to and thought about while attending #rp18.

Here is where I think my sense of connection originates: It’s rather not being connected to topics but experiencing people involved with those topics. Two minutes into any talk or discussion, it’s obvious to tell if someone will “just” talk and provide facts or if the speaker deeply connects with his topic and provides personal and somewhat intimate insight. This is great, energizing and inspiring.

Three Four specific points I will remember, starting with one from Richard Gutjahr’s presentation:

  • Most if not all of the haters he dug up had no money.

I obviously failed to think about the social background of trolls before. Trying not to estabish or confirm stereotyping here, this observation resonates with the major task of providing opportunity for positive participation and utility to make a difference to ones own life for everyone or at least as many people as possible.

The work-to-earn-a-living idea of participation and sustaining oneself does no longer provide for this. Which is why we might struggle hard to keep up the basis of democratic societies.

  • While virtual reality for now is some kind of hipster and trendy tech for early adopters with enough money, it might evolve to be an environment for the poor, while experiencing reality ends up as something expensive and luxurious.

This point from Michel Reilhac’s talk feels very logical and combines with the fascinating talk by ?who was that again? about virtual reality being as real as real reality.

There is an interesting twist in my thinking about virtual and augmented reality or maybe games and artificial reality in general now. Crude as the technology still is, we start to recognize, that there won’t be any clear destinction. Reality will be and is artificial already. As with most of our landscape it is not formed by nature alone but fabricated by human culture to a tremendous degree.

  • Advertising as the fossil fuel of our information society running surveilance capitalism

This is a nice way to put it and thinking about the situation makes me take a look at how myself and the media contribute to scams, trolling and manipulation. When goods are digital and can be duplicated with zero cost, attention becomes the primary limited resource. The battle for attention is damaging. There is a need for respect and a necessity to improve how we apply existing rules of law.

  • China is in the wake of establishing a social credit score

Following thoughts by Peter Kruse I think that within the networked society we currently have compounding escalating effects with too little moderation. We will find ways to cope, but it takes time to do this in a decentralized, democratic trial and error way. While listening to how China deals with internet topics and especially with it’s ideas to establish a social credit score, experimenting with several versions of how to do that, I have a creepy black mirror reflex and the feeling that they are up to something on the edge of creepy and useful. I also have the feeling that every western state monitors what china is doing, trying to learn and duplicate while all the time happily dodging to do the experiments themsselves.

Thanks to all the speakers, organizers helpers and everyone involved again.