This publication documents the first research lab1 in conjunction with the Austrian net culture initiative servus.at based in Linz. The idea for this kind of lab, which is able to explore a specific topic and the associated challenges for the information age in depth over the course of one year, is rooted in the festival “Art Meets Radical Openness”2, which takes place biennially since 2008 in cooperation with the Art University Linz. This is a community festival originating in the Free Software movement and the early Austrian initiative Linuxwochen (Linux Weeks3), but this event has been expanded with cultural, artistic, and social-critical aspects in connection with technology. When art meets radical openness, this suggests a paradox.
For what is generally considered contemporary art is rarely “radically open” in the sense that its authors purposely make sources, processes and contents accessible for further processing, as is the rule with F/LOSS (free/libre Open Source Software) projects. What may succeed in the development of free software, however, poses a challenge to us in the way we deal with information. Which information is meaningful and should be made accessible to whom in which form?
The festival brings together a diverse group of actors (artists, cultural workers, philosophers, software developers, hacktivists, activists, and journalists), who often operate in different fields at the same time (art, education, journalism, activism, software development and more) and principally agree on the value of using alternative tools, based on a social-critical stance. This fundamental stance influences not only how we deal with technology per se, but also the approach to issues concerning the complex conditions of our digital infosphere, which impels an unremitting cultural transformation that has a real impact on our life and the way we deal with our world today.
For us, the collaboration with the artist collective KairUs - Linda Kronman & Andreas Zingerle has proved to be very valuable. Their research topic “Behind the Smart World” with its original starting point of twenty-two harddisks from the largest recycling center in Ghana has led us to a collection of theoretical and artistic positions focusing on a fundamental problem of our times, the saving, deleting and resurfacing of information.
Us(c)hi Reiter -- servus.at
Linz, November 2015introduction