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DIY culture and problems of participation

December 13, 2020

I am writing my last ‘lecture’ of the calendar year, based in part on m 2013 book chapter with Caroline Nevejan on the relationship between the new civic culture fostered by the squatters movement and the rise of Amsterdam’s digital culture. I was meant to deliver it as a video clip, but instead I’m constructing it as a kind of digital scavenger hunt. This blog post is one of its ‘breadcrumbs’.

Perhaps it’s a bit easier now in the age of TikTok, but it is sometimes difficult to convey the excitement and seeming radical inclusiveness of the DIY art movements that emerged in the 1970s. Punk, which also featured heavily in the squatters’ movement we’ve been discussing in the lecture is an obvious example. The famous image from the London ‘zine Sideburns No 1 (1977)is pretty much self-explanatory:

I also love to show students a clip of the amazing punk band X-Ray Spex , and ask if they can tell for sure where the band stops and the audience starts.

But creating such participatory spaces often also means bounding them off, or having them be bounded off by social conventions or, as in the case of illegal free radio stations, laws as well. This dynamic is brought home in a great article by my Utrecht colleage Philomeen Lelieveldt & Jitse van Leeuwen where they look at the free radio movement in Amsterdam, and they specifically point to the experimental Radio Proeflokaal Marconi (‘Radio Taster’s Café Marconi’) set up by people from Radio 100. They draw in particlar on work in this article by François Laureys, which quotes Ingrid, one of the DJ’s and instigators of the cafe:

Ingrid, in Laureys, p. 4

But, she pointed out that one of the problems was that the café mostly ‘only attracted marginals’:

ibid. p. 6

A similar dynamic seems to have played out with regard to hacking and digital culture. Indeed XS4ALL and De Digitale Stad were more successful attempts to create broad broad civic engagement with a new medium and with the city itself.

Amusingly enough, the links between squatting and digital participation seem to be a very current theme this week. In that spirit, the next ‘bread crumb’ is here.

And if you want, you can leave a link to your favourite music video or radio station in the comment section below.

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