[-empyre-] (The Internet as Playground and Factory) - tulip madness -a tale of old times

Ricardo Dominguez rrdominguez at ucsd.edu
Wed Nov 25 21:56:05 EST 2009

Hola all,

Trebor I really enjoyed the gathering from a distance via the list serv
for quiet a while, and more recently the videos documents that have been
going up.

The theme of "playbor" was certainly one that was in the air during the
90's among much of the Williamsburg new media scene as we flowed in and
out of the i-Bubble. The question for us at that time was - who was
playing who? who or what was being exploited or where are potential zones
to exploit the exploiter? Were we also exploiting our selves exploiting
them, or pretending to, and then doing something else – an old tactical
tradition and it now seems the question is to do the something similar on
a strategic scale across the arcs
of the realities.

A Bit of an Old Tale to Tell:

For instance, while "playing" at thing.net to co-develop disturbance
gestures and participating in a genearl digital analytics of the i-Bubble
as "tulip madness" etc., I was also "working" at StarMedia (starmedia.com)
the first "portal mutimedia en español, es un portal de noticias, moda,
deportes , entretenimiento, servicios gratuitos de Correo y Chat." The
company like so many IPO at that time received a highest amount of Wall
Street backing in the 1990's as the AOL of Latin America. When I first
joined only 25 folks were working the old/and continuing model of 24/7 and
by the end of the first year - StarMedia had over 500 laborers (NYC), plus
offices and servers across Latin America from Brazil up. And I was the
head of StarMedia Broadband by the end of the first year with a brand new
streaming media studio on the top floor of a 5th ave building in the area
that had garnered the name "Silicon Alley" – the office even had on pool
on the roof and had I access to servers all along Latin America. I could
hire all my Billyburg art and artivist collaborators - pay them a great
deal (just to make it seem like lots of labor was happening) and let them
use the infrastructure for whatever they wanted - while at the same time
we knew that StarMedia like so much of Silcon Valley was tulip madness and
would fall soon.

But, we could exploit it that madness and we did. I remember at one point
the BBC was doing a documentary on the 21st Century Spy, fakeshop was
doing some lovely gesture about models and avatar construction as
hyper-meditation mantras projected around the office and streamed – so
lots of naked folks being scanned in big tubs of water and projected, FBI
was trying to interview us about about an EDT e-action we has just done –
it was like a scene from Fellini's '8 1/2' and everyone was enjoying
Well maybe not the FBI folks – but, who knows.

Electronic Disturbance Theater used our access to the large and growing
StarMedia infrastructure and a number of times in 1998 to do ECD actions
against the Mexican gov. and we also used the Broadband studio as an HQ -
whenever reporters would seek an interview. We all used it for radical
media meetings and early unionize the anchored digital labor. So, at that
time the question was how can we re-design "playbor" into a zone for
"acti-play" pretending to be "labor." The CEO and the rest of the top
ended up in court and as remember - some went to jail in 2000 and we the
artivist continued our work, thing.net continued, etc.,

So, this all brings me, to the question of how do we train the next
generations to hactivate the design of "playbor" towards a "acti-play"
that only pretends to "labor" in a directed manner - de-linking towards


> Hello all,
> Thanks so much to Timothy and Renate for inviting me to join you with a
> report of The Internet as Playground and Factory conference, which I
> convened at The New School two weeks ago. I'll try to boil down the many
> months of discussion to a few paragraphs and some links to resources.
> Viral
> modes of design and hacktivism are somewhat related to the event and I
> hope
> my bridge to -empyre's- theme of the month is not too illusive.
> How did I come to the issue of digital labor? In April 2007 I wrote a
> short
> essay "What The MySpace Generation Should Know About Working For Free."
> Consequently, I was invited to many universities to speak about
> distributed
> labor. In 2008, I was part of a panel at The New School with Danah Boyd
> and
> Ethan Zuckerman that, for me, highlighted the problem with
> non-transparency,
> data portability, and dominance of one singular social networking service
> (http://twurl.nl/alpl65). Over and over I realized that students shut down
> when I talked about Internet users being exploited. Later, this experience
> became the leitmotif for the introductory trailer of the conference.
> Labor?
> Exploi-what? (http://twurl.nl/yjgibl)

Ricardo Dominguez
Associate Professor
Hellman Fellow

Visual Arts Department, UCSD
Principal Investigator, CALIT2
Co-Chair gallery at calit2
CRCA Researcher
Ethnic Studies Affiliate
Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies Affiliate

Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics,
Board Member

University of California, San Diego,
9500 Gilman Drive Drive,
La Jolla, CA 92093-0436
Phone: (619) 322-7571
e-mail: rrdominguez at ucsd.edu

Project sites:
site: http://gallery.calit2.net
site: http://pitmm.net
site: http://bang.calit2.net
site: http://www.thing.net/~rdom

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