Bruce Sterling, who gave the opening keynote, went on his typical rant about how artists are forced to create work from things they can’t control, such as GPS and data surveillance networks. He then explained that the NSA was present at the birth of computation as a form of information gathering and as a control system. Sterling believes that this methodology has now transferred over to corporations such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, who are mining their customer’s data to feed into a growing advertising algorithm that will ultimately target us for ads before we know what we want. This realization was coupled with the prognoses that “the rot of data is our heritage, stop pretending that bits don’t decay, the internet of things is at hand, and that corporations such as Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Facebook, and Google are impositions that destroy [one’s] self-respect and self-esteem.” This type of prophecy was evident in most of the panels, speakers, and overall discussions around the conference floor. It is precisely the fact that these kinds of future-facing topics abound at Transmediale that makes the festival a much more interrogative platform and exchange layer for visitors, artists, and attendees than most of the other big media art festivals around the world.

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