Not Just Another Cybercafe
The original 1984 Manifesto
The Electronic Cafe International (TM) was founded in the Orwellian year of 1984. Actually, ECI is the mother of all cybercafes. ECI is, first and foremost, a networked cultural research lab: a unique international network of multimedia telecommunications venues with over 40 affiliates around the globe. For over a decade, ECI has functioned not only as a pioneer but as a leading multicultural community conducting ground-breaking aesthetic research in the exploration of realtime networked collaborative multimedia environments.
What does all this mean? The ECI Network organizes and produces live performances and encounters in a combination of real and virtual spaces. Most ECI performances and activities incorporate the visions of several geographically disperse collaborators, and occur in more than one place at the same time: technology links performers who perform simultaneously in various locations around the world; patrons around the world participate in interactive events. For example, ambient music is created by DJ's in several cities at once while audiences in different cities dance together in the same live composite image-space. Analog telephone lines, digital ISDN lines, video and Internet networking capabilities are often used in concert to create a hybrid multimedia network not available from any one service provider. This enables us to model emerging telecom environments years before they are alleged to arrive in our homes. Another example: a performing artist in one city might transmit live video, MIDI data and audio signals to another city, where the artist's image is projected life-sized while the data signals control lights, theatrical props, musical instruments, robotics, or common household appliances.
Not Just Another Cyber Entertainment Network
ECI created the world's first cybercafe network in 1984. This was a concept of telecollaboration artists Kit Galloway & Sherrie Rabinowitz who were commissioned as part of the L.A. Olympics Arts Festival by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. The Electronic Cafe was maintained for seven weeks. Even then the focus was broader than a simple community-based point of access to technology. For the last decade, ECI has been using technology to explore co-creation and collaboration in real-time networked environments. The prerequisites for this are: 1) employing a multitude of disciplines, 2) using the performing arts as modes of investigating these new ways of being in the world and 3) creating a new context so that new forms and content can emerge. At the current Electronic Cafe "International" Headquarters in Santa Monica, California, computer and other industry professionals, educators, students, world-class artists, children, and the general public get to be the architects of their own visions of a new world of telecollaborative possibilities. They participate in and model the essentials for an information and telecommunications environment that is both functional and inclusive.
A Broader Context Enables a More Rich and Diverse Content
Since its inception, Electronic Cafe International has espoused a philosophy of global cultural diversity and inclusion -- to realize this philosophy on a truly non-discriminating global scale, a wide variety of technologies are employed. The hybrid mix of technologies incorporated in the ECI Network accommodate not only high-end capabilities, but ECI has also made a long term investment in low-end multimedia technology. Using all kinds of bandwidth enables ECI to collaborate with peoples and communities of the world regardless of their access to the Internet or the WWW.
ECI has a network of official venues all over the world including New York City, Tokyo, Paris, Palo Alto, Jerusalem, Rio de Janeiro, Copenhagen, Toronto, and Santa Monica. New ECIs are being established in Dublin, Ireland; Austin, Texas; Moscow, Russia; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Woodstock, New York; Milan, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Las Vegas, Nevada; London, England; and Mexico City, Mexico. There are also over 30 Affiliate ECIs around the world and growing, including Telluride, Colorado; San Francisco, California; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Managua, Nicaragua; Linz, Austria; Karlsruhe, Germany; and Havana, Cuba.
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