Goodbye Privacy

Mobile and ubiquitous—no longer just here and now, but being present wherever you want to be, whenever you want to be. These long-nurtured yearnings that have been projected so euphorically onto new technologies have now materialized into the reality of our time. A reality that is woven from a network in which every user is a node, every exit simultaneously an entrance, every receiver a transmitter too.

At any time, at any place, we’re capable of switching into telematic action mode, of reaching anyone and being accessible by all. With the aid of our avatars, blogs and tags, we assume digital form and adopt more or less imaginative second identities. Emerging at a rapid clip are completely new types of the public sphere featuring new rules of play and (sometimes even) new hierarchies. But it’s not merely technology, information and communication that have become omnipresent. To a much greater extent, it’s we ourselves: traceable at all times and anywhere via our cellphone’s digital signature that makes it possible to pinpoint our location to within a few meters; classifiable via the detailed and comprehensive personality profiles that we unwittingly leave behind as the traces of all our outings in digital domains.
What’s occurring in the wake of these developments is a far-reaching repositioning and reevaluation of the political, cultural and economic meaning of the public and private spheres.

Goodbye Privacy

“Goodbye Privacy” is the theme of this year’s Ars Electronica, the festival extraordinaire of art, technology and society in Linz, Austria. September 5–11, 2007, the focus will be on these late-breaking phenomena of a new culture of everyday life being played out between angst-inducing scenarios of seamless surveillance and the zest we bring to staging our public personas via digital media.

In Ars Electronica’s inimitable fashion, elaborations in the form of symposia, exhibits, performances and interventions will proliferate beyond the confines of conference halls and exhibition spaces, and spread across the whole city.
Artists, experienced network nomads, theoreticians, technologists and legal scholars will approach this year’s theme from quite different perspectives:

Regardless of whether this is a matter of the interior spaces and city squares of the real public sphere or the new public domain of digital networks-the network of cameras, biometric sensors, RFIDs, log files, Trojans, etc. is becoming ever more tightly woven. Immense databases and highly developed algorithms automatically interlinking and evaluating all these traces consummate this new dimension of surveillance. But it’s not just the depth of field and high resolution of this digital reconnaissance that’s significant in this context; it’s also the fact that access to the necessary technologies and the compiled data is increasingly shifting out of the purview of official state-authorities and into the hands of commercial and individual interests.
And we thus find ourselves once again in a state of peculiar ambivalence: Showcasing ones customized persona, staging ones own image is the order of the day. Go public and feature yourself or its GAME OVER! The individualization and personalization of online media once constituted a countervailing world juxtaposed to the formula-driven, homogenized public sphere of the electronic mass media, but in the age of Second Life,MySpace and YouTube, individualization is now mainstream and the search is afoot for the next upgrade, for what awaits us in the aftermath of the self-invention/self-promotion hype of the Web 2.0 epoch.
Once we dismiss the cul-de-sac of a purely rejectionist stance and get on with the search for suitable forms of subculture, things start to get interesting indeed. After all, the Digital Revolution is something with which we’ve grown quite familiar, but what in the world might be in store when the Digital Rebellion breaks out?
Gerfried Stocker, Christine Schöpf

The 2007 Ars Electronica Symposium will be curated by Ina Zwerger and Armin Medosch.
Ina Zwergers is science editor at the ORF – Austrian Broadcasting Company’s radio station OE1.
Armin Medosch is an artist and author.

We publicize our view of the world and of ourselves in weblogs and at sites like Flickr,MySpace and YouTube.Many of the services that are being marketed under the banner of Web 2.0 are based on network linkup, exchange and the voluntary revelation of private information. With the emergence of this new “public life,” the value of that which is private has changed. Thus, there are indeed more and better forms of participation, but the staging of the private sphere before a mass public reduces the cultural status ascribed to it. At the same time, there's a bull market in detailed information about private individuals. The automatically analyzable data traces we leave behind give rise not only to new service industries but also to the architecture of surveillance and control. Figures, data and quantifiability have long since become conventional means of social selection and organization. Are we well on the way to a transparent society? Or is this hymn in praise of the new openness precisely what is paving the way for the abuse of power behind the scenes? This year’s Ars Electronica symposium will scrutinize this updated private sphere under the new conditions of terrorism and Web 2.0.
Ina Zwerger, Armin Medosch

Fundamental Rights in the Digital Age, September 5–6, 2007

One highlight of the 2007 Ars Electronica lineup is “Fundamental Rights in the Digital Age,” a conference being organized by the Association of Austrian Judges in cooperation with Ars Electronica. In accordance with Ars Electronica’s mission of fostering a wideranging discussion of current issues of great importance in art, technology and society, a transdisciplinary process of exchange among legal experts, IT specialists and artists will play a major role.