Transcribe Bentham @Ars Electronica 2011: Day 4

By Tim Causer, on 5 September 2011

Today was all about the Public Space Squared symposium at the Brucknerhaus, where a host of hugely interesting people spoke. Photographs of the day are available at the Ars Electronica Flickr stream, and recordings of all of the talks are being progressively added to their YouTube channel. The Digital Communities section of the session is available to watch here.

After an introduction from David Sasaki, one of the symposium’s conveners, we were given three superb presentations: Tunisian activist Lina Ben Mhenni described how the overthrow of Ben Ali was not a ‘Facebook Revolution’ or ‘Twitter Revolution’, as well as how the authorities used social media for their own purposes; Zeynep Tufekci discussed technology and collective action, and gave some findings from a survey taken on the ground in Tahrir Square; and Leila Nachawati spoke on citizen journalism and the vicious repression of their own people by the Syrian government.

After lunch came talks from the Digital Communities prize-winning projects, moderated by Beatrice Achelake, one of the jury members. The Golden Nica winner was the Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente, represented by its president, Felipe Heusser; Alexandra Jönsson and Cliff Hammett discussed their Award of Distinction-winning x_msg; and then finally I spoke about Transcribe Bentham. It was a great privilege to be able to talk about TB before the audience.

The final session featured Hu Yong of Beijing University discussing use of the internet in China; Tan Siok Siok spoke about her forthcoming crowdsourced Twitter documentary; and Markus Beckedahl of Netzpolitik discussed digital resources and politics.  This was followed by an enlightening panel discussion, and a summary from Isaac Mao, the symposium’s other convener.

Rounding off the day was – at last! – a chance to see the Tesla Orchestra at the Ars Electronica Centre. In case you were wondering, yes, that is a man in a metal costume playing music with tens of thousands of volts of electricity, generated by the world’s largest Tesla coils.

On behalf of all at Transcribe Bentham, I would like to express gratitude to all at Ars Electronica for their welcome, travel and accommodation arrangements, and letting us attend and present our work. Thanks too to the Digital Communities jury for selecting Transcribe Bentham to receive an award in the Prix, particularly as it was such a hard decision to whittle a very competitive field down to three.

All that remains to say is Auf Wiedersein, Linz! It’s been an honour and pleasure.