Public Netbase

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Public Netbase
Formation 1994
Extinction 2006
Purpose Platform for Critical Internet Culture
  • Vienna, Austria

Public Netbase was a cultural media initiative, open access internet platform, and advocate for the development of electronic art. The project increasingly came into conflict with the Austrian political establishment[citation needed] during the 1990s. It received awards and recognition by UNESCO.

Early development[edit]

Public Netbase was founded by Konrad Becker and Francisco de Sousa Webber in Vienna's Messepalast (later renamed to Museumsquartier) in 1994 as a non-profit internet provider and a platform for the participatory use and critical analyses of information and communication technology. Its parent organization was the Institute for New Culture Technologies-t0, founded in 1993.[1] Most of the Institute's activities after 1994 occurred through Public Netbase, leading to the names and establishment dates being loosely applied, even in the organization's official material. The name of its World Wide Web server, t0, was often appended to either name as well. During the first years of its existence, Public Netbase shared a space in Museumsquartier with the initiative Depot – Kunst und Diskussion.[2] After it relocated to own rooms (also in Museumsquartier), the number of wokshops and instruction courses increased and the program of discursive events was now realized on an almost daily basis.

Art and culture[edit]

Netbase 3.jpg

Public Netbase focused on aiding the development of electronic art and the impact of the nascent World Wide Web on culture. Its own online presence earned it an award for distinction at the Prix Ars Electronica in 1995.[3] Much of the web space provided through Public Netbase supported Austrian artists, although some hosted projects, such as the Transformation Story Archive, had wider recognition. The physical location in the Museumsquartier was also used for sponsored events, ranging from art symposia to a conference of the Association of Autonomous Astronauts[4] to a "lecture/performance/event" by Critical Art Ensemble about biotechnology [5] and a number of conferences/exhibitions such as ROBOTRONIKA[6] (1998) and SYNWORLD[7] (1999).

Involvement in politics[edit]

When the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and its leader Jörg Haider began to rise in power in Austria, Public Netbase took an increasingly political activist role while facing increasing government pressure. Haider accused Public Netbase of sponsoring child pornography[8] and conflated Christina Göstl's hosted erotic art with a commercial porn site run from the British Virgin Islands during a speech in parliament.[9] Meanwhile, Public Netbase sponsored a "virtual alternative to Austria's far right government" that offered Austrian Web Resistance Awards to web sites dedicated to opposing Haider's government.[10]

The Institute for Applied Autonomy, recipient of an award for distinction in interactive art at the Prix Ars Electronica 2000,[11] dedicated their award to Public Netbase for its political efforts.[12] Another t0-project begun during this period,, described as "an ongoing effort to critically observe and investigate new technologies in a societal, economic and artistic context"[13] led to involvement with the UNESCO Digi-Arts program[14] and a series of conventions across Europe.

However, the organization's successes were insufficient to stave off problems. Its lease at the Museumsquartier was not renewed after the controversial remodelling period in 2000,[15] and it faced a series of audits and other bureaucratic obstacles. Financial difficulties and an inability to secure a permanent replacement location could not be resolved.[16] Despite significant community support and a reorganization effort in 2005 that shortened its name to Netbase, the City of Vienna stopped all funding effective January 11, 2006, leading to the immediate shut down of the organization.

The Institute for New Culture Technologies-t0 is still active: Its projects are now mainly conducted through World-Information.Org and World-Information Institute.[17] Since 2002 it has also been organizing Austria's most prominent online "polling booth" [18]

List of Events[edit]

  • Workshops / small events

Public Netbase organized conferences, exhibitions, websites on a regular basis. Information can be found in the book Public Netbase: Non Stop Future[19] as well as in an activity report which was compiled in 2004 and is available online.[20]

  • Association of Autonomous Astronauts: Intergalactic Conference (1997)

Behind the rather dadaistic format of an 'intergalactic conference' that refers to an independent community based space program, one can find a critical discussion of the accessibility of new technologies and of current politics of space.[21]

  • Infobody Attack (1997)

This series of events which took place in October 1997 critically analyzed topics related to surveillance and control in information societies.[22]

  • Flesh Machine: A Genexploitation Project (1997)

This project questioning the "bio-technological revolution" was developed by the US-based artist collective Critical Art Ensemble in co-operation with Public Netbase. Visitors had the possibility to take actual screening tests for donor DNA and find out "if they were considered 'fit' or 'unfit' for reproduction in a pan capitalist society." Amongst others, Let's Make Baby!, "an illustrated guide for children that explains how science and medicine create life and why", was available.[23]

  • Information Terror (1998)

In the course of this co-operation with The Society of the Unknown (London) a freight container – installed in front of Vienna's opera house – was "transformed into a psychogeographical feedback device".[24]

  • Robotronika (1998)

In this five-day event, which mainly consisted of a symposium and an exhibition, current developments in robotics and automatization were presented and critically analyzed.[25]

  • Period After (1998/99)

Period After was "focusing on the long term development in the Balkan region, related to media, contemporary culture and the potential and real consequences of the ongoing crisis." Main part of the project and prerequisite for other activities was the development of a network of media initiatives in South Eastern Europe.[26]

  • Synworld playwork:hyperspace (1999)

Synworld was one of Public Netbase's most comprehensive events in the 1990s. It focused on relations between popular games and developments of scientific and social relevance. The multifaceted program included lectures, installations, multimedia presentations, game stations and a lounge.[7]

  • Kultur.Netz.2000+ (1999)

This is one example out of a field of activities in which Public Netbase engaged continuously: fostering self-organization in the field of independent media initiatives in Austria in order to voice their interests and concerns, and to influence the development of cultural and media policies. Meetings were organized, lists of demands collectively formulated, and attempts werde made to raise awareness on a broader scale.[27]

  • European Cultural Backbone / ECB (1999-2003)

European Cultural Backbone was "a coalition of mediacultural institutions and individuals working together to creatively use and develop participatory media for social change".[28]

  • fremd.netz (1999)

This anti-racist project was conducted in a time when the Austrian federal government formed which for the first time included Jörg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ). The project took place in an underground station in Vienna and included, amongst others, Franz Xaver's media installation "Fremdsteuerung",[29] several lectures as well as presentations of initiatives like Period After and the newly formed platform Get to Attack.[30]

  • (2000/2001)

This website represented a discursive context that "explicitly refused any dialogue with the ÖVP-FPÖ government and instead of that tried to develop its own identity".[31][32]

  • (2000-2004)

This website documented the political pressure which Austria's right-wing government exerted on Public Netbase, and the latter's resistance. served also as a platform to organize and make visible the broad international solidarity with Public Netbase.[33]

  • Interface Explorer (2001)

Interface Explorer presented current trends in the design of new interfaces and web browsers. Projects by international artists were presented and a forum for the discussion of current trends was provided. The exhibition was co-curated by Johannes Grenzfurthner. One of the highlights was a lecture by Lev Manovich who had just published his book The Language of New Media.[34]

  • Basecamp (2001/2002)

Under this title, three installations in public space (inside and in front of Vienna's Museumsquartier) were installed, each presenting a media project: a virtual billboard in "Remote Viewing", the SMS project "Text-FM" and the music project "Remote Jam".[35]

  • free:re:public (2001-2004)

"Sound-politicization" was one of the new terms which emerged in the course of the protests against the Austrian right-wing government. In free:re:public this belief in the political potential of sound was put into practice in the form of huge youth cultural protest demonstrations that were organized once a year in Vienna.[36]

  • Dark Markets (2002)

This strategic conference examined current relations between media politics, information technologies and political theories of democracy. Central questions for the conference were: "Has the Internet still its original potential to foster a 'network democracy from below'? Aren't new media already too much compromised by the ever growing state and corporate influence? Can the Internet be reclaimed as a 'digital commons' or has the current crisis already reached a meta media level, beyond propaganda and its mirror counter-campaigns?" [37]

  • Campaign against the violation of data protection (2003)

Public Netbase took part in this campaign launched by the "European Digital Civil Right" network[38] and staged a protest at Vienna Airport. Passengers were informed that, as a consequence of a new EU directive, they were "facing the risk of their personal data, including credit card number and religious affiliation, being transferred to the US authorities without their knowledge".[39]

  • Open Cultures (2003)

Open Cultures comprised a two days conference, workshops and an exhibition. It focused on politics of the infosphere and on inventive approaches to advance a "free flow of information".[40]

  • Demokratie und Öffentlichkeit in der Informationsgesellschaft (2003)

A few days after the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) had taken place in Geneva, it was critically analyzed in two events organized by Public Netbase.[41]

  • Free Media Camp (2003)

The Free Media Camp aimed at raising public awareness about the extremely precarious situation of independent and participatory media initiatives in Vienna. The camp was established in public space at Vienns Karlsplatz and lasted for almost four months. In sum approximately 100 events (discussions, presentations, music events, screenings...) took place. The camp was organized by Public Netbase in co-operation with local cultural and media initiatives: Malmoe, IG Kultur Wien, Radio Orange 94.0 and Public Voice Lab.[42][43]

  • nikeground (2003)

This communication guerilla project, which was developed and conducted in co-operation with 0100101110101101.ORG, criticized the accelerating commercialization of public space. Faked announcements informed that Karlsplatz, one of Vienna's historical squares, was going to be renamed to "Nikeplatz" and that as part of this process a 36 meter high monument in form of the Nike-logo would be erected. A two-story glass pavilion located on the square informed about the alleged plans and served as a highly visible sign in public space. The project led to discussions in the arts and cultural scene. At the same time it was sufficiently plausible and spectacular to trigger various forms of citizens' protests and a broad media coverage.[44]

  • Kein Asylverfahren im World Wide Web! (2003/2004)

This ant-racist project was developed in response to the aggravation of Austria's asylum policies as a consequence of the politics of the ÖVP-FPÖ government. Workshops were conducted in which young asylum seekers had the possibility to acquire and further develop media competencies.[45]

  • S-77CCR - System 77 Civil Counter-Reconnaissance (2004)

S-77CCR critically examined surveillance technologies and played with the idea of providing civil society with its own tools to observe and control public space. "Top-down surveillance for grassroots initiatives!" (Brian Holmes) [46]

  • Art != Bioterrorism (2004)

After the artist and researcher Steve Kurtz, founding member of Critical Art Ensemble, had been arrested by the FBI and faced "an indictment based on laws that severely curtail fundamental rights using the fight against terrorism as a pretext",[47] Public Netbase organized solidarity- and protest events in Vienna.[48]

  • Free Bitflows (2004)

Free Bitflows continued the format of major events combining conference, workshops and exhibition. It was an "exploratory event focusing on the politics of info streams to advance free flows of information".[49]

  • Austria 2005

In the year 2005 several Austrian anniversaries coincided: sixty years after the end of World War II, fifty years of Austrian State Treaty and 10 years of Austria's EU membership. 2005 was officially declared a 'jubilee year' and Public Netbase launched a "range of political and cultural events [...] against the engines of jubilation, [that] will facilitate debates on the various jubilee topics from different emancipatory perspectives." [50] The website "Austria 2005: A protection kit against a year of homeland celebrations" [51] was a central space for these projects. Public Netbase's tradition of communication guerilla projects was continued in the four communiques of the "Combat Resistance Cells" [52]

  • Raubkopieren macht impotent! (2005/2006)

This communication guerilla project was developed in response to an anti-piracy campaign which was launched by the German film industry. Amongst others, a faked press conference was organized in Vienna's main shopping street: The launch of a similar anti-piracy campaign in Austria was announced and people accused of offenses like "having sent copyrighted ringtones to a friend" were provided to the pillory.[53]

Publications about Public Netbase[edit]

  • Clemens Apprich / Felix Stalder (Ed.): Vergessene Zukunft. Radikale Netzkulturen in Europa, Bielefeld (transcript) 2012, ISBN 978-3-8376-1906-5
  • Branka Ćurčić / Zoran Pantelić / New Media (Ed.): Public Netbase: Non Stop Future - New Practices in Art and Media, Frankfurt a. M. (Revolver) 2008, ISBN 978-3-86588-455-8 (Hardcover)
  • Josephine Bosma: Constructing Media Spaces. The novelty of net(worked) art was and is all about access and engagement, in: Media Art Net, 2004, URL: [1]
  • Martin Wassermair: Culture and Deviation. Artistic dissidence in Austria, in: Umělec magazine 2009/2, URL: [2]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "About Public Netbase / t0". Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  2. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  3. ^ "Prix Ars Electronica 1995 World Wide Web Distinction". Archived from the original on November 29, 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  4. ^ "Association of Autonomous Astronauts' Intergalactic Conference in Vienna, Earth, June 21-22 1997" (Press release). 1997-06-06. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  5. ^ "FLESH MACHINE: A Genexploitation Project" (Press release). 1997-11-17. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  6. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  7. ^ a b Retrieved 2013-09-12
  8. ^ Flor, Micz (1998-11-27). "Sex slaves to public opinion - Public Netbase kicks back..." Crash Media. Retrieved 2006-10-01. 
  9. ^ Brown, Janelle (1998-09-06). "Is it Sex or is it Art?". Salon. Archived from the original on 2006-09-01. Retrieved 2006-10-02. 
  10. ^ "About". Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  11. ^ "Prix Ars Electronica 2000 Interactive Art Distinction". Archived from the original on March 25, 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  12. ^ "Public Netbase t0 ist überraschender Preisträger des Prix Ars Electronica 2000". Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  13. ^ "". Public Netbase. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  14. ^ "". UNESCO. 2004-10-11. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  15. ^ Wassermair, M. (2000-10-16). "'In Austria, the Clock Ticks with a Different Beat': Short Story of Public Netbase t0, its International Success and Recent Political Struggles". Cultivate Interactive (2). ISSN 1471-3225. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  16. ^ "Open letter to Michael Häupl, Mayor of Vienna, and the Vienna City Government" (Press release). 2004-05-06. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  17. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  18. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  19. ^, Branka Curcic, Zoran Pantelic (Hrsg.): Public Netbase: Non Stop Future - New practices in Art and Media. Revolver, Frankfurt a.M. 2008
  20. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  21. ^ A documentation of several contributions can be found at Retrieved 2013-09-12
  22. ^ (in German). Retrieved 2013-09-12
  23. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  24. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  25. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  26. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  27. ^ (in German). Retrieved 2013-09-12
  28. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  29. ^ (in German). Retrieved 2013-09-12
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-18. Retrieved 2013-09-13.  (in German). Retrieved 2013-09-12
  31. ^ Interview with Konrad Becker, in: Clemens Apprich, Felix Stalder (Hrsg.): Vergessene Zukunft. Radikale Netzkulturen in Europa. transcript, Bielefeld 2012, S. 161 (translated from German)
  32. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  33. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  34. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  35. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  36. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  37. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  38. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  39. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  40. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  41. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-23. Retrieved 2013-09-13.  (in German). Retrieved 2013-09-12
  42. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  43. ^ (in German). Retrieved 2013-09-12
  44. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  45. ^ (in German). Retrieved 2013-09-12
  46. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  47. ^ Free Bitflows Declaration, Retrieved 2013-09-12
  48. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  49. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  50. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  51. ^ In German: "Österreich 2005: Das Vorsorge-Paket gegen ein Jahr Heimat-Feiern", Retrieved 2013-09-12
  52. ^ Retrieved 2013-09-12
  53. ^ (in German). Retrieved 2013-09-12