"I still don’t know what a podcast is" – Impressions from the #rp15 stage @ MEDIA CONVENTION


Crowded stages at MEDIA CONVENTION Berlin; credit: Max Threlfall @ MEDIA CONVENTION

Hoax campaigns and immersive journalism, “slow media types” and the IS, or youngsters that explain the Internet to you: The #rp15 curated Stage 6 @ MEDIA CONVENTION brought plenty of lively debate, fun and ideas all about the media to re:publica on May 5th and 6th.

The two days with a special focus on media were a resounding success, and highly popular with the conference guests. In the following we just want to give a brief overview that certainly won’t do the great overall program justice. Recordings of all sessions are available on our YouTube playlist.

Right after the #rp15 keynote by Ethan Zuckerman on Stage 1, Nonny de la Peña was supposed to follow up, but she was unfortunately prevented. So her colleague James Pallot, the co-­founder of their joint enterprise, Emblematic Group, stood in for her. He gave an intriguing presentation on the possibilities of Virtual Reality in non-­fiction storytelling and the anticipated changes in news journalism. VR users could move into a prepared scene (as in the example of Project Syria) with a sensation of being physically present themselves. This in turn could lead to greater commitment and emotional involvement, the US journalist reasoned. 

The media track following the keynote was kicked off by Friedemann Karig with his talk on "The abolition of truth". He argued that the Internet is being co-­opted as a fabricator of lies. The central question of his talk was whether the Internet was a deceitful medium. Karig gave an introduction to the definition of lies and conspiracy theories, and showed with a number of examples how there are always alternative truths to be found on the net. Conspiracy theories have always helped to form a simplified view of the world as good or evil, the journalist argued. There is no absolute zero for the truth, he maintained, but it was important to attain a certain level of scientific literacy. 

A number of related topics were addressed in talks like the "The fifth power. The influence of the networked masses" by Bernhard Pörksen, "Hoax Campaigns:Opium For the Indignant People" by Deef Pirmasens and Christian Schiffer, and the panel on "(Media) Ethics In the Digital Sphere", again with Bernhard Pörksen and Petra Grimm. Pörksen illustrated how Internet users are becoming the "fifth" media power, be it as activists calling for social protests, or as "obfuscators of truth", as Friedemann Karig describes them. Deef Pirmasens and Christian Schiffer gave an entertaining demonstration of how hoax campaigns happen. On the Media Ethics Panel discussed BEYOND whether Internet users can become henchmen automatically and what the ethics of sharing is for now. 

Bernhard Pörksen talks about the "fifth" power; credit: re:publica/Jan Zappner (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Lots of laughter could be heard during the session "There, we’ll explain the Internet to you". Host Geraldine de Bastion spoke with three young people, Joshua Arntzen, Pauline Rénviere and Valeria Eisenbart, about their Internet usage habits. Joshua told the attending parents: "I quickly managed to realize what is good and what is bad about the Internet all by myself. You don’t have to worry that much!" But Pauline and Valeria did admit that it was good to be careful about the choice of forums that children and youths visit. But to enforce parental controls was a "bit exaggerated". As expected, Facebook has long ceased to be popular amongst younger Internet users. They get their daily updates mainly via YouTube, and communicate with friends using the mobile app Snapchat (The gist: "You can take Facebook, but leave Snapchat alone!"). Podcasts, on the other hand, seem to be less interesting for youths and Valeria even confesses: "I still don’t know what a podcast is." 

The debate between Dieter Gorny and Tim Renner, moderated by the re:publica’s founder and managing director, Andreas Gebhard, addressed the political vision of these two German media pundits. Both want to foster net neutrality, and a free and open Internet. But in their respective political functions, both also hope to create platforms for public dialogue, where citizens participate and share their opinions for a joint digital future. 

What will journalism look like tomorrow? Juliane Leopold and Max Hoppenstedt talked about new journalistic formats for young audiences. The editor in chief of BuzzFeed Germany and the head editor of Vice Germany’s Motherboard blog argued that new formats would develop from news stories, and not vice versa, that it was the "new" journalism that was turning topics into "new formats". Furthermore, journalists were themselves becoming personal brands, covering a specific portfolio of topics. 

So the media track at re:publica 2015 was pleasingly diverse and, as the packed hall of Stage 6 at the STATION­‐Berlin showed, very well received by participants. Amongst other things this was also thanks to the close cooperation with the mabb and the MEDIA CONVENTION Berlin, expanding the range of contents to many different topics, such as moving image files, Video‐On­‐Demand, the future of television, or the role of people (formerly) known as audience. And we are eager to see how the media landscape will develop over the next 12 months and are already looking forward to #rp16. And as we mentioned above, the video recordings of all of the MEDIA CONVENTION Berlin sessions are available on our YouTube playlist


Media Echo

"A notable number of sessions of this year’s re:publica addressed the rampant net phenomenon of disenchantment with the media."
rbb-online.de (May 5, 2015)

"One of the highlights of re:publica was the session 'Let me explain the Internet to you', hosted with youthful energy by Geraldine de Bastion: three school kids telling an intent audience how to move around on the Internet."
boersenblatt.de (May 9, 2015)

"Nothing but lies: the Internet doesn’t have the best of reputations; the digital public sphere is seen as a sphere of idle talk and fraud, nonsense and deception. Even so, Friedemann Karig, journalist and blogger, kept a cool head in his talk." 
ksta.de (May 5, 2015)