Trouble Ahead: The Struggle for Secrecy and Transparency

Curated by: Ann-Sophie Lehmann, Mirko Tobias Schaefer and Imar de Vries

(MA New Media & Digital Culture, University of Utrecht)

Information technology has widely been celebrated as enabling technology and providing unlimited access to information and unhindered social interaction. But political decision makers are increasingly controlling and regulating Internet access and its policies. Behind the glossy interfaces of so-called social media platforms, user communication and social statistics are monetized through targeted advertising and market research. Wikileaks discloses compromising information for fostering democracy, but Facebook exploits private information for advertising. While social media are celebrated for jumpstarting revolutions, their back-end allows detailed monitoring, in Western societies for advertising, in repressive regimes for interception, identification and eventually intimidation. Western companies engage in the profitable business of providing repressive regimes with surveillance technology.

The role of technology as either emancipating or repressing citizens is heavily contested in the socio-political debates. Its ambivalent quality raises issues about the role of society in designing and using it. It challenges the promise for unhindered access to information and addresses the reality of surveillance, monitoring and intercepting information and online activities.

Gregory Asmolov (Israel) is a research assistant at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The main focus of his research is the role of information technologies in diplomacy, conflicts and emergency situations. He co-founded the “Help Map” project, with which the crisis management platform Ushahidi was first used in Russia. He has also worked as a correspondent in Israel.

Mercedes Bunz (Germany) is an art historian, philosopher and journalist. She co-founded and headed as editor-in-chief the legendary German magazine De-Bug, that specialises in electronic music and digital culture. From 2009 to 2011 she worked for The Guardian as a media and technology reporter. Her forthcoming book (Digitale Wahrheiten, “Digital Truths” 2011) investigates how algorithms shape our everyday life (see Festival Fellow).

Christoph Groneberg (Germany) is a PhD candidate at the University of Siegen. He studied media studies and media management. His PhD research analyses concepts of openness and closedness in the broader context of open-source technology, communications ethics and the contemporary network-society.

Clifford Tatum (USA) holds an MBA in International Business, an MA in Communication, and a BA in Industrial Design. In his PhD research through the Center for Science and Technology Studies at the University of Leiden, he examines the role of openness in collaborative knowledge production. Tatum designs and develops web-based resources to facilitate collaborative communication in research practice.


After the symposium there will be a panel discussion with the following speakers:

Tom Bakker (The Netherlands) is a researcher and lecturer at the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He studies Communications and Journalism. In his doctoral research, entitled “Citizen journalism, media and politics” he analyses the content of political blogs in The Netherlands. He works as a journalist for a variety of media.

Bart de Koning (The Netherlands) studied Economics at the University of Amsterdam. He works for, among others, the Algemeen Dagblad, Quote, FemBusiness and HP/De Tijd. Currently De Koning is a freelance journalist and much sought after speaker on the topic of privacy and security. In 2010 he authored “Operatie Blauw: Weg met de bureaucrate bij de Nederlandse politie” (Operation Blue: Down with bureaucracy in the Dutch police)

Mercedes Bunz (see Festival Fellow)