Sillicon Valley Basics: the Critique 15 years Ago Stands Today

Sillicon Valley Basics: the Critique 15 years Ago Stands Today

Critiques of what is now a well established start up Silicon Valley culture came as early as 2000. The Tulipomania reader was definitely one of them. You can read it here, or download it here.  The object of the Tulipomania DotCom Conference was to develop an informed critique of the politics of electronic finance and Internet economics. The event was held on 2-3 June 2000 in Amsterdam in De Balie and on 4 June 2000 in Frankfurt in the Frankfurter Kunstverein. You can also access my contribution to the volume here

Themes:
The New Economy: Premises and Pitfalls;
Silicon Valley as a Global Business Model;
A Critical Assessment of Alternative Strategies;
Inclusion and Exclusion in the New Economy;
Consumer Rights in the New Economy;
Nettocracy: A Class Analysis of the Information Society; Convergence,  Mergers and Monopolies.

The reader was produced in the immediate aftermath of the Conference and was published on July 29, 2000.

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Aim of the Conference
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The Tulipomania DotCom Conference intends to develop an informed critique of the politics of electronic finance and Internet economics. The aim of the conference is to raise the level of economic competence of the cultural and social sector and simultaneously inject economic
analysis with a sensitivity to on- and off-line cultures, as well as a hands-on understanding of the new communication spaces.

The conference aims to set an agenda for possible models of intervention in this new domain of networked communication, and to reclaim vital public functions of the new information and communication environments.

To achieve this, a dialogue has to be started between critical economic analysis, critical net discourses and the premises of policy making, as well as the various social movements that operate in this domain. To facilitate this exchange of knowledge is a prime aim of the conference.

By bringing together critical discourse in these different domains we intend to find alternatives to deadly adapt-or-die rhetoric, as well as to dire structural inevitability (aka “There Is No Alternative”) or simplifying activism.
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Main Topics of the Conference:
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* The New Economy: Premises and Pitfalls
* Silicon Valley as a Global Business Model
* Financial Markets and Regulation
* Convergence, Mergers and Monopolies
* Inclusion and Exclusion in the New Economy
* Consumer Rights in the New Economy
* A Critical Assessment of Alternative Strategies
* Nettocracy: A Class Analysis of the Information Society
* Gift Economies and Free Services
* The Public Sector and the Network Society
* In Defence of Internet Culture

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Preliminary Program:
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* FRIDAY JUNE 2:

10.00 – Opening
Welcome by Andree van Es (Director of De Balie)

10.30 – Plenary Debate I

The New Economy – Premises and Pitfalls

Moderator:
David Hudson

Key-note Speakers:
Luc Soete (Inst. of Infonomics, University of Maatsricht)
Doug Henwood (Financial Journalist, Left Business Observer, New York)

12.30 – 13.30 – Lunch Break

13.30 – Afternoon Session I

Debate:
Silicon Valley as a Global Business Model

Moderator:
Ted Byfield

Speakers:
Clay Shirky (Hunter College, New York)
Steve Cisler (Writer / Analyst, San Jose)
Corinna Snyder (Razorfish, New York)
Reinhold Grehter (etoy.com)
Nils de Witte (NEBIB, Netherlands)
Andrew Ross (New York University)

15.30 – 16.00 – Coffee Break

16.00 – Afternoon Session II

Debate:
Alternative Strategies

Moderator:
Felix Stalder

Speakers:
Jesse Hirsh (TAO Communications, Toronto)
Nina Ascoly (Clean Clothes Campaign)
Greenpeace Representative – tbc
Olivier Hoedeman (CEO, Amsterdam)
Hans van Heijningen (ATTAC NL)
Gerd Junne (University of Amsterdam)

18.00 – Dinner

20.30 – Plenary Session

Public Debate:
Inclusion and Exclusion in the New Economy

Moderator:
Geert Lovink

Speakers:
Andrew Leyshon (University of Nottingham)
Age Bakker (Ex-director Netherlands National Bank)
Roberto Bissio (Economist, Chili)
Cees Vendrik (MP Netherlands Green Party)

* SATURDAY JUNE 3:

11.00 – Conference Resumes / Morning Session:

Debate:
Consumer Rights

Moderator:
Eric Kluitenberg

Speakers:
James Love (Consumer Project on Technology, Washington)
Wibo Koole (Netherlands National Consumer Organisation)
David Mandl (Autonomedia, New York)
Maurice Wessling (Bits of Freedom, Amsterdam)

12.30 – 13.00 – Coffee Break

13.00 – Afternoon Session I

Debate:
Nettocracy: A Sociological Analysis of the Virtual Class

Moderator:
Geert Lovink

Speakers:
Michael Gurstein (Technical University of British Columbia)
Alexander Bard, (Business Analyst, Stockholm)
Richard Barbrook (University of Westminster, London)

14.30 – 15.00 – Lunch Break

15.00 – Afternoon Session II

Debate:
Convergence, Mergers and Monopolies

Moderator:
Guikje Roethof (Prezz.com, Paris)

Speakers:
Richard Kramer (Arete Research, London)
Korinna Patelis (Goldsmiths College, London
Kenneth Neil Cukier (Redherring.com, London)
Michael Latzer (ICE, Vienna)
Heath Row (Fast Company, Boston)

17.00 – 17.15 – Coffee Break

17.15 – 19.00 – Closing Plenary Session

(Moderated discussion)

19.00 – Close of the Conference

22.00 – Cinema De Balie goes Wall Street

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Workshops & Seminars:
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The program will include a series of workshops and impromptu smaller scale meetings on the following topics:

1 – Development Finance and the Global Market Network
2 – Financial Cryptography
3 – International Venture Capital
4 – ATTAC

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Summaries of Debates
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* The New Economy – Premises and Pitfalls

The idea that the global economy has undergone such fundamental changes that it can truly be called “new” has become so widely accepted that it’s rarely questioned outside certain academic circles, critical journals and conferences like this one. Cheerleaders on round-the-clock financial news cable channels and naysayers on the streets of Seattle alike often base their opposing positions on platitudes that may have once seemed radical but now have all the shock value of a banner ad: Matter doesn’t matter anymore; electronic networks have collapsed time and space; “infomediaries” aside, the middleman is dead; intangible assets are genuinely valuable while tangible assets are merely a burden; in short, the industrial age has finally given way to the information age.

Following the keynote talks, this discussion will focus on the validity of these commonplace assumptions and on a few obvious questions: Where did this idea of a “New Economy” come from? How “new” is this economy, really? To what extent can – or cannot –faith in these assumptions make the New Economy a self-fulfilling prophesy?

We’ll also want to sort out the winners and losers, their rewards and penalties, whether this latest chapter in economic history represents a very real transformation or simply a mass hallucination.

* Silicon Valley as a Global Business Model

With the rise of the internet through the last decade, “Silicon Valley” has been transformed from a quirky scattering of suburban areas south of San Francisco into a success story of mythical and global proportions. At last count, over 90 regions world-wide were vying to promote themselves as 70 types of “Silicon” something: alley, valley, vineyard, swamp, seaboard, glen, fen, mesa, plain, gulch, glacier, and even a polder.[1] The implication is that Silicon serves as a magical meta-glue that can bond technical innovation with financial acceleration to produce new potentials.

In this rush to represent diverse regions as jacked into the globalization’s medium par excellence, the only remaining trace of a region’s peculiar qualities often seems to be the dominant geological formation appended to Silicon. Gone are any references to the social, cultural, political, and material histories that define the region and its peoples – the “old” structures that the “new” logic of Siliconia must contend with.

This panel will examine different aspects of these attempts to redefine various entities: urban and suburban development, organizational logic, individual values, and networked environments.

[1] http://www.tbtf.com/siliconia.html

* Alternative Strategies:

The New Economy is a transnational money machine. The financial markets enable a relatively small number of shareholders to demand ever higher returns on their investments at the expense of virtually all other considerations.

This panel presents a number of initiatives which take the realities of the New Economy as the starting point of their attempts to challenge this machine on behalf of neglected human considerations.

The complexity of this project is reflected in the variety of targets, ranging from individual corporations (Shell, Nike etc.) to transnational institutions (WTO, IMF), from the structure of the financial markets, to the corporate lobbying of the public policy process. The heterogeneity of targets leads to a diversity of strategies. Some advocate radical direct action (Seattle, Washington), others public awareness campaigns (Clean Cloths Campaign, ATTAC), the “infiltration” of corporations through socially responsible investment, and shareholder activism.

The aim of this panel is not just to present the various initiatives, but to critically examine their potentials and pitfalls and find possible synergies among their strategies.

* Inclusion and Exclusion in the New Economy

The promise of the perfect market on a global scale by the ideologists o the New Economy, bares traces of the old idea that the proliferation of the Internet and digital networking structures, as if by an act of nature, promotes a more egalitarian social and economic system. Networking is considered to provide instant access to information and communication resources, as well instant access to electronic markets world-wide. Implicitly this vision presumes that in principle everybody has equal access to the networks and the on-line databases.

While it is certainly true that digital networking can have tremendous inclusive effects and can help to diminish the gap between economic, social and cultural centers and peripheries, it remains questionable if this will happen as if by an act of nature. This panel will investigate the new mechanisms of economic and social inclusion and exclusion that are created by the advance of digital networking technology. To what extent does it promote the interests of established dominant economic actors and what opportunities for new players on the international markets are created? What does the New Economy look like from a “Southern” perspective? What is the experience from day to day practice in creating electronicmarkets? And what could be the role of politics in this context, is there a need forintervention or rather for laissez-faire?

* Consumer Rights

The Internet creates a transnational consumer market quite unlike any market that existed before. Transnational transactions via the net not only create the possibility of international niche markets with direct interaction between producers, consumers, and specialized niche
intermediaries, they also conjure up countless problems around secure payment systems, consumers’ fear of fraud, and issues of accountability of both producers and intermediaries. Micro payment systems and cyber cash are still promises of the future, therefore the role of credit card companies is crucial in the current stage of development of e-commerce. Yet, there is no clear idea how issues of accountability, privacy, taxation and regulation can be dealt with now, nor how they will be addressed in the future.

In the absence of clear government policies, the role of consumer organizations becomes increasingly important. This panel will discuss existing initiatives to represent consumer interests in the sphere of e-commerce. Some of the crucial issues at stake are:

How can accountability be guaranteed in the digital domain?
Are on-line ordering and home delivery really benefiting consumers?
The “No-Service-Economy” of the Net.
How is the issue of privacy at stake?
What are the possible side-effects of Intellectual Property Laws?

* Nettocracy – Class Analysis of the Network Society.

Questions formulated by the panelists:

Class? Analysis? In the Networked? Economy?

There is much discussion about a “New (Technology/Internet Enabled) Economy”.

Can the old categories of social analysisclass, strata, power–be used or be used in the same way to understand the new dynamics of the New Economy?

Does the New Economy require what could be considered a new sociology?

Is there an electronic class society developing, and, if so, in what ways does it differ from the traditional capitalist class society?

Is money becoming secondary as the basis for social division, to be replaced by “attention” as the new “currency”- as a new medium of “exchange”- as an alternative “commodity” in the new on-line “barter” economy?

Is an “attention” economy a post-capitalist one and if so what are its accompanying social structures?

What happens to identity and systems of law and order if/when the nation-state becomes irrelevant?

What happens to/with democracy in a networked world – is open source guided anarchy scalable?

Do the sorting/indexing processes of an information society rather than the means of production constitute the new sources of social power?

Who controls and rules the virtual world, and what are the deep links of this to the structures of power in the physical world?

What does/would class struggle look like in a “New Economy” world?

Who speaks for whom in an the information society?”

And overall what are we to do?

* Convergence, Mergers and Monopolies

The panel on Convergence, Mergers and Monopolies has a twofold axis. On the one hand it looks at the dynamics of ICT and media markets, and the way in which old and new media are coming together. On the other on how these media markets are been integrated with commerce markets (a non-benign process often referred to as convergence). The markets involved include Telecom companies, ISP’s, Cable operators broadcasting corporations, hardware producers, software companies, television production companies, film producers, on-line content producers, as well as retailers and wholesalers, producers, distributors and advertisers of all kinds of non-media products.

The debate will shed a critical eye at market convergence by unfolding the dichotomies often used to talk about convergence notably domination/liberalization, content regulation/infrastructure regulation. The question the panel will struggle with is the potential implications of increasing vertical integration at both sides of the Atlantic, both on a regulatory level as well as a conceptual one. Are there in fact differences between the market and policy frameworks in the U.S. and the E.U.? Is it fair to say that we now have one digital economy, where e-communication and e-commerce co-exist? Is there a middleman in such digital economy? What forces distort and form market convergence and the emergent digital
economy? What does financial ownership mean in cultural terms? How can this convergence economy be regulated? Should it be regulated at all?

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Preliminary List of Speakers
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Nina Ascoly – Clean Clothes Campaign, Amsterdam

Age Bakker – Ex-Director National Bank of The Netherlands

Richard Barbrook – Professor at Westminster’s Hypermedia Research Centre in London

Alexander Bard – Commentator, majored in Economic Geography, works as a composer and record producer in Stockholm.

Roberto Bissio – Economist, Executive Director of IteM – The Third World Institute in Montevideo, Chili

Ted Byfield – Co-moderator of nettime, international mailing list for net criticism & free-lance book editor

Steve Cisler – Writer, Analyst, based in San Jose

Kenneth Neil Cukier – Senior Editor at Red Herring Communications, London.

Reinhold Grehter Member of the artist collective Etoy

Michael Gurstein Sociologist, Associate Professor Management and Technology, Technical University of British Columbia

Douglas Henwood – Investigative Journalist, Author of “Wall Street” & Editor of Left Bussiness Observer

Hans van Heijningen – ATTAC NL

Jesse Hirsh – TAO Communications, Toronto

Olivier Hoedeman – TNI – Trans National Institute of Ideas, Amsterdam

David Hudson – Journalist and Editor of Rewired, Journal of a Strained Net

Gerd Junne – Economist, University of Amsterdam

Eric Kluitenberg – Media Theorist and New Media Program Co-ordinator, De Balie (Amsterdam)

Richard Kramer – Consultant at Arete Research (London), and former technology analyst with Goldman Sachs

Michael Latzer – Deputy Director ICE – Research Unit for Institutional Change and European Integration, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna

Andrew Leyshon – Researcher and Professor at the School of Geography, Research Group Economy and Society, University of Nottingham & Editor of Geoforum

James Love – Director Consumer Project on Technology (Washington D.C.)

Geert Lovink – Media Theorist and Activst, co-founder of nettime &
Initiator of Tulipomania DotCom

David Mandl – Journalist, writer, radio programmer, editor at Autonomomedia publishers, New York

Korinna Patelis – Media Researcher, Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths College, London

Guikje Roethof – Journalist, Former MP, CEO of Prezz.Com – EuropeanNews Services, Paris

Andrew Ross – professor and director of the American Studies Program at New York University

Clay Shirky – Professor of New media at Hunter College New York

Luc Soete – Professor of International Economics at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Maastricht University & Research Fellow at the International Institute of Infonomics

Corinna Snyder – Trained as a cultural anthropologist, she works on topics relating to Lithuanian cultural production and as a general manager at Razorfish NY

Felix Stalder – Researcher, University of Toronto & co-moderator of nettime international mailing list for net criticism

Cees Vendrik – MP for the Netherlands Green Party

Maurice Wessling -Bits of Freedom – a Dutch privacy and civil rights organization for the information society

Nils de Witte – Netherlands Exchange for Angel Investments (NeBIB)

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