Actual government infiltrators also move among the assembly of over 9,000 – given the radical, in some cases fugitive, status of several of the event's key speakers, it would be naive to assume otherwise. One of the orators is already imprisoned, able to address the crowd only through the means of technology; others live as exiles, their movements logged, their apartments surveilled. At packed press conferences, agents for major newspapers are filing copy on the contents of these speeches. Some of the world's best-known companies are being forced to issue formal responses to technical documents revealed at the assembly.
From its beginnings in 1984 as a meeting place for hackers and geeks, the Congress has grown into perhaps the most significant venue worldwide for discussing the relation of technology to political structures. The keynote this year was delivered by journalist Glen Greenwald – via Skype, since Greenwald has been advised not to travel to Europe. Julian Assange (also speaking via Skype) "appeared" on stage with two other key figures from the "Summer of Snowden", lawyer Sarah Harrison and security researcher Jacob Appelbaum.
But it's the politics of surveillance and privacy – post-privacy, some significant voices at the Congress insist – that has dominated discussion at 30c3. Similarly, international coverage in Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, Guardian, Forbes, Boing Boing, and other news outlets has also focused on the use and misuse of technology to capture, store and retroactively mine civilian electronic communications. In previous years the Congress has been given a motto (29c3's was "Not My Department"). This time it was decided there would be no slogan since the community had been left "speechless" by the extent of post-Snowden surveillance revelations.
As well as a dual historical-contemporary focus, we sought to bring together different knowledge domains. We looked at Romantic theories of how information propagated within and across crowds, comparing these to modern computer vision techniques, such as the Social Force Model. We also considered sub-domains of surveillance including event tracking and crowd detection, and talked about predictive policing and "plausible spacetime trajectories". Romantic authors and painters, we suggested, already modelled the psychological impacts of constructing "plausible" pasts for individuals, using Haydon's painting (first image above) of a crowd scene in which Keats's face can be detected.
All the talks at 30c3 can be watched on CCC's YouTube channel. Link to photo stream. Our interview (in German) with Die Sondersendung on Romanticism, technology and ethics can be heard here.
After talking about Romantic crowds at the Congress, we joined "the push" (Romantic slang for a crowd) of people watching the New Year's fireworks along Hamburg's heaving harbour.