The Matrix: MEME 3.03

MEME 3.03

Freedom's just another word for WYSIWYG


The southernmost range of the Alps divides Slovenia from Austria. Drive over these mountains, from the Austrian side, and you emerge an hour later in a flat plain which leads to the coast, and the Adriatic sea. Along the way, you'll pass Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, which resembles a poorer Salzburg-- a quaint, small city-- with a bit more grime and tarnish from forty years of Socialism, testimony from Slovenia's time spent as part of Yugoslavia. The Slovenes are doing their best to catch up with their richer Northern neighbors. Slovenia is the wealthiest of the former Yugoslav republics. The economy has grown between 4-6% a year since 1993, and unemployment is down to 7.3%. A decade more of this kind of growth, and Slovenia may well be just as small, rich, and neat as Austria.

I visited Ljubljana in late May, as a participant in the Nettime Conference, where, over two days, people from nearly every country in Europe came to participate (along with a handful of Americans). Nettime is a grass-roots organization which exists mostly in cyberspace, as a by-invitation discussion list, and a Web site. Its goal is a loose one-- what Nettimers call "Internet criticism"-- and over several years since the creation of Nettime in 1994-- the organization has developed as a pan-European confederation of independent thinkers. The sources are too vast to summarize under one label. Perhaps the best explanation of Nettime is that it attempts to explore and discover ideas relating to the spread of cyberspace, ideas which stem from a European, rather than an American, sensibility. The central forum is Nettime's e-mail-based discussion list with 400 participants. The list isn't really a discussion list, but a redistribution point for essays on the meaning of cyberspace. Nettime calls this process "text filtering," and this gives Nettime a thoughtful, meaningful quality, the electronic equivalent of journal, in a state of perpetual flux, mix-mastering threads into a conceptual jam session, with no start or end.

Twice a year, Nettime produces printed material based on the posts which go to the Nettime list. These books go by the initials ZKP, as in "Zentral Kommittee Proceedings"-- it's a joke of sorts, a riff on the old-fashioned jargon from the days of COMECON, Politburos, and five-year plans. (As far as I can tell, there is no central committee guiding Nettime.) In Ljubljana, I received a freshly printed ZKP 4, the fourth in the series, and this issue came out on newspaper, apparently one of 10,000 copies made. Nettime, as I noticed in Ljubljana, defies attempts by observers to categorize. Just when you think you've figured it out, Nettime might morph slightly, upsetting your conceptions.

In the tradition of Dadaism, humor, deadly serious sometimes, with its reversals and self-contradictions, keeps Nettime moving. Motion is good, as it is a source of growth and life, and Nettime is growing. About 10 people join the list every week, and 120 people came to the conference; most were from Europe-- Amsterdam, London, Berlin, Sofia, Budapest, Riga, Moscow-- practically every European nation had a citizen in Ljubljana. Europe and cyberspace were at the center of attention.


Europe is undergoing a period of intense self-definition