Monday, December 31, 2007

A Happy and Open 2008

Two Dutch parliamentary commissions have approved an action plan to set a soft deadline for the application of open standards and open source software in government environments. Mr Heemskerk, vice-secretary at the department of Economic Affairs and a former software application entrepreneur, has set a hard deadline for January 1, 2009. The action plan should lead to more competition and lower costs for the government.

The action plan, entitled The Netherlands open in connection, is ambitious in its objectives and its time window. The plan has three objectives: increasing interoperability, decreasing dependency on software suppliers and promotion of a level playing field in the software market. All objectives can be reached by defined open standards. The proposal distinguishes between open standards improving the interoperability and the use of open source.

If there is equality between open source software and software of a closed system, the open source should be preferred. When government bodies want to use a closed application rather than a open source application or open standards, they will have to explain the reason why and offer a time scheme, telling when the open standard will be applied; the so called comply or explain/commit principle.

The action plan contains rigid deadlines. Government bodies are obliged to apply the comply-or-explain/commit principle, while other (semi-) state bodies and institutes have December 2008 as a deadline. From January 2009 implementation strategies have to be formulated for tendering, buying and using open source software by all government ministerial departments. One year later these strategies should also be applied for semi-government bodies such as education, health and social care institutes.

The Dutch citizen should notice the first results by January 2009, when the Open Document Format (ODF)or the OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications should be in use for text files, spreadsheets, graphs and presentation by all ministerial departments.

In the meantime the vice secretary of the Economic Affairs department has asked the Dutch monopoly watchdog to perform a market analysis. The government estimates that it would save no less than 5,6 million euro (8,8 million US dollars).

It is not surprising that the reactions to the action plan were a mixed bag. Microsoft’s CEO in The Netherlands thinks that the Dutch government will burn its fingers, if the action plan will be executed without change. “In fact, innovation will be curbed”, he said (Hear Microsoft!). So far Microsoft’s Open Office XML standard failed to achieve certification by ISO. The Dutch association of ICT entrepreneurs ICT~Office reacted ambiguously, as could be expected. It profiles itself as an association for open and closed software developers, while it has only a few open source software developers among its 450 members. ICT~Office stresses that the focus of tenders should be on facts and not on emotions. The OpenDoc Society is happy with the action plan as far as the support of open standards.

So I wish you a happy and open 2008. One of my first actions will be to order an ASUS EEE with Linux OpenOffice software.

Blog Posting Number: 965

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

2008: Year of the fibre breakthrough

Amsterdam got its Christmas present from the European Commission. The municipality of Amsterdam was cleared from unfair state competition in the matter of the fibre project of the Cityring from the complainants the cable operator UPC and cable operators’ association VECAI (which changed its name to NLkabel recently). Amsterdam had never doubted the positive outcome of the EC investigation.


(c) 2007; Houthoff Buruma Solicitors

The Directorate General of Competition, headed by Ms Neelie Kroes, decided to start an investigation, acting on the complaints of UPC and VECAI. The municipality of Amsterdam had invested 6 million euro as equity with private companies in the passive level the proposed Cityring. Amsterdam did the investment in order keep control on an open fibre network. UPC have been closed out of the bidding process early, lodge a complaint of unfair state funding with the DG Competition. The DG started a voluntary and non obligatory investigation. A lot of documents went back and forth, confidential documents had to be cleaned up due to corporate details and draft documents were held up due to court cases. Even a case before the Court in Luxemburg was under consideration. In May the DG Competition was ready to start the final leg of the investigation, which ended in December with a ruling favourable for the municipality of Amsterdam.

The DG Competition looked at three items:
a. does the municipality act as a market conform investor, in other words does the municipality not support the foundation of a company unfairly with state support;
b. Is fibre to the home a achievable business case;
c. And some specific sub-items.

Already in December 2006 UPC and VECAI had the draft text, clearing the municipality of unfair support. UPC decently kept its mouth shut as the investigation was not yet final. Remained left the business case and the specific sub-items. Helped by the timeframe, the business case was not an item any longer either. In the Netherlands FttH initiatives mushroomed: Nuenen, Hillegom, Geldrop-Mierlo, Deventer, Enschede as well as abroad. Besides the projects various companies competed for these projects; in the Netherlands notably Reggeborgh and KPN. Last October, the Amsterdam municipal project manager Dirk van der Woude has published an updated list on Dutch and foreign FttH projects. The last sub-items have been cleared by the municipality of Amsterdam successfully.

So Amsterdam can continue its project to bring fibre to more than 450.000 Amsterdam homes. In the meantime more initiatives spring up, besides the already mentioned one. As ambitious as the Amsterdam Cityring is the living lab Almere project where 70.000 will be connected to fibre before 2010.

From the updated list it is clear that 2008 will be the year of the fibre breakthrough in The Netherlands. Not in the list is yet the Fibre to the Farm (FttF) project, a project where rural areas will be linked up to urban networks. Difficult areas will be bridged by leading cables through trees in woody areas; besides farmers will dig the ducts with tractors instead of calling in a cable laying contractor with urban experience. Also internationally fibre will break through with large urban areas in 2008. Fibre will no longer be in a pilot phase, but will be in a project phase.

Cable projects will have to prove in 2008 that they can reach the same type of speeds by cable. So far UPC has demonstrated speeds of up to 100Mbps, but has not started marketing it. It looks like UPC and other cable operators will have to stick to lower rates over against fibre operators. I look forward to the battlefield in Almere.

The usage of higher speeds will have consequences for content. We have seen the usage of video grow fast. Also the social networks have grown with movies and twitter-like services. But with higher speeds, services will have more freedom to compose services with live video. This will for example be a challenge for newspapers and broadcast services. But it will also have consequences for bloggers. So far the majority of bloggers have worked with text. But I would not be surprised, when we see more bloggers go into audio or video interview blogs.

Blog Posting Number: 964

Tags: FttH, FttF, Fibre to the Home, Fibre to the Farm, , , ,

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Computer theme park

In the summer of 2007 I wrote a series on the retro-gadgets in my museum at home, ranging from my first portable Zenith Model 100 in 1983 to the first Sony EB reader from 1993 up to my iLiad reader from 2006. The mini-series sparked a discussion on a computer museum in The Netherlands. By lack of real computer news in the summer season, on August 14, 2007 there was a radio discussion on this subject. The question was why in there is no proper computer museum in The Netherlands.

Of course such a discussion has many ramifications. Why should there be a computer museum in the first place. And when such an initiative is entertained, what would such a museum look like. Or should it not be a museum but a theme park or entertainment center.

A museum has traditionally an old-fashioned ring about it. It nicely exhibits all the various models of Apple and of IBM, has some software aboard to show that it works; add some public lectures and educational lessons, and the museum has a mission. Hardware and software companies should be attracted as sponsors and some grants should be acquired to make the institute independent.









Of course it does not have to be a museum, but it can also be a show. In fact EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is an example of this. Epcot was built at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. The park opened on October 1, 1982, and was named EPCOT Center from 1982 to 1993. EPCOT demonstrated the innovations at a time that PCs had just been introduced to the consumer.

I was pleasantly surprised this year to find another solution: Mundo Binario, El parque de atracciones con la computadora más grande del mundo; in English the computer attraction park Binar-e-World. During the WSA Grand Jury in Croatia, Mundo Binario was presented as an entry by Venezuela and it was among the award winners in the category e-Entertainment. It is a theme park completely run by a family. Their reasoning was rather simple: a computer is content. Binar-e-World is an Information Technology theme park that has made it possible for everyone to physically travel inside a computer. The giant Computer is an impressive building located in the city of Valencia in Venezuela. It has a giant 740 inch computer monitor, a qwerty keyboard of 16m length, a CPU of 10m high and a mouse the size of a compact car. It is a one-of-a-kind edutainment destination that combines a walkthrough with rides similar to those at famous amusement parks, full of animatronics and special effects. Binar-e-World explains in a fun way the past, present and applications of information technology thus making it friendlier, attractive and accessible to everyone, no matter which age, sex or economic status.

So when the Dutch theme park Neverland (Land van Ooit) went bankrupt, I saw a concept as Mundo Binario as a fit replacement. Besides I would be able to donate my retro gadgets a proper place to be maintained and demonstrated.

Blog Posting: 963

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Dutch free tabloids

2007 was an interesting year for the Dutch daily newspapers. Almost all of the newspaper kept in line with the world trend of loosing subscriptions. The newspaper conglomerate PCM bought out Apax, not having made any progress and loosing a hell of a lot of money. Royal Wegener was acquired by the media empire Mecom. And the companies did not move an inch on diversification of media to for example and radio and television; in fact PCM sold its radio operation. But against this back-drop of common newspaper happenings, the real new things happened in the sector of free dailies with two new titles on the market. On January 23, 2007 De Pers (The Press) published its first edition, while on May 8, 2007 the PCM fledgling DAG came onto the market.




Both of them have not been on the market for a full year. Yet they had to fight immediately against the two existing free tabloids, Metro and Sp!ts. Metro is well known throughout the world and has developed in the Netherlands to a daily with short bullets and a few spreads; not exactly a daily which presents news, but a perfect advertisement vehicle with a finely distribution network of public transport points. Sp!ts, the Telegraaf competitor of Metro, is also free daily tabloid with much of the same editorial formula; it also functions as an advertisement vehicle. In this setting, which exists since 1999, two new free dailies entered the market; one, which has no ties with a a newspaper publisher and one which come from the PCM nest. To make some impression on the market, both newspapers had to have their unique selling points, if only for the advertisers: an new editorial format, a new distribution network, a new proposition for advertisers and for the users a real attraction.

Both free tabloids have succeeded in that. De Pers is seen as the better intellectual free tabloid; its editor in chief Ben Rogmans received the press award recognising its quality. It was in fact the first time that a free tabloid won a journalistic award. DAG has made some impression with its visually oriented editorial format. It is full of photographs.

De Pers, a venture of multimillionaire Mr Boekhoorn, has fought for its place by quality. A distribution network and advertisements are basically instruments for competition and it does not make the daily stand out. The advertisement is not impressive, but this has to do with the time of launching. When the daily was launched, it still had to show and prove itself, while the advertisement budgets were already earmarked. So as for advertisements De Pers should be able to get a better market share. Also its distribution network is developing differently from the other free dailies as it is also delivered to the door in some zip code areas. The newspaper has built in less than one year a quality image.

Having talked with PCM about launching a free daily together, PCM broke off the talks with Mr Boekhoorn to start their own free daily in cooperation with the telecom incumbent KPN. And again it was the editorial format which should make the difference. The tabloid sports now daily pages full of photographs and highlights some headings in yellow. Compared to De Pers the printed edition of DAG is a rag, paper to wrap the fish in. And as for the distribution network started to use retail food stores for its distribution. Also DAG needs to attract advertisement for the coming year.

But the novice free dailies needed more USPs. Both free dailies have a website and have or are preparing a mobile service. Especially the owners of DAG the newspaper conglomerate PCM and the telecom operator KPN touted the term crossmedia wherever they could. Having an internet site with movies and mobile internet site is not yet enough to brand a product crossmedia. The newspaper has been unable to develop for example to introduce day parting, using various media at various times during the day, when the media fit the environment. A printed newspaper at the breakfast table or in public transport works. But when people arrive at the office they start using internet and should not get just a digital copy of the printed tabloid, but should get other feeds and stories. By midday they should be fed news on their mobile. This type of thinking has not been a principle from the beginning. So crossmedia has been an after thought rather than an integrating philosophy so far. As such PCM has not yet learned anything else but making a printed free daily and KPN has not yet come further than technology in this project and has systematically reduced the combination of its editorial and technical knowledge.

Overlooking the battle field De Pers has won the fight so far on editorial quality. Having set a standard for their content they can quietly build out their digital presence. DAG will have quite a difficult year ahead. The newspaper has costed 12 million so far and so far the management has been able to bring the costs down to 9 million in less than a full year. In order to control the costs, It has been announced that DAG will editorially work together with the PCM morning paper De Volkskrant. This will mean that it will copy or re-edit Volkskrant articles. KPN on the other hand is closing down the editorial operation of its content site Planet Internet and will be concentrating on the internet and mobile technologies.

Blog Posting Number: 962

Tags: newspapers, day parting, crossmedia , ,


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Revising crossmedia

The time of looking back and looking forward has begun again. One starts looking back over the year and the developments. In the coming days I will revisit some of the events I have been in over the last year and reflect on it, but also look forward. The first reflection will be on conference on Crossmedia and Interaction Design (CMID07) in Hemavan (Sweden).

The conference was held in a winter sports village up north. And there was snow (which I hate), but it was not even freezing cold. The timing of the conference was interesting. I had been discussing crossmedia without giving it a name with amongst others Damien Marchi (who is in 2008 starting to work for FremantleMedia), when he presented the lessons from the French Big Brother/Loft Story crossmedia production. In the Spring of 2004 I was wrestling with the definition of crossmedia, which eventually resulted in an ACTeN e-content report. The report was later on one of the contributions to the reader on e-content published by Springer Verlag. So three years later I was up North to discuss crossmedia.

And the conference did deliver some primers, valuable contacts and new insights. First of all Hemavan was the closest I had come to the North Pole. It still was no reason for me to start skiing or snowboarding. I met a group of new people. The organisers from Hemavan and Umea and a group of Nordic delegates from other institutions than I am used to. Two people made a deep impression on me as persons and my thinking about crossmedia: Christy Dena and Monique de Haas.

Christy showed the depth of the ‘discipline’ crossmedia and I am glad to see that she has stopped her blog and devotes her time to finishing her thesis in 2008; for we need a standard work on this ‘discipline’ and not the superficial articles, workshops and MBA courses touting the term crossmedia. So in 2008 I will be following Christy closely.

Monique de Haas, a compatriot, I knew only by name, as I had never met her in The Netherlands or abroad. These days she has a captive motto: Crossmedia is one big flirt. But besides using catchy phrases, she made me think about crossmedia from the user perspective. In the e-content report, I approached crossmedia from the forward production chain, not taking in consideration that in the online age interactivity had become the leading principle. So the theoretical part of sending a message to the user through various media is an element in crossmedia, but not the only one. The user is also challenged to respond through various media, using the various opportunities of the media such as a max. 196 character SMS message or a more elaborate reaction in text or by image to a blog posting.

In January 2008 I have been asked to write a new article on crossmedia for a book, which will be published by mid-2008. I have been asked to take the e-content report for departure and to integrate this with the Hemavan lecture and the conference results. This will be a nice challenge to bring three themes together: crossmedia, production chain, various media response from users and crossmedia as an instrument for regional planning.

Yet I am still convinced that crossmedia is a multi-functional, fashionable term to replace the misconceived term of multimedia, which never got any depth. I also believe that it will disappear as it is now only used for a lack of a better term. And I keep wondering why it is that the term is in use mainly in Europe (and only in some countries such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands and Belgium and Italy. There is enough material to think about in the first month of 2008, besides other assignments.

Blog Posting Number: 961

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day




















This is just a selection of the cards Mary and I received from all over the world. We like to thank you all for the best wishes and hope that you will have happy days:
Felix Bopp - Club of Amsterdam
Elke Barbara Bachler
Rudi Vansnick - ISOC Belgium
Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka - CTPH
Christy Dena
Samoila Gheorghe - ITC
Robert Wierzbicki - Wierzbicki.org
Cai Melakoski- TAMK
Pim de Wit
ITC Office
Katri Tammsaar - TLU
Michiel Leenaars - ISOC NEderland
Sona Makulova - ELET
Paul Budde - Budde.Com
Katherine Milton
Giacomo Rambaldi - CTA
Harry Bouwman -TU Delft
Irina Blomqvist
Eve Ross
Eldon C Hylton
Györgyi Rétfalvi
Jan Bieringa
Carina Roels
Herbert Blankesteijn
Matt Moayedi - C-Content
Melissa Lee Price
Hans Sleurink - Media Update

Marketing Department Brill (325 years in publishing in 2008!)
Marcelo Sant Iago

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Monday, December 24, 2007

Store idea, innovation or invention in i-Depot

The creation process is surrounded by uncertainty. You are trying to formulate an idea, but usually you do not want to be open about it with a commercial party; afraid as you are that they might steal the idea, tinker with it and come with their own idea. The television world is famous for this phenomenon. Besides, often a an ideas circulates around, so a television production company or an full service internet bureau can claim the idea as no one has taken the trouble to put it on paper. Of course you could go to a solicitor and deposit the idea (it was not uncommon that a solicitor would put a staple through a floppy disc, containing the description and perhaps the working of the idea). In some countries you could also lodge a description of an idea, innovation or format with the internal revenue service; they would time stamp the envelop and store it.

In The Netherlands File-reg.com started some years ago an online registration service to prove copyright worldwide with registration servers on different continents. New is the online component in the registration system. Companies and individuals use the registration system to prove they were the first to create and/or are the legal owners/developers of a particular work since they registered the ‘intellectual property’ at a certain moment in time. File-reg.com addresses:
- Media: : Concepts, Designs, (RTV) Formats, Photo’s, AV, etc.
- Science: Data, Logs & Journals, R&D, Calculations, Medical data, etc
- Software: Source code, Web pages & Complete sites, Applications, etc
- Other: Business plans, Presentations, Ideas, Contracts.

Now the intellectual property industry finally has discovered this area. So far they have kept themselves busy with the legal process of the intellectual property such as patents, trade- and service marks. But they did not get involved in the first phase of providing a creative person with some security about an idea, innovation or invention. Now this has changed. The Benelux-Office of Intellectual Property has created a i-Depot to record and deposit ideas in a very early stage.

A creative person can submit a i-DEPOT online or opt for the i-DEPOT envelope. An idea is submitted online. This submission method is fast, easy, cheap and, above all, safe. In several steps an applicant will be asked to fill in specific details and add a description or representation of your concept or idea. After the payment has been processed, the applicant will receive a confirmation by e-mail and he/she can download the i-DEPOT certificate immediately. He/she can also decide not to download your i-DEPOT certificate and instead do this later, for example when there is a need for the i-DEPOT certificate as evidence in a legal or other dispute. The i-DEPOT certificate is signed by the BOIP in digital form to safeguard the integrity of the document. Any change will automatically make the i-DEPOT invalid.

The method with the i-DEPOT envelope is available in case it is impossible or undesirable to record the concept or idea electronically, or to pay electronically. As soon as BOIP has received the order form (pdf in Dutch or French) and the payment, the BOIP will send you an i-DEPOT envelope. The envelope consists of two parts, in each of which he/she should place an identical document describing or depicting the creation as clearly as possible. The BOIP will time stamp them upon receipt and return one part to the original address and files the other in its own archives unopened. You can ask the BIOP to send you the second part as well (once only) to provide evidence in the case of a legal dispute or conflict.

Blog Posting Number: 960

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Piracy, copyrights, collecting societies

It looks like the Dutch are cleaning up the internet scene: handing out fines for spyware and catching front people in a bank fraud. For 2008 content piracy, copyrights and collecting societies have been placed on the agenda by no less than three government departments, i.e. the department of Justice, the department of Economic Affairs and the department of Education, Culture and Science. The three ministers have put together a letter to the Parliament promising more attention for maintaining the rights of authors, fighting infringement of copyrights and supervising the activities of collecting societies.

Fighting infringement of copyrights will be at source, aiming at large scale, illegal uploaders. The organised digital piracy and unauthorised distribution of digital content products such as movies, games and music via internet will be targeted. Measures will be announced in a letter to the Parliament in the first half of 2008. The fight against piracy on internet is part of a broader package of measures to attack problems in the sector of copyrights.

On the other hand the government wants to regulate the collecting societies better. Presently consumers are charged at source with blank levies, choirs are persecuted for paying for music scores and companies receive several invoices, based on various criteria. The whole system will have to be made transparent, while the inspection of almost the entire system of collecting societies will be overseen by an inspection team on authors’ and neighbouring rights. The inspection team will not only approve raising the tariffs, but also exercise preventive care.

Collecting societies will have to get organized in such a way that they can send out one invoice per company. This should be possible from January 1, 2009 onwards, so that administrative bureaucracy can be diminished. This will yield a lot of debate as people will see what kind of levies they will have to pay for; while they will have to object against every single levy, if they want to. On the other hand they can pay one invoice in one go.

The cabinet is also writing legislation to improve the position of the individual creator and executing performer. The possibility is researched for creatives to collectively negotiate about minimum tariffs and royalties on copyright protected work.

Also the position of the so called home copy – a copy made for use at home - will be researched on technical protection; an area seen by the cabinet as a meeting point between copyright and innovation.

Last but not least, a series of studies will be undertaken by the minister of Economic Affairs. Important is the study between copyrights and competition. This study should be ready by the fall of 2008. This might be come an interesting study as collecting societies have so far territorial protection, to which the EC has objected this year and asked the collecting societies to consider competition. A study updating the economic value of copyrights should be ready by the summer of 2008. And a study for the cultural and economic effects of digital piracy should be completed by the fall of 2008.

All in all the Dutch government is working on the protection of the traditional copyright in the digital setting. In the announcement of the program on piracy, copyrights and collecting societies, no mention is made op European Patents, creative commons and open access. This will be a challenge as the Dutch government has announced to take open source and its implementation seriously from April 1, 2008 onwards.

Blog Posting Number: 959

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

EC welcomes intervention by Dutch regulator OPTA

"I welcome the determined move by the Dutch regulator OPTA", said EU Telecoms and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding (see photograph) in reaction to the fast and effective intervention by the Dutch telecom watchdog. "Spyware, spam and malware are a real plague for Internet users. The decision of OPTA, which applies EU legislation vigorously, will therefore help considerably to make our European information society a safer, more trustworthy place for consumers and businesses. I call on the regulators of other countries to follow the positive example set by the Dutch regulator."

Yesterday, the Dutch Telecom Regulator OPTA imposed a fine totalling 1 million euro on three Dutch enterprises for illegally installing software - so called spyware and adware - on more than 22 million computers in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

The companies fined now by OPTA operated together under the name DollarRevenue, which was considered to be among the 10 largest spyware distributors in the world. They managed to install the software on personal computers via downloads from the Internet and by exploiting security loopholes in computer programmes. The illegally installed software allowed the companies to spy on the consumer's on line behaviour and triggered pop-up windows containing specific advertising material.

Unlawful access to a personal computer to stall information such as spyware and adware is prohibited under European law, namely article 5(3) of the EU's ePrivacy Directive of 2002. National regulators are called upon to enforce this prohibition by deterrent measures. Yesterday's decision by OPTA is the first time that a national regulator has resorted to drastic fines against a company acting in violation of the EU ban.

In 2004, the Commission has set up an informal network of the EU's national enforcement authorities (Contact Network of Spam enforcement Authorities, CNSA) to improve cooperation among national regulators and the Commission on fighting spam spyware and malware.

To strengthen the regulatory regime underpinning the Information Society, the Commission adopted on 13 November 2007 its proposals on the Telecom Reform, which include further provisions to reinforce security and privacy. Under the proposals national regulatory authorities will be given the power to issue binding instructions to companies on the security measures that are required to secure their electronic communication networks and services and to oversee proper implementation. Specifically in relation to spam, the proposals introduce the possibility for Internet Service Providers to take legal action against spammers.

Blog Posting Number: 958

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Friday, December 21, 2007

EU puts media literacy on its agenda

The European Commission plans to promote ‘media literacy,’ defining this as the ability to critically analyze what they find in the media and to make more informed choices. Viviane Reding said: ‘The ability to read and write - or traditional literacy - is no longer sufficient in this day and age. People need a greater awareness of how to express themselves effectively, and how to interpret what others are saying, especially on blogs, via search engines or in advertising.’ The commission's plans focus on three areas: media literacy for commercial communication, covering issues related to advertising; media literacy for audiovisual works, which is in part about raising awareness of European film and enhancing creativity skills; media literacy for online contents.

The media are changing, and so is citizens' use of such media. New information and communication technologies make it much easier for anybody to retrieve and disseminate information, communicate, publish or even broadcast. The ability of people to critically analyse what they find in the media and to make more informed choices – called 'media literacy' – therefore becomes even more essential for active citizenship and democracy. Following an EU-wide survey last year, the European Commission has announced today its plans to encourage the development of media literacy and the exchange of good practice across Europe.
"In a digital era, media literacy is crucial for achieving full and active citizenship," said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. "The ability to read and write – or traditional literacy – is no longer sufficient in this day and age. People need a greater awareness of how to express themselves effectively, and how to interpret what others are saying, especially on blogs, via search engines or in advertising. Everyone (old and young) needs to get to grips with the new digital world in which we live. For this, continuous information and education is more important than regulation."

Media literacy relates to all types of media, including television, cinema, video, websites, radio, video games and virtual communities. It can be summed up as the ability to access, understand, evaluate and create media content. Ordinary people are increasingly accessing and posting on-line content, which is visible across the world. Yet today, not everybody always fully understands the context within which such material is written, seen or read, or the possible consequences of publishing something themselves. Everybody therefore needs to develop new skills, as active communicators and creators of content. In a global and multi-cultural environment, new media-related challenges arise and create concerns regarding safety, inclusion and access for all.

The Commission Communication is the first policy document on media literacy at the EU level. It focuses on the following three areas:
- media literacy for commercial communication, covering issues related to advertising,
- media literacy for audiovisual works, which is in part about raising awareness of European film and enhancing creativity skills,
- media literacy for online which, for example, will give citizens a better knowledge of how Google and other Internet search engines work.

The Communication adds a further building block to European audiovisual policy. It complements the new Audiovisual Media Services Without Frontiers Directive (see
IP/07/1809), and the MEDIA 2007 support-programme for the development and distribution of European film. It also announces a study to be launched in 2008 on how to assess media literacy levels and will feed into the report on the levels of media literacy provided by the new Audiovisual Media Services Without Frontiers Directive. "I believe that especially with regard to advertising, promoting media literacy is a much more appropriate approach than advocating advertising bans, which I oppose", said EU Commissioner Reding.

The Commission actively promotes the development and exchange of good practice on media literacy in the digital environment through existing programmes and initiatives, and will adopt if necessary a set of recommendations in the future. Finally, the Commission calls on Member States to encourage their regulatory authorities to become more involved and to cooperate further in improving people's level of media literacy. It also aims to develop and implement codes of conduct and co-regulation frameworks with all interested parties at national level.

Background information
The Commission Communication on media literacy is an integral part of its general policy to enhance the trust in, and take-up of, content online. It follows the launch of a survey held last year (see
IP/06/1326) which covered all parties involved; that is to say: media organisations and industry, education institutions, content-providers and producers, research and cultural institutions, regulators, citizens and consumers' associations. This Communication is the result of this broad consultation.

The Communication can be found at:
http://ec.europa.eu/avpolicy/media_literacy/index_en.htm

The results of the public media literacy consultation are available at:
http://ec.europa.eu/avpolicy/media_literacy/consultation/index_en.htm

My first comment: Just looking at the structure of the the media literacy communication, it gives the impression that the document has been composed of three separate political feeds: advertising, audio visual area and the online area (rather digital media or interactive media). I would have expected an integrated approach especially between the audio visual media and the online media.

Blog Posting Number: 957

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dutch national police arrests front persons ABN AMRO virus attack

The High Tech Crime team of the Dutch national police has arrested 14 suspects, which have acted as front persons for a group of international cyber criminals. The front persons, twelve men and two women, used their bank accounts as conduits for fraudulent transactions from ABN AMRO clients.

In March of this year clients from the ABN AMRO bank received spam mail. Upon opening the spam mail, which looked much like ABN AMRO bank mail, the computers of the clients got infected, key logs were installed and fraudulent transactions were made. ABN AMRO informed the police of unlawful computer infringement and fraud.

In the criminal investigation it appeared that the front persons, also named money donkeys, had been recruited via spam mail. These front persons should process to the money transferred to their accounts by the victims to other front persons in Russia and Ukraine by money transfers. The Dutch front people were allowed to deduct five percent of the amounts received from the victims; an income of 2000 dollar a month was guaranteed in the spam mail.

The internet criminals made use of a series of IP addresses in use with the Russian Business Network (RBN), an internet provider in Saint Petersburg. Against the IP affidavits have been issued for involvement in child pornography, spam, fraud and other forms of cyber crime.

With false identities Dutch detectives of the High Tech Crime team have involved themselves as front persons for the cyber criminals. In one case, a detective got a transfer of 1000 euro from a Swiss bank account. The person was instructed to transfer the money to Russia in two instalments. When the money was not transferred no reaction was received.

The infected computers of ABN AMRO clients were rerouted during electronic banking to a website in Hong Kong which was a look alike of the official bank site. Thanks to the co-operation of the Hong Kong authorities data logs of the look alike sites were achieved for further investigation. Also a botherder in New Zealand was identified and arrested.

The main suspects of the criminal gang live in Russia and the Ukraine. Most likely they are computer specialists, who hide behind computer addresses which are hard to trace. They are known for several attacks on banks worldwide and are estimated to make million of euros annually. The results of the Dutch criminal investigation will be handed over to the Russian and Ukraine justice authorities.

Blog Posting Number: 956

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

EUR 1 mln fine for distributing undesired software

(Having gone between lectures of academics of the Academic Network Conference and jury laudationd of EUROPRIX Top Talent Award 2008 nominees, I am back into the real world).

The Dutch telecom watchdog OPTA has imposed a fine totalling EUR 1 million on three Dutch companies and their two directors, because they installed software on more than 22 million computers belonging to Internet users in the Netherlands and elsewhere. By unlawfully installing this so-called adware and spyware these small enterprises distributed advertising material and obtained access to details of Internet users. This is the first time that OPTA has acted to impose company and personal fines on distributors of unsolicited and undesirable software.

The three companies operated together under the name, DollarRevenue. Using misleading files, amongst other things, Internet users were led to believe that they were about to download apparently innocent files, whereas they actually contained DollarRevenue software. They also used botnets, thereby installing files without user intervention. Each day on average 60,000 installations were infected. A total of more than 450 million program files were illegally placed on 22 million computers. These program files unleashed a flood of popup windows containing advertisements. Unsolicited search toolbars were also installed. They were nested in the toolbars of Windows XP and Microsoft Internet Explorer, where they displayed alternative search results. DollarRevenue was one of the largest distributors of unsolicited software in the world (see www.sunbelt-software.com, the website of a manufacture of anti-spyware software).

Hundreds of complaints appeared on the Internet about DollarRevenue software. They mentioned that people did not know how the software came to be on their computer nor how they should remove it. This is because the software did not include an uninstall function and could only be removed with expert assistance. DollarRevenue was amongst the top ten international distributors of spyware. Last summer OPTA imposed a conditional penalty on the two directors to ensure that these illegal activities were permanently halted.

The Dutch Universal Service and End Users Decree, is based on the Telecommunications Act and is designed to promote safe Internet usage and to protect the privacy of Internet users. The enterprises and their directors deliberately contravened provisions of this decree for a year and this produced large-scale material and immaterial damage. For this reason fines totalling EUR 1 million were imposed on both the enterprises and their directors. OPTA is of the opinion that these fines will have a sufficiently punitive and deterrent effect to deter these companies and anyone else from contravening the law (again). The persons can object against this decision, therefore the judge has not yet ruled on the penalty by OPTA.

DollarRevenue was a joint venture involving three Dutch enterprises and their directors. DollarRevenue was active from October 2005 until and including November 2006. The offenders earned a little over EUR 1 million through their illegal activities. The offenders had a network of intermediaries, also known as affiliates. The latter were other parties who distributed the software further using the above-mentioned methods on DollarRevenue’s instructions and in return for a fee. Based on tips and ex officio monitoring, regulatory officials within OPTA’s Internet Safety Team launched an investigation into DollarRevenue in 2006. Unannounced inspections were conducted in various locations in November 2006. As part of this process regulatory officials gained access to business administration records and computer systems. In addition, various people involved made statements. A report was drawn up based on the findings of these investigations. The relevant companies and their directors were able to present their case in response in both verbal and written form. One of the botnetherders, who was living in New Zealand, is recently arrested by the New Zealand police.

Fines totalling EUR 1 million have been imposed for these offences having regard to the gravity and duration of the offences, the culpability of the offenders and the gains they achieved through their offences. Two companies were jointly fined EUR 300,000. The responsible director was also fined with EUR 300,000.00. The other company was fined with EUR 200,000.00, as well as the director. The maximum fine which OPTA can impose for these types of offences on the basis of its policy rules on fines amounts to EUR 300,000.00.

For more information, read the pdf report.

Blog Posting Number: 955

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award 2008 (11)

Quality Seals (continued)

In this last posting of the mini-series EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award 2008 I present the last entries which were awarded a Quality Seal by the jury.

Category: Mobile Content

Title: Tourality – Move Your Mobile!
Producer: Jonas Soukup, Klemens Zieptnig (Austria)
URL: http://tourality.com/

Title: Museum of Canterbury Digiguide
Producer: Elisabeth Valentine

Title: Makai – Just Colour up!
Producer: Christian Kandler, Melanie Friedrich, Marion Dandl, Christina Rotter, Katrin Graff (Germany)
URL: http://makai.fh-augsburg.de/

Category: Interactive Computer Graphics

Title: Dead on Arrival Interactive Control
Producer: Matthew Gibson, Geoffrey Gaviria (UK)
URL: http://www.dead-on-arrival.co.uk/

Title: The Eighth Day
Producer: Arnis Locher (UK)
URL: http://www.eigthdaynovel.com/

Category: Interactive Installations & Interactive TV

Title: PhotoGraphics
Producer: Alexander Koenig, Sebastian Schmidt, Daniel Müller, Florentin Steiner, Regina Demmel (Germany)

Title: Hannu’s Footsteps – Media Design for the Nature Photo Exhibition
Producer: Brnni Antti, Teemu Maikkola (Finland)
URL: http://www.hh-projekti.fi/

Title: Reflections
Producer: Peter Berezhansky, Aleksei Golovy (Israel)

Title: SARoskop
Producer: Martin Hesselmeier, Karin Lingnau
URL: www.martinhesselmeier.com/saroskop

Title: Between Blinks & Buttons
Producer: Sacha Pohflepp (Germany)
URL: http://www.blinksandbuttons.net/

Category: Digital Video & Animations

Title: A Thread of Reality
Producer: Stuart Dyson, Mike Hole, Martin Darby (UK)
URL: http://www.atreadofreality.com/

Title: He Didn’t Eat the Icecream
Producer: Michael Muik, Viktoria Wöss

Category: Content Tools & Interface Design

Title: INTOI – Interchange of Ideas: Digital Flipchart
Producer: Claudia Oster, Michael Hurnaus, Verena Lugmayr, Jürgen Oberngruber, Christian Schafleiner (Austria)
URL: http://intoi.net/

Title: icPoint – Interactive Night Sky Observation
Producer: Michael Dobis, Vladimir Hlavacek, Michael Jajcaj, Dusan Lamos, Linh Hoang Xuan (Slovakia)

Title: amCharts
Producer: Antanas Marcellonis (Lithuania)
URL: http://www.amcharts.com/

This posting concludes the mini-series on the EUROPRIX Multimedia Top talent Award 2008. For more information go to the site. There is a printed catalogue of the competition; for more information: contact the EUROPRIX Top Talent Office c/o International Center for New Media, Moosstr. 43a, 5020 Salzburg (Austria); office@europrix.org; t: +43.662.630408.

Blog Posting Number: 954

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Monday, December 17, 2007

EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award 2008 (10)

Besides the nominees, the category winners, the overall winner and the special jury distinction, the competition of the EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award offers Quality Seals. These seals recognises projects and products that are considered highly innovative and creative by the international experts of the EUROPRIX Top Talent Jury. Overwhelming was the level in the category Broadband/Online with 15 quality seals. In this posting no extensive description is offered, but just a mention of the project. These Quality Seals projects are worthwhile to be researched, especially by digital media students and companies.

Category: Braodband/Online

Title: Project Gobelins Community
Producer: Samy Germaine, Pierrick Vanneau, Theophile Kalumbu, Thomas Dudon, Adrien Havet (France)
URL: http://multimedia.gobelins.fr/~crma2007-pl/

Title: Website for the Tilt Design Studio
Producer: Marc Antosch, Dominic Buenning, Ralph Heinsch, Felix Schultze, Guido von Marientrue (Germany)
URL: http://www.tiltdesignstudio.com/

Title: sperlinge.com
Producer: Martin Sperling
URL: http://www.sperlinge.com/

Title: Degree Show catalogue 2007
Producer: Paul Michalet (UK)
URL: http://newton.sunderland.ac.uk/~degreeshow2007/catalogue.html

Title: medialib
Producer: Leo Lanksford (UK)
URL: http://www.medialib.co.uk/

Title: mezzanaie – elevating your creativity
Producer: Julian Morency, Jack Steven (UK)
URL: www. mezzanaie.com

Title: Wikifonia
Producer: Thomas Bonte, Tom Deryckere, Benoit Catteau, Nicolas Froment (Belgium)
URL: http://www.wikifonia.org/

Title: Hello Staffordshire
Producer: Serim Abboushi
URL: www.serim.me.uk/heliostaffs

Title: Crimeface
Producer: Andrew Lim, Krishna Stott
URL: www.crimeface.net/interactive/inter.html

Title: Virtual FH
Producer: Max Brandl, Hannes Moser, Philipp Strahl
URL: http://virtualfh.multimediaart.at/

Title: The Batana House
Producer: Vladimir Koncar, Ozren Crnogorac, Gorjan Agacevic, Vedran Kolac, Aljosa Mohorovic (Croatia)
URL: http://www.batana.org/

Title: The Last Breath
Producer: Martin Brian, Claire English, Seamus Kavanagh, Ciaran Finnegan, Carmel O‘Callaghan (Ireland)
URL: http://www.thelastbreath.com/

Title: Balcony TV
Producer: Stephen O’Regan, Tom Millett, Pauline Freeman (Ireland)
URL: http://www.balconytv.com/

Category: Offline/Interactive DVD

Title: Multimedia Historic Bratislava
Producer: Peter Borovsky, Milan Ftaanik, Andrej Ferko, Martin Samuelaik (Slovakia)
Media format: DVD

Title: Bodmas’ Brain Buster
Producer: Joseph Waghorn (UK)
Media format: CD-Rom

Number Blog Posting: 953

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award 2008 (9)

The EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award is selected from amidst the category winners. This year the category winners were:
- Broadband/Online: WorldABC (Austria)
- Mobile Contents: Where to climb (UK)
- Games: Hide n’Tag (Israel)
- Interactive Computer Graphics: Kayakpaddling.net (Finland)
- Interactive Installations & Interactive TV: Performative Ecologies (UK)
- Content Tools & Interface Design: Strip mine (Slovenia)
- Digital Video & Animations: Life-Line (Hungary)

The discussion about the over-all winner of the EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award 2008 in the jury was extensive. It is difficult to choose between an arty entry like Life-Line and innovative entry like Performative Ecologies. Eventually the majority of the jury went in favour of the entry Where to climb by Luke McSorley. Besides the technical and mobile aspects of the entry, the social networking aspect scored highly: climbers can provide information for other climbers and they can form special interest groups around particular mountains. Jury representative Silvia Adriana Ticau, a former Romanian stet secretary and presently member of the European Parliament, wrote the laudation:
Mobile phones are increasingly becoming tools for multiple purposes. In the very near future we will see them providing many useful services. Where to climb is a brilliant example of this. It is easy to use and has a very appealing interface. The content features are incredibly thorough and practical. It is possible to introduce new pictures, design paths to climb and add detailed information about each route. This service has an excellent potential to expand. Where to climb will naturally attract the climbing community as well as tourists to Britain.

Remarkable was the Special Jury Award for Social-Consciousness in Multimedia. The DVD The Big Brother State was a nominee in the category Digital Video & Animations. However the entry had more than just technical merits and a laudable format. Big Brother State was one of the first multimedia pamphlets with a political message. A quote from the jury report:
The Big Brother State sets a trend not primarily associated with multimedia - political opposition. It shows how new uses of technology and content can deliver a message in a new medium which is contemporary and attractive enough to appeal to an audience who just do not react to traditional mainstream political debate anymore. This digital animation proves that new media has the power to set ethical debate. The Big Brother State has a big social conscience. It brilliantly sets an agenda by combining stunning visuals with a clear political message. Its content and outstanding technical execution make it stand out from its peers.

Blog Posting: 952

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award 2008 (8)

Category: Digital Video & Animations

The category Digital Video & Animations looks for serial stories and new virtual worlds using digital technologies in innovative ways. Digital Video & Animations is a favourite category as is clear from the number of entries: 68 entries from 16 countries. From the overwhelming number of entries three nominees were selected:
- Life-Line
- Lovelines
- The Big Brother State.
The winner in this category is Life-Line.

Title: Life Line
Producer: Tomek Ducki (Hungary)
URL: http://www.tomekducki.com/
Life Line is an animation film that visualises how the decisions people make influence their journey through life. Playing on the theme of a boy-meets-girl story, the paths of the characters in this tragic love story almost cross but they never meet. This digital animation uses two visual metaphors that show two characters learning the hard way the ropes as well as the nuts and bolts of modern, industrial life. A bunch of cogs and wheels turn into two human-like figures who might be two potential lovers skating along weaving paths. As they skate across straight lines that slice up and down the white screen. The sense of space in 2D creates room for interpretation. Viewers are asked to consider the consequences of the paths these characters choose.

With the recent generation of computerised animation flooding our screens, Life-Line creates a magic world through its highly skilled animation technique and beautifully rendered graphics. These few minutes remind us of our own fragility but they also remind us of the beauty and creativity that true artists can bring to us through the screen. Its poetry not only draws on the mechanic imagery of cogs and wheels on thin and fragile paths, but also on the lines of life that look so very familiar. These might be the very same lines that lead us to glide and dance, to fall and fail.

Title: Lovelines
Producer: Max Brandl, Yusuke Akamatsu (Austria)
Media format: Digital video
Lovelines visualises a love story within a song. The tale has a unifying melody but is composed of two parts – one representing him, the other representing her. “He” is the bass line; “she” the treble as played on an acoustic guitar. The combination of the bass and treble represents the union of music and the relationship itself. The music quickly weaves together as their relationship develops into a colourful, rich and unified song. One moment the music is impulsive, the next it is melancholy - which is then related to the visuals of this animation and to the twists and turns of their relationship.

In a world of commerce, traffic and conflict, Lovelines is a tale that magnificently captures the beauty of growing up and falling in love. It ignites the viewer’s memories of cherished moments in their own life. The storyline can be immediately appreciated by the viewer. Lovelines captures the sensitive and affectionate side of anyone since the theme is universal – falling in love. Finding new ways to express such universal experiences is a creative feat in itself.

Title: The Big Brother State
Producer: David Scharf, Johannes Berner (Germany)
Media format: DVD Pal
In protest to the increasing amounts of supervision of our personal lives by Closed Circuit TV, data collection and phone tapping, The Big Brother State is the modern digital equivalent of a political pamphlet. The flash-based documentary-style animation presents blacked out city structures and traced outlines of people contrasting them with funky urban graphics of the communication network people live in. Viewers are placed in the role of surprised home-owners, flashing a torchlight on their own home, only to find out that they have been ‘bugged’ by the state. The animation raises the question –is everybody who uses communication networks also a suspect in a police state?

The Big Brother State is an outstanding example of the way young talents can independently make a complete film production by themselves. Acting as the scriptwriter, designer, animator, composer and editor, the producer has proven that new media change the old media. The tools of techno-culture can act as a weapon and this film shows its audience how dangerous technical solutions might be since they can be used to compromise the right to privacy.

Blog Posting Number: 951

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Friday, December 14, 2007

EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award 2008 (7)

Category: Content Tools & Interface Design

In the category Content Tools & Interface Design the jury looks for powerful content tools, content management systems and technological innovatioons concerning new ways in interface design. The category attracted 29 entries from 14 countries. The nominees in this category were:
- Strip mine
- Totem
- OpenStudio
Proclaimed as the winner in this category is Strip mine.

Title: Strip Mine
Producer: Andraz Tori, Bostjan Spetic (Slovenia)
URL: www.rtvslo.si/odprtikop
The computer knows how to read but might never understand what it is reading. Faking that understanding gives users the possibility of eventually making web-content interactive. Strip Mine is a content intelligence platform that automatically generates web-pages for television shows. It combines television subtitles with video streams and turns content into attractive, logically structured web-pages. The content is searchable, quotable and playable in segments. The advantages are that texts from television programmes, in this case specially selected Slovenian television shows, can be found using common search engines. Therefore, previously 'hidden' video content becomes discoverable. Exact quotes can be easily embedded into blogs and forums for authoritative debate. Information is then further hyperlinked to Wikipedia for its educational resources. Strip Mine therefore offers an interwoven way of viewing television content.

Strip Mine is a fine example of a new trend in broadcasting and video archives. While the BBC in the 1980s still typed all the texts of BBC World into the Datasolve database for professional use, micro chunking effortlessly generates much more complex text data for target groups such as bloggers and forums as well as the internet community. A simple text search and tap on the video key will bring up the relevant fragment of a current affairs programme. Strip Mine is a fantastic resource!

Title: Totem
Producer: Jennifer Bernier, Aurélie Schwartzmann, Emilie Guelpa, Mathias Roumy, Vincent Perrier Perery, Alexis Lorin (France)
URL: www.projet-totem.fr
Totem is an interactive installation that allows users to leave different post-it notes including drawings, photos, videos, texts on an easy-to-use touch screen monitor in the home. Totem makes it easy to share messages, ideas, feelings and to-do lists with the people you live with. An alerting device also emits a soft coloured light and a pleasant melody every time a user receives a message. Messages can be tagged, organised and stored on screen or in the archive. A fingerprint reader allows users to quickly log into their fully customisable personal space. The display and sound effects evolve according to the constantly updated weather, time and temperature information received via a wireless connection. Rich media messages can also be sent or received to the system via a mobile phone.

Overall, the jury felt that this project demonstrates a novel use of an interactive interface for everyday communication between family members or other groups of people living together. It mingles high technology with the best of personalised messaging in a compelling and emotional manner. The archiving potential also means that it acts as a digital memory of everyday life. Although Totem offers solutions that replicate what people can do already with basic items, it could easily act as a more important focal point for a family than the home television or PC.

Title: Open Studio
Producer: Oded Babayoff (Israel)
URL: http://odedbabayoff.com
Creative people tend to live in their own minds and operate out of their bedroom studios. Breaking out of these self-imposed restrictions is intimidating for designers used to protecting their creative juices. Open Studio brings talent together by acting as an online project management tool. The web application combines the classic tools from the design world – brainstorming, concept boards, project briefs – and places an emphasis on transparency in the creative process as teams work together. Designers can simply take their work anywhere, consult others and discuss their ideas with colleagues or clients. Changes can be online in real-time.

The target group of this application are graphic designers – people who have their own peculiarities, specific terminology and personal creative patterns in the design workflow. Even their culture and how they interact with their colleagues is quite different to other professions. The jury felt that Open Studio is a unique application that really supports the specific project management needs of designers from start to finish. It follows the trend of offering specific tools and solutions for particular communities and their problems

Blog Posting Number: 950

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award 2008 (6)

Category: Interactive Installations & Interactive TV

The category Intercative installations & interactive TV searches for contents for new platforms and fully digitised environments with high level of interactivity. The category attracted 40 entries from 13 countries. The nominees selected were:
- Performative Ecologies
- Interactive Television Polling
- Alien Action
And the winner in the category is Performative Ecologies.

Title: Performative Ecologies
Producer: Ruairi Glynn (UK)
URL: http://www.interactivearchitecture.org/
Performative Ecologies is a multimedia installation consisting of autonomous kinetic light sculptures which are capable of learning and communicating within a larger network. It examines the potential of responsive environments to engage in non-verbal communication and conversation. The sociable sculptures search and orientate themselves to face people in a room. Each head has a night vision camera on board transmitting to custom-made facial recognition software, designed to detect attention levels of human beings. Genetic algorithms enable the autonomous objects to learn how to attract and keep the audience’s attention. As the system learns, it adapts its behaviours and modifies its movements and lighting strategies for the next performance.

This project is about a new kind of digital ecology, one that invites action and reaction; proposition and response. The surprising thing is that not people but flying objects lead the dance. In a whimsical symbiotic interaction intelligence is shared and poetically amalgamates human kinetic experience to provide a new kind of computer-human relationship. Performative Ecologies is fabulously engineered and actually inspiring. The technology suggests that built environments could, to some level, learn how to provide more effective functional services such as environmental control or security beyond the visions of the original designers.

Title: Alien Action
Producer: Dominic Bünning, Ralph Heinsohn (Germany)
URL: http://www.alien-action.com/
Alien Action exploits that digital dome projection is being installed in more and more locations worldwide, spreading from expo booths to special event installations. It tells the story of an invasion by extraterrestrial fighting robots and interactively projects cutting edge 3D animation and digital video onto a dome-shaped screen. The result is a bitter fight for supremacy. Each chapter in the narrative exploits a different media - 360° music video clips are followed by tense animation or humorous radio scenes. The audience is asked to shoot down the invaders in the manner of interactive video games by using a joystick. Inspired by science-fiction, Pop Art and music entertainment, Alien Action is ultimately an interpretation of the fantasies about space invasions as technology progressed through the last century.

The installation is a unique presentation of new media, combining state-of-the art 3D video animation techniques with seamless digital videos which are projected onto a semi-sphere shaped "canvas". Non-stop action and latest technical innovations in 3D real-time graphics places it definitely in the entertainment front, regardless of the generic plot concept. The producers are among the first wave of pioneers who have actually found a practical application of this new technology. It sets a great example for the aspirations of other ambitious producers – particularly since 3D graphics are becoming the leading technology in graphics creation and representation.

Title: Interactive Television Polling
Producer: Sam Hassan (UK)
Media format: ITV application
Interactive Television Polling provides an easy-to-use iTV interface and allows viewers to express in real time their opinions on the programmes they are watching, without the need for additional technology such as a telephone or the Internet. Quantitative and qualitative data are instantly gathered and presented. Commentators or presenters can utilise the information collected from the system in order to focus the current or future broadcasts on the viewers’ interests. The user interface is operated by the television production team and allows questions, messages and statistical information to be sent to the users. The iTV interface is operated by a digi-TV remote control and keyboard, allowing the audience to view and respond to questions or change the camera angle and audio commentary.

Within the context of recent scandals involving falsified interactive opinion polling using premium rate telephone numbers, Interactive Television Polling provides a compelling tool to re-establish credibility for published results using a traditional red button interactive TV interface. This system has been developed for the London 2012 Olympics. However, it could be utilised for other broadcasts since its use is not limited to sporting events. For example, reality shows could ask the audience for polls, game shows could allow viewers to play along at home, or news programmes could easily collect public opinion on current events.

Blog Posting Number: 949

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award 2008 (5)

Category: Interactive Computer Graphics

In the category Interactive Computer Graphics Visually explosive contents are expected, transforming reality and seducing users into virtual worlds of cyber world narratives. In this category 22 entries from 11 countries were received. The jury selected:
- Kayakpaddling.net
- Mijn Naam is Haas
- The Secret Forest.
The entry Kayakpaddling.net was the winner in the category.

Title: Kayak Paddling
Producer: Niko Hakkarainen (Finland)
URL: www.kayakpaddling.net
KayakPaddling.net offers fully animated interactive tutorials for open water paddlers. Traditional learning materials only use text and still images to describe exact body movements in paddling. This slows considerably any learning progress. This website speeds up learning by introducing step-by-step lessons which fully visualise everything from how to get into a kayak and how to paddle in safety to how one can perform successfully an Eskimo roll. KayakPaddling.net also irons out the bugs that can disrupt the e-learning experience. The website is completely scalable so it can be used with monitors of varying sizes. The image quality is automatically selected according to the processor speed. Users can easily flip back to the previous pages by using the browser’s back-button without interruption. All instructions can be printed out on a separate html-page.

This project is a fantastic example of how to develop high quality multimedia resources for teaching sports. As an interactive presentation of a difficult sporting activity, it succeeds on many levels. Design-wise, its presentation is great. It has even sociological and anthropological significance. Finally, its impressive e-learning potential combines an understanding of cognitive psychology and clever computer engineering. KayakPaddling.net breaks down the communication barriers that hinder understanding by linking human-human and human-computer language

Title: Mijn Naam is Haas
Producer: Sanneke Prins, Thijs C. Aarts, Judith Bardoel, Douwe-Sjoerd Boschman, David Hartono, Berend Weij (The Netherlands)
URL: www.mijnnaamishaas.nl
Mijn naam is Haas follows the journey of a young male hare who suffers from amnesia - the only thing he remembers is his name: Haas. He begins his journey and has no idea of what he is searching for in what seems an almost endless but wonderful world. Told piece by piece over seven levels, the user guides the hare through the story by experimenting with the mouse and ‘drawing’ solutions for his problems – for example, making a path to walk on, or a ladder to climb a steep hill. During his journey, Haas meets many animals with specific problems that resemble learning components. The difficulty of the problems that Haas faces depends on the skills of the child.

Mijn naam is Haas has an intuitive interface which helps children to quickly tune in to the story and their role. Interactivity and computer graphics add an immersive dimension to the basic story that compellingly engages the target audience. The game asks children to test their inventiveness and rewards them by linking their progress with the progression in the story. Mijn naam is Haas is successfully being used to improve the language skills of children for whom Dutch is a second language.

Title: The Secret Forest
Producer: Otto Ritter, Judit ERdelyi, Zoltan Fritz, Levente Szucs, Nikios Mandrei, Mate Nagy, Rita Domonyi, Orsolya Sipos, Elmore Forat, Attila Szabo, Peter Erdelyi (Hungary)
Media Format: DVD
Mixing the wondrous world of a fairy tale with the narrative urgency of a crime story, The Secret Forest takes the user into an enchanted world that has been horribly disturbed. The gardens of the forest are ruined and the user has to help the story’s hero, the Little Count, solve the mystery by visiting all the inhabitants of the forest. Through intuitive navigation, the users simply point and click on the various delightfully animated characters and objects that they encounter to progress. The Secret Forest proves that much can be achieved with flash techniques, standard animation software and a small production team.

There is a shortage of new high-quality interactive fairy tails on the market. The Secret Forest helps to fill this gap brilliantly. While the interactive narrative offers far from total control over the story, the users do feel the sense that they are part of an imaginative realm. In this respect, the interactivity is pitched well and at the right level for a younger audience. This captivating interactive animation can be recommended to any parent or grandparent looking for reliable entertainment for their child.

Blog Posting Number: 948

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

EUROPRIX MUltimedia Top Talent Award 2008 (4)

Category: Games

In the category of games the jury looks for pulsating contentswith high speed interactions, highly involving and giving a rush to users.This category received 27 entries from 10 countries. The jury selected:
- And Yet IT Moves
- Hide n’Tag
- xFace Games.
In the category Hide n’Tag was the winner.

Title: Hide n’Tag
Producer: Michal Ferber (Israel)
URL: www.hidentag.com
Make the web your playground! Hide n’ Tag updates the classic childhood game of “Hide and Seek” and takes it into the interactive online world. The web game adds to the experience of surfing the internet and enables users to address the web as a playground, a physical space in which they need to find hiding-places. The game is played on websites according to the group's interests – easily arranged by creating and choosing tags. The thrill of Hide n’ Tag comes from the sense of excitement of being the hunter or hunted as users track down the Hiders or Seekers. The Hiders place hints on the links they click on while the Seekers have to try to follow their path.

Hide n’ Tag stands out as a highly innovative multiplayer game and it is a fantastic example of taking an available idea and finding a new way for everyone to enjoy it. The jury particularly enjoyed its uniqueness, implementation and how it brings a new purpose to web surfing. Users can find endlessly clever ways of teasing their pursuer by testing whether they see the same mental link between the websites as others do. It is therefore a great way to introduce new websites to friends. The game will be compelling for the age group of 7-12 years. Fresh gaming concepts are rare and Hide n’ Tag certainly delivers.

Title: And Yet it Moves
Producer: Felix Bohatsch, Christoph Binder, Jan Hacki, Peter Vorlaufer (Austria)
URL: www.andyetitmoves.at
Cut loose from the physics of everyday life! And Yet It Moves takes a fresh approach on solving puzzles. Gamers must rotate the displayed screen and flip the graphic environment 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise in order to make their way through a cave and out of the jungle. Gamers must solve fiendishly tricky puzzles by walking on the ceiling or on the walls in order to move loose objects out of the way – without trapping or killing themselves! The character is a mere hand-drawn figure that crashes to the ground and reassembles if it falls. The more skilful a gamer rotates the terrain, the higher he or she ranks on a virtual leader board.

For over a decade we have run, jumped and flown around screens with hundreds, perhaps thousands of games. And Yet It Moves is different. This game moves for us! After getting over the shock of loosing my sense of gravity, I easily learned that I could negotiate this whimsical terrain in new and surprising ways. This possibility of conquering physics and overcoming its limitations by rotating the screen to move across the paper-like crags is a most liberating way to play computer games..

Title: xFace Games
Producer: Jakob Leitner, Adam Gokcezade (Austria)
www.officeoftomorrow.org
Xface Games combine the interactivity of table-top surfaces with rich social interaction to create two exciting games which use wireless pens for fast strategic action. xFace PenWars is a real time strategy game where two players can draw tanks using the pen-interface in order to compete against the opponent's units. Players receive only a certain amount of digital ink which affects the number, mobility and power of the tanks created. To win, a player has to carefully consider the properties of the opponent’s tanks in connection with the route they can choose to attack an enemy’s base. xFace Comino is a collaborative game for four players who have to solve puzzles using virtual and real domino blocks and custom-built physical interfaces in order to complete the different levels. Using the wireless pen-interface and special tangible menus, players can ‘draw’ lines of virtual domino blocks in order to connect the first domino block with the last one. Virtual domino blocks can also cause real domino blocks to topple over!

The trend towards table-top surface computers is beginning to be commercially viable and xFace Games take a refreshing approach to using this format for fun, interaction and team-building. xFace Comino is extremely clever and creative, clearly illustrating how the individual environment of working or playing at a computer screen could be revolutionised by these table-top surfaces. Overall, the application of the concepts of the game to the technology is impressive.
Blog Posting Number: 947

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Monday, December 10, 2007

EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Award 2008 (3)

Category: Mobile Contents

The category of mobile contents deals with innovative contents and applications using the potential of compact, mobile and communication-intensive platforms focusing on new multimedia solutions. 26 entries have been entered from nine countries. The jury selected the following three nominations:
- Where to climb
- Consumer gadget
- CHEFi
The entry Where to climb won the category award.

Title: Where To Climb
Producer: Luke McSorley (UK)
URL: www.lukemcsorley.oxyuk.net
Where to climb is a community website which addresses climbers with personal and up-to-date advice on climbs all over Great Britain. Users can view practical guides and update them or even contribute to the collection and add new routes. Mountaineers are invited to discuss routes with fellow climbers, look for partners and see who is climbing what. Once the guide is downloaded onto a mobile phone climbers can conveniently take the information into the mountains and follow the combination of images and route descriptions. After the climb, users of mobiles are able to update their online logbooks, add on the website current climbing conditions and check for any other updates. Users can also exchange new climbs or crags and share their personal logbooks and grant their permissions.

Where to climb has considerable value due to the social sharing of information produced by users. In addition, it might save the lives of climbers who are in trouble. It will be the reality of the coming years that mobile phones will be used to improve the life of citizens, to diversify the ways to reach needed information and to create communities based on shared information. We consider Where to climb to be an exemplary project of strategic importance for the future of mobile services. It is fantastically well-implemented and really sets an example to its peers.

Title: Consumer Gadget
Producer: Wesa Aapro, Anu Aapro, Jaakko Vasankari, Karl Tuhkanen (Finland)
URL: www.consumergadget.org
Consumer Gadget aims to be the ethical consumer's new best friend. Consumers make most of their buying decisions based on advertisements or on habit. Only a few have the time or patience to research a product's ecological footprint or the manufacturer’s working conditions. This is where Consumer Gadget intervenes. It presents ethical facts about consumer products. Just use the barcodes and you have the key to that information. The information model comprises undisputable facts and ethical information. Consumer have three possibilities at the cash register: the can scan the barcode using the mobile phone’s camera or the can searching the website online or on their mobile phone or send a short message text back with the EAN or UPC code. An affiliated organisation recruits volunteers to seek out additional products, gather their barcodes and ensure that the information researched and provided is accurate and reliable.

The idea of Consumer Gadget is a very clear and elegant one. Its use is not limited to ethical values associated with products, but can easily be extended to customer reviews in general, best-price-data, or dietary information. I am convinced that such an interface between the real world of products and Web 2.0 will be one of our everyday tools in a few years. While there are very similar projects going on in the commercial world (e.g. Project Aura from Microsoft Research), it is impressive to see how Aapro Wesa competes against the big guys on a tiny budget.

Title: CHEFi
Producer: Igor Ginzburg (Israel)
URL: www.chefi.net
CHEFi is an interactive cooking instructor which aims to make an expert cook or ‘chef’ out of anyone. After downloading the software onto your mobile phone, a virtual chef will guide you through even quite complicated recipes using real time voice interaction. CHEFi uses text to voice technology which translates written recipes into easy to understand spoken orders for the gastronomically challenged. Step by step you are lead in your cooking. An accompanying website hosts social networking features that aim to create a young community that will upload and share recipes, make friends and help each other to learn how to cook. Popular searches, the recipe of the day as well as leading chefs are also highlighted online.

Cooking recipes have been a favourite topic on the Internet for years. But using a technological solution in the kitchen has never caught on, something CHEFi addresses in an innovative fashion. The concept is simple and effective and has more potential than electronic cookbook recipes which have to be shown on a monitor or be printed out. The project is professionally presented and is, at this stage, a very promising work-in-progress which could definitely have significant market impact.

Blog Posting Number: 946

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Awards 2008 (2)

Category: Broadband/Online

The category Broadband/Online is about all web and Internet contents and applications, especially those showing the potential of broadband experience demonstrating high interactivity, global connection, real-time and streaming media, and up-to-date communication. In this category 53 projects from 18 European countries entered. In the category Broadband/Online three entries were nominated:
- Sobieski Party planner
- Townkings
- World ABC
World ABC was selected as the category winner.

World ABC
Company: VS Ortnergasse 4
Country: Austria
URL: http://www.weltabc.at/
World ABC is a collaborative web-project of grade school children who under the direction of their teacher invite users to see and hear how different cultures call in their languages objects of everyday life. The pupils recorded their pronunciations in their first or second languages – including German, English, Serbian, Turkish and Kurdish. What emerges is a panphonetic collection and an online multilingual encyclopaedia. World ABC helps users to appreciate the wonders of other languages and cultures. Additionally, they are encouraged in Web 2.0 fashion to submit to the editors their own images, word suggestions and voice recordings. Made for children with contributions by children, World ABC focuses on the beauty of how different languages have a unique or similar word for the same things.

World ABC is a very effective social learning project for young children. One can imagine very well its usefulness for children to appreciate other cultures and to see learning another language as enjoyable and worthwhile. As such it could become a community tool, helping to build relations between pupils, their families and teachers. Its innovative openness to contributions means that it also has fantastic potential to grow.

Sobieski Party planner
Company: Gaumina Ltd
Country: :Lithuania
URL: http://www.partyplanner.lt/
SOBIESKI Party Planner is an online events calendar. Aimed specifically at advertising club events sponsored by the vodka brand in Lithuania, users can plan their social life by selecting from a list of the coolest places in the capital city off Vilnius. Users can select events and then invite their friends via email to join them by quickly creating a movie flyer with their friend’s face pasted on a disco character. Does your friend dance like Dima, with his vain good looks, or body-pop like 20 cent? Is she like Pinky, the girly girl, or the mysterious goth Blackie? Simply upload a photo to watch their disco alter egos throw outrageously clichéd dance moves!

Mixing brand recognition with viral marketing, SOBIESKI Party Planner is a fresh way for advertisers to target a youth market that is not responding to traditional advertising anymore. What particularly attracted the jury’s attention was the use of Web 2.0 features which create a compelling participatory environment for this website’s target audience. The highly innovative use of personalised music video messages is a simple gag, but also a highly effective way of getting people interested in the site’s services – and the vodka brand. The web site executes its viral advertising strategy brilliantly.

Townkings
Company: Supreme NewMedia GmbH
Country: Germany
URL: http://www.townkings.com/
The Internet has broken down the distances between people worldwide. Finding and sharing information is fast and effortless. People now live in a global village. But how do they find the girl-next-door type? Do they even know who lives next door? Townkings is the first social community website which is based on where people live on a map. Users simply enter as much detail as they wish about themselves and then build up a network according to their needs. Users can find people with the same interests, search for love or post an event and organise their social life. Skype is fully integrated as is a user-friendly messaging service in this inviting and vibrant portal. Rather than living in an anonymous virtual world, Townkings lives off real life.

This is Web 2.0 at its best! Townkings offers a platform and allows users to expand it into a growing online community. What is unique about Townkings is that it is based on city maps. While the world becomes more global day by day, the most relevant contacts remain local. Mothers can ask other mothers for help or find company for the playground nearby. Fitness-fanatics could find a buddy for jogging who lives around the corner. It is easy to imagine that Townkings might lead to a huge, helpful database of people who live next to each other in a city, district or street.

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Blog Posting Number: 945

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