Re:cap of re:publica 2015

Three intensive days are over. From Tuesday till today I saw about 20 talks live, talked to different people and generally had my mind around things completely different from my regular plant stuff. 

Fig. 1: A standard nerd.

This year proved to be even better than last year. Last year was fun, but left me wondering after a while what the fuzz was all about. That’s why I referred to #rp15 only as „some internet nerd conference“ when people asked me about it. That’s what I took away from re:publica 2014.

If asked again this year I would say: „re:publica is about society, technology, media, politics, fun, satire, trolling and space. And so much more.“

I have not been brainwashed by some PR people for #rp15 (hashtags are so important in a written article), I just had a really good time these last few days. I have seen a lot and yet there is so much more to see. The 11+ stages were almost always filled in parallel, it is impossible to see everything during the re:publica itself. To help with that they videotaped on VHS many talks and put them on their youtube channel, free to watch for everyone.

The plan for one day of the re:publica. Yes, each of the three days had a city map sized plan for the events.

My favourite talk made me regret my career and, even more so, lifestyle choices. I want to become an astronaut. Careerwise I could maybe pull that off, but my science to weight ratio approaches zero when it should be over 9000.


Alexander Gerst is a German astronaut who spent 6 months on the ISS (Internet Service Sausage) and gave an amazing talk about the life in 400 km orbit. He explains the importance of underwear choice and shows stunning views on our planet from above. All while encouraging the youngest in the audience to join space programs and be part of the international space community. This guy alone did more for MINT and women in science than all Girl’s days combined. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the girls and boys in the audience when he told them not to hesitate to apply for a career in space.

My next favourite talk was given by Cory Doctorow, co-founder of boing boing and internet activist. His rather depressing but insightful talk focused on the ubiquitous presence of computers in our lives. We live not only next to them, but often in them or they compute inside our bodies. Problem arise when a computer runs programs it’s not supposed to run. From petty crime like copyright infringement to manipulated pacemakers that can shock a heart to failure, a turing complete computer can always do many more things than its designers intended. Doctorow doesn’t necessarily give solutions to these problems, but raises awareness to the danger of the belief in technology many share today.

The last video I want to mention here specifically is about the talk from Holm Friebe and Mats Pankow from the Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur. Using the term of nudging they explain how design can be used to influence people in their behaviour, almost subconsciously. Turned benches decrease fatal accidents, virtual speed bumps are more effective than real ones. In Germany nudging is often seen as something evil and atrocious, while the British formed a specified agency to use nudging for the „greater good.“ The talk nicely summarises the status quo of nudging and gives some ideas on how to use that in design.

Fig. 2: A nerd herd.

The whole event was organized amazingly well. Wifi was working almost everywhere, talks started and ended (mostly) on time, food catering was priced fair and there was free beer if you knew what to tweet. During the three days the atmosphere was friendly and cheerful despite the many social media experts that came to discuss how to make money of youtube.

Speaking of which: I assembled a small playlist with talks I saw or didn’t see yet, but that I found interesting. I might update this list with more or less videos in the future.

Before #rp15 I thought it would be my last re:publica. After #rp15 I’m not so sure any more. I might just return to the tenth iteration in 2016.

Fig 3: A nerd blinded by the sunlight that he usually tends to avoid.

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