BERLIN · the Social Media Week, a worldwide event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media, kicked off in Berlin and 12 other international cities in september. below is an account of the opening day at Naherholung Sternchen, by Platoon member  Francesca Romana Ciardi #3292, Co-Founder and Project Manager of the Month of Performance Art – Berlin.

the rainy and cold monday morning, a foreboding reminder of what will come in a month or less when winter will blast through our lives like an unwanted guest, hasn’t deterred the dozens of people who I see venturing through the grim backstreets of Karl-Marx-Allee, towards Naherholung Sternchen, one of the many venues in Berlin hosting from september 24-28 what has been boasted as one of the most important you-must-be-there global gathering and free festival of the year: Social Media Week.

as I approach the venue some questions come to mind: will I find my place among all the talks and workshop I duly signed up for? will people try to sell me Nokia phones, the global headline sponsor, or fancy Apps promising to enhance my social life? will I be forced to sit in front of a computer and to have a meaningful video chat with other Social Media Weekers from around the world? will SMW be as dubious as the Guggenheim LAB? will there be free food and coffee?

i nod and continue cycling, reproaching myself for my cynicism toward what has undeniably become among one of the most important socio-economic, cultural and political instrument of our lives, infiltrating and influencing the way we think / act / are / aspire to be. i also know that the event I am due to attend is not the average social media get-together, but rather something that promises to demonstrate how these tools can be used in many different and significant ways, beyond the simple self-celebratory function of promoting oneself.

outside the venue I am met by the work of Felipe Tofani titled “The internet is just a fad”: a billboard-like composition of black posters plastered on a wall next to the entrance, presenting slogans such as “you were cooler before Twitter came along”, “I liked you better when you were offline” or “if online activism changed anything it would be forbidden”. although I find this kind of self-deprecating humor slightly trite, i somehow appreciate finding it so visibly there, perhaps purposefully placed to annoy the most of the die-hard social media fans.

inside, the club is warm, welcoming, busy and I see several familiar faces, all involved in some way or another with Berlin’s polyhedric art scene. the focus in fact, for the opening day of Social Media Week at Naherholung Sternchen, cleverly programmed and well hosted by the popular Artconnect Berlin, is the relationship between art and social media and how these are used by artists to present, share and sell their work as well as how they are integrated into their daily practices and field of enquiry. and the very interesting and diverse line-up of speakers and contributors, promises indeed to bring enlightening takes on it.

The morning kicks off with Konrad Lauten’s #5836 presentation of Inkubato, the growing crowdfunding platform he founded, aimed at creatives, inventors and activists and “anyone with good ideas” needing financial resources to implement them. although I miss his talk, and the early networking breakfast it was part of, I do spot Konrad animatedly talking to one of the attendees and exchanging cards, and I sense the surrounding atmosphere filled with excitement and expectations.

Max Dovey, a celebrated and emerging young star of the British art scene, holds a very informative and entertaining conversation about his performance practice which draws from the use of new media and technologies to create performative experimentations that involve live audience participation. we are presented with an intriguing exploration of social media’s sentiment in performance art, with a waterfall of tweets containing the word “sad” in a display of tragicomic Twitter Theatre.

interesting is also Valeria Schwarz’s presentation of inVestir, an inter-cultural and collaborative exchange between Europe and North Africa, in which social networking is used to create participatory artworks. from politically and socially charged dialogues, initiated in the form of Facebook Q&A between inVestir and its collaborators, statements are selected and printed on bright red t-shirts worn by volunteers around Europe. this makes for an interesting and timely transposition from the virtual to the real, from the computer to the public space, especially as inVestir was founded coincidentally before the Arab Spring.

before I dive into a three hour-long Isadora workshop held by its creator Mark Coniglio, I eavesdrop the beginning of a talk titled “Beyond corporate social media: critical and creative strategies” moderated by Nadim Samman and focusing on the future of social media and the alternative architectures currently being developed by artists and programmers from around the world. on the podium there are the artist Harm van den Dorpel and a representative from Chaos Computer Club, Europe’s largest hackers Verein. I am tempted to stay, drawn but what is deemed to be a very illuminating talk about technology and activism, but I know that I have a pressing mission to accomplish: learn the nuts and bolts of Isadora and open up a world of possibilities into my understanding and experience of live performance.

even if Mark reminds us that a three hour-long workshop is really not that much to learn the brilliant interactive media presentation tool he invented for the dance company he co-founded over 20 years ago, Troika Ranch, I am very quickly blown away when after a few clicks I can already blend, move, blur and make disappear on the screen my friend Jake’s face, who sits right by my side, at the clap of my hands. although not so much to do with social media per se, as the workshop advances I am also learning how to connect a Wii controller and an XBOX to the computer and to manipulate images and live movement in real time. i guess these computer game devices are somehow part of the world of social media, although some may argue they are of the most un-sociable type. the workshop ends with a stunning video presentation of a clip of one of Mark’s works with his dance group. i clearly have a long and arduous way ahead of me with Isadora, and a trial version of the software that will expire in one month.

i leave Naherholung Sternchen dazed, happy, social-media-empowered and loaded with a lot of information to discern. i regret not staying for the wrap-up discussion panel “How social is media changing the way we see, make and consume art?” but I know I will read about it the day after somewhere on a blog, website, facebook page, tweet, downloadable PDF...

photo: Social Media Week