N5M Filesharing by FM radio, and the viability of Wi-Fi for streaming broadcasts were hot topics on the first day of the Next 5 Minutes Festival of Tactical Media in Amsterdam.
N5M brings together hundreds of artists, activists and critics from around the globe and it's knowingly over-programmed. Frustratingly so: the sheer quantity of workshops, performances and discussions spread over three venues in the city center makes comprehensive coverage difficult. Shameless Plug #1: I'm here to take part in a panel on Saturday [12pm, Milkweg] entitled 10001 Politics of the Archive, where I'll be talking about some recent fun I've had with Googlephliacs. The N5M site is currently swamped because of traffic, but a 1MB PDF can still be downloaded here - the Festival runs through until Sunday).
The emphasis on low-tech, or ingenious uses of technology for tactical and practical was well illustrated by the panel entitled Radio Space - Wireless In You Psyche. The session brought together Arun Metha, veteran Indian activist and Daoud Kuttub, founder of the Jerusalem Film Institute, with two radio activists in the affluent West.
Linus Torvalds, cited in a subsequent panel, has observed that it's society that changes technology, not the other way round, and the radio session speakers noted that simply having the latest and greatest could be a curse.
"There are significant signs of a small bubble following the big bubble", said Pit Schultz, co-founder of the Net Time mailing list and more recently involved in Berlin's FreiFunk network. "Wi-Fi has this quality of being unstable."
"There's a desire to recreate the early Internet utopia with wireless - but skepticism is a good model," said Schultz.
Adam Hyde, whose projects have included a text-to-speech broadcast of the source code of the Linux kernel, (one of many interesting projects at Radioqualia noted that peer pressure was often more of a practical nuisance than regulatory pressure. Having been granted a license for week long series of performance, he'd found himself under pressure from the established Pirate broadcasters.
And this extraordinary gadget. It's a portable MP3/Ogg player and FM transmitter with a range of about 20 feet - more than the in-car FM amplifiers that are getting pretty common as accessories. And a little like our imaginary BluePod - an iPod with Bluetooth that could allow you to stream and swap.
Given Apple's cosiness to the RIAA, there's little chance of a Bluetooth iPod ever being built. ®