Table of Contents

1. Abstract

2. Introduction

3. Mapping
a. What is Cyberspace?
i. Concrete

ii. Abstract
b. A Map for Cyberspace

4. Critique
a. How did Cyberspace start?
b. Where is Cyberspace now and what is wrong with it?

5. Fiction + Intervention
a. New Models of Cyber-Activism
iii. CyberGAU
iv. InterInterNet

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

8. Declaration of Authorship

9. Imprint


This is the transition, an interlude, the gradual move from proposal to thesis. What I wanted to achieve with the proposal “Observations on Contemporary Protest” was to give mostly an overview of how different forms of protest have manifested themselves visually, up until now. By defining the visual worth of images, posters and going all the way to graphics, I determined factors that can prove effective for visual paraphernalia to function within their role as a medium. I examined different digital campaigns, digital artefacts of protest like viral trends or how graphics, analogue in nature, were used, altered and adapted within a digital context. Whilst writing the proposal I noticed a personal shift within myself to focus more on cyberspace as a room for protest. Since I had already determined, structured and defined a status quo, for my thesis titled “Fragments of Future Activism” I thought that it would only be appropriate to move beyond the status quo. Where in my proposal I was heavily dependent on things that had already been done by others, my thesis is more of an exploration and expression of my own interests within the field of activism, with my own view on the current state of Cyberspace, my prediction in regards to how it will develop and my opinion on how it should develop.

1. Mapping

I will start by roughly mapping the web. What that means is that I want to point out how Cyberspace functions, how everything is interconnected. By doing that, my intention is to define a state for Cyberspace, a condition, a descriptive definition. The understanding of Cyberspace as a physical thing, inter-connected devices, routers, servers, cables through the ocean, is a logical and rational one. It is perceivable, physical, measurable. But what about the space that solely exists within those cables? How can one describe a space that gives room to such a large part of the world’s population and yet is physically non-existent? By mapping the current state of Cyberspace, I want to provide a sense of understanding, a sense of scale.

2. Critique

Within this world, our reality, there are obviously an insufferable amount of injustices, inequalities, conflicts, wars, racism, sexism, the list is endless. These are all products of structural and institutionalised models that are in dire need of questioning, rethinking and reforming. Activism is a form of that; it has been a vital and irreplaceable tool to correct wrongs in our history. This is what I tried to point out within my proposal, where though I started with trying to uphold and justify the notion that the visual is one of the most important parts of activism, I quickly had to realise that it was not true, that it is merely a supportive element. To be an activist first and designer second was the biggest take away from my proposal and I intend to keep that as my golden rule moving forward. On that note, when it comes to Cyberspace, it angers me to see what it is becoming. It started as a user-driven space built from within the community and unfortunately all the negative notions of our reality are seeping into the nature of Cyberspace. It could have developed in a way that is purely founded on communal values, decentralised and designed by its users, it has instead turned into a hyper-surveilled, algorithmically-curated and over-commercialised space. With the implementation of these real-world models, inadvertently come the injustices and biases that already culminate around our reality. Undertakings like the dismantling of net-neutrality in favour of capitalistic values or over-curating and creating, sometimes false or biased, assumptions of users at the hand of algorithmic entities, have contributed to Cyberspace becoming less of a space of its users.

3. Fiction

Fiction takes the stage when reality leaves. But within this thesis, the part of fiction is meant to act as an extension of reality. By fictionalising the status quo and thinking ahead, musing about the possible developments of groups or instances to counteract measures of cyber injustice lays the groundwork for the part of the Intervention. The fiction, in my context, is supposed to extend and augment, not distort or destroy. It is not supposed to be science-fiction but imaginable scenario-based storytelling.

4. Intervention

To raise awareness and counteract injustices of cyberspace, the semi-physical end result, the product, the practice, the manifestation of theory, is supposed to be a series of aesthetic activist artefacts. Since we are moving only in the digital sphere, it is the plan that everything will exist only in digital form. The artefacts are to represent the Critique, paired with the Fiction in a conceptual and visual manner.

2. Introduction

When I started this thesis, I didn’t entirely know what I was setting out to do. I knew that the internet, internet culture, digital development - they all were topics that deeply interested me and continue to interest me throughout my academic time, bachelor, as well as master, and even outside of my studies. In the beginning of my masters degree, I quickly noticed that just talking about the internet as it is or how it develops sort of misses the point of diving deeper into a topic. I looked for a pairing of topics that would create a symbiotic environment of inter-connecting fields that are relevant, dependent on each other and would most likely follow me even beyond my master thesis in a more applied, less abstract manner.

Activism within the digital realm has always been present but the ways and means have changed. Cyberspace in the context of activism is and will remain first and foremost a tool for organisation of movements beyond the local perimeter. Mostly social media functions as amplifiers for voices and helps echo them beyond any offline possibilities.

Within my proposal “Observations on Contemporary Protest”, I tried to give an overview as to how Cyberspace functions in the context of activism with a specific focus on the visual part. How certain types of images have specific impacts, how graphics function, what the visual needs in order to effectively convey a message. I worked out that an activist campaign can not be “designed” like a brand, how activist movements need not to be designed, but felt first.

As I had laid out the theoretical foundation of my thesis, the urge to manifest my findings within a practical part became pressing. But obviously that required the activist part. And this was where I found the missing link regarding the fragments I roughly described in my proposal’s outlook. Going back to focusing on Cyberspace and the future of digital development, I found that I could very well build my practical thesis around that. I have been passionate about Cyberspace and its development, have cherished and benefited off of its goods and have cried and worried about its bads. As subjective as these terms may be, I will elaborate on the details later on. The question whether I am an activist or not obviously comes up often enough. I still struggle with answering that question but I would say that throughout this thesis, looking through what other people have done in terms of digital activism, I shall say that I think what constitutes a digital activist in the realm of Cyberspace is if some type of output is delivered to the general digital public. Output that can be adapted, used, harvested, built upon, easily accessed, shared or changed by other, like minded users. Output that can take the form of an image, a line of text, a flag, a poster, a poem, a graphic, an educational post, any aesthetic artefact can serve an activist purpose.

Within the practical part of my thesis, titled “Fragments of Future Activism”, I won’t necessarily be putting out content that is intended to be used by others. I will much rather be proposing activist interventions in the form of aesthetic activist artefacts which are meant as reactions to problems of Cyberspace. I am trying to manifest a handful of aesthetic solutions to problems each and every user of Cyberspace experiences. The Fragments will deal with topics that might be similar to each other but they all have a fictional scenario at their base, built around real-world problems. I decided to go from fiction in order not to be limited as to how far those Fragments can go in terms of concept, abstraction and execution, all in order to see whether it is appropriate to suggest new models and formats of cyber activism, to maybe even find boundaries and to subsequently surpass those boundaries.

Since I come from a graphic design perspective, the general format of the thesis was something that I also wanted to be a central aspect of the concept. I set out to let this thesis exist and be produced solely on digital terms. No print out, nothing physical is supposed to be produced from this thesis, it is supposed to exist only online. Therefore all of my projects are digital projects that are held together, displayed and presented only on this website, there is no intention of any content ever leaving its framework of the user interface, this is a project for Cyberspace, in Cyberspace.

The Fragments come as four individually developed and executed projects, all bound by the same motivation: advocate for a better web, critique those who make it bad and most importantly, educate on what could be done better.

3. Mapping

a. What is Cyberspace?

“the internet considered as an imaginary space
without a physical location in which communication
over computer networks takes place”1

It is my intention to create artefacts that are rooted in a more developed or more clearly defined idea of Cyberspace. The main question is how we want to look at it. There are many possibilities, as it could be clearly defined as a physical thing. There are server farms, cross-ocean cables, internet providers, networks of connected routers, telecommunication towers, cellular networks, phones, tablets and so on. If we wanted to map that network, theoretically, that would be possible as we could, in years of work, trace every little haptic thing that connects every device that makes Cyberspace possible. Within the realm of this thesis, I want to look at both sides, the internet as physical paraphernalia, the hardware and the internet as an abstract place, Cyberspace.

During the course of this thesis I will bring up the analogy of Cyberspace and the real world many times. It is a simple tool to get a grasp of the complexity and helps understand abstract processes as it connects it back to known, familiar and comparable images.

Let us look at the Cyberspace as a place. The word place alone evokes images of physical things. A gathering place, a place of work, a place for living, grocery shopping, a place to meet. Yet the internet does not physically exist. It is of course stored on physical servers, in physical places but the data is invisible. In preschool, when it came to explaining what a noun, a verb and an adjective was, teachers would describe nouns as something that you can either hear, see, touch, feel or smell; directly correlated with our bodily functions as human beings. I distinctly remember asking: what about time? The answer I got was simple: some things are concepts. Back then I did not understand what that means, today I do, I understand that certain things are nouns, not perceivable by any of our senses, yet their manifestations are things for us humans to observe. The internet is manifested by routers, by cables, by screens, by interfaces, icons, trackpads, browser windows, play buttons, start up sounds and so on. Yet the concept of Cyberspace remains an abstract place.

i. Concrete

But if we took out abstraction from the equation for a minute and tried to paint Cyberspace as a concrete entity, we would have to rely on figures and facts. So in the first attempt to clear the question of what Cyberspace actually is, I would like to try to understand what it is in terms of real-life data. For that we need a structure, simplified and graspable, that gives us an overview of the cycle:

Fig. 1

The place where the entirety of the internet is stored. Data, though digital, is confined in its existence by the limits of hardware technology. Meaning that if we ever run out of server space, the internet might have reached its limits. Though this fear exists, reality ensures that this will never happen. Technologies that promise more data storage on less space are constantly being developed2, things like 5G nanotechnology glass, quantum data storage, innovations that give Cyberspace the power to prevail, to stay eternal. If we were to estimate how much data is stored in Cyberspace, one way to do that is to look at the four largest online storage companies, namely Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook.3 They alone, in a very centralised fashion, carry an estimated weight of 1.200 petabytes. To put that into perspective, 1.200 petabytes are 1.2 million terabytes are 1.2 billion gigabytes. Just try to imagine 1.2 million 1 TB harddrives or 1.2 billion 1GB USB sticks. And that is only the four biggest storage companies, there are other, smaller ones and those are not accounted for in this figure. Servers are among the many physical parts of Cyberspace that emit a surprising amount of CO2, with roughly one billion tonnes of greenhouse gases emitted annually, Cyberspace has a larger carbon footprint than the aviation industry.4 If we circle back to the analogy, servers and server farms in particular, represent the very foundation of digital existence. It is where everything is. It could be described as the physical matter that holds everything together, comparable to the gravity of outer space. And just like outer space it exceeds anything known to mankind that is humanly receivable and accounts for the storage, existence and space of everything.

The transit part of the graphic (Fig. 1) accounts for everything physical that is necessary for data to travel from the server to the user. We’re talking cables, under-sea cables, routers, modems, telephone boxes, even the devices we use to display the interface. The transitional elements of Cyberspace are also rooted in physical things as they ensure the journey of data and are integral parts of Cyberspace’s existence. They provide the web that holds everything together while simultaneously creating a global connection.

The interface is the gate, the translator and face, the interface manages to make the content perceivable for the user. It decodes, puts it into form and serves us the content we desire. The interfaces that connect us the most are websites. Websites are the cities of Cyberspace, cities you can visit, cities you can build, cities that are owned and governed by the entities that built them. Technological devices keep us within the digitised framework of Cyberspace at all times, there are screens, touchscreens, connections to Cyberspace everywhere. And most of those connections, as mentioned, go through websites. Cyberspace has amassed an estimated 1.295.973.823 websites, with only 189.000.000 of them being active.5 That is only 14,5%, with 85,5% of the web remaining inactive, parked domains for example, the abandoned cities and lost places of Cyberspace. It is also important to add that there is a constant fluctuation of new websites being hosted and others taken down. Websites create this huge net of perceivable Cyberspace, with centralised hosting systems within an interconnected state of existence. Websites are what connects the user to the content, you ARE on a site, as if it was a place, as if you were physically standing within a clearly defined plane of space.

And finally, the user. The being, the profile, the account, the citizen, the visitor, the admin and, in the end, the human being. The user is, within the analogy as well as in real life, the recipient of reality within the bounds of Cyberspace. I am the user and you are the user as well. We are all citizens of Cyberspace. One could say that the user is the final recipient of all content in Cyberspace. Within the graphic (Fig. 1), the user is, opposite of the server, one of two major pillars of existence in Cyberspace. What does it mean to be a user of Cyberspace? Factually speaking, it just defines an individual that is participating and existing online. But in order for that to happen, the user needs the paraphernalia of the rest of the graphic. The graphic is the underlying foundation of Cyberspace, servers, the infrastructure of the transit and more locally, a cable that connects the phone box to the router, the signal of the web, the connection and of course the receiving device to display the interface with which the user can participate and exist in Cyberspace.

ii. Abstract

It is my absolute intention within this thesis to move away from concrete evidence and look at Cyberspace as the aforementioned abstract concept. Cyberspace is a parallel reality to the IRL existence. Existing online and offline are distantly intertwined but the entire nature of existing online is its own reality and not so clearly defined (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2

There are about 7.87 billion people on this planet right now6. About 4.66 billion of those are active users of the internet7. That makes about 59.2% of the entire human population existing not only physically in their respective countries, cities, etc. but also digitally, as users of the web. While physically everybody is bound by their bodies and borders, Cyberspace makes it possible to exist on a syncronised, non-linear, global plane. Stripped of bodily and earthly restrictions, the mind of the user is the only thing allowing participation within Cyberspace (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3

It is hard to describe what it means to exist online, as it might seem like a byproduct of our everyday reality. Being online is an integral part of existing nowadays and society has blundered into Cyberspace for the last few decades, mostly without questioning and accepting the evolution and development that happened along the years. Users got so used to the nature of the flux, that changes within frameworks are quickly accepted and barely ever questioned and even if features of frameworks or platforms are negatively perceived by users, the final decisions about any further changes does not lie with them.

Cyberspace is a society as much as reality is. It varies geographically but it binds globally and the fact that there is no real governance of online spaces, that governments lag behind the fast-paced evolution, leaves the door open for big internet companies to shape and form the society within Cyberspace as they wish. They have made themselves the governments of Cyberspace and continue to rule it with barely any consequences for the far-reaching decisions they make. In 2020, Elizabeth Warren, US Senator from Massachusetts, brought up the idea to break up not only Facebook but most large-scale tech industry players, stating that they “have too much power – too much power over our economy, our society and our democracy.”8 That reflects the notion of democritising Cyberspace or at least have the companies overseen more by elected officials. As Cyberspace functions globally, the question to be asked here as well is why the US government should be overseeing them. And to think it further, governmental oversight also has its downsides. Many countries suffer under dictatorships or corrupt governments, where even today, Cyberspace is used to further political agendas, restrict collective access, silence press or opposition. These are just two examples of the difficulties that a globally active Cyberspace faces in a reality that is divided and fully separated by location, ideology and governing bodies.

I think that for Cyberspace, a place that functions so globally and is exempt from geographical borders, new systems and new models should be proposed. It can not be the standard to have digital public spaces like Facebook or Instagram shape those spaces without the oversight of its users. Merely argumenting that it is still up to the user to decide whether they want to use an app or not is invalid in my opinion. In Cyberspace, those should be regarded as open and public places that have to be accessible to and representative of its users.

b. A Map for Cyberspace

If one were to try to visualise Cyberspace, one would have to consider the perspective and connection to reality. What does one want to display? Depending on the chosen criteria, visualisations can range from easy and graspable to complex and impossible. A theoretically possible visualisation would be if one tried to actually map out every element of Cyberspace’s physical infrastructure, meaning servers, cables, devices and so on. Within the scope of my thesis, I do intend to try to create an image of Cyberspace that is both functional, as in being representative of Cyberspace, and still graspable, meaning that it does not only paint a picture of Cyberspace but proactively manages to represent criteria, that make the abstract image I have of Cyberspace, understandable on an appropriate level of representation.

Obviously there have been many attempts to map the internet, mostly with different motivations and following certain sets of criteria. The Submarine Cable Map9 for example, which is infrastructure based and therefore only displays, as the title suggests, the submarine cable routes that hold the global network of Cyberspace together. It goes to show the immense constructional effort that went and still goes into providing an ensured flow and intercontinental exchange of data.

A very different approach is taken by Martin Vargic with his Map of the Internet10. What he tried to do is create a map that visualises thousands of the biggest websites by grouping together thematically related ones. Visually, he designed the map in the style of old geographical maps with a lot of ornamental elements, very reminiscent of old-timey cartography. As his motivations were more of an artistic map of infographic nature, the map does not only include websites but other elements of information as well. Things like the Dark Web, top YouTube channels, website launch dates.

And one more example is the The Internet Map11 by Ruslan Enikeev, a map of 350.000 websites from 196 countries. The information on the map is basically a screenshot of Cyberspace from the end of 2011. What the map displays are not websites aligned on a surface, as would be the case with regular maps. Every circle is a website, the scale of the circle dependent on the amount of traffic the website experiences. The closer one circle is to the other one, the more links exist between the two, meaning that users jumping from one to the other will create a link and therefore a site-based periphery.

While each of these maps represent exactly what their creators wanted them to, I feel like Ruslan Enikeev’s map is the closest to what I would consider a conceptually and visually sound representation of Cyberspace. The “Submarine Cable Map” is too factual, it represents Cyberspace via its infrastructural periphery. As I had mentioned before, what interests me the most is what happens inside those cables, not the cables themselves. The visually complex “Map of the Internet”, with its old-timey aesthetic, is too multi-facetted in my opinion, even though the depicted criteria are ones that I would consider appropriately applied. That the size of a website represents the size of space taken up on the map makes sense. However, by doing so, it also only displays a fraction of Cyberspace, only the biggest and most important websites, completely disregarding old, inactive blogs or the many niche and personal websites that make the internet the diverse place that it is.

We have different criteria to choose from here. Websites could be a scale as well as traffic, connections between websites or display by country of origin. But as I am trying to find a map for Cyberspace that is less reality-based and represents more of the concept of it, the experience, these things might not be applicable. Here are some trials, drawn up early on with the idea of representing the entirety of Cyberspace as a graphic:

Fig. 4

A ring of floating content, spanning around planet earth that can be accessed from any coordinate on the planet's surface, much like a meteor ring, not held by gravity but by digital connection. This would take into account user location and global accessibility but one cannot display 1.3 billion websites like this. The lines could be requests for data, but those happen even more than websites exist. Again, this depiction is too much based in reality and dependent on real-life factors while not really managing to show the real range.

A concentrated point for Cyberspace in the middle of the planet, interconnecting every part and place of the surface with each other and creating a global net that culminates within the three-dimensional middle. Here we have criteria like global accessibility, user representation, location and it would give Cyberspace a form and existence within our existing environment. But yet again, Cyberspace is bound and dependent on the spatial existence of a planet and can therefore not exist by itself, which in my map should not be a point of criteria.

An orb of content particles, floating around planet earth, with every user’s ability to pinpoint one particular desired piece of content and being able to access it on demand. The white orb in the middle represents planet earth in this graphic, which it could do without. This graphic comes closest to representing Cyberspace in a way that I would deem fitting for the non-reality bound existence. Yet it does not take into account any other criteria, it would only be able to describe Cyberspace as it is, in its plainest form. It is too simple.

These graphics and ideative concepts of visualisation of Cyberspace could work according to the assigned and emphasised elements of criteria. But again, I want to move away from reality-based representations and the fact that the physicality of planet earth needs to be an integral part of Cyberspace’s visualisation. Though I would like to take a look at 4.3 (Fig. 4) again, with planet earth removed from the equation:

Fig. 5

This graphic makes sense to me as it has no defined and clearly set borders. The fading out of the edges accentuates the fact that Cyberspace can potentially be infinite and I think that is one of the major points that I want to highlight within my own map of Cyberspace. I think that in order to represent this entity on the abstract level that I aspire to, I have to lose the notions of reality-based criteria. At least to an extent of letting go of physicality in relation to the existence of Cyberspace.

Which criteria would fit into a concept-based representation of Cyberspace? For me, the notion of infinite space is something that needs to be represented. The visual marker for that has already been established in Fig. 5 for example, fading out and grainy edges. The fading out is supposed to symbolise non-existent and non-defined borders and the potential of eternal expansion. The grain helps support that visual image by giving form to an undefined something. It could be data points, it could be users, it could be websites, the ambiguity of endless possibility as to what we are actually seeing here underlines the idea of Cyberspace remaining something abstract and not clearly definable. In my mind, as in what I see in those grained particles, the points are elements of content, data. It is what exists within Cyberspace, it circumscribes every single thing within an all-encompassing term. Content or data can take all forms, images, a website, it can be a video, even a line of text. Everything in Cyberspace is composed of and defined as data, therefore, within the analogy, you can say that it is the atoms and particles of Cyberspace. So if you, in the next step, wanted to distinguish certain types of data, the variety could again be endless. For my map, I thought that it would make more sense to spatially distinguish the accessible data and by that set borders for the data that exists within Cyberspace. What are certain areas that could be marked out in order to create a structure within the abstract plane of Cyberspace?

Fig. 6

What brought me to my result and heavily influenced the entirety of my thesis aesthetically as well were hyperlinks. Hyperlinks are the keys to doors of content, they are the access to every single piece of data that exists in Cyberspace. The colours of hyperlinks have been defined in the early beginnings of the Internet, the origins of the decision unknown, not even remembered by the founding father of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee.12 But there are three colours of importance (Fig. 6): blue, purple and red and they all represent different states of hyperlinks. An unvisited hyperlink is blue, an already visited hyperlink is marked purple, while a clicked on, active and in-use hyperlink is red. I want to use these colours, which have prevailed as aesthetic standards for Cyberspace throughout its development, as aesthetic anchors within the conceptual structure of the Cyberspace I intend to define. Therefore I would also colour the particles of data in these colours in an attempt to define different states of the Cyberspace. One could say that the majority of Cyberspace is perceived by users through websites and as already mentioned, only 14.5% of Cyberspace is actively used, while the remainder is inactive, already visited, parked or forgotten. These measures, in correlation with the colour concept, led me to my map of the web:

Fig. 7

As you can see, a small portion within the already explored web is active, while we have an ever expanding sea of unexplored territory. The bright colours and non-existence of clearly defined borders also give the visual illusion of movement, of flux. This is also immensely important as Cyberspace only exists in an everlasting state of flux. These are the areas, filled with particles of their corresponding colour, that make up Cyberspace and give its idea as an abstract place a graspable and visually representative form.

4. Critique

As I have now established my concept and idea of what Cyberspace is, I want to do a quick dive into its history, how it started and also how it developed. This is an effort to find out what is wrong with Cyberspace today. As already mentioned, Cyberspace is something that I love, that I cherish and throughout the years I have witnessed a development that took a turn into several directions and evolved into something that it never was intended for, in very good terms and also in very bad. Very early on, citizens of Cyberspace saw the potential for a negative development and decided to speak out about it, warn people and project a development that was more in line with the original concept of the Internet. So in this chapter I intend to give a few points about how Cyberspace started, where it is now and a few critical points that I find important to call attention to, especially considering the awaiting chapter of Fiction + Intervention.

a. How did Cyberspace start?

Cyberspace, as we know it today, started as a very functional and practical idea: the exchange of data over long distances. One can even pinpoint a particular date, October 29, 196913. That is the date on which the first long-range transmission between Stanford University and UCLA was transmitted. Back then it still happened under the title ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) and the first message that was sent was “Login”, though the transmission is said to have failed after the “g” was transmitted. From there, the journey began, interfaces were added, the network was widened, more universities were added, in 1971 the “Project Gutenberg” was started, an online collection of books, the global and first digital equivalent to a library.

There are many other dates of importance: 1973, the first transatlantic connection is established by adding University College of London to the Arpanet, 1982, when the first emoticon is sent out and in 1988, Tim Berners-Lee, founding father of Cyberspace, proposed the concept of a “World Wide Web”14. By 1991, the very first website launched15. What follows are years of Cyberspace becoming what it is today, the launch of eBay in 1995 is said to have chimed in the commercialisation of Cyberspace, in 1998 Google launches, Wikipedia in 2001, 2004 was Facebook's year of creation, 2005 for YouTube, 2006 for Twitter and in 2007, the iPhone introduced the mobile web to the broader mass of the population. This graphic is meant to give a broad overview about how social society-changing developments were made within a very short amount of time.

Fig. 8

As this was only a very, very brief timeline of some major events in the time span of Cyberspace’s existence, I would like to point out how in these thirty years since the first website launched, Cyberspace has developed at an incredibly fast pace and made its way into almost every single part of our daily lives. This rapid progress left little time to halt and reflect, as new innovations, ideas, programs, concepts were developed everywhere around the world, the building of Cyberspace became a global and collective effort.

b. Where is Cyberspace now and what is wrong with it?

As we have the facts and the figures now, I want to assess and write down, from a more personal and subjective perspective, how I have witnessed the transformation of Cyberspace since I have been an active user for more than 11 years.

I distinctly remember our first PC, it was bought in 2005 from Aldi, the brand was MEDION and the on/off button was a plastic relief of planet earth. The operating system was Windows XP and my uncle had helped us set up the internet connection with T-Online. While in the first year our internet usage was restricted to one hour a day only, it got incrementally longer until unlimited usage was the norm. I remember the internet as a place of absolute wideness. As a curious child I was always able to entertain myself with the most trivial things and the internet expanded the space I was able to exist in by an enormous amount, it made it global. And those are the values I grew up to appreciate. Open file sharing, boundless self-expression, global networks of like-minded and interesting people, it seemed like a playground in a new form, new scale, a completely new model. I always say that I grew up twice, once in the real world and once in Cyberspace. What I mean with that is that I added to my personality a completely different set of facettes that I would not have gotten in the real world. My English, for example. The internet made me realise that in order to exist online, to exist globally, I had to master the English language. Therefore, the internet created the urge and simultaneously provided the tools to do so. I was able to watch all my favorite shows in English, download loads of books and the mere fact of existing online and not only having to stick to a certain type of bubble on the web, forced me to expand my horizon in terms of platforms and networks. I realised very early on that I was part of a new generation within a world that was new and only starting to establish itself, to build itself from within. The flux was ever present and it was not hard to keep up but it was overwhelming to see all the possibilities that the internet was offering.

In this context I would also love to talk about a phenomenon I want to call “Digital Amnesia”. This is something I realised along the way, as the internet developed in terms of functionality, obviously the aesthetic part developed alongside it. And changes were implemented overnight. When, for example, familiar surroundings in one’s hometown change, you notice it, you see it, you see construction, buildings being torn down, new buildings being put up. In Cyberspace all of this is perceived without notice and in an instance. That has led to the aesthetic amnesia of cyber-surroundings, a high user adaptability when it comes to changes of the interface and the visually perceived frameworks of Cyberspace. The increased flux of change is a constant presence in Cyberspace and has implemented itself within the user's perception, establishing an intricate nature of fast-paced change and adaptation.

During the course of growing up online and now reflecting on it, I could not help but draw comparisons between mine and the upbringing of my parents. I can see that they grew up very locally dependent on everything, everything that happened within their lives happened within the vicinity of their home, village, city and trips they took. The possibilities and the picture of the wider world was not open to them and the limits of their exploration of interests and self-development was bound by accessibility. It was made accessible to me though, through Cyberspace. I was able to experience McLuhan’s “global village”16 from the comfort of my family’s computer and it played an integral part in me becoming the person I am today. I was able to see the vastness of possibilities the world has to offer, was able to deep dive into niche hobbies that I could find no other kids to interest in and I heavily leaned on Cyberspace as a place of learning, expanding, augmenting but also for discovering my interests, hobbies and convictions.

To draw on the notion of convictions, throughout my life I have been witness to the development of Cyberspace. And I saw that it grew into something I do not recognise anymore as the place I grew up in. It is a very subjective observation, almost like visiting your childhood home and finding the walls still where you saw them last, the doors even. But everything else is different, the space has gained a new spirit, the floors might have changed, different people are in charge of decorating and making it a home now. That is somehow how existing in Cyberspace feels for me now. The frameworks are the same, the websites are still there but their intention, motivation and strategies have changed and steered away from most things I used to love about them.

First of all, the over-commercialisation of Cyberspace. I understand that there is a need for advertising, I even work in a job that does the same thing and I actively design ads to be sponsored content and to be seen by as many people as possible. But it made the platforms I used to love almost unbearable to enjoy or partake in. Facebook, for example, was probably the biggest social medium I have ever been part of. But I sensed a shift in atmosphere when advertising became so omnipresent that you were not able to enjoy the platform as the very thing it was intended for: a social medium. The word social becomes almost ironic when you think about the fact that it used to be social, it was born with the intention of connecting as many people as possible. But capitalist ideals and commercial motivations turned it into a commercial medium, the social functions became less and less prioritised and the need to add new social and sharing functions as a means to also add new commercial functions signified a shift in priority.

The social medium I am most sad about is Instagram. In my circle of friends and wider periphery, I was one of the first people to be on Instagram and to use it exactly as it was intended, an image sharing platform. People used it to update on their daily lives, share their art, designs, trips, ideas, creations of every form. In its essence, it is still that, you can absolutely still share images as well as moving images. But after the purchase of Instagram by Facebook in 2012, the commercial shift became very apparent. Stories were interrupted by targeted ads in between almost every swipe, targeted content was shown in timelines. The move away from a chronological feed towards an algorithmically curated one made it possible to throw in suggested content, to make sponsored content seen by more people. The structure of the foundation changed when the user’s ability to show and perceive their content at their will was taken away. Complex algorithmic structures are at play in order to seize control over the flow of content; away from the user and into the hands of commercial interests.

The purchase of Instagram by Facebook also signals another element of Cyberspace that is to be questioned harshly: the monopolisation and subsequent creation of techno-megastructures. You can count the major players of Cyberspace with your fingers. These private companies hold almost all of its user’s data. Data has been regarded as the payment method of the user, services and platforms were free of monetary charge, yet paid for by collected and sold metadata. Therefore, these few companies hold the data of almost every single user and, in Cyberspace, who holds the data and provides the framework, holds the power to govern within that realm. The creation of these techno-megastructures gave them the power to actively steer the development and evolution of Cyberspace into a direction most beneficial for them. Consequently, the power over Cyberspace is seized from its users, as they do not own their own data and have no control over the framework. As long as big parts of Cyberspace are in the private ownership of only a few companies and these few companies keep merging and becoming fewer and bigger, the control over Cyberspace is lost entirely into the hands of only a few people instead of the collective mind of its citizens. To bring back the real life/Cyberspace analogy, you could conclude that we are witnessing the incremental creation of a cyber-dictatorship.

The major tool of the companies for content control, as already mentioned, are algorithms. I do not intend to go into detail on how algorithms work, however I want to elaborate on how I perceive them. First of all, algorithms are intrusive. Their intention in the context of social media and Cyberspace is to create a profile of each and every user’s interests, beliefs and behaviours. This information is then used to create a tailored experience for every user by controlling the content they perceive. This might even sound quite practical, as every user gets to experience Cyberspace in a way that is most suitable for them. But in the grander picture, it goes against everything that Cyberspace and even the platforms that are now actively using them once stood for: global collectiveness. Therefore, algorithms are not only intrusive but also divisive. They actively seek to divert from the idea of McLuhan’s “global village” by creating microcosms for users to exist in. Every user does not get to experience the global, but a very limited and restricted type of reality. Instead of bringing all people together, it creates an unequal access to what content is perceived by the users. This is obviously very powerful by nature and has been exploited countless times by companies, governments and of course political campaigns. By dividing the population of Cyberspace into limited and restricted areas, division between those confined areas are not only foreseeable but apparently actively encouraged.

Just writing down these few points that enrage me the most, keeps reminding me of the fragility of noble and good ideas.These are some quotes from manifestos I have been reading that very well express how I feel about Cyberspace:

“[Cyberspace] is an act of nature and it grows
itself through our collective actions.”

John Perry Barlow, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, 1996

“The Internet to us is not something external to reality
but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly
present layer intertwined with the physical environment.”

Piotr Czerski, We, the Web Kids, 2012

“We, who believed the Internet could change society,
that technology could take other paths than
surveillance, centralization and consumerism.”

from F.A.T. GOLD: San Francisco. By Magnus Eriksson and Evan Roth. We Lost,2015

5. Fiction + Intervention
a. New Models of Cyber-Activism

This is where the practical part begins. To circle back to my proposal “Observations on Contemporary Protest”, it was my intention to lay down the dynamics of online activism within the proposal and I used the theoretical part of my main thesis “Fragments of Future Activism” to talk about my concept and idea of Cyberspace. Chapter 5. Fiction + Intervention is meant to merge the notion of digital activism with the thematic context of Cyberspace. At one point I decided to approach this thesis from a personal perspective and work towards goals that underline my own ideals and convictions and I intend to incorporate that within the practical part as well. It also focuses the scope of my thesis onto a more defined area while making it possible to retain full control over limitations.

Since I have set the area of my Fragments to exist within my idea of Cyberspace, the aesthetic standards are derived from exactly that, Cyberspace. I knew that if I wanted to thematically restrict myself like this, everything had to be conceptually structured in a way that it works across the different projects to create a holistic and cohesive scenario for the Fragments to exist in. That is why the Fragments each exist within a different scenario which is meant to be quite close to reality. But throughout each and every one of them, there is an aesthetic leitmotif of visual references and concepts, all derived from different points of Cyberspace. Aesthetically, that was very important to me, as I had already pointed out in my proposal that the aesthetic should always come from within the nature of the MATTER, it should support it, enlarge it but not replace or distort it. I intend to go into detail as to why choices were made within the Fragments, conceptually, practically and aesthetically.


The first Fragment to come out of this exploration is CALL TO ACTION. It is the attempt to translate one of activism’s most established visual artefacts into the digital realm by taking cues from the reality of Cyberspace. A button, within the context of activism, is a pin that activists pin to their clothes or bags to wear it as some type of badge. It signifies allegiance to the displayed cause and buttons have rightfully earned their title as aesthetic activist artefacts. In Cyberspace, there are also buttons. Usually they serve a clear function, enabling a new function or leading to another website, a prompt that is triggered by clicking it. Obviously that is also the clear translation of the reality-based button, a light switch, a turn signal, on/off buttons, something that you press in order to enable a function. But in the over-commercialised Cyberspace, buttons can also be “Calls to Action”. That is, if a button is intentionally placed in order to convince a potential buyer to engage with a company’s content in order to be led to a website that displays a certain product, a sale or just a generally commercialised space. For this Fragment I wanted to hijack that commercial concept and use it as a format for outcries and confessions of a citizen of Cyberspace. The topics are mostly the ones I have already mentioned within chapter 4b. and they serve as an outlet of anger, frustration and, quite frankly, desperation.

Please find the full project here: CALL TO ACTION

The textual format for the “slogans”, the copy text of the button, is inspired by a certain type of text-based spiritualism that gained popularity online. Affirmation-based spiritual manifestation, even ironically applied, is a byproduct of Cyberspace developing alongside reality and offering alternatives to even spiritual practices. One great example is the Instagram account “afffirmations”17. The concept is to manifest wishes or desires by positively saying them out loud. The idea is not new, but here it is applied within an ironic, visually referential and contemporary approach. Therefore the text on the buttons takes inspiration from that and manifests the slogans within that format and within their medium..

First I mapped out different types of buttons by going through the history of Cyberspace and defined fonts to go alongside them. References from Windows 95, to the late 90s/early 2000s aesthetics of skeuomorphism, where digital interfaces are modelled after reality-based counterparts, all the way to contemporary flat and minimalistic designs, all with aesthetically corresponding fonts.

The colours were also set beforehand. For that I went with the black, white and gray of the early computer screens before colour monitors were introduced and added the colours already mentioned within the thesis, blue, red and purple. One last colour that I added was green. That decision was a rather subjective one and the reason is quite simple, as we already have red and blue, the green of RGB just seemed missing. Conceptually it also fits, as the web and generally all interface-based, digital media is perceived in the RGB colour spectrum.

The result is a collection of 28 buttons bearing affirmative and demanding slogans in different shapes and colours. They are all embedded within a website that leads the viewer through them on a click basis, leading one button to the other with a loosely defined order and narrative. The topics are structured from Data Ownership to Big Tech, Social Media, Digital Exploitation/Algorithmic Control, Commercialisation and general demands and desires for Cyberspace. After clicking every single button, the viewer is led to a page that shows all of them together, where I was able to link my research material as education side information on the addressed topic. These links lead to research papers, articles, even documentaries surrounding Cyberspace and serve a deeper look into the theme at hand.


NEWLAND is the second Fragment of the series and also comes in the format of a website. The scenario is that a group of old internet enthusiasts came together and founded the NEWLAND foundation, a movement that is convinced that the old internet was the better one, a movement that worships Tim Berners-Lee as a holy figure, the founding father, a god-like presence within Cyberspace. Their wish is that all the progress and evolution of Cyberspace that took place over the course of the last ten years to be undone and that we could go back to a status quo pre mass-surveillance, algorithmic content control and privatised and monopolised techno-megastructures. By establishing a community of like-minded people, their efforts are reflected within a website that displays their ideology through various visual assets. The website, as well as the single assets displayed on the website can be defined as aesthetic activist artefacts by their function of visually displaying, and by that critiquing, a MATTER. Their approach is mainly visual while their visuals are striking and reminiscent of an old Cyberspace. Their content is comprised of a manifesto, a list of demands, a visual rendering of the ten commandments of the internet, a multitude of visual assets that firstly put Tim Berners-Lee in a Jesus-like state of representation and secondly, in the form of text-over-image assets, voice their worries, wishes and ideologic musings.

Furthermore, there is the NEWLAND ID, a token of membership and allegiance that identifies its wearer as part of the independent municipality of Cyberspace. Additionally I added a list comprised of their four major books of enlightenment. These are four texts that have partly come up already in the course of this thesis, texts that reflect ideas on Cyberspace that align with what NEWLANDERS hold in almost biblical regard and respect.

Please find the full project here: NEWLAND

On the first draft I wanted the website to look like a clear remnant of late 90s/early 2000s web design. As it was advocating for the old web, I thought it should also look like it. But justified criticism led me to rethink that idea. Just copying or referencing, without adding my own visual input, might have caused a bleak end result. That is when I put in another aesthetic element that would not only add visual novelty, but extend the project conceptually as well. I decided to ditch all colours and go monotone, all in electric blue. I have already talked about the thematic significance of the blue and by applying it to every single element of the website, the project became more cohesive in itself and fit better with the grander visual structure of the thesis. Apart from that, by limiting myself to only one colour I was able to bring in another element into the concept: a digital patina. Every asset I created for the website was manually compressed as much as possible and digitally reduced, which brings to light compression artefacts within the images. The distressed images in combination with the one-colour make up of the website should induce a faded image of the content to signify the antiquated notion of cyber-conservatism. While progressively advocating the right causes it is done in an out-of-date fashion.

Here are some examples of digital assets shown on the website:

iii. CyberGAU

Sort of motivated by the same values as the NEWLANDERS, the CyberGAU describes a dystopian cyber-scenario. A “Gau” in German describes the worst case scenario (größtmöglicher anzunehmender Unfall). The premise is that a cyber activist group has declared algorithmically and AI-based content and the devices that enable it as the mortal enemy of humankind. By erasing all content that goes against their criteria, they left the frameworks emptied out and hollow, replaced by a deep and dark abyss of electric blue nothing. This spans across multiple platforms and devices, altering the state of Cyberspace forever. Overnight, the frameworks we know and love/hate to use, had been visually violated and emptied out in an act of activism against the builders of the frameworks.

The question for this project was: How could techno-progressive and radical cyber activism manifest itself aesthetically? And the aesthetic part is very important here, as I also wanted to bring in the aforementioned concept of frameworks being in a constant state of flux in Cyberspace. How does it feel to see the frameworks we know emptied out of what gives them life? I think for me, looking at the artefacts, especially on the devices they were designed for, it is an alienating feeling. It feels so twisted to see something that is so familiar to you, that you look at multiple times a day, changed not beyond recognition but beyond usability. It shows how deep of a connection we have to the platforms and how habitual the visual frameworks of our existence in Cyberspace have become. They are familiar places, even if their interface undergoes constant change, an intervention of aesthetic nature feels like an invasion into something that is so close to us at all times.

Through animation and mock-up integration onto the devices I use the most, I created the aesthetic intervention that I wanted to portray for these Fragments. For that I rebuilt the interfaces of Instagram, YouTube and the iPad iOS home screen layout in After Effects and added the effect of the electric blue abyss onto the framework. To further alter the visual state and effect of the Fragments I replaced the typography with Wingdings characters, a native font on most personal computers and probably the first emojis, after ASCII drawings, to enlarge the alienation and aesthetic intervention. The illusion of depth and emptiness could also be meant to signify a sense of unused potential or even a sense of unveiling the emptiness of non-humanly curated content. The electric blue underlines that, as it stands for the unexplored, the awaiting and unknown.

The major difficulty with this aesthetic intervention was drawing the fine line between altering the interfaces in a way that they could not be recognised anymore and altering them not enough for the Fragments to seem not really violated in the way I intended it to be perceived. Another difficulty was the animation. Thanks to reddit user atilla32, who so graciously scripted and provided me with keyframe data (Fig. 5), I was able to paste it into my After Effects file and get the effect of animated depth to work exactly as I wanted it to. It is in moments like these that obviously still exist, moments of collective intellect, that keep me hopeful, that show that there is still connection even though the companies ruling Cyberspace are trying so hard to divide its users.

Fig. 5

You will be able to see the artefacts in their working mode, post GAU, in the videos below. An upload to devices for physical interaction was the originally planned form of demonstrating these artefacts, to heighten the effect of the alienated familiarity of the intricate interplay of platform, interaction, device and interface. But this obviously requires the physical interaction that could only be provided by an exhibition.

iv. InterInterNet

The last artefact of my Fragments is a project titled InterInterNet. The title already alludes to what it does, it is meant to create an in-between between the inter and the net, or, translate the impact and effect of activist graffiti into Cyberspace. An augmented reality app is supposed to provide a platform for digital sculptures or monuments which are projected onto the logos of major commercial players of Cyberspace. While diverse in aesthetic and concept, they all basically do the same, critique the corresponding company on their practices in an act of aesthetic sabotage.

In terms of which companies I chose, I went with the companies I want to critique the most. The expression of critique happens on different levels, obvious and blunt as well as artistic and conceptual. For every company, a digital sculpture was created to appear as soon as the user of the app scans the logo and the physical context of scanning the logo can happen wherever the user desires it to happen. The original intention was that the intervention of the app happens within the natural framework of the logo’s existence, meaning the native website, but the app does work beyond that and will critique the logo not only there but wherever it is placed.

The app was created with Maya, Unity and Xcode. I used Maya to create and compose the models and imported them to Unity where I was able to create the augmented reality functions with the Vuforia plugin, where an Image Target, the image that is meant to get recognised by the app, is set and bound to the sculpture. The whole scene then gets compiled and exported to Xcode where it can be installed on an iOS device. I used iOS here because it is the only operating system that is available to me currently, but as far as I have understood, the ability to export onto other mobile platforms is a given option.

Here you can download the Xcode build and install it on iOS devices via Xcode: InterInterNet


The first company I wanted to critique is Facebook. I have gone into detail as to why I dislike Facebook within chapter 4b. but wanted to elaborate on it again. Facebook to me represented the compressed and beautiful potential of global inter-human connection. But unfortunately it has steered away from that beauty and commercialised its framework as much as possible. As one of the earlier and successful global people-connecting platforms, it gave up most of its ideals for capitalist interests and by doing that enabled the abuse of their own creation. By buying Instagram it extended that negativity and power onto other platforms and spread its concept of a data-collecting and algorithmically driven advertising machine onto other parts of Cyberspace.

The thumbs up or like of a Facebook post used to be something so natural and familiar to many people. It was associated instantly with the platform and became a powerful representation of human-like behaviours adapted and translated onto digital frameworks. But with its growth, the critique and dislike of the platform became even louder. Even though Facebook is still growing, I can see that within my wider periphery less and less people are using it. The alternatives have become more attractive and I have seen most people I know delete their Facebook account in the last few years and voice their frustration with the platform openly.

Therefore the sculpture is addressing the negative outspokenness about Facebook in an open and blunt manner. While Facebook still tries to paint itself as the shiny and good-willing Cyberspace giant, the majority of its users are unhappy with Facebook’s handling of crises, performance, interface and overall clunkiness.


Google is a staple of Cyberspace existence. While providing an incredible amount of services and expanding and growing constantly, Google has had their fair share of wrong decisions. The Google sculpture is the most detailed one of them all. It expresses lots of points that I want to identify within my critique of them and it embodies a few of Google’s scandals over the past few years.

The first thing is that the sculpture gives the illusion of coming out of the screen and, from diverse hands18, bearing and offering. Behind said hands are the ever-watching mechanical eyes, protocolling and saving every single piece of their user’s data. The offering within the hands is the service of Google, which is represented by the giant Google G. Above the G stands the twisted Google icon for data privacy, which is rightfully twisted as Google has been collecting an insane amount of data for years19. What follows is the logo for the Department of Defense of the United States of America. This intends to, quite openly, mention the scandal of the military collaboration of Google and DoD20. And as it all started as a search engine, a pill that breaks and releases a downpour of negative Google emojis onto the entire scene is representative of Google’s origin.


As the image sharing platform grew in users and features, a lot changed on Instagram. Unfortunately it grew into a highly commercialised platform that algorithmically supports content that is meant to sell products. Influencers have overladen the social medium with advertisements, rarely one will get to see an image that was not enhanced using photo editing software. The fictional reality created within the content which is then supported and pushed by the platform creates an environment of unrealistic expectations and a twisted sense of reality. The absence of realism is something that I want to critique here the most, especially if reality diversion is systematically prioritised over other content.

That is exactly why the sculpture shows two people that I modelled with MakeHuman to look as picture perfect as possible, I even “surgically” enhanced and twisted them, as they pop out of a sea of golden products that were actually advertised to me, polo shirts, moisturisers, chairs, smartphones, and sunglasses. Everything is twisted, everything is distorted, as the images and advertised products one sees on Instagram are rarely ever a reflection of the real thing. I intentionally chose to apply more of an artistic approach to this sculpture, as Instagram for me had always been about sharing art. It saddens me immensely that this once great platform has turned into the commercial platform it is now.


The inhumane working conditions and god-syndrome ridden, capitalist bigot founder of amazon are only two factors that played into the creation of this sculpture. Amazon also started with good intentions, digitising the book market and within 26 years turned into the commercial hell that it is now. The stories of workers paying the price for features like same-day deliveries, the ability to offer so many products and the founder being the richest man alive, are countless. The company’s success comes at the hands of its workers and by abusing their workers, amazon proves that even if there might have been good intentions within the founding times of their company, they have all been sacrificed for profit.

That is why I wanted to signify the struggle of the workers the most. Standing on an open book, they are all coming together in order to hold up and, in the end, deliver a package. The amazon logo was slightly adapted in order to show a frowning arrow, which is also hovering above the entire scene. The workers are distorted, stretched out, as they carry the unnecessary burden of ensuring every package is delivered as quickly as possible. They are standing on the book, the foundation, becoming wheels in the machinery of late capitalism.

And lastly here is a short clip demonstrating the augmented reality functions of the app and the statues in their flexible contexts:

6. Conclusion

set out to ask myself if activism can be aesthetic. Then I asked myself if activism needs to be aesthetic, followed by how aesthetic activism can be. During my proposal I found out a multitude of things, I found out that activism does not need to be aesthetic at all and can in fact benefit from the amateurish charm of DIY slogans, posters, artefacts. I saw that heavily designed activist campaigns do not emotionally bind the recipient as much as amateurish campaigns, as any type of sophisticated visual output alludes to inauthenticity. I saw that activist campaigns, that are not aesthetically centralised but have open visual identities, invite more people to contribute, to add, visually and ideologically, enlarging, augmenting and empowering their message. All of this led me to conclude that when designing for activism, you have to be an activist first and a designer second. It is a niché where marginal aesthetics only make sense if they historically reference the movement, where legibility, function and effect are of higher importance than visually stimulating content. The content must follow a certain set of rules, digital shareability, adaptability, applicability and recognisability are among a few core functions of aesthetic activist artefacts.

set out to ask myself if activism can be aesthetic. Then I asked myself if activism needs to be aesthetic, followed by how aesthetic activism can be. During my proposal I found out a multitude of things, I found out that activism does not need to be aesthetic at all and can in fact benefit from the amateurish charm of DIY slogans, posters, artefacts. I saw that heavily designed activist campaigns do not emotionally bind the recipient as much as amateurish campaigns, as any type of sophisticated visual output alludes to inauthenticity. I saw that activist campaigns, that are not aesthetically centralised but have open visual identities, invite more people to contribute, to add, visually and ideologically, enlarging, augmenting and empowering their message. All of this led me to conclude that when designing for activism, you have to be an activist first and a designer second. It is a niché where marginal aesthetics only make sense if they historically reference the movement, where legibility, function and effect are of higher importance than visually stimulating content. The content must follow a certain set of rules, digital shareability, adaptability, applicability and recognisability are among a few core functions of aesthetic activist artefacts.

Within the context of this thesis, all of those learnings had to find a harbour to manifest themselves in and a context that was not only relevant and conceptually in line with my expectations, but also reflected something that I am passionate about. And I am passionate about Cyberspace, always have been. I have written this multiple times during the course of this thesis but it bears repeating, Cyberspace has steered off course and is probably not going to recover, it has become a mass-surveilled, overly commercialised and algorithmically controlled place. It has little left to do with the idealistic, common-good thinkers that wanted to connect the world, who saw Cyberspace as a collective effort of world-building, a chance of global togetherness. That dream has been crushed by the centralised and monopolised nature of the current state of Cyberspace. But it is at these points where activism should come into play and critique, point out, accuse and act.

The fragments of my thesis are meant to be explorations into what is possible in regards to format, medium and aesthetics. As I am a visual person I knew that whatever I would produce during the course of this thesis would have to meet standards of aesthetic nature and since I am conducting my activist proposals within the realm of Cyberspace, I historically referenced, created contemporary and relevant artistic artefacts that are meant to express how I feel about the topics at hand. When I look back, I see certain possibilities, routes I could have taken along the way to make my project more reality-based or apply it in conjunction with an actual movement, institution or company. But I also noticed that what I wanted to do at heart was something more of a personal longing, to express my frustration and anger, I found so many texts, manifestos and writings that align with how I feel about the development of Cyberspace and it was amazing to see that I had yet again found a niché, as old as Cyberspace itself, that reflected the things I saw and shared the worries and fears for the future.

Of course, the question whether I am or am not an activist is still lingering within me. And now having dealt with so much activist content I think I have to admit that with this thesis I might not be committing an act of activism. While my projects are projections of possibilities and speculative interventions of activism, I think they do not constitute activism per se. For me, activism manifests itself through senseable impact among others. Meaning that if I were to augment my projects to go beyond what it is now, concepts of possibility, or implement them on a more public scale, in real life or digitally, only then would I regard them as interventions with a true activist impact. Augmenting them would see a rollout of the InterInterNet app for example, with full scale campaigns, exhibitions, more platforms added, maybe less artistic and more educational and maybe even the possibility to engage other creators to add their sculptures to a platform, a network of like-minded activists. Or, with CALL TO ACTION, if, as it was suggested to me, I had a button generator where people were able to add their own frustrations and worries about Cyberspace. It would enable participatory action, it would create a collective measure which in return would yield even better, communal results.

I think in the end my thesis is a great way of showing how contemporary models of digital creation can work in the context of activism. How activism can visually and effectively benefit from new ways of thinking about aesthetically created content. But it is important to point out that an aesthetic activist artefact by itself would never function. It needs the theoretical foundation that I tried to provide with the previous chapters on the state of Cyberspace. I think I was able to get across how and why I felt the need to work on this topic. And I am very much looking forward to and hoping to be able to implement my learnings within a context that can actually reach a larger number of people, in spaces that actively enable work which is laid out to have matters of activism as one of their priorities. I am guessing that only time will tell but I can confidently say that this thesis served me the greater purpose of questioning my profession and where I come from practice wise. I had started my thesis to find purpose within my practise because I had already worked before my master studies. I had encountered a certain type of emptiness whilst working. It made me question my decision to work in the field I chose and left me seeking out other options, which I thankfully found within this masters course. It made me requestion my motivation to work in design and showed me, through reflection and project based implementation, the way to a more ethical and progressive mindset regarding my future.

7. Bibliography

1 “Cyberspace.” Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary,

2 “Can the Internet Run Out of Space?” CrowdStorage, 7 Apr. 2021,

3 Mitchell, Gareth. “How Much Data Is on the Internet?” BBC Science Focus Magazine,

4 Ramsey, Tali. “The Internet's Dirty Carbon Secret.” Maddyness UK, 22 Apr. 2021,

5 Huss, Nick. “How Many Websites Are There Around the World?” Siteefy, 24 June 2021,

6 “Current World Population.” Worldometer,

7 Johnson, Joseph. “Internet Users in the World 2021.” Statista, 7 Apr. 2021,

8 “'Too Much Power': It's Warren v Facebook in a Key 2020 Battle.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 20 Oct. 2019,

9 “Submarine Cable Map.”,

10 “Map of the Internet.” Halcyon Maps,

11 Enikeev, Ruslan. The Internet Map,

12 Bayston, Richard. “Why Hyperlinks Are Blue (and Other Quirky Web Origin Stories).” The Daily Egg, 18 Sept. 2018,

13 William Craig. “The History of the Internet in a Nutshell.” WebFX Blog,

14 Berners-Lee, Tim. “Information Management: A Proposal.” The Original Proposal of the WWW, HTMLized,

15 Berners-Lee, Tim. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Frequently Asked Questions by the Press - Tim BL,

16 McLuhan, Marshall, et al. The Medium Is the Massage. Penguin, 2008.


18Wakabayashi, Daisuke. “Google Is Trying Too Hard (or Not Hard Enough) to Diversify.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Mar. 2018,

19Smith, Dale. “Google Collects a Frightening Amount of Data about You.” CNET,

20Feiner, Lauren. “Google's Cloud Division Lands Deal with the Department of Defense.” CNBC, CNBC, 20 May 2020,

8. Declaration of Authorship

I hereby declare that the thesis submitted is my own unaided work. All direct or indirect sources used are acknowledged as references.

Cologne, the 12th of July 2021


“Fragments of Future Activism”
Master Thesis of Deniz Can Ercan

Deniz Can Ercan



MA Integrated Design

SS 2021


First Supervisor
Prof. Michael Gais | Typography and Layout

Second Supervisor
Prof. Nina Juric | Image and Motion

TH Köln
Faculty of Cultural Studies
Köln International School of Design
Ubierring 40
50678 Köln

Times New Roman

RGB forever