collaborative robots, remote labour, & [freecooperation]'s Missing Studies on the avant-garde

The [freecooperation] conference organised by Trebor Schultz and Geert Lovink (April 24-25, SUNY-Buffalo) is getting into shape like a 45 year-old jogger with weak knees running nights on Mont Royal at -23c, training for the big marathon down in Boston.

In Lovink's own words,

"From the start we had in mind to look for an alternative to academic conferences on the one hand and the (European) new media arts festival format on the other. The aim of the event is to reflect on the art of (networked) collaboration in order to find strategies for 'free cooperation' that take in account the real existing experiences we gain while working together."

The point, it seemed, at least at the beginning, was to open a [freecooperation] email list which would serve as a discussant model for the formation of the gathering--a forum for ideas on 'free cooperation'. A few proposals have been sent through this list. Yet it doesn't seem--at least via impressions of the list--that very many people are tuning into the frequency at which Lovink and Schultz are trying to operate. I don't quite understand the frequency myself. Many of the proposals and discussions have been at theoretical and philosophical levels that have more to do with intellectual ping-pong than getting down to a pragmatic sense of 'free cooperation'. The best discussion so far was the relation between 'cooperation' and collaboration, especially in the negative sense of the term (collabos, for example), tying in the architecture of email lists and art institutions, and the question of the avant-garde and fascism; yet this was somewhat hindered by the insistence upon returning to 'cooperation' as the theme by Lovink, which so far has generated little thought (and who also professed that "I don't know of any contemporary artist or artists groups who makes such a claim. Not even activists have such dreams these days, with perhaps the exception of these or that leftist leftover splinter group"--which speaks to the need to continue the discussion, as within the circles of new media and experimental electronic music, the concept of the avant-garde is returning with full force, as demonstrated by Owen Chapman & Anna Friz, and discussed in my column, Immediatism in e/i issue #2, also touched upon here in the Graduate Student Researcher: Journal for Arts, Sciences and Technology). My own attempt at getting away from Hegel and concretizing the highly conceptual discussion on 'missing information' in networks--the 'School of Missing Studies'--can be found here.

So far, 'cooperation' seems to be more about neat technology. Lovink posted today, as a sort of exemplum, I gather, the 'collaborative telerobot', which for me bears an uncanny resemblance to the Remote Labour Systems net-art project (& successful spoof), illustrating in concrete terms the debate over 'collaboration,' at least, and its darkside. Given that the email-list is perhaps one of the most successful models of 'free cooperation', in a sense, why has this list not generated a life of its own? Is it because the topic is at once too pragmatic yet esoteric, given its focus on what are the myriad pathways of (post)human attempts at communication? Or that any email list is not terribly happy with 'pragmatically theorising' its very existence in a kind of self-reflective misery or joy?

Everything that I've said here pertains only to the email list. If Lovink is getting a little picked-on here, it's only because he gives the sense he has an idea of 'cooperation' that I don't think has been communicated well--despite a number of articles & interviews being posted to the list on the topic. Apparently a zillion proposals have been received for the 'gathering' (not-a-conference, not-an-art-festival). With enough luck and found funds I can attend and it will no doubt be a strange haberdash of eclectic individuals. Yet will they be 'cooperating', and if so, 'freely'? What is the cost of this 'free cooperation'? One would expect there would be a spark of the energy that could be unleashed at the gathering catalysing the email list which exemplifies and demonstrates the limits of the process at hand.

posted. Wed - January 21, 2004 @ 12:09 PM           |