Mute is an online magazine dedicated to exploring culture and politics after the net. Mute combines biannual issues dedicated to specific topics (Precarious Labour, The Knowledge Commons, etc) with regularly updated articles and reviews. The site also features ongoing coverage of relevant news and events contributed by ourselves and our readers.
As well as the online magazine, Mute also publishes a biannual magazine in print (aka Mute Vol. 3), which features selections from current issues together with other online content, specially commissioned and co-published projects.
Mute magazine was founded in 1994 to discuss the interrelationship of art and new technologies when the World Wide Web was newborn. But, as mass participation in computer mediated communications has become more integral to contemporary capitalism, its coverage has expanded to engage with the broader implications of this shift. Mute’s investigation of the social, economic, political and cultural formations of ‘network societies’ maintains an accent on the relationship between technology and the production of new social relations. At the same time, the magazine’s remit has grown broader and now includes analyses of geopolitics, culture and contemporary labour that, while necessarily inflected by contemporary developments in technology, go far beyond this.
While Mute was born out of a culture that celebrated the democratising potential of new media, it becomes ever more apparent that we need to critically engage with the ways in which new media also reproduce and extend capitalist social relations. Mute invites its readers and writers to consider new possibilities for resistance to hegemonies wherever they find them, from socio-economic and technical structures, to codes of representation and enunciation, to the production and articulation of psychic experience and beyond. We also welcome critiques of the contemporary fetishisation of ICT as either inherently progressive or entirely reactionary. Finally, Mute hopes to stimulate approaches to art and politics that challenge the orthodoxies of both the constituted left and ‘critical’ new media culture.
Mute in context
From its inception, Mute* has regarded message and medium, content and carrier as inherently linked. This approach has forced a constant reinvention of our publishing format (we are now on our sixth!) and, more generally, never taking theory's relationship to practice for granted. As a collaborative entity operating within the network paradigm, Mute has a tacit function as a test site: we feature and review innovative and radical cultural practices, but also participate in them, court infection and reflect their evolution within our own.
One promise of 'many to many' media was that it would upturn the traditional broadcast model of mainstream media and deliver unto the world a multitude of active producers, narrowcasting personalised media to each other and cutting out the middleman. For all their associations with empowerment, participation, and the agency of the small, the 'prosumer' figure associated with this discourse is an infinitely ambiguous entity - certainly no guaranteed counterforce to capitalism-as-usual. Other standardbearers of democratisation, to be found travelling under banners like 'Grow Your Own', 'DiY media' and 'citizen journalism', have done more to alter the media power im/balance, even if their often homogenous social composition troubles any ultimate claims for a revolution.
Ceci n'est pas un magazine
These issues, which begged the question of editorial de-centralisation, prompted Mute to consider and revise its publishing model and infrastructures along more participative lines. The process was documented in a series of mini-manifestoes and progress reports: Part 1, 'Ceci n'est pas un magazine', came out in issue 19 (2001); part 2, 'The Magazine that Mistook its Reader for a Hat', in issue 24 (2002/3).**
These diagrams document one magazine's path from traditional top-down publishing into the uncharted realms of 'community' interactivity. In fits and starts, they portray Mute's vision of diversification, as we attempt to deal with the promise of new media through the provision of tools, editorial content and peer to peer structures.
Mute's economy and organisation
After running on a mixed economy of barter, grant and private monies since its inception in 1994, Mute started receiving revenue funding from the Arts Council of England in 1999, which ends on 31st March 2012. Our last 'Regularly Funded Organisation' grant was set at £68,912 (for the year 2011/12), going towards the core costs of staff, premises and production. This 'core funding' had always been supplemented by project funds for additional initiatives, and these will now, together with ongoing publishing and services-provision income, bear responsibility for our company, Mute Publishing. Two key projects in this respect are Mute Books and The Post-Media Lab. Mute's sister agency, OpenMute, continues to act as a consultancy for Print On Demand, ePublishing and digital strategy to cultural producers and institutions. Straight-up technical and software development, which Mute used to also do, is now run through its ex-publishing company, Skyscraper Digital Publishing. These projects are now described within this website, to grant readers a more integrated picture of what we do.
Mute Books – is the new imprint of Mute Publishing. The series specialises in cultural politics, providing a new, expanded space for the kinds of distinctive voices Mute magazine has hosted since its inception in 1994. In keeping with the magazine's editorial practices, Mute Books will pursue an interdisciplinary publishing policy, working experimentally and with a wide variety of individuals and groups to provide the kind of sustained focus their contribution to contemporary culture deserves.
Post-Media Lab – a project within the Digital Media Center (EU Innovation Incubator, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany), organising residencies, publishing projects and public events in collaboration with Mute magazine. See http://www.postmedialab.org/
*The present Mute magazine could not have existed without a predecessor and namesake published through the Slade School of Art from 1989-1992. 'Mute v. 01' was an open contributions publication in a variety of formats, edited by Simon Worthington, Daniel Jackson, Helen Arthur and Stephen Faulkner.
**Ceci n'est pas un magazine parts 1 & 2 were heavily influenced by consultancy from Quim Gil and early work on the OpenMute.org platform by Toni Prug.
Production and management
Atwork - http://www.atworkportfolio.co.uk/
Site coding and Drupal build
Effusion - http://www.effusion.co.uk/
CSS and design conversion
Database troubleshooting and all round firefighting
Darron Broad - OpenMute
Mori Sugimoto and Nicolas Borda