Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Broadcast and CRM

It was an interesting session yesterday at the iMMovator Crossmedia Café in broadcast city Hilversum (the Netherlands). The theme of the meeting was Broadcast and Web 2.0, which can be roughly translated to how broadcast companies can use CRM. Jochem de Gruyter (see photograph) of SBS Broadcast company introduced the subject looking from the Direct Marketing side to a broadcast company. His two lines of thought were: Why should a media company use CRM; if it will use CRM, what are the strategy and tactics.

He started out with the observation that consumer look less at TV. Yet for a commercial broadcast company it is important to get the advertisement slots filled. A commercial broadcast station will attempt to fill 20 percent or 12 minutes in hour with commercials. In practice the advertisement slots will be filled. The profit for a station will not come out of advertisement slots, but from crossmedia activities, certainly if the station wants to compete with YouTube and Joost. So the commercial broadcast companies will have to move from mass to individual client.

This move implies a lot for an organisation which has always been oriented on mass markets. At once they have to identify the individual client, keep them happy and expand the client value. This is something else than just broadcasting a programme and have a receptionist picking up the complaints.

The strategy is twofold:
- better exploitation of existing and new content, making the company less dependent on content from third parties as well;
- have a better knowledge of the viewer/user/client; get a database with profiles.

In practice this means setting up a database for the profiles of the individual viewer/user/client and opening up other communication channels than the existing programs, phone-in and sms actions. These days there are many more communications channels than before. Yet many of them have a high irritation degree. Funny enough an unsolicited e-mail has an equal irritation degree to TV ads. Yet e-mail is a serious medium as a starting point for communication with the individual viewer/user/client, when matters of interest are communicated.

Jochem demonstrated this with examples. He showed how SBS was producing more content of its own. The material not used for television could be used on internet or for mobile. But he also showed how he informs the individuals about related television programs, products and actions. In this way a program has a longer life than the one time plus a repeat it used to have. With the database it is also possible to do advertisement campaigns through other channels. In that way a broadcast can be extended across other media as well as the 12 minutes for commercials.

Blog Posting Number: 910

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New talking heads on the block

She was an absolute hit on the web in 2000. On April 19, 2000 she spoke the famous first words: "Hello world. Here is the news. And this time it's personal." It was Ananova, the synthetic figurehead of the British Press Association, performing as a woman newscaster, who reads the personal selection of news items to a web user 24/7. Her designers Digital Animation described her as 28 years old, 1.75 meters tall, pleasant and intelligent.

Her appearance sparked excitement. She was a technological milestone; computer-simulated animation, syntetic voice. She was an embodied agent. The speech system was the speech synthesis using rVoice from Rhetorical Systems, now Nuance Communications. This generated quite some interest. It looked like the text-to-speech industry was about to break through. Around the time of Ananova’s launch I was in Cambridge (UK) at the BT laboratory, where they demonstrated text-to-speech applications for mobiles. Funny enough the applications have never become real commercial services.

For the press world she was the symbol of innovation: personal news delivered by a personality. Besides services like personal news services on internet, the mobile world showed interest. A combination of personal news and mobile would deliver a new service. Just imagine: every morning the personal news selection is downloaded to the mobile phone; you start driving, a pretty person appears on the screen of the mobile and starts reading your personal selection of news items.

It only lasted two months before the mobile company Orange picked Ananova up for 126 million euro. In 2002 they started a news services for their mobile subscribers, but this was just a text service. They kept Ananova alive till 2004, but never did implement the technology behind it for a mobile news service. In 2004 the company discontinued the animated service on the web with the announcement that “Ananova video is currently under development. Come back soon to check the latest.” Three years later nothing has happened and the announcement is still on the page. By now Ananova is out of sync with the web and never transformed the delivery of news.

Seven years later there is another try in the UK. If Ananova had been live on the web, one could have introduced her to Brian first and more recently to Karena. Brian and later on Karena are the talking heads of EDP24 in Norwich. First there was Brian, a rather dull newscaster. He was replaced by Karena, a pretty lady. The technology differs from Ananova. For Brian and Karena, real people have been filmed. Using a combination of state-of-art TV technology and advanced graphic computing skills, the award-winning team at Norwich's Televirtual MediaLAb, have transformed Carina into the high-tech Karena.

The technique, videogrammetry, involves splicing and blending taped TV sequences of Carina, with reconstructed still images of a 35-year-old housewife. Reconstructed, because, because individual features such as eyes, mouth, nose and eyebrows, have all been captured piecemeal to allow interactive computer control of the assembled image. Karena replaces Brian who came online on March 14, 2007, as part of a unique project pioneered by three Norwich companies and a national sports information service.

Compared to Ananova, Karena is less slick and changes in the movements of the face can be noticed. The speech technology is from the same company as was Ananova’s. The Karena system will need some more fine-tuning graphically. Despite the fact that Karena looks artificial mostly due to the changes in the face, the technology might go someway.

Blog Posting Number: 910

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Wegener part of Mecom now

The acquisition of the Dutch newspaper company Royal Wegener by the British Mecom Group Plc is definite. Mecom has picked up 86,56 percent of the Wegener shares. The parties have announced that Mecom declares its recommended public offer for all issued and outstanding ordinary shares in the share capital of Wegener unconditional. Mecom has decided not to announce a subsequent tender period for the outstanding shares. Mecom offered 800 million euro for Wegener. Mecom offered 17,70 euro per Wegenere share or 14,29 Mecom shares per Wegener share.

This ends the period for shareholders to hand in their shares and agree with the acquisition. As after the official period, there was more than 75 percent of the shares handed in, but not 95 percent, the period was extended. De facto Wegener is now part of the Mecom Group. Mecom has decided that there is no subsequent tender period for the shareholders who did not hand in their shares.

During the tender period Wegener shareholder Governance for Owners llp (GO) indicated that it did not agree with the offer. It looked for other parties of disgruntled shareholders. In September GO indicated that it was talking to those parties. But apparently they have been unable to convince them to withhold converting their shares. GO possessed a package of 13,3 percent of Wegener shares. Mecom will be able to smoke out GO.

In the meantime the acquisition has received the seal of approval from the Dutch monopoly watch dog NMa. The authority has agreed with the acquisition under the condition that Mecom will divest the majority of the free broadsheet newspapers group De Trompetter. These newspapers are delivered door to door in the South of the Netherlands. The NMa judged that especially in Limburg competition in the advertisement market was needed. Now a part of the Media Group Limburg will have to be sold, most likely to regional competitors such the German newspaper company Aachener Verlag or the Belgian publisher Concentra.

The acquisition has yielded unrest especially among the employees of the Brabant newspapers. Presently there are three newspapers (BN/DeStem, Brabants Dagblad en Eindhovens Dagblad) being produced in that province.. Mecom CEO David Montgomery is of the conviction that a regional newspaper can be produced by 75 employees. The Branbat newspapers exceed this norm.

Mecom sees this acquisition as another piece of the European continental puzzle. It has already regional newspapers in Germany, Poland, Denmark and Norway. By acquiring Wegener it covers a large part of the Netherlands.

Blog Posting Number: 909

Tags: newspapers

Sunday, October 28, 2007

DAG continues to go crossmedia

The Dutch free broadsheet DAG, a joint venture of the newspaper conglomerate PCM and the incumbent telecom operator KPN, are taking steps in crossmedia. Last week the free newspaper, published from Monday till Friday, started narrowcasting on hundreds of television sets in bars and cafes. The publication will also start a mobile television network via KPN’s DVB-H network.

So far DAG has been as a printed publication and internet editions on internet and on mobile telephone. The free printed edition has now a run of 415.000 copies and is distributed at railway and bus stations and in shops; people can now also have it delivered at home for 25 eurocents. The online edition has daily 770.000 visits and a penetration of 2,1 percent, which compares to the online site of the free broadsheet Spits and the TV broadcasts of an RTL Z. The mobile internet site processes monthly 140.000 pageviews.

Presently there are hardly mobile telephones which can support this technology. In fact the technology is presently slowing down the introduction, but the Olympic Games should make the technology interesting enough for introducing a service.

Anticipating upon this network DVB-H service, Dag has started a narrowcasting network with On, a network which reached 750.000 young people. The narrow casting service will also be extended to the network of Media Landscape. Newspages are shown with video and text and the format is being tested for the DVB-H service.

DAG is a project of PCM and KPN, which have signed a co-operation for four years. PCM brings in its expertise in the field of editing, printing and distribution as well as advertisement acquisition. KPN brings in the internet, mobile and mobile tv technology. However it is now also bringing in its content service Planet Internet. Recently the editor-in-chief left as KPN made its intention know to integrate/scale down the editorial staff of Planet Internet with the Dag editorial staff. Articles in DAG will be published in print and on the Planet Internet site. So far Planet Internet has scaled down its original article output in the past two years.

Blog Posting Number: 908

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

255 years of a newspaper online

This week the oldest online newspaper archive in the Netherlands was launched with a database of articles dating back to 29 July 1752 (see photograph). The Leeuwarder Courant is now a daily which is distributed in the North of the Netherlands, an area where besides the Dutch language also the Frisian language is spoken and written. During its history the newspaper has been published in three languages: Frisian, Dutch and French (during the French occupation). The Leeuwarder Courant has now the oldest newspaper archive in the Netherlands; up to last week it was the digital archive of the weekly De Groene which ranges from 1877 till 1940.

It has been a two year project. The database contains 3 billion words, 11 million articles and 800.000 scanned pages. The total project has cost 450.000 euro. The scanning of a page is roughly 50 cents per page.

For access to the archive registration of name and e-mail address are needed. The database can be searched in various ways. Just a simple search will generate an article, if the searched term is present in an article. But when one uses more than one word, there is a risk that one gets only articles with one of the words. In the advanced mode search arguments can be refined. The edition can also be searched by date. The articles are presented as the original articles, including the highlighted search terms. But as the context, especially the position in the edition, says something about the importance of articles. A special show button presents the position of the article on the page.

The digital archive of the Leeuwarder Courant has been organised by the Foundation Digital Archive Leeuwarder Courant, a cooperation of the Leeuwarder Courant and Tresoar. The reason for starting the archive lies in the preservation of the physical printed newspapers. But the printed newspaper was also hard to search.

The foundation went after the funds. Yet the foundation wants to keep access to and searching in the archive free as everyone in Friesland should have access to the rich heritage. In the long run the foundation might start to charge the user for downloading complete pages, a facility which is already present in the system.

The foundation expects that the archive is interesting for libraries, the Frisian broadcast Omrop Fryslân, municipalities, schools, scientific institutes, genealogists, historian, linguists, journalists and the citizen interested in history. The foundation has forgotten the bloggers. So I asked for a password and started to browse through the database. As I am not living in the area not have any family ties in that part of the Netherlands, I could only launch an ego search. Result: no hits. But I could at least check the newspaper of my birthday. I have never seen a frontpage of Dutch newspapers, published on my birthday. Now I saw a page coming up telling me that due to the scarcity of paper in wartime, the newspaper would not be printed daily. Besides two long articles about the Second World War, the full New Year’s speech of Hitler was reproduced. It was clear that the newspaper was under German censorship.

But than I thought about my business partner Hans Sleurink. He is living in the area and has a colourful past as documentary script writer, as information provider, political observer and journalist. And indeed his name was retrieved with success. I was offered several articles on local issues and on multimedia. I also found a (copyrighted) picture of young Hans in one of the articles.

Blog Posting Number: 907

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Social network security

Recently the person finder WieOWie (Who Oh Who) was launched. It is a search engine, looking for data on a person. It looks in Google, LinkedIn, YouTube and two social networks Schoolbank (comparable to Classmates) and Hyves. It looks for tags, distils telephone numbers and identifies word and PDF documents. In one search the search engine bring together an awful amount of data about a person.

I have tried the search engine by ego searching. I typed in my name and found the right e-mail address and a lot of documents. As I am not in the social networks of Schoolbank and Hyves, nor in YouTube, it found 21.800 hits in Google and 10 Word and PDF documents and 2 references in LinkedIn. I wonder about the 10 Word and PDF documents which seem to be an ad-random collection of documents. But as a starting point for personal details the WoW search engine is okay.

The search engine does not work with cache. So the results of a search question are not kept in cache and will not be re-generated at a later point in time. And that is what I found out, when I started my second ego search some days later. The e-mail address did not come up the second time; this while it is in many documents. The third time delivered three e-mail addresses of which two were accurate, This time also an eclectic collection of 82 tags. It clearly does not search in blogs as I more than 200 tags/links in this blog.

As I said it is an awful tool. In a few seconds it produces data about a person. However you do not know how much of the total personal data collection this is on internet. The fact that the search is not cached and the search actions bring up different results indicates two things: search questions and found data are not stored, but on the other hand the searcher gets an unreliable impression as the search results differ.

The WoW search engine can be a helpful tool. But of course on the other hand it also shows how much people tell of themselves. In networks like Xing and LinkedIn they tell about themselves having in mind the professional purpose of these networks. But in social networks like Facebook and MySpace this is different. Especially youngsters go all the way in revealing data and daily actions.

The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) published yesterday a position paper on this subject entitled, Security Issues and Recommendations for Online Social Networks. Since the commercial success of an SNS depends heavily on the number of users it attracts, there is pressure on SNS providers to encourage design and behaviour which increase the number of users and their connections. Sociologically, the natural human desire to connect with others, combined with the multiplying effects of Social Network (SN) technology, can make users less discriminating in accepting ‘friend requests’.
Users are often not aware of the size or nature of the audience accessing their profile data and the sense of intimacy created by being among digital ‘friends’ often leads to disclosures which are not appropriate to a public forum. Such commercial and social pressures have led to a number of privacy and security risks for SN members.

ENISA emphasises the many benefits of Social Networking but identifies 15 important threats. This leads to 19 recommendations on how Social Networking can be made safer.:

1 Digital dossier aggregation;
2 Secondary data collection;
3 Face recognition
4 Content-based Image Retrieval (CBIR);
5 Linkability from image metadata;
6 Difficulty of complete account deletion;
7 Social Network Sites (SNS) spam;
8 Cross site scripting (XSS), viruses and worms;
9 SN aggregators;
10 Spear phishing using SNSs and SN-specific phishing;
11 Infiltration of networks;
12 Profile-squatting and reputation slander through ID theft;
13 Stalking;
14 Bullying;
15 Corporate espionage;

1 Encourage awarenessraising and educational campaigns;
2 Review and reinterpret the regulatory framework;
3 Increase transparency of data handling practices;
4 Discourage the banning of SNSs in schools;
5 Promote stronger authentication and access-control where appropriate;
6 Implement countermeasures against corporate espionage;
7 Maximise possibilities for abuse reporting and detection;
8 Set appropriate defaults;
9 Providers should offer convenient means to delete data completely;
10 Encourage the use of reputation techniques;
11 Build in automated filters;
12 Require consent from data subjects to include profile tags in images;
13 Restrict spidering and bulk downloads;
14 Pay attention to search results;
15 SNS spam;
16 SNS Phishing;
17 Promote and research image-anonymisation techniques and best practices;
18 Promote portable Social Networks;
19 on research into emerging trends in SNS.

Blog Posting Number: 906

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Parents and teens

It does not happen too often that two research reports on the same subject, each from the other side of the ocean, are available at the same time. But last night a new Pew report about parents and teens became available. A few days earlier a report by IVO in the Netherlands became available on internet and youngsters. The research methods are completely different as well as the sizes of the respondents’ groups. But it is worthwhile to compare.

The US report on the Parents & Teens draws on the 2006 Survey sponsored by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative call-back sample of 935 teens age 12 to 17 years old and their parents living in continental United States telephone households. The Dutch report is based on questionnaires from 4500 youngsters between 11 and 15 years and 3354 parents (1864 mothers and 1490 fathers).

Some conclusions of the Pew report:

The majority of parents are trying to stay involved with teens’ online lives.
Despite the stereotype of the clueless parent, parents of today’s online teens are staying involved in their children’s online lives. Some 65 percent of parents report that after their child has been on the internet, they check to see what websites he or she viewed. In addition, almost three quarters of parents (74 percent) can correctly identify whether or not their online teen has ever created his/her own social networking site profile that others can see at sites such as MySpace or Facebook.

Parents are more concerned about media content than the amount of time their kids spend with media devices.
Parents of teenagers are more vigilant about regulating the media content consumed by their children than the amount of time their children spend in front of a screen. Over two-thirds of parents (68 percent) say they have rules about the kinds of internet sites their teenaged children can or cannot visit, as well as rules about what kinds of information their children can share with people they talk to on the internet. Three-fourths (77 percent) of parents say they have rules about what sort of television shows their children are allowed to watch, and 67 percent of all parents say they have rules about the kinds of video games their children can play.

Content Rules: Yes
Internet sites your child can or cannot visit: 68 percent
What kinds of television shows your child can watch: 77 percent
What kinds of video games your child can play: 67 percent

Time Use Rules: Yes
How much time your child can spend online: 55 percent
How much time your child can spend playing video games: 59 percent
How much time your child can spend watching TV: 58 percent

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project Parents and Teens Survey, October-November 2006. n=935. Margin of error for the overall sample is ±4 percent.

Parents also make rules about the amount of time their teenaged children spend with media, but time with various media forms is not as widely controlled as the media content. There are no significant differences between the number of parents who have rules about the time their kids spend with television, the internet, and video games. Fifty-eight percent of all parents regulate how much time their children can spend watching television, 59 percent of all parents regulate how much time their children can spend playing video games, and 55 percent of all parents have rules about how much time their children can spend using the internet. However, a significantly greater percentage of online parents create rules about the amount of time that their children can spend on the internet than create rules about how much time their children can spend watching television – 69 percent of parents of online teens report regulating how much time their children spend on the web, while only 57 percent of those same parents have rules for how long their children are allowed to watch television.
The majority of parents have media rules for both content and time. However, parents that only have one type of rule are more likely to make rules about media content rather than the time spent with the media device. If the parent does not institute both types of rules, he or she is more likely to have no media rules at all than to create rules around how much time their teen can spend using television, video games, or the internet.

Some conclusions of the Dutch report:

Trends in the internet usage of the youngsters
Using the results of two questionnaires the trends and developments have been charted. Between 2006 and 2007 the internet connections have increased; now 97 percent of the youngsters between 11 and 15 years of age have access to internet at home. The percentage of compulsive internet users had decreased from 4, 3 percent in 2006 to 3 percent in 2007. In comparison to 2006 parents have become stricter with regard to internet usage of their youngsters. This can explain why the number of compulsive users has decreased. Parents put more rules and monitor the internet usage of their children. This can be explained by the media coverage and attention in schools for this subject. Yet the communication between the parents and youngsters has worsened over the year. This pleads for better counselling of the parents.

Compulsive internet usage and education
Also the general and internet specific education by the parents has been researched in relation to the amount of connected hours and compulsive usage by youngsters. The results show that internet specific education - how do parents monitor the internet usage of their children – bears a relationship to the amount of hours use internet weekly and to their compulsive internet usage. The results imply that monitoring internet usage, e.g. interfering when youngsters stay behind the computer a whole day in the weekend, protects them against intensive and compulsive usage. Defining the frequency and length of internet usage seems to help in intensive usage. Talks between the parents and the youngsters help to protect the youngsters against compulsive usage. There are also indications that rules regarding content contribute to the prevention of intensive and compulsive usage of internet by youngsters

Blog Posting Number: 905


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

E-books in the Netherlands: here we go again

Yesterday the Dutch daily financial FD (registered access) sported an article on e-books. Basic message was that the bookshop chain BGN will start to distribute e-books through its Selexyz consumer channel. The motive: “We have to.”, according to Matthijs van der Lely, the managing director, “ As Selexyz we need to be in the front. Look at what happened to the CD, with the downloading of music, with iTunes. You need to go with the flow as bookshop, even if you put an axe in the roots of your own business”.

His offer: “The e-reader which Selexyz will sell is dear: it will cost 650 euro. The customer can only download English language titles for now., in total 25.000 titles through the website of Selexyz. Some titles are free, others can be read against payment. Dutch titles are not available yet. They still have to be digitised..”

I looked at the article and could not believe my eyes. The man spoke like a stranger in Jerusalem. I wondered whether he took the decision after the saleman of iRex Technologies had dropped in with his blue eyes or having read a proper marketing report. I personally think that the iRex salesmen passed by and won him over.

E-book in the Netherlands: here we go again, now for the third time. In 1993 Sony tried to swamp the European and Dutch market with its EB player. It cost 1200 Dutch guilders (roughly 600 euro now). This e-reader (see my mini-series on retro gadgets), an adapted Data-discman playing a minidisc, was the first incorporation of an electronic book: the device was the hard cover and the minidisc could contain 200Mb in text, images and sound (which was an innovation for books after the sound books by Bertelsmann). In 1995 Sony stopped the sale of the EB reader in the Netherlands with no more than 1.000 units sold and roughly 6 Dutch titles produced. .

By 1997 in the upswing of internet, a new ground swell came up with e-readers from Softbooks and Rocket e-book. It looked like it would work. But by 2000 no e-book tsunami had passed. The bookshops of Barnes & Nobles threw the e-books out of their assortment. Some specialised companies stayed with the e-books, but the owners did not become millionaires from it.

In both waves many success and failure characteristics had played their part. Of course it was interesting to read electronic books, having them in one device. But the weight, the screen, the battery life and the price contained technical failure elements and the perception that everything is free on the internet, including e-book, as well as the offer of e-books were a marketing failure characteristic.

By 2006 the third wave came up in the Netherlands. iRex Technologies introduced the iLiad, an e-reader with a screen based on the e-Ink technology; a very readable screen with a smart power consumption system. The iLiad was also positioned as an e-book reader, but also as an electronic newspaper reader, an electronic manual reader and a device which could be used in schools and hospitals. It is an open system so it takes for example the Mobipocket format, which can be read on Windows, Palm and Pocket PCs. In the meantime the e-book business had grown slowly in the Netherlands and offers e-books in various languages, including at least 140 Dutch language copyrighted books.

Will the Selexyz wave bring on the e-book tsunami? Did the situation really change? Technically there have been major improvements in the weight, digital paper screen and power management. But for the rest not much has changed. The perception that everything is free on the internet has changed a little bit, given the success of iTunes. But so far nothing has changed in price and the offer of copyrighted books in Dutch.

One conclusion can be drawn from history: do not start at the distribution end, but start at the producing end. Before Mr Van der Lely should have talked to the financial newspaper, he should have organised a production pipeline with publishes for e-books and audio books and then he should have started a publicity campaign with the publishers, producers and the distribution channels. He should have made sure that the 1 kilogram book of Geert Mak In Europa should be available in electronic form or the 1032 page book about Pierre Vinken, the former CEO of Reed Elsevier; these would prove the advantages of e-book. Now he is left with an expensive offer of an e-reader for which hardly any Dutch language books are available. In short Selexyz has create a guarantee for failure in the e-book distribution.

Blog Posting Number: 904

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Quiet revolution against collecting societies

In the Netherlands a quiet revolution is going on against collecting societies. Consumers pay a surcharge of 14 eurocents for a CD and 40 eurocents for a DVD when buying blank media as they can copy music, shows and movies on the mdia. But consumers are getting tired of these undefined charges. Consumers do not get any good explanation about the height and the way the money is spent. They do not understand why they have to pay a surcharge for a blank medium and an implicit charge to download a a tune. Besides the distribution of the collected money is a very rough mechanism. When a media carrier has been bought and the surcharge collected, the collecting foundation starts looking for composers, artists and producers

Dutch publications like de Volkskrant and Emerce claim that the Dutch collecting society for home copies (Stichting Thuiskopie) has too much money in its coffers. In 2006 only 23 million was handed over to creatives. Now the society has no less than 57 million euro left. This collecting society is charging manufacturers of blank media at source as the media can be used to make copies of articles, music and shows. The minister of Justice has now stipulated that the Foundation will have to return this money to the manufacturers and importers of the media carriers.

Last year an investigation was started as there were complaints about financial justification and the distribution of the money among the beneficiaries. No less than 57 million euro had been built up for beneficiaries who could not be traced or did not exist any longer. The minister thinks that the money should be returned to manufacturers and importers of blank media. But the IRDA (International Rights Distribution Agency), an organisation representing creatives such as composers, musicians and producers, disagrees with the minister and wants the collecting society to search harder. It in facts accuses the collecting society of unwillingness to search for beneficiaries. Three quarters of the money can be transferred to collecting societies abroad and the Dutch beneficiaries can easily be found, says a spokesperson for IRDA.

The collecting society Thuiskopie reacted like stung by a bee. A spokesperson said that the collecting society likes to have paid the money to beneficiaries and not to the manufacturers and importers of blank media.

The news about the surplus of money does not help the collecting society Thuiskopie. Last year it tried to introduce a levy on Mp3 players, but the justice minister postponed the introduction. But it neither helps the other collecting societies. Especially SME companies are complaining about the charges levied without a proper explanation, proper distribution channels and justification. Companies complain about about paying charges for having radios playing during and copying articles. And not only the companies complain, but also authors. In many cases the publisher keeps the entire repartition, while he is supposed to share the amount with the author using the excuse that the share is incorporated in the author's fee.

Blog Posting Number: 903


Monday, October 22, 2007

Het Gesprek: conversation or interview

On October 2, 2007 the crossmedia television channel Het Gesprek (The Conversation) was launched in the Netherlands. It advertised itself as the first channel worldwide with 24/7 interviews. The channel presents 24/7 interviews with Dutch VIPs on internet and from 19-24h on television channels. Quality, content and current affairs are the hallmarks of the new channel. It is an initiative of a group of Dutch television makers.

The idea for the channel was born out of dissatisfaction with the current interview practice on the Dutch television. Guests are invited for a talk show and get a few minutes to deliver oneliners, but they can hardly argue their cases or show other interesting aspects and are regularly interrupted by commercials. In the Dutch television scene there is only one television program Summer Guests by the Dutch broadcasting company VPRO. For this program the guest can browse the broadcast archives, propose their items and can freely talk. But this program is only broadcasted during summertime.

Het Gesprek is stimulating discussions in the public space. Het Gesprek takes time to interview guests coming from politics, art, literature, culture, sports, science and business. They are interviewed by experienced interviewers. Het Gesprek will offer daily four new interviews. On the website the viewers/users can access all the interviews, summaries, remarkable and prominent guests.

The format of the channel consists of: a home page, a program guide, the programs, opinion from the viewers and CVs of the guest which have been invited and the presenters. Of course the most charming feature of the web channel is the fact that you can view the programs at a later time than the real interview. In this way I could look at the broadcast about Picnic 07 in Amsterdam.

The TV channel has not started with a bang. In fact the weekly viewing figures have been too small to measure. Nationally, an average of just 2000 people was measured in the first week, a figure which has dwindled to 1000 viewers/users last week.
Will the channel improve in viewing figures? I have my doubts. Despite the fact that the channel was set up with venture money, it has hardly advertised itself (probably this was smart in the first weeks as the whole operation had to move shop). But I think that there is another problem. The channel is television projected on internet with an added archive function. It misses the social network features; in this way it is also like broadcasting. The internet users are basically back into their old role of almost passive viewers. There is no room for a phone-in and they even do not have the chance to put merit stars to the programs. The internet users will have to get involved in a different way than just sending a reaction in the section opinion; this looks like the old, tradition newspaper and broadcast tolerance. It should create its own community with members from LinkedIn, Xing or Hyves.
The channel’s name Het Gesprek has been translated in English to The Conversation. As it stands now Het Gesprek could be better translated to The Interview.

Blog Posting Number: 992

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mobile gaming in the street

GPS has mainly come to consumers as car navigation. But creative applications are not abundant. But slowly outdoor games, based on GPS, are coming up. In the Netherlands TNO developed the outdoor game Triangler, which can be played for team building. But now the Belgian company La mosca goes further and has commercialised outdoor city gaming. The company La mosca has been set up by Kristof Van den Branden. He started La mosca in 2006 after ten years experience as an Internet Consultant and as a (web) editor/reporter. He already had the idea of the city games in 1998 as a passionate board game player. He only thought the time had come to give shape to the concept in 2005. The IWT (Institute for the promotion of innovation through science and technology in Flanders) granted La mosca a subsidy in 2006 to carry out an Innovation Study. This provided La mosca with the knowledge to explore and enter the market well prepared. This resulted in The Target going into production by the end of that year (the first La mosca game). The Target and the second game (CityTracks) were ready at the start of 2007.

In the target three police teams have to catch an escaped gangster. He is terrorising the city because a client will give him money for every crime he commits. Three policemen are sent to catch the man before he manages to collect € 1,000,000 and leaves the city. The gangster has to steal (virtual) objects that are located all over the city to be able to commit the crimes: a knife, a rope ladder, explosives, etc. Every time he steals an object or commits a crime, however, the police find out. This ensures the gangster leaves a trail of his activities in the city that can be followed. The police satellites also succeed in exactly localising the gangster every 6 minutes and the policemen can continuously check how far away they are from their “target” (the gangster). But the gangster knows how to intercept the satellite signals and is given the same information as the players on his screen... and he has a few special defences to shake off any police pursuit... The game will last for two hours and is finished when a policeman shoots the gangster virtually or when the gangster succeeds in collecting the required one million euro.

For the game minimally four and maximally twelve players are required. For the game Nokia 6110 Navigators are being used; the event companies lend them to the players. These mobiles are solely fit for satellite communication; it is for this reason that players still can not use their own mobile.

La mosca is a publisher of city games. Besides The Target, it has developed City Tracks and City Team Conquest. It has commercialised city gaming by licensing event companies. And these are finding ways to sell games events. The games can currently be played in Antwerp and Ghent as a private player. In the Netherlands, the game can be played under supervision in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht as a private player. The game can also be played by companies. And the game can be adapted for special purposes like the launch of a new product.

Blog Posting Number: 901

Target: outdoor games

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Searching for a nonsense word

The holiday season is far behind us and now we get to hear the tall stories from that period. In the Netherlands an office furniture and supply discounter Overtoom had a big hit. In its radio commercials it summed up what the company offered and added the sentence “and also a Poeremetator”. This non existing word yielded 413.000 hits on Google, 350.000 visits to the web shop in the month of September, 16 percent more acquisitions.

A Poeremetator is a nonsense word in Dutch. It belongs to the category of words, which are used for new employees who are sent for an errant through the company to end up in the warehouse. They are hard to translate, but a mercury magnet is one of those company jokes.

The Poeremetator did unleash also the creative minds. Poeremetator movies turned up on YouTube; the best one attracted 9.500 views in seven days. No less than 227 blog postings (now 228) were written about the non existing device. But also in social communities, such as the Dutch oriented Hyves, special groups were founded and on the Dutch counterpart of eBay, Marktplaats, a trade has started up in poeremetators. And of course the campaign was the subject of many a radio talk show.

The company had also put their creative minds at work. It developed a search game, wherein people could start hunting for the Poeremetator. In less than one month 51.000 unique visitors visited the game and it was played 58.420 times. The winner received a Sony Vaio micro pc.

The company was disappointed in the number of ordered poeremators. And when a poeremetator was delivered to Overtoom, the employees did not recognise the device.

For the company it was an exciting summer campaign which enforced its brand recognition.

Blog Posting Number: 900


Friday, October 19, 2007

Disadvantage and distance in the Netherlands

The Netherlands are often presented (and I also do it myself) as the land of milk and honey in the field of internet. Almost every household has a computer, more than 75 percent have an internet connection; more than 80 percent uses broadband with an average speed of 2Mbps. This gives the impression that everyone in the Netherlands has enough digital skills.

But this week the report Disadvantage and distance was published by SPC about the digital divide in the Netherlands. It paints a less optimistic picture by focusing on digital skills of the low-educated, the elderly, ethnic minorities and the economically inactive. Some highlights.

"Information and communication technology (ict) has become indispensable in Western societies, and more and more aspects of our lives have become interwoven with and dependent upon computers and the Internet. Participation in the knowledge society requires adequate digital skills. Increasingly, the possession of these skills is a condition for pursuing a successful education career, finding work and progressing in one’s career, and also for maintaining social contacts in our private lives. However, Dutch citizens differ in the extent to which they possess these digital skills. The data presented in this report show that the elderly, people with a lower education level, people who are economically inactive and members of ethnic minorities possess fewer of these skills. The research questions addressed in this report are concerned with how far certain groups in society lag behind in terms of digital skills, the causes of that disadvantage and its consequences. The report poses four central research questions.

1 To what extent do the digital skills of the elderly, the low-educated, the economically inactive and members of ethnic minorities differ from those of the rest of the population?
There are wide differences in digital skills between young and old, and between people with a high and a low education level. As an illustration, 43% of people with a lower education level use the Internet to search for specific information, compared with 81% of those with a higher education level. The difference between people younger and older than 55 years is of roughly the same order. The difference between the economically inactive and ethnic minorities compared with those in work and the indigenous population, respectively, is relatively smaller. Housewives/househusbands and Turks/Moroccans in particular lack digital skills. The degree of disadvantage in possession of digital skills is based both on more ‘objective’ usage characteristics and on people’s own, more subjective estimations of their skills.
People tend to overestimate their own disadvantage to some extent, as reflected in that fact the differences based on subjective indicators are slightly greater than those based on more objective indicators.

2 What difficulties do those with a skills disadvantage give for not using the Internet and what differences are found in this respect among the elderly, the economically inactive, the low educated and ethnic minorities?
Members of ethnic minorities cite financial difficulties as a problem rather than ‘lack of interest’ more often (roughly 25% versus 12%) than the indigenous Dutch. Older persons also frequently cite lack of interest (42%), but they themselves also often believe they are too old (36% of the over-75s). Lack of interest or unwillingness to use the Internet can mask a variety of other reasons, such as lack of time or an
erroneous image of what the Internet is, what it can do and what its potential benefits are. But reasons that people prefer not to voice can also be masked by the label ‘lack of interest’, such as fear of computers, fear of failure, fear of loss of face, fear of making mistakes and embarrassment about their lack of skills. For ethnic minorities (Turks and Moroccans, and especially women), their limited command of the Dutch language can also play a role.

3 Which factors contribute to the digital skills disadvantage of the elderly, the economically
inactive, the low-educated and ethnic minorities?

The study investigated the extent to which disposable income, ability to process information, social setting and time constraints influence people’s skills disadvantage. Disposable income was found to be a barrier to the acquisition of digital skills for the economically inactive in particular. A lack of facility in processing information proved to be a hindrance for both the low-educated and for Turks and Moroccans. Low literacy has been related to digital disadvantage in earlier research and is in itself already a serious barrier to participation in the knowledge society. Two factors were found not to be relevant for the acquisition of digital skills: social setting and time constraints.

4 What social and economic consequences does non-use of ict have for participation in society?
The consequences for people with a low education level and for the unemployed are partly economic, in that they affect their opportunities for active labour market participation or for moving ahead. Only a small proportion of the unemployed and disabled (24%) report that their computer knowledge is sufficient to enable them to get a job. People with a low education level find that their deficient computer skills are a problem in progressing in their work (25% do however feel that their knowledge is sufficient). Nonetheless, people in this group are less willing (than the more highly educated) to invest in acquiring digital skills. To what extent people need more skills in order to progress in their own work setting or sector was not studied.
For low-skilled jobs, the use of ict sometimes actually leads to a simplification of the work (think of the scanners used at supermarket checkouts). Such a downgrading of job content does not demand more skills, but rather the ability still to derive some job satisfaction from this reduced job content.

Task for the government
It is difficult to determine unambiguously whether someone possesses sufficient digital skills, because this involves a normative opinion about what a person should have in the way of digital skills in the present time and in a specific social situation. Such a checklist does not (yet) exist. A shortage of skills can manifest itself in at least two ways: if that shortage wholly or partly results in individual goals not being achieved, or if social demands are higher than individual ambitions. The importance of increasing the digital skills of Dutch citizens is rarely questioned. The question is not so much whether this should happen, but rather who should be responsible for it. That responsibility lies not only with the government, but also with the business community, with technology producers and with individual citizens".

A complete summary is available in the pdf of the report, pages 84-89.

Blog Posting Number: 899


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Online casual gaming a female pastime

Let me warn you beforehand. First: this posting is about a market survey. And as you know market surveys do not reflect reality, but they might confirm the impression you had about a certain subject. Second: this is about a market survey among women and has nothing to do with emancipation or women’s lib.

Last week I received a press release from Zylom, part of RealNetworks. It is a (casual) game portal and a leading producer and distributor of online games in Europe. Monthly 10 million people play games, ranging from word games to Sudoku, from puzzle games such as Majhong. No less than 80 percent of the visitors are women and older than 22 years of age. That calls for a market survey.

So a marketing bureau was asked to do a survey in the Netherlands. According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, there are 6.262.449 women above 18 years in the Netherlands over against 6.138.440 men above 18 years. The marketing bureau selected 1001 women; a curious figure as it relates to the stories told during the 1001 Arabian nights.

The first conclusion of the market survey is that female gamers or gameHers are prominent in online gaming. Online gaming is not just a pastime for men. In the Netherlands 86 percent of the women do play online occasionally. Projected this is half a million more women than men.

The women were also asked to rank their favourite activity out of thirteen listed ones. The front number indicates the ranking in the list of thirteen activities:
1. Reading (18%)
2. Watching television (14%)
3. Online gaming (12%)
8. Sex (6%)

Does this say anything about the Group of respondents? The survey demonstrated that the majority of the gameHers was older than 25 years and 11 percent was only younger than 25 years. In fact 31 percent of the gaming women is 55 years or older. And they do spend time on games. No less than 28 percent spent one to three hours a week online and 38 percent tops the three hour a week milestone easily

The researchers have identified three types of gameHers:
a. Lara Switch-Offs. Forget the overactive and aggressive Lara Croft. The majority (73 percent) female gamers play regularly online games to relax. Lara Switch-offs log in to enjoy a moment for themselves.
b. Davina Codes. The Davina Codes like to puzzle and crack codes. Dan Brown's DaVinci Code would be easy fort hem as online puzzles are addictive.
c. Brain Fonda. This Group of women believes that games and puzzles keep their mind active and in shape. One third of the respondents game to keep their brains fit.

One thing is clear: women can not be typecast any longer as technophobes and games are no longer just toys for the boys.

Blog Posting Number: 898


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Almere: a broadband living lab

I had written about Almere and glass fibre already. But now the big news in my hometown is offcial: Almere (skyline of thecity on the photograph) will be the first big city with fibre to every home. On October 3, 2007 the telecom incumbent KPN and the cable construction company Reggefiber. KPN will offer the services on the fibre net and Reggefiber will lay the fibre cables. By 2010 all the households and companies will have a fibre connection at their disposal.

Almere is a 30 years old city, a new town, with 180.000 inhabitants and 70.000 households and it is still growing at great speed. The fibre will be a standard facility in all the new homes that will be built in Almere and in all the exiting districts starting this autumn with the Almere Harbour area. After that district by district will be canvassed. The inhabitants will get tv, radio, internet and telephony and get new facilities like video communication with care institutions.

This fibre project has been initiated and executed by the Almere Fiber Consortium, which consists of the municipality, three housing corporations, Reggefiber and a local entrepreneur D. Zantinge. The crucial question in this type of projects is the financing. Municipalities are allowed to invest under very strict rules; for example the municipality of Amsterdam has invested in its fibre project and is now under scrutiny of the European Commission. But the fray for the Almere fibre project will be born by Reggefiber.

The city of Almere wants to be the first digital city in the Netherlands. The objective of the project is promote innovative developments which will strengthen the economy, education, care, living and culture. Having a fibre infrastructure will make the city more attractive for companies in many ways. Employees can work from home. But also network companies can have a direct backbone connection from the Almere Interchange. This was already reason enough for the academic computing centre Sara to come to Almere. Almere ’s fibre network will be an open network. Any supplier of internet services can deliver its services in a level playing field to consumers and companies. In this way Almere will become a living lab in which internet and communication services can be developed and trialled.

The municipality Almere has already a super fast fibre network in use since the summer of 2006; this connects all municipal buildings, schools and social institutions. Also the industrial areas have been connected to the network. Besides these connections a pilot has been executed linking 1700 households and 500 companies to the network. With the experience of these smaller projects, Almere can start its roll-out of the entire network.

I have not seen more details on the roll-out yet. So I do not know when our office will be connected to the network. But to tell you the truth, I can not wait. The speed will always be more than the present UPC speed of 8Mbps; despite the fact that UPC has shown a speed of 100Mbps on the cable, it has not changed its offer of speeds and tariffs. Perhaps for the time being, I still should change to Alice or Telfort (but I do not like their fair use clause) for an ADSL 20Mbps line at 30 euro, including fixed line telephone.

Blog Posting Number: 897

Tags: broadband

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Two speed broadband in Europe

Although some European countries lead the world in broadband access, there is a growing gap between the best and worst performers, according to a report presented by the European Commission today. Lack of competition and regulatory weaknesses are cited as the main obstacles to broadband growth. The Commission will address these shortcomings in its proposals to reform the EU's Telecom Rules on 13 November.

On 1 July 2007 there were over 90 million fixed broadband lines in the 27 EU Member States of which some 20 million lines, excluding Bulgaria and Romania, have been added since July 2006, an increase of 28.7%. Proportionally growth was highest in Denmark (7.7 lines per 100 inhabitants), Luxembourg (7.1 per 100) and Ireland (6.7 per 100).

Broadband growth has continued in the last year throughout the EU, as businesses and citizens continue to benefit from the digital revolution (see IP/07/582). Average penetration (number of subscribers per population) has grown from 14.9% to 18.2%, despite the relatively modest penetration rates in some Member States. In the best performing countries – Denmark (37.2%) and The Netherlands (33.1%) – roughly one third or more of the population has broadband, with a substantial proportion using an infrastructure other than the incumbents.

According to data published by the Commission, the gap between the strongest (Denmark 37.2%) and weakest broadband performers (Bulgaria 5.7%) is widening slightly, with now more than a 30 percentage point difference. The main reasons for this are the lack of significant alternative infrastructures in some Member States or the need for a more consistent and speedy application of existing remedies (see IP/07/435). More than the already proposed enforcement needs to be done to stimulate investment so there is more consistent growth across the EU. Effective competition on the broadband markets in order to achieve "broadband for all" is therefore a key priority of the reform of the EU Telecom Rules that the Commission will propose next month.

KPN feels competition from Alice
Talking about broadband and the Netherlands. When the ADSL 20Mb service Alice was introduced, KPN employees sang the song Who the f*ck is Alice. But after two months KPN feels the bite and has come up with a competitor: Telfort. And I hear you say: But Telfort is a KPN brand for mobile telephony and not for fixed lines. When KPN bought Telfort it paid almost one billion euro; now this money will have to be earned back. So from this month onwards Telfort is no longer an exclusive mobile brand. It offers now also fixed lines and voip.

Besides its mobile offer, Telfort now offers two products: internet with a speed of maximally 20MBps for 19,95 euro a month and a voip subscription for 9,95 euro a month with free phoning to all fixed line numbers in the Netherlands. Telfort guarantees no price increases after one year or extra costs for the use of the fixed line. There is one catch: for Telfort internet and phoning a fair use policy is in force.

In the press release Telfort claims to bring clarity in the intransparent ADSL forest. In a recent market research survey the Dutch express that the internet market is intransparent, complex and full of misleading internet offers. This is a funny statement as Telfort mother KPN has a market share of 53 percent built up with a series of brands (XS4ALL, Speedlinq, 12Move, Tiscali and Planet, formerly Planet Internet) and its most expensive 20Mbps subscription plus voip subscripting is 92.50 euro. Bewilderment all over KPN brand portfolio.

Blog Posting Number: 896


Monday, October 15, 2007

Europrix TTA 2007 nominations

The nominations of the EUROPRIX Top Talent Award have been published. The list and screen shots are available online. As a juror I can now talk freely about the nominations (but I can not say anything about the winners). Of course anyone can go through the list for him/herself and look at the entries and links, but I just show my personal preferences.

In the category Mobile Contents is the most hilarious entry CHEFi Interactive Cooking Guide from Israel, produced by Igor Ginzburg of the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. I should perhaps be more precise. The promotion movie is most hilarious. The project is very practical. The entry is about a mobile cooking assistant. No screens in the kitchen as even kitchen builders once would you like to believe. Just a simple mobile. Dowload the recipe and you can start with the spaghetti. The project took the fancy of Reuters for a report. But have a look at the promotion movie under the Reuters one. It is a riot. Besides this practical solution for cooking, Igor Ginzburg knows how to sell his project. He will go a long way in the interactive marketing world.

In the category Interactive Computer Graphics the entry Mijn naam is Haas from my home country the Netherlands produced by Sanneke Prins from the Utrecht School of the Arts has been chosen. It is a beautiful DVD-ROM production for young children. It combines storytelling and nice graphics. Besides it is an aid for teaching languages regardless the specific language.

In the category Interactive Installations and Interactive TV there was an intriguing entry: Performative Ecologies from the UK by Ruairi Glynn, Bartlett School of Architecture. On the site it says: 'Performative Ecologies' examines the potential of responsive environments to engage in gestural and performative forms of non-verbal communication and conversation. To me it was the installation has charm by its intelligence and capacity to learn.

In the category Content Tools and Interface Design the entry Strip Mine from Slovenia by Andraž Tori, RTV Slovenia was surprising. The project follows the trend in broadcast archiving to cut video up in small independent parts (mico-chunking). A photograph, the digital text of the item and the link to the video are presented. The text is automatically linked to items in Wikipedia and bloggers are alerted by the Slovanian broadcast to the item; they can quote the right text of the item in their postings. (I guess they should have another name. I know what a strip mine is in mining. But I guess the entry will be searched by the wrong people; yes a dirty mind is a joy for ever!).

In the category Digital Video and Animations the entry Life-Line from Hungary by Tomek Ducki from the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design is very impressive. It is not online yet, but it should be published on YouTube. It is really worthwhile.
The winners in the categories and the overall TTA winner will be presented with the awards in Graz (Austria) on November 24, 2007.

Tulse Luper Journey to end today
Last year The game Tulse Luper Journey won the Europrix Top Talent Award 2006 in the category of Games. It is part of Peter Greenaway’s multi-platform project: The Tulse Luper Suitcases. Tulse Luper is the lead character in an ambitious series of projects initiated by film director Peter Greenaway. So far, the project includes three feature films, a series of DVD’s, travelling exhibitions, books, publications and this online game produced by the Dutch company Submarine. The online game finishes today. For many a player or researcher it will mean that they do not know what to do with their time. As one of the participants Hikari expresses this on the forum: “So uh... what happens after the contest is over?”

Blog Posting Number: 895


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Culture of the Information Age (6)

Art composition basics in media design studies

Present at the conference was also Dalia Matijkiene (see the lady left on the photograph), a lecturer at Vilnius College of Construction and Design Interactive Design Department. We had met before in Tampere in 2005 during the VociNet workshop. Dalia had made a profound study on the art composition basics in media design studies. From her study she draws the following conclusions:

1. Analysis and summary of publications on art composition theory based on tradition of Modernism permits to distinguish following principles: integrity, expression, organity, structure, style, rhythm, proportion, symmetry. Discussing various principles of composition authors, often from their subjective experience, interpret and group them in totally unrestricted ways. Thus becomes blurred the very system of composition principles in educational discipline “Fundamentals of Art Composition”

2. New tendency emerges in the post-modern culture: the search for harmony and unity that incorporates artistic elements of classical and ancient cultures as the basic purpose of human existence and creativity. This creates premises to combine into integral system various principles of art composition developed by modernists and construct a new model of art education on the basis of this system.

3. The essence of the presented model is harmony of all principles of art composition. The harmony is ruled by two laws: integrity (unity of idea and form, parts and totality) and expression. These main laws are concretized by different principles: unity is characterized by organism, structure, and style; expression – by symmetry, proportion and rhythm.

4. In composition these principles and laws interconnect and act as a unity, thus the chart of this model relates with the emphasis on the center and even distribution around this center. The chart forms a six-angled star – the universal symbol of all cultures in the world, which means the essence of creative work. At the some time this form and it’s development reflects the structure of media products/art such like internet, interface, interactive structure of games etc. and their features – periodic, multi-linear, pointed to the center (user/consumer), determinant consistency.

Besides conclusions, Dalia showed the Unity of Composition Principles Chart and a series of drawings illustrating the principles of design: style, rhythm, organism, symmetry, structure, proportion. These principles shape the idea of thedesign. Her presentation and some 30 drawings will be published in the December issue of FreesideEurope.

Blog Posting Number: 894


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Culture of the Information Age (5)

Preservation of net art

How do you preserve internet art? That was the question which Anne Laforet (photograph from Flickr) posed in her presentation. For her Ph.D. she is researching the models of preservation for net art in museums. Of course the first question is: what is Internet Art? This looks like a simple question, but it is hard to answer. The simplest answer could be: art within and for the Internet. But that is just the problem. The real time presentation is hard to repeat after a while. Besides defining net art, it is difficult to exhibit and preserve it.

Museums have been confronted to these difficulties and have to devise new strategies to face these. That is one of the reasons why museums or galleries have not bought any net art. For example the Tate Gallery in London exhibits net art works it commissioned but has not any works acquired so far.

Anne Laforet looked at models which are emerging to deal with the aspects of preservation and made an inventory. She could point to three models: Variable Media for museums, initiatives in web archiving, archives of institutions dedicated to new media art. She also developed her own model for which she uses the metaphor of an archaeological museum.

1. Within the museum context, Jon Ippolito, an artist and a curator at the
Guggenheim Museum, came up with an original approach, Variable Media, which perceives the artwork outside of its medium, so that it can evolve, be re-created, for instance when its original medium becomes obsolete. Every art work is considered individually, more as a score than a finite, unchanging object. The variable media approach is not focused only on net art, but also deals with every contemporary art form, that puts an emphasis on process rather than on the object, such as conceptual art, land art, minimal art, installations and performance.

2. Archiving the Avant-Garde, subtitled Documenting and Preserving Digital / Variable Media Art, is an initiative from the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive. Associated with Variable Media and other structures, Archiving the Avant-Garde develops, and tests, models for notation, cataloguing, accession, and emulation within the museum environment.

3. To deal with the challenge of preservation, some institutions focus on documentation strategies. Such an institution is V2_, not a museum per se, but a centre devoted to unstable media art based in Rotterdam. The goal of the V2_ archive is to document the artworks and projects presented or produced at V2.

As a fourth model Anne Laforet proposes and hybrid model using the metaphor of an archaeological museum. Archeology proceeds by fragments, assembling objects of different status and in different states which makes sense when put together. It knows how to deal with voids, gaps, missing parts, and through a re-contextualization, how to propose a plausible state of what the original situation could be, while maintaining open alternative hypotheses. The status of what is displayed and shown is significantly different in an archaeological museum compared to an art museum: visitors are aware that what they are seeing and experiencing as reconstructed; they do not expect to see an object that is identical to what it was when it was made. The status of the artwork recreated through the combination of museum and archaeological methods is changing or, at least, is challenged and interrogated. This model deals with net art works and their context.

Het present conclusion is: the first three models are being tested but the fourth is not implemented yet. Such a project could take the form of a partnership of organizations with different scopes, methods and goals. The resulting institute would become a living archive, a research space, with fragments of artworks which could be updated and re-activated in multiple ways.

The full text of this and the other presentations will be published in the December and March issue of FreesideEurope.

Blog Posting Number: 893

Tags: ,

Culture of the Information Age (extra)

Thursday night the conference was closed with a dinner and a concert. The organ concert was given in the Lutheran church of Siofok. This church is rather new and has been designed by the Hungarian architect Imre Makovecz. The architect mixes religious symbolism with old folk art as can be seen from the outside by daylight and from the inside. Inside this church you can see a turned over ship, a symbolism in relationship with the Balaton Lake; but you vcan also see the symbol of the hat of the early inhabitants of Hungary. Inside the church everything is from wood, donated by Fins. The vicar of the church explained the meaning of all the symbols such as the eagle entrance and the Jacob's ladder.

The next morning part of the group had to catch the plane from Budapest airport. So we got up early not to get caught by the traffic jams in Budapest. When the travellers has been delivered at the airport by the coach, the rest went into Budapest for a quick tour. We were the first vistors at the cittadel with a great view on the river Danube.

Then we went to the Buda side of the city and had a view on the National Library on the Pest side (see picture left). We also passed the National Parliament and ended the tour at the national square near the Zoo.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Culture of the Information Age (4)

Narrowing the Gap on the Net in Publishing

The second day of the conference Culture of the Information Age, opened with a presentation by Péter J. Sós, a Hungarian communications expert and lecturer in tourism, entitled Narrowing the Gap between the Private and Professional Publishing on the Net. Péter started out with the obvious statement that life has changed due to technology, economically and due to a new infrastructure. People have a lot of technology around: CD-ROM and DVD, digital cameras, even in the mobile phones, digital sound recording, mp3 and USB and FireWire plug-ins (everything to everything). We have gotten also cheaper tools accessible for many people. In the infrastructure there are many new opportunities: blog space and video sharing service for free; cheap on-line storage capacity (or for free); cheap web site builder software; easy-to-use picture and video editing software (e.g. PhotoShop, etc.). Today the creator can publish immediately and if the content is “on”, it will always remain available.

These possibilities offer the chance for everybody to express himself/herself. This fulfils the ancient urge of mankind to create and to disseminate – just as in the “good old times”. It is no more than a new dawn of the Folk Art. The urge is the old one, just the tools are new: story telling on-line, fine art and music with cameras, picture and music software. The old Folk Art was performed to the audience, usually the local community. The New Folk Art is performed to the Net Communities across the borders and time zones. In both cases you will get instant feed-back.

The New Folk Art is visible on the fan sites of popular novels, movies, etc., usually containing creative variations, new “parts”, fantasy-games, drawings, music. But there are also new groups like sub cultural virtual communities, but also the new communications industry with tourism compilations of state and regional promotion. An absolute new group is the group of people creating PowerPoint slide shows by photoshopping photographs of fine arts, thematic compilations (from cars to hard porn) and interesting and weird things. (In the picture Hungarian politicians have been photoshopped). But nobody of the viewers knows if the author was amateur or professional. There is not a clear line between personal and professional postings. In Hungary Mr. Gyurcsany used the blog as a political promotional tool; he hijacked the news of the first the first bird flu in Hungary before Hungarian television was able to check and broadcast it.

But there is nobody talks about the responsibility of the blogger. Today well known bloggers have big audiences as if they were a journalists. But the responsibility of the journalist is depending of the general media culture of his country. On the other hand I the bloggers’ job is subjective. Question is of course whether readers know that. Another question is copyright. But nobody knows, which content is copyrighted and which is not. An author can not follow the spread of his/her content. So there is no author, no risk, no responsibility
Also the private rights are easy to hurt. Everybody can upload false or stolen documents, pictures, videos, etc.; and this is done. Once false content is on the Net, it can not remove it any more.

But in the public space there are also problems such as cross-border racism, which cannot be stopped or the political offences. In Hungary, for example it is forbidden to publish opinion surveys eight days prior to voting. But as a private individual you can ask the information and you will get it even as an e-mail, ready to be sent around as a chain mail. In Hungary there is also an advertising stop 24 hours prior to voting. But you still can receive mails and other information on-line, and the servers abroad can provide you with actual political content

Péter J. Sós finished up his presentation with a warning: if you will receive a chain mail message or see “amateur” or “private” pictures or videos, think that it is nothing else, but a fresh piece of the New Folk Art Worldwide.

Péter’s cautionary talk was in my opinion right on a lot of point. Copying copyrighted information to other places on the net, basically hijacking postings, is happening. Recently I was alerted that one of my postings was hijacked, published on another blog and provided with ad random links which led to mature adult sites. I am not happy with such a hijack, but what can you do. But I thought that Péter was also a little too bleak in his presentation. He stressed for example the fact that the reliability of bloggers can not be tested. I disagree with that as a professional blogger can be confirmed for his reliability by co-bloggers.

Blog Posting Number: 892

Tagging: ,

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Culture of the Information Age (3)

Tagging as empowerment

The first day started out with a crash course blogging for two students (see photograph; two girls left) of communication sciences. They created an account with Blogger and started blogging. In the first days they put seven postings to the web. They had problems with uploading a series of pictures, a weak point of Blogger.

One of the presentations was made by Peter Mechant (see photograph), a Belgian researcher at the Media & ICT research group of the University of Gent. He is interested in enhancing or enriching participation in culture through the use of social software features. He started out analyzing Web 2.0 and social software. Web 2.0 consists of three characteristics: sociological, technological and economical. On the sociological side Web 2.0 a word like empowerment is used. Ajax, ruby on rails, lightweight programming models. Syndication is part of the technological characteristic. And the economic aspect looks at user generated content and especially long tail as an economic model. Peter Mechant rather uses the term social software. He put ten definitions to the audience. One of the ten definitions is from S. Butterfield, who defines social software as software that people use to interact with other people, employing a combination of the following five devices: 1. identy; 2. presence; 3. relationships; 4. conversations; 5. groups. Peter Mechand’s own definition is: software that enables communication through digital technologies during which people connect, converse, collaborate, manage information and/or form online networks in a social, bottom-up fashion. Social software has the following characteristics:
- is mediated through digital technology;
- enables communication;
- helps people reach certain goals – it enables content (management), communication, collaboration and community (forming);
- works bottom up;
- is based on principles of social networking and user participation.

He makes it concrete by asking the question, whether you as a jazz fan would like to have a virtual arts centre of the future, where you could:
- listen to the concerts;
- watch video fragments;
- be informed about the latest jazz news;
- keep your own calendar;
- share information with other jazz fans;
- create your own webpage and content repository;
- walk around in a 3D environment, …

The Finnish researcher Ulla-Maaria Mutanen describes the relation between visitor and arts centre:
- reactive consumption: visitor consumes passively what the museum offers, consumption ‘in situ’;
- proactive consumption: visitor consumes actively, he/she consumes information before visiting the arts centre (for example online search for information);
- private production: visitor creates something to reflect on what he/she sees;
- public production: visitor creates something to reflect on what he/she sees and shares it with others.

He has applied the concept to the website of the arts centre Vooruit in Ghent. He and the research group looked at the website and changed this from a static website to a virtual community. Much attention was paid to tagging as tagging is a social and personal act. Tagging is in fact a way of empowerment.

Blog Posting Number: 891


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Culture of the Information Age (extra)

The conference started today. It is a small group of scientists (see photograph left). The conference has been organised by Györgyi Rétfalvi (see photograph left), a communication specialist at Kodolányi János University College; in the back Milverton Wallace, the chairman of the conference.

Around the conference hall there are many statues at which force you to smile.

The harbour and the lakeside of the Balaton lake.

Jurate Vazgauskaite from Lithania closed the first conference day with her digital installation. She showed an ad random image and sound generator.

In the evening we went to a high point in the area of the Balaton lake (photograph left). After the climb we were treated to wine tasting at the cellar at the Chateau St. Christophe winery, set up by two brothers. During the wine tasting we were offerd a plateau with Hungarian cheese and crudities.