What Kind of Digital Society We Want to Live In

by Maria Chotou

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re:publica is the largest conference about digital culture in Europe. It was founded in 2007 as a small-scale meeting for digital creators and today marks a wide-ranging conference of digital culture representatives. During a three-day festival in Berlin, artists, activists, scientists, entrepreneurs, NGOs, journalists, scholars, and social media experts converge to share knowledge. 

Arena Berlin and Festsaal Kreuzberg hosted for the first time re:publica22 on the 8th-10th of June. The reconnection with the community was an absolute thrill after the two years of the covid19 pandemic and the online execution of the festival. The Glashaus, the Arena Club, the Flutgraben, the Hoppetosse, and the Badeschiff – including beach areas – were also used as exhibition spaces.

This year’s digital conference focused on acute social, digital, and political grievances in the face of several crises: the climate crisis, Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the Corona crisis, and the fight against hatred and agitation on the web.

Anyone who has ever attended re:publica knows that the festival always ends with the celebratory and collective singing of Queen’s “Bohemian Rapsody”. With over 400 workshops and programs on ten indoor and outdoor stages and more than 700 invited speakers, re:publica22 opened this year’s ceremony with the last line of the same song: “Any Way The Wind Blows”. Since these were the last words spoken at the pre-pandemic get-together of re:publica19. “Never again war” – the performance by Tocotronic marked the end of re:publica22 in the year of the war against Ukraine. 

The main takeaways from re:publica22

A series of discussions and lectures explored the question of what kind of digital society we want to live in and how we can shape it together. 

The major debates of our time around climate, the war in Ukraine, and Corona were discussed, as well as technological evolutions and advancements such as Metaverse, the Web3, NFTs, and artificial intelligence, and their economic and social impact.

This year’s focus also included civil society strategies for combating disinformation, ways to curb hate on the web, and new ways of limiting the power of large tech companies through platform regulation.

The German writer, Sascha Lobo, in his talk “Any Way the Wind Blows,” reflected on current social developments while keeping a close eye on the media, politics, and the audience. Bringing together digitization, globalization, and moralization, he invoked the power of the network, but also the dangers of Alexa and China’s TikTok. 

Marina Weisband, a German-Ukrainian journalist and activist, raised a critical voice – virtually connected – in an appeal to the audience about German hesitation and reaction to the Ukraine war. ‘Democratic states need to stick together now more than ever’ she said.

Olaf Scholz was the first German Chancellor to take part in the event. The German Chancellor from SPD, during his visit at re:publica, described the war in Ukraine as a turning point “because a single country, Russia, is breaking international law in the most brutal way with the power of its military apparatus and without any cause.”

All talks have been published online on re:publica2022 Youtube Channel: 

Volunteering for re:publica22 

Each year, re:publica is also accompanied by a group of volunteers. This is a great opportunity for those who are unsure whether to attend or cannot afford the relatively expensive ticket for this big conference. The tasks usually involve mainly press crediting and ticket checking. 

Students in HMKW’s master’s program in Digital Journalism also volunteered and gained insights from the conference. As a volunteer, I was mostly occupied with tasks related to the standard ticket stands, with plenty of time, however, to wander around the conference and explore the different stations.

There is a Facebook group that is been updated and all people are welcome to register for the next conference as volunteers. 

A flashback to 2019 

The re:publica19 newsroom was run by a student team from HMKW Berlin headed by Prof. Dr. Ranty Islam and operated by the Department of Journalism and Communication. As “Shifted News”, the students of the master’s program Convergent Journalism reported live and multimedia on behalf of re:publica. They were also supported by the teachers at the HMKW Jost Listemann, Sarah Meister, and Daniel Lehmann, and students from the design department.

As part of the HMKW MediaLab, a combination of teaching editing and multimedia newsroom, the group was able to prepare for the tasks. This was a unique opportunity for the students to use the skills they have learned during their studies in a live context at an event of this dimension.

Click below to view HMKW’s participation in re:publica: 

Here are some photographs from re:publica22:

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