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Together on a list

Article (1998) by Marie-José Klaver on the Nettime mailing list.

About every subject people communicate with large or small groups via E-mail. Some of those groups grow out to be communities who visit each other also in real life. On the mailinglist of Nettime 850 scientists, artists and journalists from twenty countries change their thoughts about the Internetculture in the broadest sense of the word.

Everything of what has been written in this exceptionally productive list the last one and a half year has been published in a 550 pages counting compilation READ ME! in bookform. "With some of the Nettimers I have more often contact than with people from New York," says Ted Byfield a freelance journalist from New York at the presentation on the Dutch Electronic Art Festival (DEAF) in Rotterdam.

The rule of Nettime is that only the members can send articles. Discussions, which had the result in other mailing lists that ended in interminable drivel or arguments, have to be held by personal E-mail or on other lists. The result is a high level and a close electronic community who see each other regularly also in real life at organized meetings. Members of the list travel the world to be there. In Rotterdam were about 100 members present.

The science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling also a member of the list based his cyberpunk roman 'Holy Fire' (1996) on this traveling Nettime-community, digital artists who travel from one country to an other to meet each other.

The thing Nettimers connect is the love-hate relationship with the computer technology. Every one believes in the Internet and the net, but the uncomfortable feeling about the by Microsoft or Netscape and AOL dominated society is big.

Also the rejoiced way of the American Internet magazine Wired that is declaring the digital revolution since 1995, is regularly the subject of criticism of Nettime. When in March 1997 Wired lost completely sight of the difference between journalistic independence and commercial interests in a pages long editorial comment about the blessings of push media (a in the meanwhile past hype), the Dutch media critic Geert Lovink reacted with criticism which was followed over by a couple of American newspapers. Wired declared the HTML (the language of the construction of WebPages) unnecessary, because the new push-technique would bring the new to the user. People didn't have to look for it, Wired and CNN would from now on deliver the news at home.

Nowadays Nettime is also the victim of the fashionable opinions about unnecessary technology. At the presentation of READ ME! the German Pit Schultz suggested to scrap the mailinglist. He had the opinion that majordomo, the program on which the mailinglist runs, is to old. According to Schulz one of the founders together with Lovink, Nettime should be a three dimensional space on the web. This will be at the cost of the speed and the accessibility of the list.

Schulz his proposal didn't get much support. The almost free program majordomo from 1992 takes care of the electronic mail to the members of the list, it has been the driving force behind the community. "Old is not per definition the same as outdated", mails Lovink from Japan. "We al have much to thank to majordomo, especially the people who have less connectivity to their disposition. Nettime and many other lists would not have existed without that software".

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