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Kim de Groot is a design researcher with an MA in new media. She is part of the lectoraat Communication in a digital age and teaches new media at the Willem de Kooning academy Kim's research deals with the inverted relation between image and reality. Moving from representation to the performative, from the visual to the infrastructural, images are no longer created to represent a reality but to manage it. Kim examines images as informational objects and traces the relations between image, event and media.

Managing Openness



On november 28, I joined the symposium, Add Comment: Designing Critique in Public Forums organized by Casco, co-organized with ArtEZ The Arnhem Academy of Art and Design and Vinca Kruk on the (im)possibility of critique within the structures of current web-applications.

During the first talk by Mia Jankowicz (a curator and art critic based in London/Amsterdam), it occurred to me how the perspective of "openness" has shifted because of 2.0 environments, how it is being managed as a scarcity. Mia presented several (art) projects that deal with different ways of opening up information to the public. In these cases it is decided when, how and to whom openness to information is offered. In this case openness is an act of control, openness is managed as an exclusivity.

Instead of making information available as in creating openness, how could one go about producing openness, not designing it preemptively into the software and its associated gestures? Also another question is whether openness is actually a scarce good on the web?
Florian Schneider answers this last question by describing the core qualities of the web that have always been present but were commodified since the hype started around web 2.0. Going back in history the web has always had democratic qualities of participation, openness and sharing. The problem is that in the web 2.0 era, openness and other democratic principles are owned by corporations such as Yahoo and Google.

In the context of the talk of Daniƫl van der Velden (designer and writer as a member of the metahaven team) openness is associated to another kind of politics than software politics; namely that of Dutch populist parties and their urge to be open about anything. Van der Velden shows us a video of the Night of Pim Fortuin on which we see how Pim Fortuin turns the act of being brutally honest and open, the act of having an opinion on dutch immigrants into one of his best selling party ideologies. The dutch expression "Ik ben hier heel open over" supports this all amazingly. "Openheid" at that point has turned into a virtue of the dutch populist party politics and is brought to the level of critique in the sense of 'sharing your opinion'. This is tricky, both for politics as for the state of critique as a tool for analysis and deconstruction.

The parallel link between openness and critique as 'having an opinion' is present and reinforced in current Dutch populist politics. For the PVV, (Partij Voor de Vrijheid, freely translated; Party For Freedom) it is exactly the party leaders and members' personal opinions that are translated into the party ideology. It is a politics missing any kind of subtlety.

The danger is in the approach of popular comments as critique which accordingly turns critique into a populist gesture. The question is how much the web 2.0 platforms go against this or whether the average content in comment sections of popular platforms are any different from populist remarks.
It is definitely important for designers, linguists, programmers and others to start and develop subtle differences for the comment as one of the rare tools for web rhetoric.