[artinfo] Forum on Quaero: A public think tank on the politics of the search engine

Jan van Eyck Academie program at janvaneyck.nl
Sat Sep 15 02:45:44 CEST 2007

Jan van Eyck Event
Saturday 29 - Sunday 30 September 2007
Forum on Quaero: A public think tank on the politics of the search engine
- research conference initiated by Metahaven 
Design Research; curated by Tsila Hassine, Vinca 
Kruk, Daniel van der Velden, Gon Zifroni; 
supported by Institut Français des Pays-Bas, 
Amsterdam, NL; City of Maastricht, NL.
- gallery space Jan van Eyck Academie
- book tickets before 27 September at anne.vangronsveld at janvaneyck.nl

Florian Cramer, Jodi Dean, Frédéric Martel, 
Ingmar Weber, Isabelle Stengers, Bureau d'Études, 
Metahaven, Tsila Hassine, Open Search, Michael 
Zimmer, Richard Rogers, Florian Schneider, 
Maurits de Bruijn, Sabine Niederer, André 
Quaero: isn't that the search engine that former 
French president Jacques Chirac declared to be 
the European challenge to Google? A public 
alternative to Silicon Valley-born commercial 
search engines, funded by the French state, in 
service of the public good, in the true tradition 
of the grand projet? An information machine 
capable of reclaiming European language and 
intellectual heritage in the age of globalization?

No. Quaero is the name of a consortium of 
technology firms and research labs working 
together on multimedia and web search projects. 
It is a state-sponsored effort to stimulate 
private French technological competitiveness. But 
still, the issues that the idea of Quaero has 
raised - since its public launch by the former 
French president - constitute a formidable 
challenge. Internet search engines are political 
projects proper if only because they give and 
take power; they represent science, technology, 
(trans)national politics, private enterprise, 
culture, territoriality and language in ever 
different combinations.
On 29 and 30 September 2007, the Jan van Eyck 
Academie, in collaboration with the Maison 
Descartes, Institut Français des Pays-Bas, 
organizes the Forum on Quaero, taking the concept 
of the search engine as a pubic project as a 
starting point.

Search engines' indexation methods inevitably 
lead to moments of inclusion and exclusion 
(sometimes by hands-on censorship). Search 
engines closely monitor their users' behaviour 
and offer additional services, retrieving and 
storing increasing amounts of private information 
from them. The majority of web search is carried 
out through only a few, very large corporate 
search engines which communicate ideas about 
their role in the world via their brand 
identities. These may lead to distorted 
impressions of what the commercial search engine 
as a institution really entails. This conference 
aims to bridge the gap between politics, policies 
and practices in the field of web search. Some 

* What are the politics of the structure and 
image of search engines and their technologies?

* To what extent have search engines like Google, 
which started from the ideal of access to 
information, become the modus operandi of 
political bias? Can we envisage scenarios for the 
search engine as a public domain institution?

* What kind of hierarchy (if any) should be 
implemented when deciding what should go into a 
search engine's database, and what is left out?

* Can contemporary web practices tackle the 
conventional static models used to archive and 
present (institutional) concepts of cultural 
heritage and democracy?

* Collaborative and participatory methods are 
increasingly placing the Demos as the force that 
structures information. Can we work towards a 
'politics of code & categorization' that allows 
plural interpretations of data to coexist and 
enrich each other?

* How can concepts of digital and networked 
European cultural heritage reflect the political 
and social issues related to Europe's changing 

The Forum encourages and facilitates audience 
participation; it is meant as a public think 
tank, a live sketchbook around new questions for 
the search engine.

Saturday 29 September
11:00 - 11:10
Welcome by Florian Cramer (moderator)
11:10 - 11:15
11:15 - 11:45
Michael Zimmer
12:15 - 12:45
Florian Schneider
12:50 - 13:50
13:50 - 14:35
14:40 - 15:00
Tsila Hassine
15:05 - 15:35
Ingmar Weber
15:35 - 16:00
16:30 - 17:10
Respondents: Isabelle Stengers, Maurits de 
Bruijn, Sabine Niederer, André Nusselder
17:10 - 18:30
Forum Part One
Round Table with all speakers, respondents and audience
18.30 >
Drinks and dinner

Sunday 30 September
10:00 - 10:10
Welcome by Florian Schneider (moderator)
10:10 - 10:15
10:15 - 10:45
Bureau d'Études
10:50 - 11:20
Frédéric Martel
11:25 - 11:55
Richard Rogers
12:00  - 13:00
13:00 - 13:30
Florian Cramer
13:35 - 14:05
Open Search
14:10 - 14:40
Jodi Dean
14:45 - 15:15
15:15 - 15:55
Respondents: Isabelle Stengers, Maurits de 
Bruijn, Sabine Niederer, André Nusselder
15:55 - 17:30
Forum Part Two
Round Table with all speakers, respondents and 
audience, moderated by Florian Schneider
Drinks - End
EUR 25 for 2 days, including lunch, dinner, drinks and publication.
By e-mail to Anne Vangronsveld: anne.vangronsveld at janvaneyck.nl
SNS Bank, account no.: 858 2324 05
Stichting Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht
IBAN: NL64 SNSB 0858 2324 05
Please put FORUMONQUAERO on your payment.
To be sure of a seat, we kindly ask you to submit 
your payment before 27 September 2007.

Additional programme information, press information
Metahaven Design Research: office at metahaven.net
phone: +31 (0)6 24276797 / +31 (0)6 48316543

Speakers' biographies in alphabetical order

Maurits de Bruijn (respondent) is a graphic 
designer working on a variety of web concepts, 
which combine distinct visual identities with an 
experimental scripting and engineering 
architecture. De Bruijn criticizes the 
consequences that major search engines and their 
indexing mechanisms force on the scripting 
architecture of web sites. De Bruijn teaches 
information design and interface design at ArtEZ 
Institute of the Arts in Arnhem.
Bureau d'Études (speaker) is a Paris-based media 
collective founded in 1998, comprising the artist 
duo Léonore Bonaccini and Xavier Fourt. Using 
complex graphic tables conceived for the 
internet, they map various hidden global 
structures of finance and world governance, 
formalising patterns and connections through 
scientific and informational exactitude.
Florian Cramer (speaker, moderator) is Media 
Design course director of the Piet Zwart 
Institute. He was junior lecturer in Comparative 
Literature at Freie Universität Berlin. Cramer 
has published papers in the fields of code 
poetry, comparative studies in the literature and 
the arts, modernism, text theory, literature and 
computing; he collaborated on the  www.runme.org 
Software Art repository and edited the Unstable 
Digest of code poetry. His German PhD thesis is 
called Exe.cut[up]able Statements.
Jodi Dean (speaker) is Professor of Political 
Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 
Geneva, New York. She has authored or edited 8 
books, including Publicity's Secret: How 
technoculture capitalizes on democracy (2002) and 
Zizek's Politics (2006).
Tsila Hassine (speaker) is a media artist and web 
programmer. She completed BScs in Mathematics and 
Computer Science and spent 2003 at the New Media 
department of the HGK Zürich. In 2004 she joined 
the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, where she 
pursued an MA in Media Design, until graduating 
in June 2006 with Google randomizer Smoogle. 
Hassine is a researcher at the Jan Van Eyck 

Frédéric Martel (speaker) is a writer, journalist 
and a researcher/professor at Sciences Po-Paris. 
He is author of 5 books, including The Pink and 
the Black, Homosexuals in France since 1968 and 
De la culture en Amérique (an overview on the 
American culture and art policy system in the 
U.S.). >From 2001 to 2005, he was the head of the 
French cultural and academic services in the 
French Embassy in the U.S. He is now the editor 
of nonfiction.fr, a new website dedicated to 
books and ideas.
Metahaven (speaker) is a design research 
collective based in Amsterdam and Brussels. It 
consists of Daniel van der Velden, Vinca Kruk and 
Gon Zifroni. Their work focuses on visual 
identity and the political, assigning key 
importance to the role of conflict in relation to 
the design of institutions in the era of 
Sabine Niederer (respondent) is managing director 
of the Institute of Network Cultures in 
Amsterdam. She recently co-founded the Digital 
Methods Initiative, a group of researchers, 
programmers and designers dedicated to 
researching and visualizing  'natively digital' 
objects of study, such as the tag, the thread and 
the link.
André Nusselder (respondent) is a philosopher. 
Last year he finished his PhD thesis at the 
Erasmus University Rotterdam, in which he 
investigated the role of fantasy in the virtual 
worlds created by new media technologies: 
Interface-Fantasy. Weary of academic commentary 
and conformism, he is now trying to develop 
different ways to write on philosophical issues.
Open Search (speaker), by Erik Borra and Koen 
Martens, is a peer-to-peer project whereby people 
mutually form a search engine without the 
intervention of central servers or a central 
actor. The motivation for this project is the 
censorship and manipulation by major 
multinational corporations (Google, Yahoo, 
Microsoft). Koen Martens is a programmer, hacker, 
organiser, and the treasurer of GroenLinks The 
Hague section. Erik Borra graduated in artificial 
intelligence and is now involved in the Digital 
Methods Initiative. The Open Search project is 
scheduled to be launched in 2008.
Richard Rogers (speaker) is Head of New Media at 
the University of Amsterdam, and director of the 
Govcom.org Foundation, a group that develops 
info-political devices for the web. Previously, 
Rogers worked as Senior Advisor to Infodrome, the 
Dutch Governmental Information Society 
initiative. He has also worked as Research Fellow 
in Design and Media at the Jan van Eyck Academie, 
and as a Researcher in Technology Assessment at 
the Science Center Berlin (WZB) and in Strategic 
Computing in the Public Sector at Harvard 
University (JFK School).
Florian Schneider (speaker, moderator) is a 
filmmaker based in Munich. He has been involved 
in a wide range of projects dealing with the 
implications of post-modern border regimes on a 
theoretical as well as a practical level. He is 
one of the initiators of the campaign kein mensch 
ist illegal at Documenta X in 1997 and subsequent 
projects such as the  'no border network' and the 
online-platform kein.org. He is a member of the 
PhD programme in research architecture at 
Goldsmiths College, London, and teaches theory at 
the art academy in Trondheim.
Isabelle Stengers (respondent) teaches philosophy 
at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Her 
interests centre around the constructive 
adventure of modern sciences and the crucial 
challenge of what she calls an 'ecology of 
practices', as a condition for embedding our many 
diverging scientific practices in a democratic 
and demanding environment. She has written 
numerous books, among which, translated in 
English, Order out of Chaos, with Ilya Prigogine 
and Power and Invention. Situating Science, and 
The Invention of Modern Science.
Ingmar Weber (speaker) is a postdoc in 
information retrieval at the Ecole Polytechnique 
Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. His PhD 
thesis at the Max-Planck Institute for Computer 
Science in Germany deals with efficient data 
structures for and applications of a more 
interactive search engine called CompleteSearch. 
Ingmar is generally interested in alternative 
search engines and runs an informal seminar on 
'Cool stuff on the web'.
Michael Zimmer (speaker) is the Microsoft Fellow 
at the Information Society Project at Yale Law 
School for 2007-2008. His PhD The Quest for the 
Perfect Search Engine: Values, Technical Design, 
and the Flow of Personal Information in Spheres 
of Mobility, investigates how the quest for the 
'perfect search engine' empowers the widespread 
capture of personal information flows across the 
Internet, threatening the ability to engage in 
online social, cultural and intellectual 
activities free from oversight, thereby bearing 
on the values of privacy, autonomy, and liberty.
The weekly programme can be viewed at: www.janvaneyck.nl

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