martin hoffmann

I do cool things. With cool people.

finding europe@re:publica15


In the beginning of May 2015 re:publica’15 took place in Berlin. After ‘Into the Wild’ in 2014, it was my second time joining the probably biggest conference/festival on net culture in Europe – though that does hardly describe what the re:publica is about. This year over 7.000 people discussed a wide range of topics from surveillance, journalism, social issues and politics, and how the future will and should look like generally speaking. Here is little selection of the most interesting talks I came across…

But before we start with the content, which will be partly German, partly English, I must confess my pure respect to minds behind re:publica. Although it is getting bigger year by year, they still position their event in the centre of society. Starting from almost all talks being simultaneously streamed online and made available afterwards, for free, up to still keeping tickets affordable. Starting from 65 € reduced rate for a 3-full-day-programme up to less than 200 € for non-business attendees – which is rather cheap in the conference-world. Additionally, you can volunteer for one shift and get your full-conference ticket for free, which I did for the second time in the row – not only because of financial reasons, but also I see it as a way to support such an amazing event happening.


Being at the re:publica which takes place at the STATION in Berlin, an old factory now convention area, is always a bizarre yet inspiring event. You get the feeling of being on a campus with thousands of like-minded people, who are interest in the future and care about the society they are living in. Obviously, business partners and start-up-soul-seekers are mixed in between, but the general atmosphere is very progressive. It is pretty much my Twitter- and Facebook-timeline being in one place, live and reachable. It feels surreal at times. My coining example this year was passing by Gunter Dueck, while he was eating a cheese sandwich in the most relaxed manner possible, who used to be CTO of IBM Germany and, since retired, speaks and writes about how much economic structures remove the brain and human capacity from decision making and how much we instead should focus on emotional and creative capabilities. I am quite a fanboy, I have to admit.

And whilst re:publica is filled with all these amazing speakers, and you get to meet a couple of friends as well, having talks, beer and coffee together, I also realised at some point, that it also quite represents this crowd, that I feel myself being a part of, to the fullest. Looking at the topics and also listening to some of the more political talks, this year offered some frustrating moments as well. With all the political revelations of the last years, especially in terms of privacy, espionage and data security, but also cyber warfare and the economic dangers of a ever-more-centric digital landscape, one can realise that these still aren’t topics of or for the general public. A simple example is the data retention strategy of the German government, which was introduced 2007 under heavy protest, declared unlawful by several courts in 2010, and yet seems to come back like an immortal ghul; same goes for ACTA, TTIP and alike on a European level – it is still a constant battle for freedom, but someone has to fight it.

Opening (German)

At the opening, the founders and minds behind re:publica introduce their agenda for this year. As 2014’s edition was the first after Snowden only little has changed. Surveillance and data retention are still on the agenda, instead of deconstructing control. Other topics: fortress Europe; the future of Europe in the hands of European and Digital Natives; alternatives for financing and running companies in a digital business; digital divide and media

James Pallot – Immersive Journalism: Using virtual reality for news and nonfiction (English)

About possibilities and examples of using virtual reality as journalistic tools, revising storytelling.

Friedemann Karig: Die Abschaffung der Wahrheit (German)

Starting with the story of Zilla van den Born, who completely faked her trip to Southeast Asia, the question is, what happened to lies and truth in general. Looking at and beyond conspiracy theories, it is shown that ‘truth’ moves along the need of people for sense-making.

Tanja & Johnny Haeusler: #butterbeidiefische (German)

#medienkompetenz – Okay, this is less of a talk but a kick-off for an initiative to put kids and youngsters more into focus of the digital world and education – a topic dear to my heart. Because too ofter kids are constricted between the over-positive digital natives and the too-scared media conservatives. What can be done? Tincon, apparently!

Markus Beckedahl & Leonard Dobusch: Die Netzgemeinde ist am Ende. Jetzt geht’s los. (German)

A quick roundhouse kick on what has happenend with and in net culture in recent times and since last year. Lesson: there is always an Oettinger around the corner…

Bernhard Pörksen: Die fünfte Gewalt. Die Macht der vernetzten Vielen. (German)

This talk is about the new power people have through new ways of digital communication. There seems to be a new asymmetry of communication and the law of digital outrage, which is condensed in the power of shitstorms. “We” are the fifth power, but we are not one, which is the contrary to the other powers a state has so far. Instead of a collective power we have more of a connective power. But what to do with this enlightment? How is this power organised and what does it do?

Friedemann Karig, Bernhard Pörksen, Stefan Niggemeier, Petra Grimm: Geteiltes Leid ist halbes Leid? (German)

Sharing is caring? This panel discussed the ethical dimension of social media. What does sharing say about us? What should be shared when and in what context? No matter how shitstorms, which are some sort of shared emotions, are created or where they come from, they are a condensate of ethics and morality. So, do we need a new understanding in the light of new media, or do we just need more discussion?

Andre Meister: Lügen für die Vorratsdatenspeicherung. (German)

This talk was not very spectacular in its notion, but hit me very hard neverthelss. Andre Meister is a member of, pretty much the front-line fighters for (digital) privacy, and he sums up the recent history and positions in favour of data retention. This made me very scared, yet feeling very helpless. But the topic is too important to be ignored.

Johanna Frelin: To be your own Captain in Chaos. (English)

Johanna is a CEO of an international company, Hyper Island, that advises and trains digital skills. Her talk is very personal, showing her approach how to handle the chaos that comes along with digital communication. This video is less academic but might be a nice insight on how to handle stress and demands. And luckily there are some points in her presentation that I follow to a certain extend already – and should increase too. It is all about personal leadership.


Torsten Hübschen, Richard Gutjahr, Jana Tepe, Dr. Max Neufeind, Catharina Bruns & Fabian Sixtus Körner: Neues Europa, neue Arbeitswelt – wie, wann und wo passiert das. (German)

Everybody is talking about ‘new work’, but how should this look like? In a world of knowledge workers and more flexibility, what needs and demands are there to shape labour for the future? This is one of my favourite topics these years, and as I am currently working on an event series for this here in Magdeburg, this talk was very enlightening.

Frederic Dubois, Andrea Calderaro, Amelia Andersdotter, Maciej Tomaszewski, Raegan Macdonald: Finding a European way on internet governance. (English)

A quite political panel outlining where internet governance is on the agenda in Europe, and what are the current challenges – however, opinions here differ from DG and NGO representatives.

Alexander Gerst: Blue Dot Mission – Sechs Monate Leben und Arbeiten auf der ISS. (German)

Alexander Gerst, a German astronaut, was at the ISS for half a year and gained a comparable reputation as Chris Hadfield. He introduces the “Blue Dot Mission”, how the preparations went, what he did up in space and shows some amazing shots from his perspective

Sarah Kember: Sex, Lies and Smart Cities. (English)

Smart cities, and the future of cities is one of my most favourite topics. Last year I was moderating at a conference in Copenhagen that was solely focusing on the future of citis. This talk is looking into some scenarios and showcases of smart cities in future, but from a gender-coined eye. And, surprise, although the city of the future can be so much better than today, it seems we are not overcoming a stereotypes. But where are they hidden? Sarah looks at the underlying algorithm of “smartness” and how they multiply racism, sexism, etc.

Anne Wizorek: Let’s talk about Meinungsfreiheit, baby!!1! (German)

Let’s talk about digital hate speech! The speaker was the initiator of a quite far-reaching hashtag-phenomenon that demasked daily sexism, about a year ago. Her talk gives a basic insight into what hate speech, trolling, etc. mean and what the consequences are.

Zygmunt Bauman: From Privacy to Publicity: the changing mode of being-in-the-world. (English)

Bauman argues, that we have moved from an age of privacy to publicity. Whilst we constantly call for more protection of our private data, we are at the same time open the gates to our private needs and information voluntarily. Why is that so?

Journelle: Fremd gehen immer nur die anderen – Liebe und Beziehung in Zeiten der Digitalität. (German)

A wonderful little talk about love, and what the internet did to it. The focus here is on cheating, which became easier available thanks to digital era. But blaming the internet for it would be the wrong reaction – instead, let’s talk about the concept of monogamy.

Danko Nikolic: AI-kindergarten: Building biological-like artificial intelligence. (English)

This was a super-nerdy talk, I might just have understood half of it, if even. This was partly because of the guy’s strong accent, but also because the talk was super techy. Interesting nevertheless: how can we make machines learn from machines, the basis of AI. So, if you give it a try.

Eric Jarosinski: Losing Hope. Finding Europe. – Utopian Negation Reconsidered. (English)

Jarosinski, or better known on the internet as @NeinQuarterly, takes the audience on a journey how he found Europe. This is quite an interesting perspective, coming from an American, what is or can be the essence of a whatever European identity.

Felix Schwenzel: Kognitive Dissonanz. (German)

A somewhat complex yet entertaining talk. It is about being right and being in the right – something the German language differentiates stronger. However, from that point, Felix follows how we build argumentation, and how this is actually coined through perception, which itself is again socially and culturally constructed. Did you know that the colour ‘blue’ didn’t exist since a couple of centuries ago? If not, enjoy the talk 😉

Gunter Dueck: Schwarmdummheit. (German)

Okay, I have to admit: I am a fanboy. Gunter, former C-something-O for IBM Germany and mathematician, has a great talent to see phenomenon in (business) behaviour and to analyse them in a very candid and simple way. His newest book follows the question, why very smart people tend to become dumb once they work together. And he briefly explains why this is the reason (it’s economics, stupid), and what we can do to break this system.

There are obviously many many more talks in both German and English available, I think around 343. There is a list with the audio versions here, but you can also check the official YouTube channel of the re:publica here. You can also check iTunes for the podcasts of all sessions, even those without video recording.


Author: hoffmann.martin

cultural engineer and education hacker | interested in design, media, politics, learning, teaching, understanding

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