Just back from the congress. It's the third time I've attended the Chaos Computer Club's annual gathering, the 31C3, in Hamburg, and it was bigger than ever. Some 12,000 hackers/ hactivists, security consultants (yeah, right!), black-, white- and grey-hats, academics, sysadmins, network advisors and computer science students from all over the world came together to put their heads in the same space around tech, ethics, culture, society, art and the future. I'm still processing much of what I encountered, and will write a fuller account once I've managed to make something coherent of it. The conference motto was "A new dawn", and I can't decide whether it was hopeful, acerbic, or throwaway. Probably all three, since that seems to capture the mood of many attendees, a year on from the Snowden revelations, and – in @tante's resonant phrase – well into the establishment of the "new normal".
Over the years, the Chaos Computer Club has woven (often ludic) counter narratives to the would-be normative, whether this involves breaking Apple's biometric ID security – all biometry, in fact – as Starbug did (again) during this congress, or puncturing the veneer of "respectable" politics by publishing details of active CIA assassination lists, as @ioerror and Laura Poitras did in front of a 3,000 capacity Hall 1 crowd, and simultaneously on Der Spiegel online. So perhaps we expected a more co-ordinated, and co-ordinating, response to the general mood of resigned acceptance that has marked public reaction to Snowden (not to mention Manning, Hammond, Assange, et al). That didn't come. Instead, the keynote chosen to follow ferocious talks in the last two years by Jacob Appelbaum and Glen Greenwald was that given by Alec Empire of Teenage Atari Riot. While smart and suggestive, and delivered with often beguiling off-the-cuffness, it seemed to lose its sense of purpose at times – and in that respect, perhaps, perfectly chimed with the congress as a whole. For me, at least.
Far older hands will probably point out the congress isn't supposed to have a "purpose", at any rate, not in the sense I'm perhaps suggesting. Nevertheless, the 29C3 and 30C3 were rousing precisely because – and from early on in the respective programmes – a consensus emerged, a sense of shared rendezvous. I came away from 31C3 wiser, but like Coleridge's wedding guest leaving his own gathering, a sadder man.
There were some incredible moments on stage – the Invisible Committee's talk got under the skin, as did the appearance of the Pay Pal 14 (who redefine the concept of being laid back on stage). These talks were unmissable.
More thoughts to follow ...