15 June 2014

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Isabel Seiffert: Governance. Democracy. Delete.

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Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, 2013

open-output.org/isabel_seiffert

 

The publication “Governance. Democracy. Delete.” is a 600-page attempt to capture, structure and contextualize the political, economic and social dimensions of the debate on the future of the Internet with Twitter one-liners and linked material. The book, which should be considered a part of the open source movement, is set exclusively with open source fonts and intended to appear as a monthly print-on-demand edition.



 

“The jury was impressed by this massive-looking book. The charming but bold and straightforward typography adds up nicely to the crucial topic. The analysis of a collection upgrades the weight of tweet to a threatening-looking history book. The power of design!” Hansje van Halem

 

1. What inspired your work? Do you have a position on network policy?

 

At the beginning of my Master’s degree I was already sure that as a designer in the fieId of Editorial Design I wanted to focus on the internet as a topic. I no longer make a distinction between analogue and digital; they are both very closely intertwined. Following my first foray into research, it was clear that internet policy was a pressing matter that was not being taken seriously. I saw my task as being to bring network policy out from its place on the sidelines and use design to raise awareness among a new audience.

In my work I also refer indirectly to my own position on network policy – there is an undertone that echoes my network activism. I have reworked the Declaration of Internet Freedom as a result of this; it can be found in the compendium, and has been distributed as a leaflet.

 

2. Can a more accurate and honest picture of public opinion be gleaned from tweets and online posts than from other methods of reporting?

 

In my work I do not refer to the general public and general public opinion, but I try to make sure that those who know their subject well are given a voice beyond those with similar expertise. Back then, the general public have not yet really had an opinion on this topic, as the project took shape before the Snowden Affair. However, there has long been a committed group of people who have been blogging and tweeting about current network policy on a daily basis, and even lobbying for our digital civic rights.

Initially I wanted to conduct interviews with the different organisations and individuals involved in network policy. However, it soon became clear that everything was on their blogs, while they were posting their articles and other important links on Twitter. So I decided to follow and listen to them there. Following the hashtags #netzpolitik, #netzneutralität and #netzsperren helped with the search.

Although the project is very large, we could never claim to have an absolutely comprehensive and precise picture. That would be almost impossible for such a topic, as it is never black and white. However, “Governance. Democracy. Delete.” uses the aesthetic rhetoric of graphic design and Twitter to raise awareness of network policy and encourage people to think about the issue, while it is also creating an archive before short messages disappear into the Deep Web. The presentation and interconnection of tweets to one another also adds a more detailed and complex dimension to the discussion.

 

3. You work with a constantly growing and changing pool of digital data. Why did you opt to use a book, an analogue medium?

 

There are a number of reasons why I opted for the book as a medium. This project also has a website concept and a filmed speech aimed at the public. However, the compendium is the bulk of my work. For one thing, it was interesting for me as a designer to translate the aesthetic of the internet into print form. Moreover, I believe that it is very important to use different channels to raise awareness of issues relating to network policy and digital media. Just because we’re dealing with digital space, it doesn’t mean that the internet is the only appropriate means of communication. The printed book shines a very different light on various aspects and is able to represent these in an unusual way. This results in a surprise effect and a new way of looking at things that linger in the viewer’s mind.

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