The Waag Society and the indecipherable intentions

The Waag building and surroundings
Our last discussion of the Waag Society was perhaps incomplete. We never did quite discover what the Waag Society is, in point of fact. So I did some more research.

And I still don’t know.

The Waag Society claims to many things, and yet seems to work on projects in a completely disjunct set of many things. On their Organisation information page, they claim that their founding goal from 1994 is to exist as a “Society for old en new Media.” Other mentions of the society around the web also allude to this goal. Their site continues:

The Society’s -soon to be called ‘Waag Society’- mission was to make new media available for groups of people that have little access to computers and internet, thus increasing their quality of living. After a complete restauration of the Waag building, a small group of enthousiastic idealists began their activities in 1996. [sic]

So really, it would appear that their goal was not to be so much a society for the study of old and new media, so much as the promotion and enablement of new media over old media. Now, however:

The medialab developed into an avant-gardistic thinktank whith a lot of freedom. But with an eye for commercial possibilities: attempts were made to bring Waag prototypes to the market. Waag Society grew into an institution that was active in the fields of networked art, healthcare, education and internet related issues like bandwidth and copyright.

And yet it seems like most of their projects don’t reflect this new goal either, as given by example from my previous post. So, here is a question we may want to answer:

What are the Waag Society’s goals, and how effectively are the methods they employ achieving those goals? What effect have they had on the media landscape in Amsterdam?

We can begin to answer this question by putting it to the Waag Society themselves – through a series of interviews with their employees as well as their customers, we should be able to develop a good understanding of the organization and its impacts. Of course, there are moral implications to this study. Most significantly, we need to ensure that we do not invade the privacy of interviewees, particularly those not directly associated with the Waag Society. This involves methods for obtaining interviews, as well as the extent of interview questions themselves. Also important is that we gain a full understanding of the Waag Society and what they do, so that we do not misrepresent them in our final research.

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