[-empyre-] post-digital print

Florian Cramer flrncrmr at gmail.com
Fri Feb 28 08:46:32 EST 2014

My own self-description is very similar to Søren's. As matter of fact, both
of us have worked on the same subjects and experienced similar developments
of our research interests in the past 1 1/2 decades - with the difference
however that I left university humanities in 2006. (Just as Søren's or even
much worse, my dissertation fell on dry ground and is probably my least
known and read text ever although it has appeared as a book by a reputable
academic publisher - for me the proof that either I can't write books or
print publishing is factually dead while being kept artificially alive as a
'radioactive cadaver', to quote Raoul Vaneigem. My recent book Anti-Media
might be another such disaster despite greatest and most amicable support
from Geert Lovink's Institute of Network Culture.) Since then, I have been
working for Rotterdam's art school which is part of a larger polytechnic,
Hogeschool Rotterdam. The Dutch dual system draws strong dividing lines
between universities and polytechnics. Our research therefore has to be
strictly practice- and work field-oriented. My own task is to investigate
the impact of changes in media and communication on art and design
professions by creating interconnections between the school and external
practitioners, and help the school adapt its curricula.

Besides that, I work for WORM (http://www.worm.org), a space for
experimental music, film and events of all kinds, as dean of the WORM
Parallel University (http://wpu.worm.org), an DIY university for
non-traditional students. The more our students do themselves, the easier
they can obtain our Master of Parallels (MoP) degree. The Dutch music
critic Peter Bruyn was our first laureate.

Research facilitated by my center Creating 010 includes Alessandro
Ludovico's book "Post-Digital Print", Olia Lialina's research on Geocities,
Hyves and Rotterdam Internet cafés [
http://contemporary-home-computing.org/still-there/intro.html], Renee
Turner's research - in collaboration with students and teachers from Piet
Zwart Institute - on privacy and surveillance [
and Aymeric Mansoux' ongoing research on the misunderstandings of Free
Software, Open Source and copyleft in the arts [

In art and design education, we see that most teachers still live in a
pre-digital world. Students, on the other hand, are avid consumers mainly
of social media but hardly participate in online culture or produce work in
electronic form. This has been researched for us by my Willem de Kooning
Academy colleague Aldje van Meer [
http://iwouldratherdesignaposterthanawebsite.nl/]. Currently, 70-80 graphic
designers graduate at our school every year who have been almost
exclusively educated to be print designers. At the same time, print
publishing is shrinking while electronic publishing is steadily growing.
(Rotterdam, the second-largest city of the Netherlands with 600,000
inhabitants - 1.1 Million including the metropolitan area -, currently has
no large bookstore anymore; only two very small ones are left in the city
center.) According to our knowledge, there are less than ten graphic
designers in the entire Netherlands who know to design an epub file.

I only mention the above to put things into perspective. When we are
talking about post-digital culture, and new hybrid forms of analog and
digital, electronic and print media, then often our problem remains that
the first step to digital hasn't been made yet. There is a tendency in this
country that the art schools, most of which have more design than art
students and have curricula based on the classical Bauhaus curriculum,
resort to an anti-industrial Arts-and-Crafts niche of beautifully crafted
non-electronic products. For me, this implies a highly political issue of
art retreating to a luxury niche, giving up on the idea that it should
engage with and shape everyday culture. (A concept underlying - among
others - constructivist, Fluxus and Situationist avant-garde, and
interventionist net art/media art as well.)

When I use and cautiously advocate the term "post-digital", I can't avoid
playing with the fire that this will get misunderstood as a carte blanche
for uncritical indulgence in neo-crafts.

I've collaborated in Søren's transmediale newspaper and 'A Peer-Reviewed
Journal' (http://www.aprja.net/) with an essay on useful definitions of

I agree with Søren's concluding points so fully and wholeheartedly that
I'll just repeat them:

- The digital revolution is over. The utopian times are past. This is
> somewhat healthy, since we can now begin to look more concretely and in a
> sober way on the material changes that are happening and how they affect
> culture.
> - However, we also miss the utopian days now, when digital technologies
> and media are only about rationalization, capitalization, control,
> monitoring. How do we develop alternatives, when we've stopped believing in
> the power of technology? And this 'we' is not only 'us', but increasingly
> the broad culture, who've stopped believing in the promises of technology.
> We need alternative uses, designs, understandings - and perhaps we can find
> them by combining history, technology and cultural uses?
> - The post-digital is a broad realization that digitization is not a
> binary transformation from old to new media, but is a layered process
> affecting both production, archiving, distribution and reception in
> different combinations and ways.
> - The post-digital is thus a realization, that the digital does not simply
> transform everything into some virtual dimension, but that it is  - and
> needs to be in ways we haven't quite yet imagined - coupled with the
> material, spatial, urban, cultural, human flesh. This is both good and bad
> news.
> - The post-digital is an opportunity to develop the historical: both the
> histories of digital media, from Turing to Kurenniemi and the histories of
> media and media use from Raymond Williams to Matthew Fuller. Furthermore it
> is the opportunity to realize that this history is not linear nor
> straigh-forward but that e.g. the history of hypertext is forking and
> looping and the culture of the computer does not compute.

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