Next 5 Minutes Core Themes

The third edition of the Next 5 Minutes revolved around four core themes:
- The Art of Campaiging
- The Post-Governmental Organisation (PGO)
- How Low Can You Go? The Technical and the Tactical
- Tactical Education

The Art of Campaigning

The idea for the Art of Campaigning topic originates from the works of the McLibel group. Their type of net.campaign questions previous forms of activism, which was focused on the mass media and their ability to influence public opinion, by staging direct action (targeted at known media makers). Big NGO's such as Greenpeace have built up experiences with this model for decades. The scenarios they use have not changed much since the seventies. There is the usual PR material: official reports, books, folders, flyers, magazine and original video footage, shot on location. Campaigns are being planned long in advance. The way of working does not differ much from a campaign to launch a new product. Professionalism has taken over the task of volunteers. Their role is being reduced to that of a local support group, doing the actual grass roots work with the population. Political campaigns these days do not just offer counter-information. When done the right way, in good spirits, the Internet sites of these campaigns highjack data, hack into the corporate/state site, or at least they try to do so. Such campaigns are living networks of people, groups, databases, not just dead information.

Why campaigns?

Campaigns these days are so important, because there are less and less radical, fast critical movements, that can gain momentum over a short period of time. The format of the campaign seems to be an appropriate answer to the (apparent) lack of political activities in the late nineties. Campaigns are less local. They can be done in a fragmented time frame, prepared over the Net and other communication means. Campaigns usually culminate into actual events; summer camps, demonstrations, the occupation of a certain object, where they bring people together from very different locations and backgrounds. Most campaigns require the work of dedicated technical (media) specialists and are multi-disciplinary by nature: video, dance, music, cooking, communication, radio, print, web sites, support groups elsewhere, etc.

The Art of Campaigning, for us, consists of two aspects. The first one deals with the question of methodology, the question of strategy and tactics. It deals with the question also why campaigning is becoming more important these days, in part as a sign of poverty, of the lack of real social and political movements. Though this issue is not specifically media-related, it does point towards the current attempts to break out of the closed autonomous and alternative ghettos, the leftovers of the eighties.

The time is over to be sentimental or pitiful about the amateurish "good will" character of campaigns. These days, campaigns have changed their directions and topics, and are surprisingly ahead of the time. They truly embody and express all the urgent (global) political themes. Rather than being in need of help from professional advertisement specialists, we think they need to reconnect with tactical media. This touches the second aspect: the political aesthetics of campaigning. Alternative campaigns could learn a lot from designers, artists and other new media experts. And they in turn can learn a lot from the urgent agenda's that seek to express themselves through the new media channels.

For the conference we target at an open show element, in which a lot of different people can show their work and speak about them on stage. The program will conclude with a panel, in which the different strategies, models, and problems are being discussed. For this show, new guests can be brought in till the last five minutes...
But of course we will also invite some of the most interesting campaigners we encountered beforehand. First of all the "Sans Papiers" campaign from Paris, and its German counterpart, the "Kein Mensch ist Illegal" campaign, that both deal with the issue of refugees and immigration.

These campaigns are both radical and media aware, overcoming the laming shift of the eighties when the notions of "alternative" and "media" (-technologies), seemed to exclude each other.
Another campaign, which is touching the PGO issue is the anti-MAI campaign and the Global Action Network [URL] (which deals with trade issues). Another remarkable example is the Clean Clothing Campaign, a global campaign that addresses working conditions in the textile industries around the world, with a particular emphasis on developing countries where the production work for the international garment industries is out-sourced, and working conditions are often appalling.

The Post-Governmental Organisation (PGO):

One of the four main themes of the N5M3 is the 'Post-Governmental Organisation', a title that is meant more polemically than descriptively. The 'PGO' label raises the question of the practical, political and ethical implications of strong, potentially global, independent organisations. The theme will be approached from different critical, analytical and ironic perspectives in a public debate, and the PGO Design-Show ("Get Organised!").

The PGO Theme

The notion of the 'Post-Governmental Organisation' is obviously an ironic variation on the now well-established concept of the NGO, the Non-Governmental Organisation. Over the past twenty or so years, NGO's have become important actors in the arena of national, international and global politics. The role of NGO's in the struggle for human rights, the ecology, debt relief, migrants' rights, humane working and living conditions, etc., is increasingly recognised by official political bodies. As a result, NGO's are now regularly represented at global eco-summits, they advise different UN institutions and are used as experts in court cases. Thus, NGO's are taking over tasks that traditionally were the domain of nation states, whether democratic or not. They become part of what Saskia Sassen has referred to as a 'crisis of governance', in which political decision-making and control is shifting away from national governments towards private and public NGO's of all sorts and types.

NGO's which do not only survey, criticise and complement such governmental structures, but which take on an active role in replacing government functions, can be called PGO's. The PGO theme will focus specifically on new non-institutionalised ways in which people organise themselves around cultural, social, and political concerns that emerge in the internationally networked communication environments.

This implies that the PGO cannot be seen as generally good or bad. Rather, the hypothesis of the PGO suggests that for many independent initiatives and organisations, the question of responsibility and power is changing in a fundamental way. Whereas they used to be able to define themselves as the 'other' of given power structures, the erosion of hierarchical political structures has created a more heterogeneous political arena in which public agency is 'up for grabs'. Much of the political vacuum is created and filled by unholy alliances between political and private actors, who make sure that they benefit from the retreat of the nation state. But many well-meaning, morally sound, independent PGO are also finding themselves in a position where they have to switch from strategies of protest and campaigning, to strategies of political agency and the building of organisational structures.

The PGO theme at the N5M3 tries to straddle the double-sidedness of the theme. It tries to formulate a constructive critique of the PGO, pointing out its dangers and, at the same time, analysing the most creative and inspiring models for building PGOs. After all, there is a continuing need for new, critical and independent organisations that are able to challenge the debilitating and exploitatory political structures that stifle large parts of the world. And why not learn from the successes and failures of Saatchi&Saatchi, Soros, the IMF, financial consulting companies and informal networks of independent radio producers?

Experience has shown that, in many ways, organisations like Greenpeace and Amnesty International are better equipped to deal with the conditions the new system of power create. This is partly due to the fact that they have always been organised as distributed, international entities, relying heavily on their communications infrastructures. They also seem to be more fit for the new environment because they are organised around spheres of interest rather than traditional geographic and socio-political structures. However, while the NGO's have become important actors in the arena of international and global politics, they have also become bureaucratic structures that often act as a 'state without the state', with little or no democratic accountability or legitimisation.

The PGO is neither East nor West, North or South, nor Post East/West/Modern, it is rather an attempt at an answer to the contradictions and the syndromes of globalisation. Therefore, some people prefer to translate PGO as Post Global Organisation. For them, the crucial question at this stage is not so much the relation with governmental structures, but how we can get over the myths of globalisation, and what the necessary organisational structures for this era beyond the ideology of globalism would be.

The challenge for the PGO strand at the N5M3 will be not to get stuck in an impasse, but to use the critical debate as a starting point for a fresh approach to the construction and the shaping of strong tactical organisations, both beyond stifling debates about the nation state as well as beyond the NGO question.

The PGO Design Show
Get Organized!
Design Your Own Post-Governmental Organisation

N5M3 will host a unique 'PGO Design Show, in which contributors will present the most and the least effective strategies for achieving global presence. The PGO Contest will offer models and counter-models, witty and serious, inspiring and ridiculous proposals for organisations that just _might_ change the world for the better.
An open call is issued to all those who have the blue-print for a Post-Governmental Organisation and who want to present it to an international audience of enthusiastic, desperate, and power-hungry minds.
After an initial selection, the most promising 15-20 model PGO's will be demonstrated and discussed during the PGO Design Gala at the N5M3.

Categories can cover a wide variety of areas like:
    -    the independent tactical Internet Service Provider
    -    the PGO that legally issues passports to the Sans Papiers
    -    the attorney who got rich on fighting the McLibel-case
    -    the ideal trade union for digital workers
    -    the producer of the most effective infowar weaponry
    -    the video company that won an Oscar with its promo video for the PMF (Proletarian Monetary Fund)
    -    the Culture Board for cultures in ruin, which fights the state's disregard for culture
    -    the PGO that recycles redundant, y2k-incompatible computer hardware to Silicon Alley's next generation
    -    the Interfund that replaces public funding for media culture (Create Your Own Solutions)
    -    the Bureau of Investigation and Counter-Surveillance that tackles racism in police and other public organisations

Do Your Own PGO!

If you want to enter your own NGO design, please, get in touch with the editorial team <> with a short outline of your achievements and future plans.

How Low Can You Go?
The Technical and the Tactical

Technology in The Next 5 Minutes

Next 5 Minutes 3 will counter the obsession with high technology that has been fashionable in media circles for quite some years. Instead of glitching the high-tech fantasies of many of the international art&tech events, N5M3 will make a vigorous effort to go low-tech.

Most media, and certainly common media, heavily depend on technology. "Media", actually is a term which is very hard to define; in many meanings of the word "media", technology is already implied. N5M3 will focus not only on the tactical potential of (new) media, it also wishes to reflect on the developments of media and media technology. The choice of media that we use, and the way we use these media is not completely self-evident or coincidental. Nor is it fully our own conscious decision. The construction of media technology instead is deeply political and political-economical.

The current technohype, propagating the consumption of computer technology with increasing speed, is an example of technology development that is hardly questioned. Even in ?leftist? environments it is taken for granted that every few years all computers must be replaced by brand new ones in order to be able to run the latest Windows or Mac version.

Showing long-forgotten media, redundant computers or provocatively silly machines, N5M3 will ironically glamorise obsolete technology, and thus create some historic awareness and maybe form some kind of antidote to the hype. We will attempt to rewrite media history, perhaps to learn that the technology that survives is not necessarily the best.

Our high-tech hype is not just temporarily bound, but also spatially. What can high-tech computers do in countries where villages hardly have water or food, let alone electricity and phone connections? Which media are most effective in rural mainly illiterate areas in India? How to develop media strategies if high-tech is for economic or political reasons completely absent?

Of course, N5M3 will also look at campaigns where current technology is being used. Can armchair electronic civil disobedience be an effective campaigning strategy? Will the latest generation DV camcorders really contribute to the democratisation of the tv image? How can consumer technology be used in a struggle for emancipation or for raising awareness?

How low can we go?

The core of the low-tech theme will be the grand "How Low Can You Go?" show. The show will bring together a host of ironic, artistic, subversive attempts to ditch the tech barrier. The show will present work of international groups who explore the aesthetics and charm of low-tech, and the amazing power of forgotten media. How low can we go? We see no reason to stop until the show is the over, which ultimately means that we will have to go from "low-tech" to "no-tech", which is exactly what we plan to do.

Tactical Education

Education can happen in many different contexts. Besides the formal learning institutions, education and learning is happening all the time in cultural and social contexts where people exchange ideas and experiences in a concentrated way. Art, culture and social action in the field of new media technologies contribute in an important way to creating awareness about the powerful effects of media, and help to raise media-literacy. Education can also play a critical role in situations where profound social and political change is taking place. The profusion of electronic media across many societies has accelerated the rate of social and political change throughout the world, yet an answer as to how to develop appropriate educational models that can operate under rapidly changing conditions has not been developed.

N5M3 wishes to explore new models of education and learning that can play a critical role in processes of social and political change. The emphasis will be placed on non-institutional forms of education, where media can play an empowering role for local communities and people's real-life concerns.

The Tactical Education strand within Next 5 Minutes 3 will bring together alternative strategies and models for learning that testify to a critical awareness of the powerful effects, and the mutliplicit roles of media in our societies. The choices for a particular medium in an educational process will depend to a large degree on the local context in which an initiative operates. While a critical examination of distance learning models and the use of networked media for educational purposes may, for instance, be critical to bridge the traditionally large information gaps between urban centres and rural periphery in central and eastern Europe, community radio projects might be of much more importance in Nepal. In the US, on the other hand, a web centred project such as the Computer Clubhouse could be one crucial tool to involve inner-city youth in a learning process, whilst poetry slam sessions could be another.

Tactical Education will deal with new learning environments and media related models of learning that happen very much outside of the traditional context and institutions of education. The theme rather tries to develop the connection between the tactical, the media, and education.

The question of access to media and communication systems is only one side of the coin. Access without competence is a struggle already lost before it has begun. Media-literacy, and competence in the use of both the old and the new media, is a crucial concern for Next 5 Minutes 3. Especially the innovative independent new media cultures that have emerged in recent years across the world, provide a fascinating insight in the new ways in which local communities can indeed be empowered by new media tools. At the same time they show an ability to see through the golden promises of the international media and ICT industries, and make a wide audience aware of the critical roles these media and technologies play in our daily lives, around the globe.

Edited by Eric Kluitenberg - 20.12.1998