Why I might not attend the re:publica 2013

Some of you may have wondered about the meaning of the small banner on the top right of my homepage. My German readers probably knew what this is all about: Last week I went to the re:publica 2012, the largest German conference for the online community – bloggers, journalists and social media experts.

The conference had invited over 200 speakers from all over the world and topics included the usual – net politics and net freedom – as well as more concrete issues such as “handicapped accessibility” or “female trolling”. Because of the wide range of lectures and workshops everyone was sure to find something of interest. In three days I went to about 15 different sessions, some of which excited me more than others, but at the end of Day 3 I decided that I probably won’t return next year.

I’m not disappointed. I didn’t really have any particular expectations, but after having read so much about it (online, where else?) I simply wanted to see what it was like. I really enjoyed the diversity of the subjects covered, many of which related to topics that I care about, and perhaps that was the biggest problem. Naturally, I went to the sessions that I was most interested in, but it turns out I may have been too interested in them, because listening to the talks I couldn’t help but feel “underchallenged”. Most of the information given was so basic that anyone who frequently researches on Google (i.e. everyone at re:publica) would have already been familiar with it. The questions at the end often led into the right direction but before anything truly fruitful could develop, the session was already over. The really important stuff in my opinion, the political and philososphical implications of some of the issues, were hardly even touched upon.

Here are some thoughts I gathered over the three days:

1. Everyone is talking about preserving anonymity and fighting the constant threat to online privacy, but no one talks about the fact that there is a generation of “netizens” coming after us that simply doesn’t give a damn

2. Truly feminist topics were hardly represented. I overheard this was in part a reaction to last year’s reception of the sessions, but I don’t know any details. But an online conference that doesn’t feature net feminism is an outrage.

3. Online activism has to translate into offline activism. “Contact your representative” simply won’t do. Neither will “Join the Pirate Party”.

4. Why are European topics so marginalized? I have decided to identify as a “Euroblogger”, with all of its benefits and drawbacks (mostly drawbacks). I’m not willing to give up , but please, dear European online community, look beyond your own national interests, learn languages, translate and share. I know it’s hard – I don’t know Russian either – but we could learn so much from each other!

5. About self-publishing: e-books are not the only way to self-publish, and if you agree that being a writer is not about financial gains, why do you talk so goddamn much about money???

6. Last but not least, a big Thank you to some of the young men at the re:publica. A session on the “Future of Work” left be baffled by its ignorance of people with families, people in precarious work and uneducated people, unpaid care and house work, but I didn’t even have to complain; three young men did it for me and that made me very, very happy.

In conclusion, one could argue that I simply went to the wrong sessions, but it seems as though many others felt the same way, even though they went to a completely different program. Perhaps next year the slogan for the re:publica shouldn’t be “Action!” but “Reflection!”.


2 responses to “Why I might not attend the re:publica 2013

  1. To 2. – yes, last year featured three panels that had “feminism” in the title and a handful more where feminists were taking part. That was apparently too much for some who then claimed that feminism was EVERYWHERE (out of 180 sessions). I know some people who were either fed up by this debate and didn’t want to take part. Others felt like they had no new ideas or concepts to show.

    Overall a big problem seems to have been that speakers were advised to rate their sessions (for beginners or advanced level) and to state the format (panel, lecture, workshop…). But this was only displayed on the website and not featured in the printed program. Which quite a few people had to rely on, since the internet was once again down.

    • Thanks for clarifying. That’s truly disappointing and discouraging. I’m glad, though, that you went anyways and did a session, regardless of the haters.

      And the labelling of the sessions was indeed a problem, considering the lack of internet. At the same time I was quite glad that not everyone was able to get distracted by Facebook during the lectures. :)