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The Illusion of Public Space

—Gunnel Pettersson and Amit Sen. Pettersson is an artist and senior lecturer at the School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University, Sweden; Sen is an artist, musician, composer and a gestalt therapist.

The Illusion of Public Space (scroll down for transcription)

lready half a century ago, Hannah Arendt described how the public space has been transformed from a place of a democratic discourse to a place where we move from one point in the consumption cycle to the next point in the cycle. But, the democratic discourse has perhaps never been democratic as it presupposes that everyone has access to all the necessary information and a well-developed ability to assess and evaluate this information. Moreover, groups included in the concept of democracy has varied over time. In Sweden, citizenship and age determines who is included in our representative democracy. Income or capital have also been determining factors to voting rights.

One might think that access to information should contribute to a more democratic society, but it turns out that it is not that simple. In the adoption of the democratic conditions above, we have deliberately chosen the wording “necessary information” and emphasized the capacity to evaluate this information. The term “information noise” poetically describes the difficulty in determining what is essential information. The term “exformation” was coined by Nørretranders to describe information depth or the degree of meaningfulness and complexity of given information. The ability to evaluate information is related to the interpretative framework at hand. It seems that ideology today, to talk to Žižek, let us talk about what seems to be important in a fashion that keeps things in status quo.

Video transcript

”We should not fetishize truth as such”

“… when bytes become numbers involved in …”

”It is going to go out in space and circulate around. It’s called a satellite. And it will pick up all the signals and all the information going round in the universe.”

”This is our proposal, and this is what we want to give to the … erm … humanity”

”Oh, new media …”

”What should we do with this information? We need to … we need to think and we need to sit down. We cannot just throw it out—at least we have some information.”

”To protect the reason that must be our ally in a world that is being put together more and more with the false promise of level playing fields but deeply divided by class apartheid. To protect reason as our ally contained within other kinds of systems; to grant the subaltern the possibility of logic. And there, the two things that one must protect is the abstract understanding of secularism, and the abstract understanding of the state.”

”You shouldn’t think that just a few people should own the information. Everybody has entitle to get the information, but you also need some basic understanding of what life is about.”

”So we are in this strange situation where, on the one hand, almost everything seems possible—technologically, at a level of private life. But, in the matters of social life, economic decisions, and so on, practically nothing is considered … erm … possible.

About the authors

Gunnel Pettersson is an artist and senior lecturer at the School of Arts and Communication (K3) at Malmö University, Sweden. Her areas of interests are experimental film, social structures, processes, and the initiation of actions and proceedings for change through the arts.

Amit Sen is an artist, musician, composer and a gestalt therapist. His areas of interest are relational art, performance and social interaction. He continually problematises contemporary art and philosophy on issues related to the interpretative privileges in the arts and the structure of privileges in society as a whole.

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