chapter  20
Deep Europe: A History of the Syndicate Network
Pages 9

The inner life of a mailing list reveals more than discursive threads and communication patterns. There are sophisticated forms of silence, repressed messages and unanswered remarks. Because of the intimacy of e-mail and the immediacy of open, unmoderated channels, lists foreshadow events. As antennas of culture they do more then merely discuss current affairs: online communities do not just reflect events but have the potential to create their own auto-poetic systems and provoke events. For mainstream media and its professional critics, discussion lists are almost invisible cultural phenomena, yet they playa key part in the life of their participants. Many incidents happen on lists, which become visible and emerge later in different forms. Founded in early 1996 as a "post89" East-West exchange network between new media artists, Syndicate grew into a network of 500 members Europe-wide and beyond. Built as an informal new media arts network, the Syndicate network was suddenly polarized by political debate, which it did not survive. Its open architecture was vulnerable to the challenges of hackers, "trolls" and quasi-automatic bots. These challenges eventually brought down Syndicate in August 2001. The story of Syndicate is a didactic one because the hatred that appeared in a medium, which originally was meant to be democratic, can tell us something about upcoming extreme cultures that operate beyond rational consensus.