RE:activism: Re-drawing the boundaries of activism in new media environment

The Budapest University of Technology and Economics, the Central European University, the Open Society Institute , and the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania co-organized the

RE:activism: Re-drawing the boundaries of activism in new media environment

conference. In Budapest, October 14-15, 2005

Re:activism conference addressed what role social activism can play in the broad process in which emerging new media technologies transform existing structures of cultural, economic and political power. The conference offered eight panels, each of them representing an important approach from which the transformative potential of new media can be meaningfully addressed.

On the first day we examined groups and individuals calling themselves explicitely „activist” and we explored the various forms of local and global activism in the context of new media. Cheap and decentralized communication channels have fertilized new forms of activist practices through which social movements and civic action groups have organized themselves. The emergence and operation of world large anti-globalization activist networks is the most evident example of new media triggered activism. Maybe less manifest, still very important, is the urban guerilla activism enabled by the developing infrastructure of locative media and wireless technologies. One of the panels explored how activists can turn, by the means of locative media,  the urban fabric into a battleground. One of our main aims is to establish a conceptual framework that helps describing the civic uses of new media technologies, the emergence of local civic engagement in the digital media landscape. Finally, by exploring new media activism in the context of democratic elections we dived into the forces that change contemporary political systems.

On the second day, we gathered to discuss the new dynamics of culture production. Digital networks allow the large scale cooperation of individuals with more diverse motivational backgrounds than simply “activist”. This cooperation often results in globally competitive ideas, (software) products, (social) services. The productive activities of ad-hoc activist or expert networks on the Net can best be theorised by a new approach in political economy exploring the structure and dynamics of  peer production networks. Since the emergence of peer networks transforms the established institutions of the production of memory and cultural canon, a panel session was devoted to new forms of grassroot journalism and open archiving. Another important challenge for the status quo of culture production is the fast development of digital techniques allowing new forms for remix and detournement, in a word, culture jamming. Finally, a special panel explored how various social, economic, and legal agents of regulation in a post-Westphalian world order can react to all these  processes.

Parallel with the conference selected artists and activists presented their works at the RE:activism exhibition.

See the conference proceedings here:

The aim of RE:activism conference was to bring together various people with various backgrounds, interests and projects, still, all immersed in the field of activism and digital media. RE:activism served not only as an academic conference, but as a large-scale social event enabling academics and practitioners, eastern and western, European and North-American, groups and individuals, to engage in communication and to establish further cooperation.

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