n.e.w.s. is a collective online platform for the analysis and development of art-related activity, drawing upon contributions from around the globe, bringing together different voices, accents and outlooks from the North, East, West and South. | Read more..


12/11/2014 - 02/01/2015 (tz: Europe/Amsterdam)

Arbitrating Attention: Paid Usership


The key concern for what can by some be termed ‘Web 3.0’ is the giving of data freely and the debate over control of public time and space. With the increasing loss of state and public monies, privatization is becoming more prevalent and almost an accepted means of replacement within neo-liberal governments. How does this affect cultural practitioners working in an expansive sector that is increasingly incorporating other fields of inquiry, along with its financial systems and structures of support in processes of art-related activities? One draws on one’s network to find and invite collaborators, participants, partners, and contributors to projects without necessarily having allotted funds for honoraria. In the cultural sector money isn’t readily available and the most common way, in many non-wage sectors at least, is to be paid with attention as return. This payment is measured through visibility politics, quantified by social media, e-flux mailings, list servers and printed matter, which then accrue and gain value, resulting in social capital.

Why do some artists/cultural producers not demand to be paid for their endeavours? Even more than for reputation economy or attention economy they do this for ‘self-actualisation’. Through their work as artists or in cultural projects, activism, ecologies, etc. they engender a sense of community, provide mutual support, obtain personal growth, create readership and potentially, inplement ‘paid usership’. For some cultural producers, time is money, gift economies are reciprocal and attention economies fulfilling. Yet if we spread our data, give our time, remit our rights of privacy and right to remuneration, how can we create other systems of negotiation and payment? This forum will bring together a range of positions that address economies that are all in use or are being used: attention, reputational, gift, debt, community, informal, collaborative, performative, post-industrial, human, sharing, etc.

This online forum was presented at Digital Labour 2014 (#DL14) and has been partially supported by Leuphana University's Digital Cultures Research Lab. Please sign up as a user if you wish to comment.


Paid Usership


Contrary to mainstream practice – with its residual romanticism of solitary authorship and single-signature value – we at n.e.w.s. contend that value is always collectively produced through linguistic cooperation (polemics or just idle chatter) – that is, through the collective intellect. Of course people already get paid for online content – but they are often the wrong people, because they are not all the people who worked to produce that content. Our paradoxical objective is to leverage the potential of participative technologies and communities to ensure that user-produced value be remunerated. Because n.e.w.s. is a non-commercial platform, without any institutional structural subsidy, we have been investigating alternative models of exchange and collaboration, retooling our critical lexicon: instead of the seemingly self-evident binaries of producer/consumer, we have opted for the more inclusive and extensive category of usership – of the paid variety.

Over the past twenty years, people working in the cultural sector have come to use the web not only as a means of communication and distribution but as a medium for artistic and curatorial production, such as online contexts for the analysis and development of art-related activities. But it is also the place where people engage in discourse about the nature of those precarious forms of knowledge and labour produced within it. The challenge of facilitating return generated not only from attention getting but also from finding means of ensuring sustainability through potential models of gifting, immaterial labour, surplus capital and niche development could all be plausible models for paid usership.

Gift, Debt and Return: speculations on the cultural economy

Okay, so everybody wants to be paid to use. But the very idea continues to sound pretty counterintuitive even to the most open-minded, and downright heretical to orthodox twentieth-century economics. Let’s quickly run through some of the conceptual underpinnings of the whole notion.


A brief treatise on the despair of meaning Or The Pointlessness of Everything

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.” “The question is”, said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

This little spectacle of the absurd from Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland , is perhaps the most demonstrative of the verbally ectropic times that we live in. Never before has the logocentric human civilisation(s) produced so many words, mutating, mixing and distorting languages and grammars, to produce words, so many, so nuanced, so familiar and yet distant, that they mean nothing. And if you were a Shakespearean, you would echo Lear’s declaration that ‘Nothing shall come of Nothing’. It is possible to take words by their collars and mug them, when nobody is looking – disfigure them, torment them, twist and turn them upside down, like victims of a schoolyard bully – till they lose all resemblance to themselves and turn purple in their faces. It is possible to string together innocuous words that make sense, as a unit, in themselves and yet fall apart when they talk to each other, all we have is a cacophonic babble of empty signifiers and unmoored meanings. The only way to navigate through the treacherous surfaces of these words and their worldlessness is to resort to producing dictionaries, thesauruses, glossaries, and when all else fails, new lexicons to accommodate for the thisness and thatness of the verbal big bang we are all a part of.

01/01/2010 - 31/12/2010 (tz: Europe/Amsterdam)

ERRARE HUMANUM EST: The pursuit of error


The pursuit of truth seems to have been pretty much a constant in the official history of all human endeavor: science, ethics, politics, education, even aesthetics and romance all take their bearings from the implicit and apparently self-evident horizon of Truth. Even liars adhere to the supremacy of the truth they strive to travesty or conceal. Yet, ensconced as it may be in common sense, that apparent self-evidence is somewhat troubling. For the paradox, of course, is that if we need truth as our guiding beacon then it can only be because we are errant bodies in a world replete with error. And being in denial about that paradox has led our verists to some massive hypocrisy and not much verism of any substance at all. But what if it were the other way round? What if truth was not an earthly principle at all? Where would that leave us?


Asian Biennales Forum ... OPENING REMARKS by PANELISTS


Art from Asia is on the rise — or so it must seem. From Sydney to Shanghai, Busan to Berlin, Asian artists are all over the place. The year 2008 was a banner year for biennales in this part of the world. September alone saw several biennales and triennials opening, including Gwangju, Busan, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Singapore, Taipei and Yokohoma. However, research and analysis of contemporary art from the region have not kept pace with the spectacle of exhibition. And it’s arguable that this underdeveloped state of discourse is an urgent concern. What we need, perhaps, is less chatter, and more reflection. Hopefully, in this forum here, we’ll be able to serve up some of the latter along with some of the former. The Asian Biennales Forum, Part II, is a follow-up from the forum which took place in November 2008.


Broken webs: imagining an Internet for introverts

Introverts are people who do not generally demonstrate an enthusiastic social appetite. Most Internet interfaces and applications assume a voluntary and natural tendency for social bonding and seem to reward behaviour that fits these assumptions. What is our understanding of people who would broadly identify themselves as introverts? Can this inquiry inform our design efforts and guide us in reconceptualizing ways of working?


Cutting Slack: paradoxes of slackerdom

Hello! I see that some slackers have been more than punctual in taking the initiative and getting this forum under way. Whereas some others, ahem, have waited for the sun to warm the earth before sallying forth. This is just as it should be, for it places us straightaway at the heart of the issues we are to address: the paradoxes of slackerdom.

Three questions are of supreme interest to me with respect to what I take to be our common concern in performing the everlasting Sunday:

- Why is authentic slacking different than mere laziness (if it is)? I choose that phrasing deliberately to underscore the ticklish distinction between the two: I feel it is somehow slacker-incompatible to identify an “authentic” as opposed to an inauthentic mode of slacking, just as it is absurd to suggest that describing laziness as “mere” does anything but upgrade it to some more interestingly corrosive status. Still, it strikes me as useful, even necessary to attempt to conceptualize slacking off as a specific way of being in the world – as opposed to indolence or idleness (and other agreeable states) on the one hand, and languor or what Christians call slothfulness on the other.

- This ontological speculation on slacking’s core definition begs the second question: slacking’s political ontology. By both slacking off from the imperative to work and, symmetrically, deliberately abstaining from leisure and other modes of consumerism, slackers embody a fascinating – and for the productivist majority, infuriating – performative double bind, akin to the famous “I am a liar” that had the Greeks stumped. Slackers don’t “just” slack off; they go at it full-tilt. Clearly, the studied and ostentatious practice of doing not much at all is all-consuming. But is it subversive? Does it have seditious potential within a regime of productivism? Can it obstruct the reifying logic of “creativity” and “artistic research projects” we hear so much about?

- To answer these questions in the affirmative is to imagine that slackers could come to constitute something of a political community, however slack. But, as Randall Szott has asked, are communities formed by slack not bound by slack, that is, entropic collapse under the weight of their own logic? Or can they, martial arts-style, lackadasically harness the surplus force of the productivist adversary? Are slackers, like hackers, more inclined to untie than to unite, as Ken Wark has argued? And if so, what is at the end of the slack line?


Asian Biennials Forum


Asian Biennales: Nationalism in a post-colonial world Internationalism versus Nationalism

Currently, one third of the world’s biennales take place in Asia, with the first being the Tokyo Biennale in 1952. Yet, the international art biennale started with the Venice Biennale which was founded in 1895, a year before the Olympic games, at a time when world’s fairs and international exhibitions started growing in popularity with the idea that nations can showcase the best of their talents. However, this type of showcasing of national pride often leads to nationalism and sometimes to conflict.


Launch of n.e.w.s. at ISEA 2008

n.e.w.s. was launched on July 28th, as part of ISEA 2008 (International Symposium for Electronic Arts) from 19:00 to 22:00 @The Substation, 45 Armenian Street, Singapore.