Friday, August 22, 2008

Finishing up with Marianne

So I will get back to this at last and wrap things up from this interview a little more quickly so I can get to the next ones of the women, plus I still have Brenno and Florian to add, and I then have to actually do the interviews with Jaromil, Mirko, and maybe some others, not to mention follow ups with Hajo and Alex. Yeesh.

So, toward the end of the email part of the interview, I asked what Marianne thought about the the people involved with new media, whether it was or is a community.

No I don't think in terms of community, more in terms of a scene, which I consider less coherent than a community. Very different people, hackers, journalists, organizers, artists, idiots, designers, querulants, activists, often fighting each other (as at the aftermath of the Digital City).
And the same question again--did she still find this range of people getting involved?
Actually I am not sure. It may be that I just don't attend as much of the meetings and events as I did before, but I would say today there are less journalists involved and more students. And mor artists/dsigners - but that may be my perspective, since I have spent the last weeks with all these plans of e-culture institutions. What is clear anyway is that what was once a scene is now a social-cultural sector, the e-culture sector.
I think this has been a gradual change, but the changes in the Dutch funding structure seem as though they could potentially lead to a petrification of the e-culture sector because there will be so many more bureaucratic hurdles to get through in application for support that only very established professional groups will be able to manage it.

Finally I asked her what had led her back into academia to get her PhD.

That must have been somewhere in 2000, when I was finishing my book Leven op het Net - De sociale betekenis van virtuele gemeenschappen (in Dutch, title can be translated in: Life on the Net - The social meaning of virtual communities; though here the nice ambiguity of the Dutch word 'leven' which means both 'life' and 'cosy noise' is lost.)

Every time I was really inspired in writing and was starting to have real fun (when writing about the meaning of media, of space and spatial metaphors), the publisher said: No, that's too complex for the intended audience for this book, don't do that in this book, write a PhD if you want that kind of stuff... And so I finally did. First as a nomadic savage, without an appointment, later at Utrecht University, which also had connections to my supervisor in Rotterdam, the Dutch 'cyberspace philosopher' Jos de Mul.
When we met in person I followed up on the e-culture aspect, but unfortunately the whole discussion has to remain confidential. I need to speak with someone in charge if the sector who would have the authority to say I can reprint or repeat her replies without her getting into some kind of trouble!

But we did talk about other things, one being what the dept. looks like from her perspective which was interesting in the way it is similar or different from what I've heard from Erna, William, Mirko, and Nanna. Overall they all have good things to say, but for example, the extent to which they find it very collegial or just somewhat, leading the way, or keeping up--all these things depend on the other communities and academic groups they compare UU with, and on their own personal preferences. So someone who really pushes to publish and go to conferences and is always in the middle of the global academic debate on new media may feel the dept is ok, but just keeping up, or maybe out in front, but shouldn't relax. While someone who is not so interested in that may feel it's a bit of a pressure cooker already. Very subjective.

I'll be following up with Marianne later, as with everyone, but that's it for now. Time to get to my next victim, I mean interviewee... ;-)

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