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re:publica 2015

re:publica 2015

In May I used my allotted conference budget from Zweitag to visit the re:publica conference. re:publica is a conference about all things in digital culture with several sub-conferences combined into one great big space. It’s a great way to open yourself up to a myriad of topics outside of a typical tech conference scheme.

To try to sum up the conference in general better than with the words they came up with themselves wouldn’t do the event much justice, so I’ll just quote an excerpt here:

“Representatives of digital culture share their knowledge and decision-making tools, and discuss the future of the information society. Here they can mingle with activists, scientists, hackers, entrepreneurs, NGOs, journalists, social media and marketing experts, and many others. This fosters innovation and creates synergies between net politics, online marketing, network technology, digital society, and (pop) culture. What is more, around 43 percent of re:publica participants are female – far more than at many other similar events.

This year’s edition has been exciting again: We proudly count a total of 850 international speakers from 60 countries who made up the 500 hour-long program. This is the highest number of speakers so far, making 2015 a record-setting year for re:publica. Young and old alike were represented on re:publica's 17 stages – from the youngest speaker of 11 years to the renowned Zygmunt Bauman aged 89.”

As you may have noticed there was much more content on stage than could possibly be consumed. There was no way to try to take it all in at once, but most the sessions are available as video streams to be consumed at leisure. Being able to catch up on things later is a great plus since in general the event is as much about networking as it is about the talks. There is such a diverse crowd and so many opportunities for all kinds of introductions that you’d be at miss to just go from one talk straight to the next.

Day 1

After the big opening session, one of the most interesting talks for me on the first day was “Living in the Electromagnetic Spectrum” by James Bridle. His work with visualizations brought up some interesting political revelations from different communication channels, which when combined show us more than meets the eye. He also touched on the concept of virtual citizenship in the current century.

The other great talk from the day I saw was Beyond the Camera Panopticon by Aral Balkan where he warned about corporations’ control over individuals in our digital word selling us as their product.

Another great talk you should view (if you understand German) is Lügen für die Vorratsdatenspeicherung by Andre Meister. He’s an activist with Netzpolitik and he touches on quite a few things surrounding the mass telecommunications data retention debate that is currently going on.

Day 2

On my second day I took to a somewhat lighter track of subjects and caught a few of the Media Convention talks/panels. A very interesting panel I attended was on Making Money on Youtube. They invited a few experts on the topic who gave some great insight into the current state of affairs concerning the German market.

A certain, M. C. McGrath gave us a demonstration of the Transparency Toolkit he developed and elaborated on his motivation for building it in his talk Watching the Watchers: Building a Sousveillance State. He identified some metadata on career sites like LinkedIn concerning surveillance tools and came up with an idea to map these markers to the people that are potentially watching us.

I also got caught up in a very tongue in cheek talk about trolling. It was literally about trolling, as in catching fish, for the first 7 minutes. I almost thought the whole talk would be about fishing and I was really wondering if the title of the talk led me into the ultimate troll—after all, it was called The Art of Trolling.

My highlight of the day was ROSETTA 1 – KARDASHIAN 0. How We (ALMOST) Broke the Internet. Emily Baldwin, Karin Ranero Celius, Marco Trovatello, Andrea Accomazzo, Koen Geurts assembled to talk about the Rosetta mission and their social media successes during the final hours of the landing.

Day 3

One talk I definitely didn’t want to miss on the last day was by my friend Johannes Kleske from Third Wave. He gave a talk in German about the future of our work titled "Mensch, Macht, Maschine – Wer bestimmt wie wir morgen arbeiten?". He touched on topics concerning automation and sharing economy jobs, also picking up on points made in a previous talk at re:publica 13.

Why should you attend next time?

I’ve been to re:publica for several years now and it just doesn’t seem to be able to disappoint me. The broad range of talks ranging from hard politics to light-hearted entertaining joyfulness, technical talks, artistic talks, hands on workshops, and exhibition booths, always seem to give everyone something to look forward to. The crowd the conference attracts, i.e. the attendees always seem to be a pleasant mixture of cultures, and as mentioned before, deliver great potential for networking and discussions. One more thing: although re:publica isn’t a developer’s conference per se, there have always been quite a bunch of developers present to talk shop with and compare notes with on current trends and technologies.

Image credits: by Sam Figueroa

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