Archive for the ‘Media history’ Category

Newspaper heading these last days on the Dutch Stichting Brein (Foundation Brain) forces providers to effect an INTERNET BLOCKADE against Pirate Bay web sites“. The Foundation Brein received on January the 11, 2012 a court order that forces some of the big internet providers in the Netherlands (Xs4all and Ziggo at first, T-Mobile and UPC are on the list) to block internet services that Brein claims to be infringements of copyright and intellectual property. The blockade is aimed at  sites of, and related to, ‘Pirate Bay’.  The court order (1) mentions 24 internet addresses to be blocked. Already  at court, Stichting Brein did make some changes in this blockade-list by taking off 4 addresses, that would take off-line web services that had little or no relation with Pirate Bay activities seen as infringements  (one of them was a web site with educational movies for young people). It is in the same week that Dutch internet service providers  (and 20 search warrants in eight other countries) have been forced to take the domain MegaUpload off line. The Dutch firm LeaseWeb – working for MegaUpload – saw 690 computer servers sealed (storing 15 of the total 25 ‘petabyte’ of data used by MegaUpload) by the Dutch Tax Authority (FIOD), executing an order of the American FBI. This series of events prompted a Green Left member of parliament (Arjen El Fassed) to ask questions to the Dutch government about  this whole sale anti-piracy operations, whereby illegal and legal forms of data-traffic are not properly separated:

“Operations like this cause huge damage to the freedom and openness of the internet.”

I see as much Right as Wrong with CopyRight as it is practiced by the actual Media Content Industry – and Stichting Brein is – first of all – a tool of those corporate interests, though they like to pose as defenders of creative workers.

There is much to debate about copyright: what it once was, what it became and how to rethink the idea of claiming ownership on things reproducible for the future. As our media have changed dramatically, the idea and practical application of ownership of content should also be open to change. The same firms that invent and produce – endless and more and more quickly outdated – hardware devices, are producing and monopolising the content to be displayed on them, making profits on both software and hardware. There are many creative alternatives for intellectual property of content and distribution of “profits” in the making, that go beyond the singular ‘big players only’ approach, where content creators have little to no say and the content consumers are only seen as cattle to be exploited. ‘Creative Commons‘, ‘The Future of Music Coalition‘, and many more… When analysing how profits are made and revenues are distributed fairness for those who actually do the  ‘creative work’, is hard to find.

Two recent examples that show how media industry both pushes and earns from selling hardware and software (content) and what the practice of sharing is when it comes to those actually producing 'intellectual property'. For sources see note (2)

We are all aware of  the ‘digital gluttony’ that has been wakened in us by constant propagated consumerism. One’s personal economy to get unlimited access to content may deprive others from income, but to what extent ‘personal piracy’ hurts ‘corporate business’ is up to debate. The history of piracy in publishing and distribution  tells another story than what the lawyers of content business want us to believe. The title of  cultural historian and media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan’s book published in 2003 says it all: “Copyrights and copywrongs : the rise of intellectual property and how it threatens creativity.” In the chapter “the digital moment” he sketches the impact:

The digital moment has also collapsed the distinction among three formerly distinct processes: gaining access to a work; using (we used to call it ‘reading’) a work; and copying a work. (…) Copyright was designed to regulate only copying. It was not supposed to regulate one’s right to read or share. But now that the distinctions among accessing, using and copying have collapsed, copyright policymakers have found themselves faced with what seems to be a difficult choice: either relinquish some control over copying or expand copyright to regulate access and use, despite the chilling effect this might have on creativity, community and democracy. (page 152-153)

The worst thing of this court order in favour of Stichting Brein is the wholesale BLOCKING of parts of the internet by a simple court order. Today it is Stichting Brein, tomorrow it is Stichting Zwijn (Foundation Swine), the day after Sacherijn (Chagrin), or whatever other interest group or private party that tries to claim ‘digital ownership’ by appealing to a court. We will see the court rooms reserved for months by the ‘law industry’ making a buck on limiting ‘freedom of expression’. What should be individual court cases against personal law infringement, have now become generalised measures which affects ‘fair use’ as much as ‘unfair practice’. This is were the historical idea of copyright (which was born as a tool for state or church censorship in the early days of the printing press) comes back in an ugly form: BLOCKADE.

What associations do we have with BLOCKADES? Depends who blocks whom for what and when and how. EEC BLOCKADE AGAINST IRAN, IRAN BLOCKADE AGAINST THE WEST, ISRAEL BLOCKADE OF GAZA, USA BLOCKADE OF CUBA, BLOCKADE OF WALL STREET, BLOCKADE OF WEAPONS FOR DICTATORSHIPS… So what is done to counter such kind of  blockades I asked myself and the first thing that came to mind was the Airlift of goods to break the BLOCKADE OF WEST BERLIN (June 1948 – May 1949 the start of the Cold War) ….. The town of Berlin with an open West and East sector, was split in two and West-Berlin became an island surrounded by the DDR. Roads and railways were blocked and only trough a constant airlift of goods by the Allied Forces, West Berlin survived.

So when providers delivering their goods through cables are BLOCKED we may ultimately  (if it was only a symbolic gesture to drive home the point of control of means of expression) consider ‘airlifting’ our data be it through some obsolete unused satellites, or by short wave radio, refracted (bend) radio waves between earth and ionosphere, accessible all around the globe.

THE FREE AETHER instead of THE BLOCKED INTERNET. In the last years before the downfall of the Berlin Wall, radio and computer amateurs in Hungary used radio-emission of data as a means of communication (partly so because to get a landline telephone connection in that country could take a decade or so). Such data-radio even played a role in the Hungarian support of the rising against the Ceaușescu regime in Rumania winter 1989. Dissidents all over the world have used short wave radio to get informed what was happening outside of their totalitarian nation, from the Soviet Union a few decades ago, to Cuba, still today. Radio-jamming was the answer, like digital blockades now, but jamming has always been limited to certain parts of the radio spectrum.

Inventive usage of radio-modems and de-central data distribution protocols, could once more become popular. Centralised networks make it possible to censor, block, seize, filter, ban ‘top-down’. We may need to look back at earlier models of electronic information exchange and distribution. Like FIDOnet a worldwide amateur computer network of ‘bulletin boards’ based on a tree-structure up- and download system using  telephone lines and modems. FIDO has been founded in 1984 and grew into a world wide popular communication system till 1994, the year that the internet – as we know it now – started. FIDO is still popular in the Russian Federation, as a secondary form of communication. Some see a new future for such ‘bottom-up’ ways of electronic communication (3). There are nowadays many more creative solutions to go beyond the centrally controlled cable and satellite networks, an overview would go beyond the aim of this short article, but let me mention just one other inspirational experiment of ‘netless digital network‘ (4), a citywide network that uses public transport communication systems as its ‘information carrier’:

“… an independent communication tactic; invisible digital network that does not need wires or dedicated radio frequencies. alternative communication device that helps its users to avoid such controlled and observed space as the internet. free from governmentally owned medium channels (radio frequency ranges, emission power regulations), proprietary locked technologies and cable networks…”

It is of course not my proposed strategy to propagate a full change over from one way of electronic communication to another – adapted  restrictions and controls soon would be invented for any  generalised communication alternative – it is about over-dependency on one particular way of information access. By diversifying the communication systems we use, we may make ourselves more independent. Such a practice should also be stretched beyond electronic based systems.

Homing pigeons as messengers maybe still be considered, however outrageous that may sound. May I recall here the combined use of micro-photography and pigeon carriers used during the Prussian siege of Paris (1870-71), with handwritten news protocols, photographed, tightly rolled up and tied to the leg of a pigeon, moving back and forward from Tours and Poitiers – far behind the German lines – to the besieged city of Paris. Sometimes balloons were used to transport the pigeons out the other way to find back their homing target in Paris. During the First World War pigeons have been in wide use also on the trenched battlefields in the North of France. There is even a monument in their honour in Lille. The Imperial War Museum in London does have a vitrine that show message carrier dogs running over the battlefield delivering messages and post between the trenches.

I do not suggest at all that this should be repeated in exact the same way and under similar circumstances, but the basic principles is most inspiring: the combination of ancient (pigeon carriers) and modern (early days of photography) technology. Such an ‘intermediate’ technology  usage is what I propose, it will safeguard free and independent communication for a future we can not know. It will be both fun and useful to start imagining and trying…

Notice the symbolism of the free airborne pigeon versus the threatening landlocked poisonous snake.

Citation from court order (LJN: BV0549, Rechtbank ‘s-Gravenhage , 374634 / HA ZA 10-3184) with under (5.3) a list op ‘ip addresses’ and ‘domain and sub-domain names’ to be blocked by Ziggo and XS4ALL. What is alarming is the subsequent court order (5.4) that gives Stichting Brein the right to supply (without the need to go to court) other ip-addresses, domains and sub-domains related to Pirate Bay.

5.3. beveelt Ziggo en XS4ALL binnen tien werkdagen na betekening van dit vonnis hun sub VI van de dagvaarding bedoelde diensten die worden gebruikt om inbreuk te maken op de auteurs- en naburige rechten van de rechthebbenden wier belangen Brein behartigt, te staken en gestaakt te houden, door middel van het blokkeren en geblokkeerd houden van de toegang van hun klanten tot de domeinnamen/(sub)domeinen en IP-adressen via welke The Pirate Bay opereert, te weten:






 (i) thepiratebay.org;

(ii) http://www.thepiratebay.org;

(iii) thepiratebay.com;

(iv) thepiratebay.net;

(v) thepiratebay.se;

(vi) piratebay.org;

(vii) piratebay.net;

(viii) piratebay.no;

(ix) piratebay.se;

(x) http://www.thepiratebay.com;

(xi) http://www.thepiratebay.net;

(xii) http://www.thepiratebay.se;

(xiii) http://www.piratebay.org;

(xiv) http://www.piratebay.net;

(xv) http://www.piratebay.no;

(xvi) http://www.piratebay.se.

(xvii) depiraatbaai.be

(xviii) piratebay.am

(xix) suprnova.com

(xx) themusicbay.net

(xxi) themusicbay.org

(xxii) http://www.suprnova.com

(xxiii) http://www.themusicbay.net

(xxiv) http://www.themusicbay.org

 5.4. beveelt Ziggo en XS4ALL, voor het geval dat (de website van) The Pirate Bay via andere/aanvullende IP-adressen en/of domeinnamen/(sub)domeinen dan die onder 5.3) genoemd zou gaan opereren, de toegang van hun klanten tot deze andere/aanvullende IP adressen en/of domeinnamen/(sub)domeinen te blokkeren en geblokkeerd te houden, binnen tien werkdagen na aanlevering door Brein, zowel per fax als per aangetekende brief, aan Ziggo en XS4ALL van de juiste IP-adressen en/of domeinnamen/(sub)domeinen;

The videogame piechart has been published in the November 15 issue of Newsweek in an article by Christine Thompsen in the so called “Back Story” of that magazine.
Took me a long time to find the actual source of “The Great Divide” piechart of the music industry – as  I mistrust data representations without their actual source – it has been publsihed first on July 6th 2010 in ‘The Root’ web magazine ina well documented article “The Music Industry’s Funny Money Still think a music career is an easy path to a blinged-out life? Don’t believe the hype. A whole lot of folks have to get paid before the musician does. The Root traces the money trail.”  The writers of the article do thank Don Passman, writer of  “All you need to know about the music business” for his help. That book has been published in the year 2009. The Root article can be found here…

A nice cartoon like reflection on the advantages of the old concepts of FIDO

6 Jimmy J. Jazz - Facecömic: FidoNet messaging vs. Internet e-mail (the 16th of March, 2011) (Click the picture to enlarge it and click Esc button on your keyboard to return.) I was on trip from Monday noon to Tuesday morning. My customer called me Tuesday 10 a.m. and she asked me if I had read her e-mail she had sent to me on Monday afternoon. When I started to work with PCs on the 1980's, we had world wide net of private computers called FidoNet. It was sort of Internet with Social Media, but anybody having a PC, a modem and a normal voice phoneline could join. There were thousands of private PCs all around the world changing messages. The system was built to, that: people phoned to node, hub or host during day time or on evening nodes phoned to hubs, which phoned to hosts, which phoned to each other and handled international calls. This was done twice a night, which ment that every message was delivered in every part of the world within one day! We should get rid on Internet and change back to FidoNet. In that case if my customer writes me an e-mail on Monday afternoon, whe will know that I will get it on Tuesday and I will have time for the whole day to reply on it, and she will get my answer on Wednesdat. This will help us to get rid of the unneccessary panic and plan things better.

This is a map that show the FIDOnet in Russia…

A short manifesto like text of ‘netless’ is posted on their web site…

clicl text picture to enlarge

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STORAGE DAYS as leaves are falling in the Northern hemisphere I am reviving old computer storage and transferring Terrabytes of data these days… if only the transport of data between disks would be faster (that is a bottleneck of any economy… the road system cluttering). Just looked at a 8 or 16 Terrabyte DROBO box… but I am hesitating… because of the limits of the connecting data transport devices... while looking at this one realises the fragility of our whole society based on data… Over time DATABASED society will develop into DATAERASED society, throwing us back to times before the digital stone of Rosetta…


for full view click picture…

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IMAGES THAT PREVENT US FROM THINKING… is the subject of an article in Le Monde Diplomatique of this month. The article starts with the the portrait of Bibi Aisha, on the cover of the july 29. issue of Time magazine, the Afghan woman with her nose cut off by her father in law because of an affront to his authority, an act supported by a local – supposedly Taliban – official. The display of this horrific picture triggered a fierce debate, because of the emblematic way it was used with the descriptive accompagning text: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan.” One may confront this implicit argument for Western involvement in Afghanistan and its continuation, with images of civilian casualties by NATO and American forces, especially the structural case of ‘collateral damage’ as a result of always imprecise air attacks.

In the words of Serge Halimi of Le Monde Diplomatique: “Will there be more mutilations “if we leave Afghanistan”? Well, “our” presence has not prevented the people of Afghanistan from being mutilated. The Taliban have plenty of pictures of civilians who have lost limbs or been killed by western missiles. Perhaps Time will publish one. Will it make the front cover? And what caption will it carry?”

July 2010 front cover of Time magazine and a elsewhere published photograph of a demonstration in Kabul August 2010: "Afghan protesters hold placards during a demonstration against U.S. forces and NATO in Kabul, Afghanistan Sunday, Aug 1, 2010. More than 400 demonstrators have marched toward the presidential palace in Kabul to protest the alleged killing of 52 civilians by a NATO rocket strike in the south. NATO has disputed the report of civilian deaths."

The photograph of the Kabul demonstration has been published (just one example of its usage) by an American news web site cleveland.com with the header: “Holland bails out on Afghanistan war, adding pressure on Germany, UK to scale back.”

In Holland itself this news item on a demonstration against US Forces and NATO has – as far as I can conclude after 15 minutes of precise web searches –  not been published. Which is in line with the general strategy of embedded journalism and evasive reporting on civilian casualties,during the years of military involvement of the Netherlands in Afghanistan. I can not recount any serious attempt of the Dutch press to come up with a civilian body count of the Afghan War. Quiet some money must have been invested in embedded reporting, but serious ‘open source’ research (which is much cheaper to do) of casualties of this war other than “our own” boys and girls have not been undertaken. A case of death by ‘friendly fire’ of Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan may be found back in the national Dutch news lines over weeks, but the fate of the the local population during all kind of disastrous incidents and the needed debate of how casualties are counted at all, just does not exist. It makes me remember the ‘news’ on the Vietnam War before 1975 (the Fall of Saigon) and how it was often implicit that when a town or village was under attack, the victims that fell in such an operation could only be ‘insurgents’, Vietcong or their allies. The same thing seems to happen now, with only another insurgent stamp: Taliban.

This being said does not mean that either the Vietcong or the Taliban were or are to be exempted from any criticism on their deeds. We may better try to be conscious of the underlying process of  imposing an emblematic picture  of ‘the enemy’, a phenomenon for which the German language has one single word ‘Feindbild’ (Ennemy-Picture). A ‘Feindbild’ is a generalised picture and mostly pre-cooked in written language and later on may get a visual expression. Often the caricaturist lends a helping hand to typify the ‘enemy’ by enlarging what is seen as typical features of the face, the rest of the body and the way of clothing. The racist and non-racist dividing line in the  depiction of  face and ethnicity  is often hard to draw.

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Mij is als belastingsbetaler en daarmee mini-medefinancier van de publieke omroep niets gevraagd. Ik hoor enkel met regelmaat het woord “commissie” en wil dan niet onthouden welke van de honderden commissies uit regentenland het nu precies is geweest die besloten heeft om een aantal vertrouwde opinie makende televisieprogramma’s op te heffen. Technisch gesproken staat enig vorm van volksraadpleging niets in de weg, zoals minister Eurlings van Verkeer en de Algemene Bond van Weggebruikers  afgelopen week nog bewezen hebben, maar dan gaat het om de heilige koe de auto, een apparaat waarmee je nog een beetje zelf kunt bepalen welk merk je kiest en wanneer je waar naar toe rijd. Vreemd genoeg is er bij het product “publieke omroep” wel een mogelijkheid om door het lidmaatschap van een omroepvereniging je “eigen merk” te kiezen, maar de besturing van dit amusement- en meningsvorming-voertuig is geheel in handen van commissies en commissarissen, die zonder enige vorm van democratische inmenging aangesteld zijn. Gelijk aan de autoindustrie worden de eens naar ratio van ledenaantal enigszins onafhankelijke omroepen, nu door commissarissen gedwongen sommige van hun ‘merkartikelen’ af te schaffen  of  ze samen te voegen. ‘De jure’ hebben we dan geen staatsomroep, ‘de facto’ wel.   Zo staat nu binnenkort het opnieprogramma NOVA bij het vuilnis.

ij koop en verkoop van dag- en weekbladen zijn er meestal nog actieve journalisten die terecht niet schromen om hun ‘eigen’ medium te gebruiken om aandacht te vragen voor hun speciale verbindtenis met hun nieuws- en opnieproduct (zoals laatst bij de overname van NRC/Handelsblad). Bij de publieke omroep komt zo’n debat nauwelijks voor en lijkt het ideaal van journalistieke openheid bij voorbaat gesmoord te worden in de burelen van de media-commissarissen in Hilversum en de ministeries in Den Haag. Want waar blijft dan die speciale aflevering van NOVA waarin een wakkere Clairy Polak gedreven blijft doorvragen over het dictaat van het media-commissariaat? In een al ver verleden waren er nog roerige ledenvergaderingen van de omroepen als het programmabeleid een andere wending nam, of luisteraars en kijkers zich tegen een bepaalde uitzending keerden,  of die juist ondersteunden. Een dergelijke betrokkenheid schijnt met de overbebossing van het medialandschap teloor gegaan te zijn: we zien door de bomen het bos niet meer en vragen niet meer om wie nu precies de kapvergunning afgegeven heeft.

Webblogs en mogelijkheden voor web-site-reacties van lezers en kijkers lijken daarvoor in de plaats gekomen te zijn, maar anders dan bij een ledenvergadering van een omroep, valt met al die persoonlijke meningen niets mee te beslissen en blijft de media-consument onmondig. Is de tijd rijp voor nieuwe vormen van journalistiek en opinievorming waarbij het symbolisch passieve publiek van de meningvormende programma’s en praatshows, zich actief kan mengen in het debat van de dag, waardoor er een dusdanige sterke band tussen journalist en actief publiek ontstaat dat de media-commissaris bij het huisvuil gezet kan worden?

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In mainstream news papers and television the decade-commemoration-machinery for The Fall Of  The Berlin Wall in November 1989 is running at full speed now. So this is the right moment to recall the ‘against the current’  history of those days – just before from 1985 till summer 1989 – when mainstream media and commentators had no clue yet, of the sudden change in the political configuration of Europe, that would have its now official apotheose at last in November 1989. It was citizen dissidence that made not only the Berlin Wall fall, but also leveled the walls of nine state communist buildings (though, failing to dig out the deeper authoritarian fundaments). Thirty years of  heavy Cold War propaganda bombardment of party-regime edifices in the eastern parts of Europe did not accomplish, what in the end could only be done by the inhabitants, the citizens,  themselves. Some did it by writing and self publishing, others by distributing and reading, playing, dancing and singing, thus exposing the internal contradictions of systems reigning in the name and interest of all people, while excluding most of them from participation. The counter-culture movements in Eastern Europe have been instrumental in hastening the erosion process of state-socialism, this to such an extent that the walls of  these bureaucratic paradises crumbled at the sound of these ‘horns of Jericho’. It was in Hungary and Czechoslovakia that the first fissures appeared, and soon it were the East Germans, hopping trains, buses and their Trabants to hurriedly climb the fences of embassies in Prague, or to simply do a country hike and walk out across the Hungarian Austrian border where – for a short while – barbed wire was cut and watch towers were unmanned. DDR citizens not tearing down walls but “voting with their feet.”

Earlier in 1989 the iron curtain – however rusty – was still in place, the great divide between Western and Eastern Europe. Block-thinking was predominant: First World (capitalist), Second World (socialist) and Third World (poor and revolting). A long curving line from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean split Europe, separated it physical in two opposing political systems. Europe was a plural word at that time. The geographical Europe as could be found in atlases and maps reaching till the Urals, and two socio-political Europes: Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Culturally speaking, that what was East of that fenced line was considered by the Westsiders NOT even part of their idea of Europe (something like the actual perception of Turkey as something that should not be part of the EEC). In the end all this bickering over meaning of pseudo geographic entities has long be understood by the United Nations personnel  as can be read in a report of the UN commission on toponymic issues that had to make an assessment for “A Subdivision of Europe into Larger Regions by Cultural Criteria” and concluded: “every assessment of spatial identities is essentially a social and cultural construct.” The report – using shady diplomatic language – comes up with the conclusion that the notion of “East Europe” based on the Russian Empire from the 16th to the 20th century and the Soviet period from 1917 to 1992 and its sphere of influence is over now and the traditional idea of “Central Europe” can once more be established. I can not find the promised maps of this commission and when one does only a quick check anybody can see that more than one mapping of the idea of Central Europe exists.


Four of more possible visions of Central Europe: 1- the mid 20th century German idea of "Mitteleuropa"; 2- Central Europe map first shown in the Wikipedia page on this subject; 3- Central Europe as seen by some Croatian source; 4- idem recent Czech view of Central Europe. As always views of the world, be it macro or micro are centric. I did learn that already as a boy in primary school when my teacher explained that for the Danes our (Dutch) "North Sea" was the "West Sea." Click images for full size view and - for most browsers - click once more to enlarge and use bottom scroll bar to move along.

It is hard to imagine now, but it needs to be recalled how deeply entrenched the divide was then, on all levels. There had been popular risings in Eastern Europe, starting in East-Berlin in 1953 and ending in Gdansk in 1980, with the Hungarian Revolt in 1956 and Czech Spring of 1968 as moments where the iron curtain was torn aside a bit, but soon after repaired by Soviet and Warsaw Pact occupying forces with their tanks. There was no end in view of  the ‘entente’ between the power blocks that kept each other in a forced embrace of mutual deterrence, based on their nuclear weapon arsenals. This military vision also translated into the cultural realm with the  monolithic view of the Eastern European block as one total oppressive political unit with a only a few courageous dissidents, martyrs for the cause of  a Western type of  “freedom”, for the rest just masses of indoctrinated communist obeyers


Typical Cold War cartographic demagogy: left the 'red danger' from a cover of a Dutch translation of a West German book published in 1958: "Peninsula Europe"; right a neo Mongol view from 1952 published in Time magazine maps, by cartographer Robert M. Chapin.

Those who looked beyond this Cold War imago knew that the rule and control in each of the countries – messed together in the notion of ‘Eastern Europe’ – had its own particularities, its own time line of  periods of openness and repression. Those who were knowledgeable  had observed that – in each country in a different way and at different moments  – in certain official recognized cultural areas some forms of  less restricted activities and expressions were possible, like jazz festivals, cinema and theatre experiments, international scientific meetings, certain publishing activities, and cultural centers managed by youth associations or students. Those from “the West” who went through the curtain and made the effort to go beyond the controlled itineraries could also discover  a whole network that could rightly be labeled  a ‘cultural underground’, or as it was called  in Czech society of that time, not ‘underground’ or ‘counter culture’ like in “the West”, but ‘paralelní kultura’ (parallel culture), also sometimes named ‘zweiten Kultur’ (second culture) like in the DDR.


Print room of the group around the Umwelt Bibliothek (Environmental Library)in the cellar of the Zionskirche in East Berlin October 1989, they had a duplicating machine from the church and here the magazine which was a strong rallying point for the young DDR opposition was produced. The print room was a total mess in those days right before the fall of the wall. Everybody who came in was asked to assemble their own copy of the magazine of which the pages were spread out over several chairs. There was always lots of fun with some of the obvious Stasi agents who had to join in with the assembling exercise.

Self publishing or ‘samizdat’ was one of the main cultural activities, ranging from the most primitive carbon paper duplicated manuscripts hammered  out of ancient typewriters in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union (with a maximum of ten hardly readable copies), to the silk screened leaflets of the Polish Solidarność  trade union and the Hungarian groups like ‘Inconnu’ and Demokrater’…. Only at the end of the eighties in some towns (Prague, Budapest) people managed to get limited access to (state controlled) photocopying facilities; the underground cultural magazine “Revolver Revue” from Prague is an example of this. The duplicating machine (often called Roneo, or stencil-machine) which used to be the standard self-publishing machine in “the West”,  was mostly an off-limit device in Eastern European countries, so the same stencil-principle was used in a more primitive way by pressing ink onto paper with a fill bar of rubber fitted in a wooden handle through a fine textile fabric stretched in a frame, onto which photographically, or by hand painting, texts and images were transferred (silk screening technique, often referred to as ‘Polish printing’). In the Soviet Union pop and rock music fans had their own inventive ways for self publishing by making a single copy lay-out of their magazine and photographing it, next making duplicates of the negatives and sending them around to friends and acquaintances all over the Soviet Union, where many had access to the facilities of local photo-clubs. So happily the negatives with the Russian music fanzines were printed over and over again, thus gaining a huge readership.


Budapest winter 1986, Jennö Nagy holds a silscren frame of the cover of his handprinted magazine 'Demokrater' in his suburbian house (that has been raided several times by the police confiscating even this primary tools). His printing set is now in the collection of the International Institute of Social History... I must have better pictures, but this is all what I could find for the moment. It shows nevertheless how such simple devices were seen as and could actually be 'a danger of the state'.

The ‘unfree world’ in its great cultural palaces, museums, and concert halls “of the people” displayed only state sanctioned forms of  culture (not totally unlike what happened at the other side of the divide), though, the whole intermediate structure of the “free world” with its venues for both radical groups and all shades of institutionalized initiatives did not exist in the state socialist countries of Eastern Europe. A singular top-down control mechanism had – over decades – smoldered all initiatives from below. Civic society with its dynamic social levels and relations, had mostly disappeared in Eastern Europe. Still there were exceptions to prove the rule, like the student and youth clubs where some independent forms of cultural expression could find an outlet and where the authorities would be tolerant for a while (a good example were the SKUC  (Student Cultural Centers) in many towns of the former Yugoslavia). Independent and radical culture , the mirror image of the pompous ‘Palastkult’ of state socialism, had retreated into the personal domain, in small private city apartments or countryside dachas (*). The home became the basis for art forms and alternative practices like, apt-art (one evening exhibitions in someone’s apartment), flying universities (lecture series based on the personal hospitality of many people, constantly changing address), and temporary bookshops in someone’s apartment where during an hour or so samizdat literature could be bought. Performances and happenings would not only take place in the conclave of  a home, but the congregation of non-conformists also would take to the woods and fields, one could say reminding of the centuries old tradition of the dissident christian religious practices in Eastern Europe, from Bohemian Moravians and Bosnian Bogomils to Russian “Old Believers” (Starovertsy).


October 1989 East Berlin several evangelic churches functioning as action centers. Banners are calling for the support of those arrested, flowers have been brought into the church and on the steps outside; inside the rather darkish church space the walls are covered with newspaper cuttings put up with plaster as sellotape is something not readily available; a handwritten placard points to the example of the October 9 demonstration in Leipzig. What I remember the most was how primitive and endearing this first free communication wall was. What you see here is: freedom of expression at the stage of a foetus.

Such outdoor performances could become real prolonged struggles with the authorities, as it was the case in Czechoslovakia with the absurdist band “Plastic People of the Universe“, a local rock group taking at first inspiration from  foreign groups ranging from “the Velvet Underground” and “The Fugs” to Frank Zappa and his “Mothers of Invention”, later developing its own haunting musical style and critical lyrics. They followed the footsteps of the Fluxus art action related Czech group ‘Aktual’ from the mid sixties. Plastic People  came up in the period of the Prague  Spring in 1968 and the subsequent Warsaw Pact occupation. The band was soon banned from playing in Prague and together with a growing group of fans they developed a system of performances in the countryside, sometimes deep in the woods, only at the last moment information of the precise location would be spread, so people already congregated at a nearby train station or other spot and would be directed from there to the actual place of the concert. Of course the secret police would be on their heels, smell them out, which at times led to mass confrontations as during the “Ceske Budovice Massacre” in March 1974, when over a thousand fans were rounded up by police at Budovice train station, beaten up, and send back to Prague, with many names noted followed by later persecutive consequences at work and in school. A year or so later  band members were arrested and their case and cause, of a socialist state against a rock band, became a rallying point of protest against the repressive system. This belonged to a series of repressive events, that led also to the foundation of the Charta 77 group and their manifesto claiming the rights of free expression. (Progarchives.com have a good 1981 recording of the Plastic People online). This form of combined creative protest of young people finding support from academics and intellectuals, differed from the more widely known moral and political dissidents of the Soviet Union, with writers like Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, Sinyavsky and Aksyonov who were made into official heroes in the West and -except for Pasternak – were forced to emigrate.

More names of dissident Russian writers could be mentioned here, like (Aleksandr) Zinoviev, but the last one is a category on his own, who, when he would not have died in 1999, could well have developed into ‘a dissident author’ once more, but now in the West, as he opposed the Perestroyka of  the Gorbachev area and gave interviews at the end of his life idealizing Stalin, Milošević, Karadzic, and Mladić. I know there is much more to say about the change of position and meaning of Cold War dissidents after the “Die Wende” when the so called fall of state-communist societies failed to translated in the erasure of all traits of totalitarianism.

The Plastic People of the Universe in the mid seventies, with in the background the first signatories of the Charta ’77 manifesto. The record shown at the left has been produced in 1978 in Paris to support an international campaign against the persecution of the band. Our bookshop Het Fort van Sjakoo in Amsterdam did the distribution for the Netherlands and after we managed to get an one hour program on national radio, hundreds of records were sold to help the support fund. In 1988 a similar support action was undertaken by us for Petr Cibulka, active in the Czech independent music scene, who was imprisoned in that year for protesting the death in prison of yet another human rights activist Pavel Wonka…

These developments were communicated in all kind of ways to the non-state-socialist world, by Western travelers, through postal tricks (sending back faked foreign mail envelops marked ‘address unknown’; the Hungarian group Inconnue derives its name from that practice), through artistic forms of correspondence that seemed harmless enough to state censors to be allowed, which explains the importance of ‘mail art’ as  an exchange medium between Eastern and Western artists in the seventies and eighties, last but not least by cultural attaches, especially of the American embassies, who had recognized – in those days – the importance of such independent citizen initiatives. Most important in slipping through the news from behind the iron curtain, were the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe and its mixed network of CIA agents and independent correspondents and informers of many nationalities, both inside and outside. I have visited a few times – at the end of the eighties – the headquarters of Radio Free Europe in München as I became aware  that this institution – abhored by many Wester leftists – had lots of relevant information on ‘modern social movements’ that interested me. From 1973 onward I had been collecting documents from and on what I labeled ‘modern social movements’ for the University Libary of Amsterdam (later the collection has been tranferred to the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam): from the artistic to the political, trying to cover the whole scale emancipative, communitarian, spiritual, esoteric…

Three examples of later studies that document the importance of music for social change in state-socialist countries: The left hand book is “Rock Around the Bloc: A History of Rock Music in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, 1954-1988” by Timothy W. Ryback published already in 1990 and is a great read, mentioning things like the ‘Beat Riot’ in Leipzig in October 1965 a protest against the ban on amateur music groups – very curious as it was again a Leipzig protest in October 1989 that heralded the fall of the DDR regime. In the middle David Caute’s extensive study of how the Cold War was fought on the cultural front, how hot-jazz was employed to “melt down the iron curtain”; there is a good long chapter on jazz and rock music in this book. The right hand book is “Golden underground, unofficial rock journalism in Russia 1964-1994, history and bibliography (Zolotoe podpol’e : polnaja illjustrirovannaja enciklopedija rok-samizdata 1967-1994 : istorija, antologija, bibliografija) an encyclopaedic exercise by  A. Kušnir. I  bought this very detailed documentation from the publisher at the Frankfurt Buchmesse in 1994, where he had a small stand with an exhibition showing some samples of handcrafted rock magazines. (see ** for links and references)

Personal visits over the years – from 1976 onward- to Hungary, Poland, DDR, Yugoslavia and Rumania had made me aware of the specific forms of political and cultural underground movements in these countries and the supportive role played by Radio Free Europe. The underlying reason for the Radio Free Europe (RFE) support of  this alternative culture was clearly geo-political based: support for the USA “free world” empire quest.  I remember Hungarian friends of mine complaining in the mid eighties about some of the RFE journalists and their lack of real interest in the content of their artistic endeavour.  RFE journalists were mostly concentrating on the censorship side of things,  only  interested when a certain form of expression was suppressed and the bad genius of communism could be proven once again (also in the “free world” certain expressions only gain media coverage when some sort of scandal is at stake). Like Eastern Europe itself the big well protected offices of Radio Free Europe – located in a spacious villa suburb of  München – did not have a uniform approach, but were internally balkanized.  This was expressed in the total different atmospheres of each national department having its own personal commitments, set of priorities, traditions, smell of food. As a curator and librarian of the University of Amsterdam I could gain access to the vast documentation facilities of the radio station and I still remember vividly the long corridors and many doors flipping open and closing with hasty journalist on their way and shreds of a multitude of languages coming to my ears. The Russian department had their thumbed card file drawers pointing to many individual cases documenting post-gulag forms of repression, the Polish offices had newly bought file drawers housing an wide range of samples from the the very active Polish samizdat press, the Hungarians were very much into the underground magazine culture  with both exile publications from Paris like Magyar Füztek in a handy small smuggle format, and locally produced primitively printed magazines like Demokrater and Beszelo. The Rumanina section had hardly any documents, so reflecting the effectiveness of Ceauşescu Securitate and it was only later, in 1985, that – in Budapest – I saw and copied issues of a Transsylvanian (Erdely) samizdat magazine ‘Ellenpontok” (counterpoint) published in Cluj-Napoca (Klausenburg, Koloszva) which was – according to some later sources – the only Rumanian samizdat magazine.

Radio Free Europe former head quarters in München (now they are based in Prague) one sees clearly the very long central corridor and the all the connecting side buildings. A huge institution with all its intelligence, translation services, speakers of many different languages and documentation storage,

Which brings me to the year 1985, it must have been fall, when a contact from Belgrade Pavlusko Imsirovic (implied in a political process of the post-Tito era with six activists (known as ‘The Belgrade Six‘) persecuted in the serbian part of the Yugoslav Federation for holding meetings and publishing critical texts) gave me the address of a Rumanian man living in exile in Budapest: Attila Ara-Kovácz (he was one of the publishers of that sole Rumanian samizdat paper). Arriving in Budapest and meeting Attila brought me straight into a just started counter-conference of the “European Cultural Forum” (also called The Budapest Cultural Forum) a follow up – after a decade! – of the 1975 Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) known for its Helsinki Accords that were a protocol for fixing the entente of the power blocks in Europe. This ‘Alternative Cultural Forum’ was an initiative of the then nascent Hungarian opposition, the ‘International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights’ and some Western intellectuals of which Susan Sontag and Magnus Enzensberger were the most high profile ones. I went to several meetings ranging from the lobby of the sumptuous Intercontinental Hotel to some huge sculptor studio on the hill of Buda where a party for the corps diplomatique of the official conference was organized by the Hungarian opposition with as special subject the protest and repression in Rumanian Transylvania against Ceauşescu’s plan to  bulldozer eight thousand traditional villages and deport their inhabitants to newly constructed agro-industrial complexes. The official Forum had set as its task to foster cultural exchanges and cooperation which then could “contribute to a better comprehension among people and among peoples, and thus promote a lasting understanding among states.”  The Alternative Forum with Budapest full of diplomats gave some sort of protection to the the opposition which had been more or less hidden till that time to come out into the open and manifest itself. Anyhow the regime of János Kádár  – in power since 1956 – showed serious signs of fatigue and – much less spectacular than the Fall of the Berlin Wall – in 1985 the state-communist regime was in the process of dissolving. The regime was still there, but it was only ‘pro forma’. It is not surprising that the real first opening of  the iron Curtain did not happen in East Germany but in Hungary, starting formally in April 1989, but already since the the fall of the governance of Kádár in the spring of 1988 the Hungarian borders – and not only the ones with the West – had become somehow ‘transparent’. This was due to the bad treatment of the Hungarian minority in Rumania and old Hungarain sentiments on the dismemberment of their once glorious shared Austrian-Habsburg double monarchy. I knew at that time a polyglot adventurous lady (a descendant from a Ruthenian/Rusyn family) who was illegally crossing Hungarian-Rumanian borders taking with her publications printed in the West. The dismantling of the Hungarian part of the Iron Curtain happened a few months before what is called the ‘Prague Embassy Crisis” in September 1989 when East Germans were flooding the compound of the West German embassy in Prague. All this is mostly lost in the actual mainstream commemoration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall anno 2009.

Cover of the February 1989 “Europe Against The Current Manifesto” Go to and outward link with the full manifesto by clicking the picture above.

It was this ‘Alternative Cultural Forum’ in 1985 in Budapest that inspired the idea of  organizing a real the whole of Europe meeting of practitioners of alternative culture in Amsterdam. Since 1977 we had started with a few friends an alternative international bookshop in the Jodenbreestraat in Amsterdam, ‘Het Fort van Sjakoo‘. That collective undertaking had been growing over the years into a solid volunteer organization (it still exists still in 2009 as a fully volunteer driven organization).  We decided to breach the political and cultural borders and make a call to the whole continent from Iceland to the Urals, from the sub-polar regions of the Scandinavian countries to the sub-tropical Mediterranean Sea. This meant making an inventory of persons, groups, initiatives, institutions to invite. This was a huge work at that time when the Internet as such did not exist yet (apart from Usenet and Fidonet facilities, which we did use). Somehow we managed and though the date set at first for the year 1988 could not be met, in September 1989 it really did happen. On this occasion of a twenty year anniversary I have republished the original manifesto, the call for a coming together  we named: “Europe Against The Current” (the archive is at the IISG). Hundreds of people from many countries both from the East and West did participate, the manifestation was scheduled to be opened by Václav Havel, then still a writer under house-arrest. He failed to get the permission to leave Czechoslavakia for this occasion, his travel permit was withheld, so we established a telephone connection and thus the upcoming first post-communist president of the Czech Republic spoke the opening words of our manifestation. The opening was broadcasted – fully in style – over telephone lines and connected radio stations, both legal and pirate ones.

Back + front side of the catalogue with one thousand addresses and descriptions of alternative and radical cultural initiatives in Europe, a databased directory that has been for a few decades a guide to alternative Europe. See (***) for link.

Early 1990 I did write a background article on the origin and development of this historic manifestation taking place in the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam and the adjacent gallery W139 at that time still a squatted cultural institution.  It has been published in the Dutch cultural journal ‘de Gids’ and the complete text translated to English is since many years online on my web site and may be enlightening to read again, now twenty years later. Commemorate the past with insights from the past.

Overview of the Europe Against The Current fair in the Amsterdam Beurs van Berlage, September 1989. To read the full background article click the picture.

A more formal description of  the exhibitions that formed a part of the manifestations can be found on my documentation web pages ‘Art ~ Action ~ Academia‘ and an overview of some of the one thousand posters on show in a special installation in W139 Gallery can be found on another web page on an 1968 and beyond poster exhibition in the London Print Studio (formerly Paddington printshop) last year for which I made a huge poster of posters based on the photographic slides used in the September 1989 exhibition in Amsterdam.

The alternative and radical information carrier show in W139 September 1989.

(*) Dacha: small country houses outside the main cities in Russia, at first allotted only to party and trade union cadre, from the fifities onward available to broader layers of the population; also very popular in Czechoslovakia.
(**) Rock music in Eastern Eirope sources with links to worldcat.org that give syou an option to see in which nearby libraries these books can be found, click worldcat icon to see library catalogue:
icon-worldcat Ryback, Timothy W. 1990. Rock around the bloc: a history of rock music in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. New York: Oxford University Press.

icon-worldcat Caute, David. 2003. The dancer defects: the struggle for cultural supremacy during the Cold War. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

icon-worldcat Kušnir, Aleksandr I. 1994. Zolotoe podpol’e: polnaja illjustrirovannaja ėnciklopedija rok-samizdata : 1967 – 1994 ; istorija, antologija, bibliografija. Nižnij Novgorod: Izdat. Dekom.

icon-worldcat Tijen, Tjebbe van, and Bas Moreel. 1989. Europe against the current: catalogue on alternative, independent and radical information carriers. Amsterdam: Foundation Europe Against the Current, ID Archiv im IISG/Amsterdam.

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De beelden van de overstromingen als gevolg van uitzonderlijke regenval in West Afrika en de Sahellanden van begin september 2009, die de aanleiding vormden van mijn vorige bericht in dit blog en de vergelijking die ik daar maakte met het grote verschil tussen aandacht voor lokale ellende en ellende verweg in het Nederlandse televisiejournaal van de NOS – met name met betrekking tot Afrika – deze combinatie van gebeurtenissen heeft een oorsprong in mijn jeugd. Het is de blijvende herinnering aan een boek met een bijzondere vorm van zeg maar spotprenten (want deze tekeningen hebben een geheel eigen karakter en passen niet direct in een genre vakje) van de kunstenaar Jo Spier (1900-1978). Zelfs de wijze waarop zijn naam op de voorkant van het boek – dat ik hier in herinnering wil brengen – geschreven is, heeft een grapje in zich. Er staat niet ‘Spier’ maar ‘Spie’ plus iets dat zowel een uitroepteken zou kunnen zijn als een ‘spie’, een tapstoelopend houtje om iets mee klem te zetten, ook wel in de volksmond ‘een cent’ (“geen spie hebben”). De pagina’s met de dikke burgerman in zijn dikke stoel naast een dikke radio waaruit nieuwsberichten komen, steeds met een verbeelding van de radioberichten, zijn mij altijd bij gebleven. Ik herinner me nog hoe ik als jongetje begon te lachen toen ik het las en mijn moeder erbij riep om enthoussiast “mijn vondst” – overbodig – aan haar uit te leggen. Dit was mijn eerste moment van wat nu modern-deftig ‘mediacritiek’ genoemd wordt. Er zijn nu moderne studies die academische begrippen als “disaster fatigue” en “campassion fatigue” hanteren, zoals het boek van  van Susan D. Moeller uit 1999 “Compassion fatigue: how the media sell disease, famine, war and death” , maar… hoe verrassend dat zulk een inzicht  al meer dan vijftig jaar daarvoor in het tijdperk van de radio op deze wijze verbeeld is onder de titel “afstand en medegevoel.” De beeldreeks van Jo Spier handelt over een meneer Jansen in de Van Breestraat en begint met een radiobericht over het bombardement op Shanghai in 1937 met 20.000 doden (begin van de Japans Chinese Oorlog overlopend in WWII) . Het dodenaantal neemt af naarmate het gebied van een ramp of ongeluk dichterbij komt.  De reeks eindigt met een overreden jongetje in dezelfde straat als de dikke man in de dikke stoel en dan pas komt hij uit zijn doezel, draait zich om en roept “vrouw er is een ongeluk gebeurd.”

Jo Spier tekeningen, boek uitgegeven omstreeks 1937

Jo Spier (1900-1978) Dutch artist, illustrator and advertisement designer. Pages from a book with his comments on society published at the end of the thirties in the Netherlands. Two pages in the book are an example of 'media critique' avant-la-lettre. Jo Spier introduces here the notion "distance and compassion" in the context of a bourgeois man listening to the news coming from his radio-set. The man is mister Jansen (the most common Dutch name) from the "Van Breestraat" (a most common street name). Six spoken news items are depicted while the man stays immobile, half dozing in his big comfortable chair. The news items are all about disasters and accidents and have a progression in distance and number of victims, from 20.000 death in the aerial bombing by the Japanese army of Shanghai (in 1937) to a single casualty in the very street where mister. Jansen is living. Only after this last local news item mr. Jansen moves his ass and turns around and calls to his wife: "wife an accident happened." Half a century later academics have "invented" the terms "compassion fatigue" and "disaster fatigue" to describe similar aspects of public reception of the (bad) news. The Dutch text above gives a link to the book of Susan Moeller on this subject. Click picture to see full size version.

Ik heb deze prent zojuist ook naar de redactie van het NOS journaal gestuurd ter illustratie van mijn verzoek (en ik hoor dat ook anderen het NOS journaal hierom gevraagd hebben) om de overstromingsramp in West Afrika en de Sahellanden in hun nieuwsuitzending op te nemen. In het beeldverhaal van de dikke manuit 1937  is er een verschil in tienduziendtallen tussen slachtofferaantallen ver weg en om de hoek. Het lijkt er op dat voor Afrika om in ons landelijk NOS Journaal te komen gelijksoortige grote dodentallen voor handen moeten zijn. De Watersnood ramp in Zeeland en Zuid Hollanduit 1953  moge hier ten lande met enige regelmaat herdacht worden, en buiten de oever tredende rivieren in Europa mogen ook op een redelijke belangstelling van de NOS-redactie rekenen, maar als het verderop nat wordt en dan zeker op de grens van de Sahellanden (daar hadden ze toch zo’n last van de droogte?) dan is dat een continent te ver voor hetzelfde journaal dat er meer dan één spie voor over heeft om onze waterdeskundige Prins der Nederlanden te komen filmen in een ijsgrot op de Zuidpool. Misschien moet ik wel een verzoek aan die Prins schrijven om hem te vragen of hij een klein stukje van zijn “beschikbare zendtijd” bij het NOS journaal ter beschikking van de Afrikaanse waterslachtoffers kan stellen. Zeker gezien het feit dat – zelfs middels de rechter – dezelfde prins kortgeleden heeft aangegeven ‘low profile’ te willen blijven, hoeft zo’n geste hem geen pijn te doen.

Dank aan Ankephien en Klaas voor de scans van het Jo Spier boek.

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Dit verhaaltje begint met zoiets simpels en normaals voor een stadsbewoner als een tram- of buskaartje. Ooit kocht je dat bij een klein tempeltje dat op strategische plekken in de stad neergezet was, een kiosk (in oorsprong een Turks woord voor paleis) of je sprong gewoon zonder kaartje op de tram waar altijd een tramconducteur aanwezig was met een tas vol kaartjes op de buik en een grapje in de mond. Een korte verkennende blik naar buiten van de conducteur, een ruk aan het touw en tringggg daar gaat ie weer.

Kiosque selling tramway and other tickets at Dam square Amsterdam and open balcony tram with conductor selling tickets as well.

Kiosque selling tramway and other tickets at Dam square Amsterdam and open balcony tram with a mobile conductor selling tickets (and jokes) as well. The conductor also checked if all passengers were in safely and if the way was free before signaling the driver to start. At the right end of the collage a mechanical tram card stamp device as introduced in the eighties of last century. At first all conductors were thrown out both in trams and busses, later a conductor behind a desk came back on the trams as too many people started to introduce a free-ride system of their own. So the passenger ticket system started off with a man-made system and ended up with a hybrid man-machine system, partly switching back to a men-men control system on the trams with their tram conductor desk. Click image for a full size view

De strippenkaart, ooit een omstreden noviteit werd in 1969 (*) als plaatselijke Amsterdamse openbaar vervoerskaart ingevoerd gelijk met het verwijderen van conducteurs op trams en bussen, kaartverkoop-automaten, dubbelfunctie voor buschauffeur als bestuurder en stempelaar en “onbemande” stempelautomaten in de trams kwamen ervoor in de plaats. In 1980 werd dit systeem – gebaseerd op een aantal strippen per ruimtelijke zone – landelijk ingevoerd: De Nationale Strippenkaart. Het systeem van strippenkaart en vervoerszones is door de jaren heen voor veel mensen iets obscuurs en onbegrijpbaars gebleven, althans voor de wijze waarop ze hun kartonnen kaart met twee of meer strippen tegelijk moesten omvouwen om in de stempelautomaat te steken of wat te antwoorden op de vraag van een buschauffeur “hoeveel zones”.

The odd Dutch system of paper cards, time stamps han dled by humans and humans handling ticket stamp automats. City areas are carved up in zones and each strip on suich a card pays for one zone. Base tarif is two zones, a longer trip can involve three zones and more.

The odd Dutch system of folding paper cards (strippenkaart) and time stamps handled by human conductors with in addition human passengers handling ticket stamp automats. City areas are carved up in zones and each strip on such a card pays for one zone. Base tarif is two zones, a longer trip can involve three zones and more. There was no actual control possible if a passenger would stamp just two zones and kept sitting till the end station, for which he needed actually to stamp four zones. Only when a squad of controllers would enter a tram or bus such a free zone consumer would be caught. The stamp had three basic elements: 1) zone of entering; 2) time; 3) date. The mechanical stamping device in some trams or metro carriages had just a mechanism to reset zones, time and date at the appropriate intervals. This system was based on checking in without a checking out. The 'strippenkaart' was a blank recording system with no intended memory function. The passengers were trusted to a certain extend not to misuse the system when asking their cards to be stamped or inserting their card in a machine. In short it was a hybrid men-machine control system based on a certain level of social trust. Click image for a full size view.

He oude zone systeem van het Gemeentelijk Vervoetbedrijf Amsterdam (GVB) lag vast in een diagram gekoppeld aan een daadwerkelijke kaart en een matrix met de cijfesr van het diagram waaruit je kon aflezen hoeveel zones een ritje van de ene naar de andere zone besloeg. Deze twee visuele hulpmiddelen staan volgens mij wel op de overvolle informatiekaarten van het GVB (althans die in de metro) maar niet in  trams of bussen zelf. Waarom dit zo is kan ik niet verklaren. Is het zo dat wij reizigers als te dom beschouwd worden om het  toch erg eenvoudige zone-systeem te begrijpen? Bewegwijzeringsprofesor Paul Mijksenaar bemoeit zich al decennia – dacht ik – met de vormgeving van de informatieverstrekking van het GVB, maar dat heeft niet geleid tot de inzichtelijkheid van de metrokaarten van Londen en Parijs, voor Amsterdam.  Dit laaatste lijkt een trend, daar in meerdere Nederlandse spoorweg stationshallen niet langer de overzichtskaart van het landelijk lijnennet te vinden is, zelfs niet bij de informatiebalie , zo is ook op de website van de Nederlandse spoorwegen de kaart van alle spoorlijnen in Nederland  in geen velde of wege  te bekennen. Van gelijke orde is het gestaag verdwijnen van stationsklokken. Dit alles is wellicht te verklaren door het feit dat wij allen geacht worden immer en altijd een mobiele telefoon annex computer op zak of in de tas te hebben, die al die tijd- en ruimte-informatie met een vingertoetsje op het scherm laat verschijnen. Wij dienen eigenlijk alleen ons begin- en eindpunt te weten en wat daar tussen ligt  is voor verantwoording van de vervoeraanbieder. Samenvattend was het oude systeem met zijn zone-diagram, matrix gekoppeld aan kartonnen strippenkaart ontwaard met hand- en machinestempels, een statisch systeem, waarbij reiziger en vervoerspersoneel – hoe klunsig dat om te vouwen kartonnen kaartje ook was – fysiek en visueel controle hadden over  reisafstand en betaling. Een statisch systeem ook in de zin dat het niet makkelijk was om zones en tariefstelling te veranderen. Reizigers op een vaste route kennen het aantal zones van hun reistraject en weten daarmee ook precies wat de kosten daarvoor zijn. Aangezien sinds 1980 het stelsel van strippenkaarten landelijk werd, konden gemeentelijke en regionale vervoersbedrijven niet zomaar even wijzigingen in de tariefstelling – afstand en verschuldigde betaling per zone – aanbrengen. De technische en organisatorische beperkingen van het stempelsysteem hebben – terugkijkend – een zekere mate van rust en zekerheid in het openbaar vervoer gegeven, een zekerheid  die nu met de dynamsiche mogelijkheden van digitale  automatisering verloren dreigt te gaan.

A diagram of the old Amsterdam public transport zone system and a matrix to rwad out how many zones there are form one point in the matrix to another. The reintroduction of control by a conductor on the tramway

A diagram of the old Amsterdam public transport zone system and a matrix to check how many zones there are from one point in space to another. The reintroduction of control by a human conductor on the tramway who had a fixed place at the back or in the middle of the tram has lead to the oddity that most of the tram doors were marked as no entry points and a small bustling crowd had to fight to get in in time at the proper entry doors next to this conductor's desk. An example of the structural clumsy policy of the Amsterdam public transport system who think through badly a new concept and end up with compensating this with half-hearted measures as described here. Click image for a full size view.

Nu is er dan voor Nederland de nationale OV-chipkaart gebaseerd op een systeem dat nu zo’n vier decennia terug ontwikkeld werd voor het automatiseren van  veehouderij in de Verenigde Staten, door Texas Instruments. Wat ooit in het hoorn van een koeienpoot ingebracht  glazenbuisje was, met een spoeltje en een chip met een unieke code, wordt nu ingezet voor  het reisvee in het openbaar vervoer.  Met die chip in dat buisje,  kon middels afgegeven radiosignalen en een radiosignalen ontvangend poortje, vastgesteld worden welke koe, wanneer ,een bepaald stal-traject doorlopen had. Een transponder is een mini-radiootje dat als het in de buurt van een energie uitstralend zender/ontvanger poortje gebracht wordt gedurende een kort moment genoeg energie heeft om zijn ingebakken unieke code uit te zenden. Die code wordt dan door het poortje ontvangen, opgeslagen en doorgestuurd. Met zulke gegevens kunnen toegesneden processen aangestuurd worden. Bij het openbaar vervoer gaat het dan niet om vee, voederen, melken en afslachten, maar om het adminstreren van reizigersbewegingen en het bij- en afboeken van betalingen. De kaarten die nu te koop aangeboden worden zijn er in verschillende vormen van persoonsgebonden kaarten tot anonieme kaarten. Bij de eerste worden al de reisbewegingen en betalingsactiviteiten gekoppeld aan een gevensbestand van een specifiek persoon, bij het anonieme kaartmodel vindt die koppeling tussen persoon en reisgedrag niet plaats. Dat de strippenkaart onhandig was valt niet te ontkennen, maar pas bij de introductie van een nieuw medium of systeem worden mogelijke positieve kanten van het voorgaande zichtbaar.

Het lezen van een gedrukte grootformaat krant in bijna elke gewenste positie en zonder iets anders als ons godgegeven lichaam met soms nog een bril moge een voorbeeld van dit fenomeen zijn. We hadden er de ervaringen met het lezen vanaf een computerscherm voor nodig om ons dat bewust te worden.

Voor het systeem van enkel aanmelden bij het instappen, komt nu een syteem in de plaats van zowel aan- als afmelden bij in- én uitstappen. Vergissingen en vergeetachtigheid die in het oude systeem meestal niet ten nadele van de reiziger uitvielen dreigen nu met moeilijk terug te vorderen verkeerde afboekingen op de reiziger verhaald te worden. Dat wat met de strippenkaart als een zichtbaar proces van ontwaarden van een bewijs van vooruitbetaalde vervoerskosten verliep, is met de chipkaart volledig onzichtbaar geworden, althans voor de afnemer, terwijl de leverancier wel de mogelijkheid heeft om vrijelijk gegevens van ieder handeling in het systeem op te roepen. Die onzichtbaarheid, die onmogelijkheid van direct kunnen aflezen, van directe controle is een grote tekortkoming van wat nu als meest moderne vernieuwing en verbetering aan ons opgedrongen wordt.

Still have to try and find some of those Tokyo subway credit cards with the punch holes indicating the level of devaluation of the initial amount

Still have to try and find some of those Tokyo subway credit cards with the punch holes indicating the level of devaluation of the initial amount paid. This system was in use some 9 years ago and I do not know if they kept it. These cards were not personal and did not record all the passengers movements.

Ik herinner mij de verschillende metro-creditcards uit de tijd dat ik  – nu bijna tien jaar terug – in Tokyo woonde, waar meerdere verschillende openbaar vervoerbedrijven actief zijn. Basis systeem was dat je een reiscrediet van een paar duizend yen kocht op een magnetische kaart (geheel niet persoonsgebonden) en dat bij iedere reis de ontwaarding van dat crediet zichtbaar werd gemaakt door kleine ponsgaatjes in de rechter bovenhoek van de kaart geslagen door de poortjesautomaat waarin je je kaartje bij het binnenkomen invoert en na het passeren van het poortje weer oppakt (iets dergelijks gebeurd ook in het Londense systeem). Zo bestaan er ook batterijen die aan de buitenkant als een soort thermometer laten zien wat er nog aan energie over is. De OVchipkaart ontbeert zulk een directe afleesbaarheid.

De meest vergaande verandering met het nieuwe chipkaart systeem waarvoor in Nederland gekozen is, is de registratie en het bewaren van de reisgegevens van alle reizigers gekoppeld aan de de electronisch gemerkte kaarten die zij gebruiken. Dit is het toppunt van registratiezucht die inherent aan het gekozen betalingssysteem en daarmee vooraf gekend was bij al diegenen die eraan hebben meegwerkt om dit stelsel aan de gehele Nederlandse bevolking op te dringen. In vervolg op de rekeningrijden-plannen voor automobilisten en het flitsen van nummerplaten van auto’s niet enkel voor sneldeidsovertreding maar als algehele (preventieve) controle op autobewegingen binnen een bepaalde regio ten nutte van mogelijk politieonderzoek. Met het nu in te voeren OV-chipkaart systeem  is het een fluitje van een cent geworden om van iedere chipkaart en daaraan verbonden reiziger , instant een cartografie van alle reisbewegingen op een computerscherm te toveren, met bijbehorende tijdspaden en tijdsstempels van iedere in- of uitstap-registratie. Het is deze registratie- en controlezucht van de Nederlandse overheid die mij en met mij velen tegen de borst stuit. Iets simpels als een tram of buskaartje is hiermee geworden tot een ethisch probleem met een historische dimensie. Meldingsplicht, gebiedsverbod, verbanning, grensposten, tol- en stadspoorten, schaduwen, aanwezig- of afwezigheidscontroles, prikklokken, oormerken, brandmerken, legitimatieplicht, appèl, reisverbod, razzia en deportatie… Sommige van deze woorden mogen veel te zwaar zijn voor wat de permanente registratie van alle reizigerrbewegingen in het openbaar vervoer van Nederland als gevolg kan hebben, maar mijn gezonde achterdocht denkt deze woorden echter toch of brengt ze voort als onuitgesproken gedachtenassociaties in mijn geest: “die Gedanken sind frei wer kann sie erraten?” is de beginstrofe uit een 19e eeuws Duits vrijheidslied dat mij in situaties als deze altijd tot troost is. Achterdog, ja zeker, want er is ook een reeks van meer recente historische associaties in het schemergebied waar digitale dienstverlening eveneens gebruikt wordt als een instrument voor commercieële marketing en politionele opsporing: telefoontaps, creditcardgebruik, nationale archiefgebruikerskaart, bibliotheekpas, Ah-bonuskaart, digitaal paspoort, patientenpas, studentenkaart… Het beeld is al zo vaak geschetst: als al die datastromen (“in het belang van het onderzoek”) met elkaar gecombineerd zouden kunen worden – en dat is waar sommige overheden, met name politie-organisaties op lijken aan te sturen – dan is daarmee een web geweven  dat het individu past als een  dwangbuis.

I have been searching for cartography in which tracking in time and space of passenger movements in an urban area have been visualized. I could not yet find an example of such mapping (though it must have been done already somewhere) but did find this interesting example whereby space is plotted on the x-y axis and time on the z-axis. Such a map is of course not a static rendering, but can be made highly interactive whereby the user of the system can zoom in on specific spot or a specific point in time and enlarge it or look at it from another time/space perspective. For reference of the source see note (**). Click image to see bigger version.

I have been searching for cartography in which tracking in time and space of passenger movements in an urban area have been visualized. Through a Canadian governmental military report with an overview of 'data visualization' relevant for the military, I ended up at the website of the firm with the quasi mythical name "Oculus Info", which is a firm offering a human version of the all seeing eye of God. All kinds of data can be fed into this software system and maps that represent movement in time and space can be generated instantly and be viewed dynamically. The maps have three axises: the regular x and y positioning for space on a plane and a vertical t axis for time. Sliders are provided to events or persons through time and space; zooming into a particular detail is possible as well. (**) Click the picture to see a full size version of a summary collage I have made of some of the info sheets of the Oculus company.

Vanmorgen dan merkte ik dat ook de anoniem-optie voor een OV-chipkaart beperkingen kent. Ik kan als 65+er niet van mijn korting gebruikmaken als ik een anonieme pas wil. Praktisch zou een met korting gekochte anonieme kaart heel gemakkelijk te regelen zijn, doordat een oudere met legitimatie op enkele punten een anonieme kaart kan kopen met ouderenkorting. Het is tekenend dat ook in zulk een klein detail de dwang, om het optimale controle systeem van de OV-chipkaart te introduceren, doorwerkt (***). Dit detail zette mij weer tot nadenken over het algemene vraagstuk van privacy en controledwang.

Dutch public transport system will be based on a personal chip card (OV-Chip Card)

Dutch public transport system will be based on a personal chip card (OV-Chip Card) that will keep track of all passengers movements and will store this information in databases for future use. One may buy an anonymous OV-Chipcard, but certain reductions available will not be available for this card. This small fact underlines the pressure to everyone in the Netherlands to have themselves checked and open for later control. There is a government body that has a a task to protect the privacy of citizens and to monitor any policy or measure that could be an infringement on civil liberties, in particular privacy. This institution has only lawyers in its board, who are all embedded in governmental and government related institutions. Over the last decade this control institution has utterly failed to fulfill its task and protect citizens against the combined force of electronic control system industry and its customers backed by policing managers. Privacy is in my view not in the first place a juridical question but an ethical question build on historical insight. The focus of the privacy debate should be changed from the regular top down view of the state and its subjects to a bottom up view of individuals and their adherence to society on a voluntary base. The de-humanizing effects of modern control systems are a danger for the social cohesion we all need for a sane society. It is not just an incident that the technologies used in the chip-based travelers cards in public transport originate in the early automation of American cattle industry. The transponder system (unique control numbers embedded in a small glass tubes with a tiny radio emitter implanted in cows) has been invented by Texas Instruments. Click image for a full size view.

Het door de overheid zelf ingestelde College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens is per regeringsdecreet “onafhankelijk” verklaard en heeft ook een keurige klachtenprocedure, formeel is alles in orde. Als men de CVs van de leden van dit college doorkijkt dan zijn het allen juridisch geschoolde en in de traditie van bestuur ingebedde types, die ten enemale praktijk, mentaliteit en achtergrond missen om de door moderne electronica-industrie en sociale-controle-ambtenarij gedreven machinerie van regelzucht in te perken. Privacypolitiek zou niet in de eerste plaats als een jurisch vraagstuk, maar als een op historisch inzicht gebaseerde toetsing van ethische normen gezien moeten worden. Zoiets vereist een heel ander college, beter nog een heel andere procedure waarbij debat en onafhankelijke meningsvorming de basis dienen te zijn voor adviezen aan overheden, beoordeling van wetten en het behandelen van klachten. Wie de website van het College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens bezoekt merkt direct al dat er van debat op deze site geen sprake is. Het is top-down vooorlichting wat hier geboden wordt. De mogelijkheden van moderne media voor een (gemodereerd) publiek debat geëntameerd door dit college worden niet gebruikt. Automatisering met gebruikmaking van digitale hulpmiddelen hoeft niet per defintie onderdrukkend en slecht te zijn, dezelfde middelen kunnen met een beetje fantasie als bevrijdend gebruikt worden.

It is astonishing to find out that noconcise  visualization of the Dutch state and democratic system can be found on the Ineternet. After one hour of trying I have given up to find such a thing. The only funny but not-so-funny example is this website for Dutch schoolchildren but it does not have - as far as I can find out - any diagram or scheme that gives an idea of how things are organized in one single view.

It is astonishing to find out that no concise visualization of the Dutch state and democratic system can be found on the Internet, not even as a part of the school curriculum. After one hour of trying I have given up to find such a thing. The only fun intended but not-so-funny-really example is this website for Dutch schoolchildren but it does not have - as far as I can find out - any diagram or scheme that gives an overview in one didactic overview scheme.

Het privacybetoog van parlament en overheid is nu gegrondvest op de staat en haar burgers, een combinatie die het begrip ‘staatsburger’ oplevert, die impliciet ondergeschikt geacht wordt te zijn aan de georganiseerde sociale orde van de “rechtsstaat.” De rechtsstaat is een geidealiseerd abstract model dat als functie heeft het zicht weg te nemen op de realiteiten van het dagelijks leven. Als daarentegen het individu tot uitgangspunt gemaakt wordt bij het al dan niet, of op welke wijze, invoeren van privacy beperkende maatregelen dan wordt er niet langer van boven naar de onderdaan beneden gekeken, maar omgekeerd. Het gezichtpunt in het privacy-debat moet omgedraaid worden, de burger, de onderdaan moet weer mens worden. De mens in zijn streven naar relatieve onafhankelijkheid binnen een door hem of haar aanvaarde gemeenschap, een idee waarvoor wij in het Nederlands het woord ‘samenleving’ gebruiken. Ethische opvattingen gevoed door historische inzichten dienen in de eerste plaats te komen en het juridische is dan niet meer dan een instrument van inpassing in het uiteindelijk te kiezen beleid. Het is onvoldoende om te denken dat het ethische en het historische voldoende ingebed zijn in het bestaande juridische betoog.

Met iedere nieuwe registratie- en controlemaatregel en de de macht en het geweld die daarmee potentieel uitgeoefend kan worden, wordt de staat sterker en de deelname aan de vrijwillig aanvaarde samenleving zwakker. Dit laatste is iets dat door een ethisch en historisch gegronde toetsingsmethode onderkend kan worden. Juristerij is te gebonden aan bestaande regelgeving om als beheersingsinstrument in zo’n debat gebruikt te kunnen worden. Inzicht in welke nadelen aan voorgestelde nieuwe controlesystemen kunnen kleven, zijn minder in wetboeken te vinden dan in geschiedschrijving en verhandeligen over ethiek.

(*) Ik herinner mij nog de invoering van de gemeentelijke strippenkaart voor tram en bus in Amsterdam in 1969. Op meerdere plaatsen in de stad werden kaartautomaten op straat gezet en de nieuwe kaart was niet langer een fluttig stukje papier waarin een gaatje geknipt werd, maar een reeks strookjes op een dik soort kartonachtig papier die dan na de vraag van de chauffeur “hoeveel zones” afgestempeld werd. Arm en radikaal als wij waren in die tijd – waarin de eis voor gratis openbaar vervoer als tegenwicht tegen de opkomende autocultuur geeist werd – vond één van ons het systeem van de afwasbare strippenkaart uit (ik dacht dat het ex-provo Tom Bouwman was). Eerst ging het met parafine, door een kaars meerdere malen over het stempelgedeelte van de kaart te wrijven, later ontdekten wij een nieuw soort afwasbaar plakfolie – één van die wonder producten van de US firma 3M – die mat was en niet glimde. Dat was werkelijk een geniale vondst. Ik herinner mij lacherige bijeenkomsten waarbij wij advertenties die nooit geplaatst zijn verzonnen met frisse Hollandse huisvrouwen die hun strippenkaart in een sopje dompelden. Ik zou niet weten of deze praktijk van de eeuwig durende strippenkaart ook buiten onze eigen kringen toegepast is. Wij althans hadden besloten het als persoonlijke kennis te bewaren, omdat publiciteit altijd een vijand van zulke inventiviteit is.

(**) De tijd ruimte visualisatie van bewegingen in een stadsgebied vond ik in een rapport van de Canadese Defence Research: “Information Visualization, the state of the art for maritime domain awareness; an analysis of the current state of the art for Information Visualization, as it applies to Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (MISR)”.  Het volledige rapport is hier te vinden als PDF (let op de dwonload is groot & langzaam). Een brochure van het Oculus GeoTime systeeem is on-line in pdf formaat.

(***) In het rapport van het College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens over de OV-chipkaart uit het jaar 2005, waarin dit college aan de regering haar visie geeft staat  de volgende zinsnede die ook zou moeten slaan op de door mij geconstaeerde missende regeling voor 65+ers om een anonieme chipkaart met korting te kunnen aanschaffen:
“De niet op naam gestelde kaarten die vervoerders gaan introduceren moeten gebruikt kunnen worden onder faire voorwaarden: er mag geen situatie ontstaan waarin reizigers zich, bijvoorbeeld door prijsdruk, gedwongen zien om met gepersonaliseerde kaarten te reizen waar zij dit niet willen.”

Op de website van de OVchipkaart staat bij soorten kaarten dit over de anonieme kaart:De anonieme OV-chipkaart Kan ook door iemand anders worden gebruikt. Geheel anoniem. Zonder de mogelijkheden van de persoonlijke OV-chipkaart, zoals: persoonsgebonden kortingen of reisproducten, automatisch opladen, Mijn OV-chipkaart. Bij verlies of diefstal kan de kaart niet worden geblokkeerd.”

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