INFOWAR – information.macht.krieg, the general theme of Ars Electronica 98, refers at once to a utopia and a reality – on one hand, the utopia which the chiefs of staff of the leading global powers see in the replacement of armed conflicts by discreet duels for control over information, with the added bonus that the necessity to destroy declines in proportion to the increasing capability of doing so; on the other hand, the reality of the project being pursued on a massive scale since the 1980s to achieve that utopia.
Beyond this, the title "INFOWAR – information.macht.krieg" constitutes the thematic link connecting issues ranging from hacker ethics to speculators’ informationally-generated acceleration of Asian financial markets which, during the very course of preparations for this festival, provided a textbook example of the failure of conventional political control mechanisms.
Not only the plans for new spheres of deployment emerging from this military revolution but also the interrelated set of issues associated with carrying them out will be the subject of speeches, discussions, and consideration in the light of critical distance, whereby no less attention will be paid to global networks as new forms of the organization of civilization than to the military revolution that is currently their clearest manifestation. Thus, INFOWAR is not only the subject upon which the symposium will focus; rather, it is also an optical instrument which makes visible the spectrum of the Information Society’s consequences. Prime consideration will not be on the orbit of the technically imaginable but rather on the fronts within a society currently undergoing radical, violent change.
Of central importance within this spectrum is a new concept of art which bears the mark of changed framework conditions, a concept that breaks out of the closed circle of self-referentiality and displays social relevance beyond formal aesthetic concerns. Cyberarts 98, the exhibition of the projects selected by several international juries to receive the Prix Ars Electronica 98, offers a current cross-section of interactive media installation. A dramatic contrast to it will be provided by a new format: openX, an experimental arrangement for the presentation of network art featuring projects and artists whose area of activity lies primarily in the immaterial communications sphere of digital networks. Performances and installations commissioned especially to treat this year’s festival theme, a hacker meeting, as well as a lavish calendar of nightly musical performances round out this year’s festival program.