An Interview with Geert Lovink

Interview with the Dutch-Australian media theorist and critic Geert Lovink to be submitted for a special issue of Internet Histories dedicated to Internet and the Web in the 90s (see the CfP), edited by Valérie Schafer and Benjamin G. Thierry (second semester of 2018).

G. Lovink at CPOV-Conference in Leipzig Germany; September 2010
Photo by Rob Irgendwer
CC BY-SA 3.0

Valérie Schafer: First of all, could you tell me when you discovered computers and computer-mediated communications?

Geert Lovink: My first encounter with the world of computers was at the end of my primary school, in the late 1960s. This was a rather intense time for the Magic Centre of Amsterdam and the hippie movement, a rather turbulent time. I got influenced by the promises of computers from the hippie perspective, how people can communicate, influenced by the psychedelic movement, which of course one can read back in Fred Turner’s book[1]. This context is closely tied to the questions of how software should look like and how the user should be positioned in there. This topic is something I was really intimately familiar with when I grew up.

VS: Did your parents work in this field?

GL: No, I grew up near the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, behind the Concertgebouw. Almost next door to my primary school was the Hilton hotel where John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed when the hippies took over the park where I played, in 1969. Of course, I’m not from the ‘68 generation, I’m younger, from the punk generation, I entered the scene in 1977. But as a child I was very influenced by the counterculture that happened in front of where I grew up. My first direct encounter with computers was somewhat odd. I was twelve, thirteen years old. With a friend of mine I decided to become a member of a rowing club in Amsterdam. We started rowing on the river Amstel and while we were doing these explorations from the water we came across a strange metal junk yard where the first generation of mainframe computers were dumped and recycled. We could access the yard via the water. We often went there to have a look at these machines. At that time, my friend and I were interested in DIY electronics, in particular transistors. We then traded the large circuit boards we took from there with our friends.

A couple of years later, when I studied political science in Amsterdam at the university, of course I encountered these mainframes again. That was in 1978-1979. We had to learn SPSS and data processing. This was done in the tradition of the Baschwitz institute, which studied public opinion. Kurt Baschwitz is one of the founders of mass communication and he was introducing computers in social sciences. We had to do questionnaires and then process the results using these mainframes.

Around 1983-1984 the personal computer became affordable and available, with the introduction of the IBM PC combined with MS-DOS, the Microsoft operating system. We started to use it. We were running a weekly magazine for the squatter’s movement in Amsterdam and very early on we used the computer to do text processing. Friends of mine also started to use the computer to build databases in the early 1980s, to trace neo-Fascist groups and map housing speculators. These were early database and mapping exercises. The use of computers and databases in social movements goes back a really long time. Activists gathered names, dates and observations. There are archives that try to conserve the autonomous social movement heritage and I’m also playing a role in this preservation effort at the International Institute of Social History (IISG), which is in Amsterdam. IISG has extended its archives, which focused on Marx, Bakunin, early trade unions and the Spanish civil war to contemporary movements such as feminism and ecology.

When the squatter’s episode of my generation came to a close, in 1987, with the help of my father, I purchased my first personal computer.

VS: Did you feel early on that there was a need to archive this history?

GL: My studies started with a visit to the Institute of Social History. The first paper I wrote, I was 19 years old, was on the history of the provo movement[2] which I had witnessed as a child. Back then I was too young and I couldn’t really understand much of it. I went back to the archives, to study that movement ten or so years later – a movement that had had a big impact on Amsterdam and was foundational to the squatter’s movement. Archival work has always been an important task for social movements to pass on collective experiences, images, concepts and debates.

VS: Would you say that your investment in digital cultures and social movements is a continuity of this starting period?

GL: For sure. We’re aware of similar struggles before WWII. But we also knew, in particular in the city of Amsterdam that was so severely hit by the Holocaust, that the rupture of WWII and the following decades of conservative reconstruction created a gap in the collective memory. We met few people in our field, only one or two, that were able to bring the memory of the pre-war back. It was a bit more common with the 60s movement. Memory and its transition from one generation to the next, a strong theme in the work of Bernard Stiegler that I admire, were at the forefront when I grew up.

VS: You bought your own computer in 1987.

Lire la suite

Temps et temporalités du Web

Après le colloque de décembre 2015 TTOW… le livre regroupe une partie des contributions présentées lors de ces journées …

Rethinking the distinction between old and new media

CONVERGENCE
The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies

Special Issue CFP

Rethinking the distinction between old and new media Guest editors: Frederik Lesage (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and Simone Natale (Loughborough University, UK)(August 2019)

Read the CfP

Deadline for abstracts: 31th May 2018

Please send a 500-word abstract and a 100-word bio to the guest editors: flesage@sfu.ca and s.natale@lboro.ac.uk
Authors of accepted abstracts will be invited to send full contributions by 31st October 2018

« Fractures numériques »

Journée « Du tesson aux archives du Web. Sources et traitement des sources en histoire économique »

8 février 2018 à l’EHESS (salle M. & D. Lombard) – 96 bd Raspail 75006 Paris

Contact(s)  hachez@ehess.fr

Le GRHéco : Créé en 2014, le groupe d’histoire économique du CRH cherche à fédérer diverses approches de chercheurs qui travaillent sur des questions relevant de l’histoire économique et de susciter une dynamique de réflexion sur des axes communs possibles.

Voir le programme 

Qu’est-ce qu’un forum Internet ?

Une généalogie historique au prisme des cultures savantes numériques

Camille Paloque-Bergès

OpenEdition Press, 2018

Découvrir le livre et sa présentation

Sommaire

Retour sur la conférence de Lugano de décembre 2017

A découvrir la très belle recension illustrée de cette conférence par Vlad Atanasiu

Reporting International Conference «Computer Networks Histories: Local, national and transnational perspectives»

The International Conference Computer Networks Histories: Local, National and Transnational Perspectives was held in Lugano, Switzerland on 14th -15th December 2017. The conference was organized by the association Geschichte und Informatik, the Institute of Media and Journalism & the China Media Observatoryat the Università della Svizzera italiana and infoclio.ch.

 

Entretien avec Christian Quest

Christian Quest a connu l’âge d’or de la télématique avec son entreprise JCA avant d’aborder le Web au début des années 1990. Emblématique de ces entrepreneurs français qui ont co-construit l’enfance numérique de la France, il se consacre aujourd’hui en parallèle de sa vie professionnelle à la conservation du patrimoine lié au Minitel.

Cet entretien réalisé par Benjamin G. Thierry aborde l’itinéraire de Christian Quest en trois temps : d’abord la découverte de la télématique et la mise en place de l’offre de JCA en matière de réalisation de services, ensuite le passage à Internet et ses conséquences pour terminer sur les enjeux et les moyens de la conservation du patrimoine numérique que constitue la télématique.

Entretien avec Jean-Michel Cornu

Dans cet entretien réalisé en mars 2017 par Michel Elie, Jean-Michel Cornu revient sur son parcours, sa découverte de l’informatique ou encore sa participation à ce qui devient la gouvernance de l’Internet et ses organes types IETF ou Isoc.

JEAN-MICHEL CORNU, INGENIEUR DIPLOMÉ DE L’INSTITUT D’ELECTRONIQUE DE PARIS, EXPERT DANS LES NOUVELLES TECHNOLOGIES

Jean-Michel Cornu revient sur son parcours, sa découverte de  l’informatique d’abord à travers le minitel et des projets de stations de travail, puis par le choix de participer à titre individuel aux différents groupes de travail autour des spécifications et de la  gouvernance de l’Internet : IETF ou ISOC. C’est en observant leurs  méthodes de travail fondées sur le travail coopératif qu’il prendra  l’initiative d’évènements associatifs tels que l’Internet Fiesta au plan  international, puis se consacrera à l’approfondissement des méthodes de  travail coopératif et d’animation de groupes de travail.

Media Convergence and Deconvergence

de PEIL Corinna, SPARVIERO Sergio, BALBI Gabriele (Springer International Publishing AG, 2017).

This edited volume explores different meanings of media convergence and deconvergence, and reconsiders them in critical and innovative ways. Its parts provide together a broad picture of opposing trends and tensions in media convergence, by underlining the relevance of this powerful idea and emphasizing the misconceptions that it has generated. Sergio Sparviero, Corinna Peil, Gabriele Balbi and the other authors look into practices and realities of users in convergent media environments, ambiguities in the production and distribution of content, changes to the organization of media industries, the re-configuration of media markets, and the influence of policy and regulations. Primarily addressed to scholars and students in different fields of media and communication studies, Media Convergence and Deconvergence deconstructs taken-for-granted concepts and provides alternative and fresh analyses on one of the most popular topics in contemporary media culture.

En savoir plus 

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