Developments at nettime list

Thursday 14th September, 2023 - Bruce Sterling

*Long a favorite of the (mostly) European media-theory crowd.

From: Davide Bevilacqua

Hi ,
last weekend during Ars Electronica in Linz we had a local meetup to welcome the list to its new home in Linz at

A few list members and non-yet members were present in a brief discussion round before the traditional server room visit.

The post-meetup thought I have is that there is no such a thing as something happening organically, especially the functioning of a mailing list like .

Things happen within & according to the specific conditions that surrounds them, which that can be analyzed and in some cases influenced. We tried to do this together, also recognizing that describing on the list how the same nettime list works is something that could help taking off its institutional layer and make the list feel more approachable.

I summarize here some thoughts i had about that; for sure being inaccurate, forget interesting points, add some personal opinions and not mentioning who said what. Please include further thoughts and names if you feel so!

cheers & see you


The list was born after a first meeting organized in june 1995 at the Venice Biennale. At our local meetup, one participant was also part of that first meeting, something I’d like to recommend also for future local meetups 🙂

Using a mailing list today is probably something uncommon for many, also in the media art or theory circles. Perhaps the whole culture and practice of communication via mailing lists is old-fashioned and is not yet vintage enough to come back into vogue. Jokes aside, the fact that in many other communication formats (from forums to decentralized social media and whatever platform in between) have been developed, are maybe not so bad, because it has freed mailinglists from roles that do not suit them, such as being news outlets or immediate communication channels. So as nettime was born and developed in earlier net times, which role does it occupy now and what can this be in the future? From the conversation it felt that we all can contribute to, maybe inviting someone that could be interested or testing how the list might work.

Currently nettime has ~2000 (all amazing!) list members that can write and read single contributions of a mainly text-based, asynchronous discussion.

The list is not curated, which means that there is no instituted role who is collecting references or deciding what is the next topic. This is something that is done in other lists. However, the topics are not just random. By scrolling the titles / topics in the list archive, we can notice a mix of media and technology criticism, political analysis and artistic / academic writing, often describing views on current social, economic, and geo-political crises.

Unlike mainstream social media, every member of a list shares the same potential audience, so on a technical level there is no dynamic of how many followers does one have. However, the experience of being on the list is not the same for everyone. Mailing lists are in fact not only a place for writing: some list members describe themselves as “readers”, carefully following everything that goes through the list; some other might not have much time even and created bot-like reading extensions, so that at least *something* would still believe in reading all the incoming mails.

It is also not granted that everyone’s text will be read with the same attention than the one given to another email addresses on this list. Not everyone shares the same way to engage with the list, nor has the same list history, and therefore will attract differently the limited attention of someone else.

So, under which conditions the status of the reader changes to become the one of the writer? In the end, it is still individual members who decide to write to the nettime list and then press “send”. This is done with their own motivations, to comment something that might have not be covered yet or to get a response from the list e.g. sharing drafts of essays to get feedback seems; or to check the temperature of a group of people that meet on the list because of the communication qualities of the list. Such qualities might be seen are the current health status of the list, and they are maintained by what Felix described as the role of the list moderation.

Moderation activity happens much more often that the few cases in which gatekeeping or removing something from the list is needed. Felix described it as taking care that conditions that influence the engagement, the tone of exchange, quality of content and the actual participation. It happens often on the border of the list or outside, congratulating off-list with someone for their contribution, or lowering tones of heated discussion outside. (thanks mods!)

The condition is also dependent on the individual to break the invisible barrier that separates the “draft” folder of our mailbox to the one gathering “sent” emails. As I am writing & frenetically tuning up all sentences, I ask myself: is this going to be smart enough? Some others might feel the same weight of the list and the stress to meet the quality of its content which, as Alessandro stated, is a strong quality of , but also a weak point.

However, being in such a conversation at the local meetup felt however very empowering, and motivated me into typing this, not caring too much about matching the rest of the writings.

Finally, the list does not have to reach growth points, but it also does not reach makes sense to describe it and mention it to other people who might be interested to read it.

** By the way the archive and the main page is not yet fully transfered, and it therefore still contain outdated info for subscriptions.
if you want to mention the list to someone who might be interested to join, they can register here:

++additional thought++ the 500MB of archive is something that also defines a specific way of producing and distributing knowledge and someone suggested it would be incredibly interesting to research that, thinking how this can be archived. any PhD places / candidates for this?

Thanks Vesna for the suggestion to organize local meetups, looking forwards to read from other meetups in the future!

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