Early birds this Monday morning were happy to attend a surprise meeting with the Maus – smart star of our childhood. She was proudly introducing a set of VR-glasses, posing with the first visitors of re:publica 17. Every year in early May, the digital society meets in Berlin for one of the world’s largest and most exciting conferences on internet culture. For three days, online journalists, bloggers, internet activists, social media experts, digital start-ups, scientists, hackers, NGOs, and many others swap ideas and discuss the future of the information society.
Founded in 2007 as a cozy blogger meeting the conference has steadily grown since. The numbers are overwhelming: this year, more than 9,000 participants from 70 countries came to attend about 400 sessions. Fake news and hate speech on the internet were the two key issues of rp17 – hence this year’s motto Love Out Loud. But the secret algorithms of Facebook & Co, the freedom of press and the untiring fight for digital rights were also important topics. And despite the plethora of talks and debates, the atmosphere in the lofty industrial halls of Station-Berlin, a former postal freight train station built in 1913, was absolutely cool and easy.
If the scheduled program is one good reason to attend the conference – meeting people is the other. So there are extra networking areas (with lots of plugs, in case your devices run low on energy), plus a restaurant, food trucks, bars, relax areas in- and outdoors, and even a space for families with kids. When the sessions end about 9 p.m., it’s party time and drinks, music, private conversation and dance take over eventually. Re:publica days are just too precious to sleep.