Mediamatic Magazine Vol. 7#2 Willem Velthoven, Dirk Van Weelden, Alfred Birnbaum 1 Jan 1993

World Articles

This issue of Mediamatic was supposed to be the World Issue. A Mediamatic about the whole world…
This proved, to say the least, very ambitious… That's why on the next pages, we present to you an additional selection of World Articles. These world articles have not been written yet. They are latent contributions to a virtual world issue.

1. Save the World!

Data Maniacs Galore!
The computer is on the up and up; as the cost of digital data storage continues to fall spectacularly, so it is becoming easier and easier to gather and store large quantities of information. All over the world, projects have been started for the digital filing of just about everything. In Seville, for example, the contents of age-old archives and libraries have been transferred to laser discs. Now Unesco has plans for world-wide filing on the basis of the system developed in Spain. Inspired by the new technological possibilities, many cultural projects now focus on storage and collection. Not only cultural information has to be preserved for posterity, but, to safeguard biodiversity, even genetic information is collected ever more fanatically. Because the financial and physical limits to this kind of storage are disappearing, selection is no longer necessary. The collecting itself demands full attention and people seem to be losing sight of the value and meaning of what is being collected. This contribution gives a critical survey of the latest developments and points at an increase of imbecile behaviour in the business of collecting.

2. We will Hack you to Bits

The Real Digital Underground
In Europe, old and new fascist organisations are carefully tracked down and banned. But are intelligence agencies and governments still capable of keeping track of meetings and communications if they go underground and disappear into digital networks? It is to be expected that in high-technology countries such as Germany these groups will increasingly make use of new infrastructures. How do you listen in to a packet switching x25 network? And even if you can read the data, it is still extremely difficult to trace the propagators if they do not want to be caught. However, there are groups of Hackers and Phonefreaks who, even though they would rather not hand over their knowledge to the 'intelligence' agencies, are prepared to take action themselves. Anti-fascist hackers infiltrate Aryan data networks and are ready to crash these systems if they go to far. A report.

3. Wall to Wall Nintendo

Contemporary War Scenes in Old Media
The similarity between the pixels of a computer display and those of embroidery and knotting is not particularly striking or interesting in a floral carpet. Perhaps it makes you realise with astonishment that the pixel is a few millennia older than you had first thought. However, if you look at the carpets made in Afghanistan and Kurdistan in the last few years, you will find thematic similarities; tanks and kalashnikovs, mines and grenades. In these places, we see the reverse of what is happening in Western countries, where computer games send dragons and knights flying across the screen. There, computer-aided air and land missiles fly across the hand-knotted carpets. An overview.

4. Grammatology

The avant-garde of research into computer speech recognition is no longer trying to analyse the meaning of language on the basis of grammatical structure. Rather, they regard language as a composition of clusters of meanings. Comparable to the way in which Chinese or Japanese is written. Each element has a number of meanings, which are modulated by the context. Strangely enough, machine-translation research in Japan is still wholly based on the linear concept of language in the Western world.

5. Mr. Suzuki I presume...

Global Positioning Systems separate Place and Meaning
The development of Global Positioning Systems for the consumer market advances. You can now buy a satellite receiver for about $1500. This year's ultimate must. Press a button and this piece of apparatus will show you your position in the world to within 50 metres. In Japan, there is already a glossy magazine for those people who have such a thing in their four-wheel drive, connected to a cd-rom player with a complete map of the country: Navi. This article enters into the strange objectification of place and position created by gps. No longer do you orientate by monuments and personal points of recognition in public space, but rather on a coordinate. The home is a coordinate, your work is a coordinate, the pub, your mistress, the cemetery. All places become meaningless. The world is a virtual matrix of degrees of longitude and latitude. What is the impact of this development on our idea of public space?

6. Pruning the Laurel Tree

New Nobel Prizes for the 21th Century
The categories of the Nobel Prize reflect a 19th century modernist world model. In light of today's rapidly changing world, should we not reconsider the mandates of the inventor of Dynamite's testament? What about a Nobel Prize for Ecology? For Communications? Cybernetics? Style? This year's Prize for Redistribution of Wealth goes to the first person who proposes new categories for sharing out the legacy.

7. Le Socialisme pour le Socialisme

Socialism Enters the Realm of the Arts
No longer a political reality, Socialism assumes hyper-real stature - that of an artform. Liberated from the actual burden of liberation, the 'engagement' of Socialism is now primarily with itself. The author discusses various problems and implications of 'para-social sculpture': exhibiting and recognition, authorship versus interactivity, parameters for criticism and reviewing, etc.

8. Not Just Helping Old Ladies Across the Net

Cyberscouting: Friendly Subroutines for the World
Be prepared! An up-to-the-nanosecond report on the 3rd Annual Cyberscout Jamboree held January 1993 in the Net. Demonstrations were given in tying nodes, circuit navigation, survival behind isdn lines, and establishing uplinks without a dish, whilst accusations of virtual abuse were rigorously denied at the telepress conference. This article focuses on the latest initiatives in socially responsible activities promoted by the organisation. Today's scouts no longer merely make cheer-up calls to lonely e-mail users or help computer-illiterate senior citizens retrieve lost files, their simulated good deeds now include setting up local battery-recycling centres and data-tracing unused funds to channel them to worthy charities. An uplifting read!

9. Brave New World Order

Secret Plans to place Security Council above international Law
After the Gulf war, the Somalian effort and with the Yugoslavian situation still unresolved, the role of the United Nations has to be rigorously reviewed. The author reports on his undercover investigations that prove the existence of a secret un policy making think tank that proposes a dramatic increase in executive powers for the Security Council. It should be able to confiscate a state's sovereignty to clear up crisis situations, or declare borders to be temporarily non-existent or elastic in certain respects. Behind the diplomatic scenes, un policy makers find that world peace requires this step beyond law and order. For a rapid response to violations of Security Council resolutions the un needs its own intelligence service, standing army, special forces and prison camps. The headquarters of these World police should be located in an international zone, for example the southern half of the Sahara desert.

10. Long Distance Love

The Romance of Short Wave Radio
Too much quality is not good enough, seems to be the motto of short wave radio enthusiasts. Satellite communications and digital equipment have turned short wave radio into a medium of the past. Soon fibre cables, isdn, hdtv and digital radio provide an interference-free network for global communication. This article draws attention to what it calls 'signal dissenters', people who cling to the short wave connection. The 'too clear' digital signal destroys the heart of the classical radio experience: the suggestion of immaterial contact with a station far away. The notion of distance, and the miracle of reception as such are entirely lost in digital & satellite radio. The Magic Forest of the Airwaves is an organisation that sets out to save the low tech radio atmosphere around the globe. We are there to conserve the warmth of human use of technology, the sense of the exotic, the miraculous. We hold to the intimate relations between what we broadcast and the physical world through which the signal travels, the atmosphere. Weather, the magnetic distortions caused by cities, railways and industry, but also the multitude of other stations, they are all included in the noise, static and bad reception. That is a valuable thing, says the chairman of mfoa in an interview.

11. The Other Global Village

Transfolklore as Universal Human Medium.
Folklore is commonly seen as the mummified, nostalgic form of popular culture. This article opens a spectacular new perspective. After giving a factual account of the global network of folklore-organisations and surprising similarities in dances, symbols, songs and crafts throughout the world, its author reports on the setting up of a Global Folklore Database. Folklore proves to be a vital phenomenon certainly not exclusively in the hands of traditionalists and senior citizens. The future form of communication with third world cultures on an equal and respectful basis is termed transfolklore. Young artists and professional dancers with multicultural attitudes desert from their western professional careers and devote themselves to transfolklore as a universal mode of cultural communication. Crucial to the idea of transfolklore is the independence it enjoys from modern mass media. The dance and crafts can only be experienced by active participants. All the knowledge, experience and wisdom contained in folklore are universally human and should be shared. Transfolklore is not an art form, nor an educational project, but an alternative to the Electronic Global Village.

12. The Virtual Zoo

The Future of Nature
In this pamphlet by an ambassador of the wff the zoo is condemned as an outdated 19th century institution. Locking up animals in concrete showcases is cruel and serves no purpose whatsoever. Efforts to turn zoos into ecological theme parks are well meant but fundamentally inadequate. The animals are displayed as caricatures of themselves, isolated as they are from their fellows and exiled from their natural habitat. This is the time to clean house and get rid of all zoos. Wildlife parks are more important, but not as an alternative to the kind of tourism that zoos cater to. Biologists and ecologists should join hands with artists and technicians to replace all zoos with virtual zoos where the public can come into narrow simulated contact with animals, their life and environment. Electronic perceptual simulation is a very powerful medium, able to shock people and to get under their skin. Yes, into the skin of the animals themselves! Something the visitor of a zoo will never experience. As the virtual zoo will offer an interesting challenge for science and technology, financing should be easier than in the case of traditional zoos. The real thing (fauna) is better off to remain a myth. People will learn to respect animals more and see them as free creatures we still do not fully understand, not as sad captives of humanity. The virtual zoo will hold its visitors captive in intense natural experiences, they will never forget.

13. Let's hear it for the Gene Pool!

Speculations of an Aesthete
The author of this strange article advertises himself as a connoisseur of beautiful women. The experience of beauty is the highest of all, and the beauty of the female body the nec plus ultra in creation. With the mapping of and research into the human genome a revolution in beauty is imminent. He envisions the transformation of the Miss World and Miss Universe Beauty Contests into genetic engineering competitions between biotech companies. At last human beauty becomes a human art form. A lyrical and lurid piece.

14. They're Out There

Creeping Conspiracy Psychosis
The more complex the world appears, the more likely it seems that conspiracies are behind inexplicable events. Conspiracies are not only 'en vogue', they are presenting themselves in a new form: as entertainment. Popular reporting on secret societies, silent alliances and dark masterminds in the background steps out of the shadow world of adolescent cult magazines. Conspiracies are ideal alternatives to the infotainment about violent crime that already begins to lose its attraction. A conspiracy is a virtual crime, the infotainment report about it is a result of the creative management of facts, statements, documents, rumours, suggestions and historic analogies. A conspiracy isn't an event, it consists entirely of information. It has the thrill of a major threat, yet is unverifiable. This article predicts the emergence of very popular programs on conspiracies of the genre of America's Most Wanted, Cops, Hard Copy, etc. on major networks, and magazines and clubs devoted to special types and genres of conspiracy-collecting. The serial killer has been the anti-citizen of the eighties, the anti-citizen of the nineties is a faceless virtuoso of disguise, a conspirator who can pop up everywhere, in any form, with unpredictable powers, unknown connections and objectives we can only guess for. This guessing game (and its styling) is a new form of show business.

15. Your Kidney or Mine?

Organ Hunting and Organ Farming
This entertaining article collects recent news facts and urban legends around the subject of criminally obtained donor organs used in transplants. It offers amazing stories rich in black humour, but also contains a serious section of investigative reporting on the connections that Intertransplant, the largest international organisation distributing donor organs, has with organised crime. The third world appears as a farming ground for organs needed in western hospitals. In Brazil and India highly specialised gangs collect orders and harvest organs, that through many channels end up in the cool boxes of Intertransplant. The reader is not spared the gory details. The phenomenon of criminal organ hunting is systematically underplayed in the media while the ethical discussion on the use of tissue from dead human foetuses gets all attention and grow into a political controversy. The author proposes to speak out against western hypocrisy and to focus on the official and unofficial global economy of donor organs. Western medical science should find a way to grow the organs it needs outside human bodies.

16. Assumed Communicable

One-World Fanaticism and the Esperanto Mind
If language is indeed a virus, then the globalisation of any one strain surely constitutes a reversal on ecological and evolutionary principles of stochastic diversification. And yet the 'impossible' attempt to artificially create or otherwise perfect universal communicability must be one of the most ancient human endeavours - almost as old as language itself. Starting with a brief historical survey of pan-languages in the context of empire-building, the reader is introduced to concepts of 'linguistic stability' and 'quantitative intelligibility'. The reader will learn why the century-old euroglottism Esperanto has failed to even be recognised by the ec but has recently enjoyed widespread popularity in Asia, how professed peacetime purposes of worldspeak are sub-syntaxed to the covert contexts of conquest, and where the needs of global on-line communications part company with the untested realities of machine translation. Heading titles include: An Epidemiology of Secret Scripts, Fear, Foreignness and Fortran, Pidgins as Disease- Carriers, and Which Lingua, Who's Franca?

17. Better Not Knowing: A Fable

In those days, so much was unaccounted for that they decided to base their economy on what they didn't know. It made sense: a life where everything is known is not worth very much, people said, so not knowing must be a precious thing! And even more logical, as soon as they saw the unknown as their greatest and most inexhaustible resource, they immediately became the richest people in the world. A tantalising tale of worldly ignorance, lost time and memory space.

18. The Doom Boom:

Disaster Speculating for the Not-Me '90s
The human species has been predicting its own demise - or at least the ruin of the next generation - for the whole of recorded history. Never before, however, has the 'end of the world' been so global, so integrally linked to worldwide warning and banking systems. No longer do the well-informed need to limit themselves to cocktail party cynicism - the mere cultivated appreciation of international inextricabilities - not when there's fortunes to be made in applied alarmism. Easy-to-follow marketing and investment tips include: How to Make a Killing on aids, Global Warming and New Beachfront Properties, Better Balkanisation for Double-Strike Distribution and Fact-Fudging, Fault-Finding and Futures Fixing.

19. The Greening of Tactics:

Eco and Human Rights Groups on...?
A comparative study of the relative successes of the respective 'keypoint outrage' and 'concerted attention' model media strategies of Greenpeace and Amnesty International as determined by statistical analysis of editorials and 'readers letters' in the popular press, as well as the first tentative survey of official responses cross-referenced by year, general/ specific issue, target government/enterprise, bureaucratic/administrative level, media utilised and frequency/amplitude of application. On the basis of such primary data and other contributing factors, a general theory of global consensus manipulation is proposed, along with practical advice for improved media confrontation. Of particular interest to the activist and social scientist alike.