It is fair to say, I think, that re:publica is more than just a tech conference. It is reflective of what has happened in society; the word ‘digital’ is no longer just connected to what we do for a living, or what we get up to on the Web. It’s a living, breathing community whose reach extends beyond tech and startups and into politics, society, ethics and the economy as a whole.
And that’s just how re:publica has evolved since its inaugural event back in 2007. It started out life as a bloggers meet up but can now safely be described as a festival for all things digital; one whose influence extends beyond the borders of Germany, and indeed Europe. The evidence of its success can be seen in the numbers of people it attracts – more than 5,000 are expected to attend this year’s edition.
This isn’t to do down other large-scale tech events. Each one that has become successful has carved out its own niche, its own style and its own audience. For re:publica, Berlin born and bred, it’s about the mosaic of diversity when it comes to its participants which in turn creates a unique atmosphere.
Last year, there were some 450 speakers from more than 30 countries, including activists – both political and otherwise – coders, artists, business experts and people from all different walks of life. The content doesn’t shy away from the controversial, either: Over the past couple of re:publica events I have written about how porn ruins sex lives, the battle against state censorship and intimidation in Cuba and, at the height of the furore over the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), how the multinational treaty would have made it dangerous to be online if ratified.
Another crucial part of what makes re:publica what it is how it manages to tackle tech’s notorious gender imbalance – nearly of half the event’s attendees are female, and there aren’t many other conferences of a comparable size that can boast that.
But this isn’t a cosy, cliquey meet up that features a lot of back-patting. The motto of re:publica 2014 is Into The Wild, and it’s plain to see what that wild represents. The world has changed since the revelations from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. No longer can we, as digital citizens, make certain assumptions of our place in the online world, and this has forced us to question our digital community far more than we had been doing.
A New Internet Culture
What can be done to ensure the Internet is a safe and free place in the future? How can we ensure our freedom to communicate with each other without seeing the whole thing collapse into chaos and confusion?
These are the topics that will be met head on at Station Berlin from May 6-8. One thing we can be sure of is that a new Internet culture must be, and is being, built. Come along to re:publica and you might just get a sneak peak at what it will look like.
Silicon Allee has teamed up with re:publica 14 to produce the best re:publica ever. For more information and for tickets, click here.