Ãœber Lebenskunst. Initiative for Culture and Sustainability

The “Ãœber Lebenskunst” project is turning the city of Berlin into a showcase for initiatives that bring together culture and sustainability and examine new models for action.

Whether neighborhood gardens, urban beekeepers, carrot mobs, Wiki woods, sewing cafés or climate pirates on the Berlin’s Spree River – around the world, new forms of ecologically sustainable living models are being put to the test.
The Call for Future is directed at everyone who wants to come up with ideas both in and for Berlin. We are looking for art projects and social initiatives conceived to go beyond what we think is possible. That make the impossible a reality. The art of sustainable living in the 21st century needs not only global expertise, it needs the dedication and the innovative spirit of local initiatives.

Application deadine: May 24, 2010

“Everyone’s a part” – the trailer for the Call for Future.

See the movie in large scale


It’s easy. Please fill out our form (making sure it’s legible) and submit it in either German or English by May 24, 2010.

Please download the form here:

Deutsch | English | Français | Srpski/Hrvatski/Bosanski |  Polski | Español | Türkçe | Tiêng Viêt

In a two-phase selection process, applicants who are selected in the initial round will be asked to submit supplementary material (business plan, information about relevant previous projects, project planning, etc.) at the beginning of June 2010. An international jury made up of representatives from the realms of art, culture, media, politics, science and civil society will confer on which projects should receive funding by the the end of June 2010. The successful participants will be invited to present their projects at a kick-off workshop September 7-9 at the House of World Cultures in Berlin. The chosen projects will be given conceptual and financial support up through the theme festival to be held in June 2011.

How to submit your application
The application deadline is May 24, 2010 (postmark date/date of e-mail)
# by e-mail to
# by mail to

House of World Cultures
The “Ãœber Lebenskunst” project
John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10
10557 Berlin

… or submit your application in person at the reception.

The House of World Cultures at

Google Maps

If you have questions about the Call for Future, you can contact the Ãœber Lebenskunst team.

Just send an e-mail to or call us:

Mon-Fri from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Tel. 030 397 872-20

Frequently asked questions about the Call For Future


1. Who can apply?
Anyone can apply. Individuals, groups, families, residential communities, citizens’ initiatives, associations or organizations from the realms of art, culture, media, architecture and urban development, science and research. Applicants who are NOT residents of Berlin have to work together with a local partner. Because the idea is to focus on model artistic projects and social initiatives that build on models from elsewhere both in and for Berlin, we are expressly seeking these types of partnerships.

2. Which application documents have to be submitted?
For the pre-selection process, it is sufficient to submit the form (in German or English) which you have personally filled out and signed. Supplementary materials such as drawing, photos, manuscripts, recordings, audio files or DVDs can also be submitted. These materials will not be sent back. They will remain in the House of World Cultures.

3. How are projects selected?
As part of a two-phase selection process, a pre-selection will be made on the basis of the application documents submitted. The preselected applicants will be informed in writing at the beginning of June and asked to submit additional information about the planned project (résumé, business plan, information about previous projects, etc.). The Über Lebenskunst jury will confer on project funding at the end of June 2010.

4. What kind of funding can I expect?
In addition to financial funding of up to €20,000 per project, initiatives may receive both technical and/or conception all advice for project implementation from the Über Lebenskunst team. The participants selected by the jury will present their concepts at an (internal) kick-off workshop to be held September 7-9, 2010.
All participants that make the second round will be invited to a dinner the day before the kick-off workshop. The focus here will be getting to know each other in person and networking among the relevant actors in Berlin.

5. Can third-party resources be incorporated into the project?
Co-funding is possible.

6. Why is the call limited to Berlin?
In the 21st century, local ideas always have to be applied globally. Which is why we are primarily directing our call to local initiatives or to people who will implement their ideas and projects together with partners in Berlin, focusing (implicitly or explicitly) on global issues.
In addition, the future of humanity lies in the urban realm. Already today, more people live in urban regions than in rural regions around the world. Global urban co-existence must be conceptualized in a way that gives new value to living and is continuously reinvented. Today, people from roughly 190 different countries live together in Berlin. This is just one more reason that Berlin is a model city for ecologically sustainable living models for the 21st century.

via Ãœber Lebenskunst. Initiative for Culture and Sustainability.

Mobs and knights: #amazonfail and the Dubai Literary Festival

Recently I was going on about how instant connnectivity is changing the way events unfold; to add to that there’s this post from net guru Clay Shirkey on the Twitter #amazonfail brouhaha that took place a couple of weeks ago.

For all those who missed it (that includes me as I was on holiday beyond the reach of the internet that weekend)  it started when author and publisher Mark Probst noticed that his book The Filly, had lost its sales data on, and because of that was no longer appearing in book searches. The book contains homosexual characters. A quick check of other gay-themed literature showed that this had happened across the board.

The brilliant – and scary – thing about Twitter is how fast outrage can spread on it. Within hours the net was alive accusing Amazon of purging gay and adult literature. A massive army of digital warriors gathered to defend the cause.

This is how the BBC’s Bill Thompson reported amazonfail:

It emerged that thousands of other books had been similarly delisted, including such radical texts as The Well of Loneliness and John Barrowman’s autobiography, while a little research by interested bloggers found Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds, the Parent’s Guide to Homosexuality and Hitler’s Mein Kampf were all still searchable and proudly displayed.

Two years ago this would have resulted in a collection of angry, interlinked blog postings. A year ago there would have been a Facebook group to join. But this time it was the Twitter microblogging service that led the way, with thousands of tweets linked by the tag ‘amazonfail’.

The timing was perfect. It was a slow news weekend on what is an extended holiday in many parts of the world. Amazon’s ability to respond quickly was limited, while the echo chamber of Twitter, LiveJournal and Facebook meant that the noise of outrage quickly reached a crescendo.

Within a couple of days, an apparently more complex narrative emerged. Clay Shirky takes up the story:

After an enormous number of books relating to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered (LGBT) themes lost their Amazon sales rank, and therefore their visibility in certain Amazon list and search functions, we participated in a public campaign, largely coordinated via the Twitter keyword #amazonfail (a form of labeling called a hashtag) because of a perceived injustice at the hands of that company, an injustice that didn’t actually occur.

This was cock-up, not conspiracy. Apparently. Amazon had been facing complaints because books with adult material turn up in searches for children’s books. By attempting to filter the results, they effectively made anything with a content that’s deemed adult invisible. And that included lots of gay and lesbian books – even classics like The Well of Loneliness.

Shirky’s post is a cautionary, self-flagellating mea culpa. He was one of the outraged. This, he says now, wasn’t homophobia it was stupidity. Stupidity on Amazon’s part for creating an algorithm that would wipe out gay and lesbian literature so thoughtlessly; stupidity on his part as an experienced technology writer, to join hounds chasing Amazon, he confesses.

As a post-script, the blogger Bookkake doesn’t agree with Shirky, and he’s not the only one:

…the issue at the heart of #amazonfail is not – should not be – whether Amazon’s recategorisation was accidental or not, but how LGBT books came to be classified as not suitable for “family” viewing. How Amazon attempted to place them in the category of things of which we shall not speak.

Which is also 100% true. What Amazon’s algorithm did was effectively exaggerate a societal prejudice.  This wasn’t just a technological failure, it was a cultural failure too. Shirky is letting them off the hook too lightly.

But Bookkake also draws the parallel to  the Dubai Literary festival. Back in February Bookkake and several other bloggers had complained about the Dubai Literary Festival banning Geraldine Bedell’s novel The Gulf  Between Us, which also features a gay relationship.

The outrage surrounding this banning led to Margaret Atwood refusing to attend the festival. Only as Atwood later discovered nothing of the sort had happened. The book was never “banned”. As I wrote in the A&E blog back in February, the book was never invited to the Dubai literary festival at all. The whole “banned” story was seeded by a press officer at Penguin and took off on the internet.

I don’t agree with Bookkake that there is a parallel. Yes, Dubai is an institutionally homophobic culture, and yes, the literary festival still ducked confronting that homophobia, but this was outrage manufactured by Penguin, exploiting another evil, Islamophobia. Bookkake and others who expressed their outrage were being manipulated to sell a minor novel. It was a cynical incitement of the mob.

What both stories show is how fantastically easy it is to manufacture outrage in our instant culture, whether justified or not. That can be good – Amazon are now having to prove they don’t discriminate against LGBT literature.

What frightened Clay Shirky is that he became part of a mob. The sheer speed with which events unfolded overtook his rational side. And what should worry anyone is that the idea that the internet naturally favours a liberal, progressive viewpoint is an absurd one. There has been an assumption, from Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs onwards, that the electronically connected mass is greater and more virtuous than the individual. The classic smart mob case was the toppling of President Estrada of the Philippines in 2001 by protestors who self-organised on using mobile phones.

But here’s another example. Last year  ethnic violence was stoked up in Kenya for deliberately cynical reasons, leaving 1,000 dead and 300,000 more displaced. That too was a smart mob, organised through mobile phones. The mob also destroys.

Image: Hung Drawn & Quartered II (Treeson), 2005, (detail), by Matthew Day Jackson from the Saatchi Gallery’s USA Today.

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