Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Re-run of the blog Europe Day of 5/9/2007

This is are-run of a blog I wrote in 2007, which reflects my attitude towards the European Union. Will you vote tomorrow?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Europe Day

Today it is the Day of Europe. Normally it is a day on which attention is asked for Europe, the unity and policies. But this year it is 50 years ago that in Rome on March 24, 1957a treaty for economic co-operation was signed by Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands. (see the story below).

Since high school I have known that I was living in Europe. Our family was living close to the German border and my boarding school was close to the Belgian border. During my period as a managing editor for a reference department, I was working with a Belgian publishing company in Antwerp. And from the early eighties I worked in the United Kingdom in London for the VNU publishing company.

In 1980 I took notice of the new EC datanetwork Euronet-Diane, which was introduced in The Netherlands in 1980 (with Ms Kroes, the present competition minister, who was a minister of Transport and Communication at that time). (See photograph). But by 1982 I got in touch with the European Commission. I met an EC official in London during a dinner of the Online Conference. He was part of the research department Directorate General XIII in Luxembourg. We stayed in contact and by 1983 I applied for a grant to introduce a daily electronic newsletter for the computer industry. It was to be an electronic counterpart to the printed newsletter. The grant of 60.000 ecu (roughly the same as euro) was awarded and the daily electronic newsletter was launched on December 1, 1984 and turned out to be the first electronic daily newsletter in Europe.

Ever since that project I have been involved in European projects, sometimes as a researcher or project participant, sometimes as an evaluator and reviewer of projects. In 1993 in the early days of multimedia CD-ROMs I was asked to write a report on CD-Data. In 2002 my company was involved in the ACTeN project a fully funded content project, which lasted two years. It took me around Europe for round table meetings, summer schools and lectures; besides the consortium generated one of the scarce books on content E-Content – Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market (2005).

It has been difficult for the European Commission to execute a coherent policy. This has to do with the division of tasks. ICT and especially digital media have different programmes: research, media and regional programmes.

An improvement in this fragmentation was the merger of the research programme IST with the EU Media programme. With coordination between research and close to the market projects results can be improved. The EU Media programme still has to be less dogmatic as to movies and interactive media as digitisation is influencing the production chain.

But these programmes (IST, EU Media and regional) can also be confusing to companies and especially Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs). Especially since the EC started to introduce again big projects, in which companies like Philips, Nokia and BBC participate. Officially these companies should take in the consortium SMEs, but in practice this proves to be difficult. For an SME it is difficult to get in programmes as they are asked for accounts of three years and will have to do a lot of administration.

And not all consortia work. Only yesterday Germany in its function of presiding country noticed that the satellite navigation project Galileo had lost its way; head-banging did not help any longer, so another route had to be searched for.

Despite the political problems and programme problems, I am glad that there is a European Union. I personally think of myself as a European rather than a Dutchman.

(Preparing the blog I read the story that the Treaty of Rome was signed on 180 pages of blank pages in 1957. The printer of the Treaty was unable to finish the assignement in time for the signing ceremony. On the day of signing, the ministers were requested to sign pages without any text. The story was told by Professor Hendrik Vos of Gent University on 22 March 2007.)

Friday, April 12, 2019

BPN1749: Dutch media art canon launched

LI-MA, the Dutch platform for media art, new technologies and digital culture, has launched the Digital Canon. The canon consists of twenty digital media artworks, made on Dutch soil between 1960-2000. The Digital Canon project was unveiled on Friday, March 22 at LIMA in Amsterdam as a closing event of LIMA's annual symposium Transformation Digital Art. The primary objective of the project is to add these digital works to the collective cultural memory and to fuel the discussion about the selection and preservation of digital art. Explore the digital canon at

 (Text press release below illustration)

Screenshot homepage

The canon
The digital canon consists of twenty digital artworks made on Dutch soil between 1960 and 2000:
The Senster (1968-1970) - Edward Ihnatowicz
Computerstructuren (1969-1972) - Peter Struycken
Violin Power (1969-1978) - Steina
Moiré (1970-1975) - Livinus & Jeep van de Bundt
Ideofoon I (1970-2013) - Dick Raaijmakers
Points of View (1983) - Jeffrey Shaw
The Hands (1984-2000) - Michel Waisvisz
Institute of Artificial Art Amsterdam (1990-now) - Remko Scha (1995) - Jodi
Breed (1995-2007) - Driessens & Verstappen
Nara Zoyd/La Zoyd’s Pataverse (1996-1998) - Yvonne le Grand
clickclub (1996-2001) - Peter Luining (1996-now) - Martine Neddam
the_living (1997-1998) - Debra Solomon
Being Human (1997-2007) - Annie Abrahams
#11, Marey <-> Moiré (1999) - Joost Rekveld
TST (2000) - Bas van Koolwijk
Scrollbar Composition (2000) - Jan Robert Leegte
Spatial Sounds (100dB at 100 km/h) (2000) - Marnix de Nijs and Edwin van der Heide
Agora Phobia (digitalis) (2000-2009) - Lancel/Maat

Project and team 
The project has been carried out by a core group (‘the expert group’) and in collaboration with numerous experts from the field. The core team consisted of Josephine Bosma (researcher and critic), Martijn van Boven (artist and tutor), Annet Dekker (researcher and curator), Sandra Fauconnier (art historian) and Jan Robert Leegte (artist and tutor). The project was coordinated by LIMA and supervised by Gaby Wijers (director) and Sanneke Huisman (curator). Additional national and international experts were involved in various international meetings. Together with them, a broadly supported selection was made, while the often authoritarian selection procedures that lie at the basis of canonization were critically reflected upon. 
The result can be seen on a website dedicated to the project: The twenty canonical works here each have their own page with images, excerpts, videos, quotes from the artists and texts. The works have been researched for this purpose. In addition, the website also contains clear insight into the development of the selection presented and some critical texts about canonizing digital art. The design emphasizes this dual nature by dividing the website into a front and back. This innovative design is made by Yehwan Song. Song is a South Korean designer, web designer and web developer. She designs and develops experimental websites and interactive graphical interfaces. Song is known for her playful design in which she reverses and challenges the general understanding of web design both conceptually and visually.

The canon is by no means an endpoint, but is the starting point for further investigation of the selected works. The first follow-up steps are already being taken. In addition to the website, an exhibition concept will be developed, which involves various relevant issues. For some of the selected works, for example, only documentation material is left and for other works restoration is needed. The canon is also a starting point for discussion and critical reflection, whereby canon formation and the selection procedure are critically examined. The title of the conversation between Josephine Bosma, Martijn van Boven, Annet Dekker, Sandra Fauconnier, Jan Robert Leegte and Gaby Wijers is significant from this point of view: "Canonization as an Activist Act". The traditional form of canonization is used to open a conversation. The expert group invites the field to make its voice heard. The first external text has already been published on the website: Re-writing the Present: To Inhabit the Inhabitable by Willem van Weelden looks critically and philosophically at (the lack of) historical awareness in the field of canonization and preservation of digital art.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

BPN 1748: Royalty and social media

There is an expression: The first city on gaz is the last on electricity. It looks like this also goes for royal people. It recently happened when Queen Elizabeth sent a first posting on Instagram on March 7, 2019. Rather late in comparison to her first e-mail of March 26, 1976. She really did beat her royal colleagues and the large crowds. 


© Photo: Peter Kirstein

On March 26, 1976, Queen Elizabeth did visit the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment in Malvern (UK). At that occasion the Malvern establishment was linked up to the ARPAnet, the precursor of internet, this was celebrated with forwarding an e-mail. It was Peter Kirstein who put the Queen on ARPAnet with the account HME2 and all she had to do was press a couple of buttons to send off the message.

Today, in just one minute 168 million e-mails are forwarded. 


Photo: Supplied by the Royal Archives © Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

On March 7, 2019 the Queen sent her first Instagram post. She wrote:
“Today, as I visit the Science Museum I was interested to discover a letter from the Royal Archives, written in 1843 to my great-great-grandfather Prince Albert.
Charles Babbage, credited as the world’s first computer pioneer, designed the “Difference Engine”, of which Prince Albert had the opportunity to see a prototype in July 1843.
In the letter, Babbage told Queen Victoria and Prince Albert about his invention the “Analytical Engine” upon which the first computer programmes were created by Ada Lovelace, a daughter of Lord Byron.
Today, I had the pleasure of learning about children’s computer coding initiatives and it seems fitting to me that I publish this Instagram post, at the Science Museum which has long championed technology, innovation and inspired the next generation of inventors.

Elizabeth R."

Friday, January 25, 2019

BPN 1747: Dutch telco KPN wants to redeem a precious IP brand

The Dutch telco KPN has published its intention to abolish the brand name of its IP subsidiary XS4ALL. This has led to a storm of indignation and solicited a petition to reconsider the decision, signed in the meantime by some 45.000 of the IP’s pioneers, subscribers and sympathizers. 

Dutch internet pioneer 
XS4ALL is one of the oldest Dutch IPs. It originated from the hackers’movement Hack-Tic and offered its internet services since May 1st, 1993. On its first day it registered 500 subscribers, a score which was helped by one of the rare articles on internet in the national daily de Volkskrant. XS4ALL was one of the first Dutch pioneer IPs together with NLnet, Knoware and IAF. The foundation grew fast and gained speed, when beginning 1994 the Digital City in Amsterdam was launched.

By 1998 the Dutch scene of IPs had changed drastically. Competition between the new IPs had become fiercely, with competitors like Digital City, Planet Internet and World Online. In order to stay technically ahead, the foundation was faced with heavy investments, which they could not put on the table. So they put together a bidbook and offered that to the IP community. 

The press and internet community was astonished when the winner was announced. The Dutch telco  KPN had beaten the other competitors, being in need of technical knowledge and having deep pockets. The astonishment was based on the difference in company mentality. KPN being a stock listed company and technical business was not in line with the free, anarchistic mentality of XS4ALL. Yet KPN guaranteed an independent course of management. 

Not just an IP 
XS4ALL was an early Dutch IP and kept its freshness from the beginning. So it stood side by side when the IP stood sideby side in a court case of a subscriber against the Scientology Church, which lasted from 1995 till 2005. In 1996 XS4ALL together with the Voice of America supported the continuation of the broadcasts of radio station B92 from Belgrado, which had been stopped by the then Federal Republic of Juguslavia. The IP was also a party in a censoring case with the German government. It also fought a legal battle in the Pirate Bay case with the Dutch copyright watchdog Brein. 


From 2016 a shift was noticed in the attitude of KPN towards XS4ALL. KPN parted with two independent foundations, which guarded over the origin and legacy of the internet pioneers. The attempt to take over the foundations failed and the annual contributions were stopped. But with the entry of anew CEO in 2018, a new marketing plan was developed: the brand name KPN would be leading for all subsidiary brand, including XS4ALL. The announcement on January 10, 2019 to say farewell to the brandname, sollicited immediate reaction from the subscribers, who threatened to discontinue their subscription. KPN tried to appease the subscribers saying that nothing would change in the service of XS4ALL, but that only the name of the pioneer company would be abolished. But the action committee of subscribers was not appeased. Of the more than 200.000 subscribers some 20.000 joined the action group as did some 25.000 of supporters. After a talk with KPN the group threatened to leave the KPN company and even start up a new company with the help of a third party.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

BPN 1746: Launch Digital City Amsterdam 25 years ago

Today it is 25 years ago that the Digital City Amsterdam was launched. Digital City Amsterdam was a historic project as it meant a breakthrough for internet in The Netherlands, but also an example of a virtual community. 

By 1993 technical access to Internet was available in the Netherlands. Three ISPs (NLnet, XS4ALL and Knoware) delivered the technical access mostly to companies, but did not offer any other services. They invested hardly any effort in marketing and promotion as most clients found their way to the companies/foundations. This changed drastically in 1994 when the De Digitale Stad (DDS) came online. This foundation was an initiative of De Balie, XS4ALL and was set up in order to form a discussion platform for six weeks for the upcoming municipal elections. It was a success from the start, partly because a visitor got a free e-mail address and free access to other textual information. So far internet visitors had to fiddle a lot with their PC settings in order get contact with the host. But through DDS internet could be reached via a dial-in connection and through public terminals at the City Hall and the debatting centre De Balie.

'Mayor' Marleen Stikker cuts the cake in celebration of the first year anniversary

The site
DDS was heavily promoted in the media as well as with citizens and in institutes like old folks homes by the virtual mayor of the digital city, Marleen Stikker. Once DDS was on its way, it got support to continue from the municipality of Amsterdam, grants from the ministry of Economic Affairs and the ministry of Internal Affairs and sponsorship deals. But after a year free access to Internet DDS had to close this facility. In one year DDS attracted 10.000 subscribers and by 1997 DDS had 50.000 subscribers.

The development of the interface from a first not executed design of the digitalcity (top), the first textual screen (middle) and the first graphical screen (under)

The first version of DDS was a textual interface. But this changed, when on October 15, 1994 the world wide web interface was introduced. This was a bold graphic interface, which brought out the virtual city elements such as squares and buildings as well as homes. By 1997 around 6500 subscribers had an own home, of whom 1500 inhabitants had their own front door. Besides visitors, DDS also had inhabitants, who could build their own house for free with 5Mb; they also received an e-mail address for sending mails in and outside the virtual city. Inhabitants could also accept another fantasy identity, but this could always be checked. They could also see where other people were in the city and talk to them, while in cafes they could chat with each other.

The Sports Square (left) and De Baarsjes neighbourhood with houses in the middle (right)

By the end of the millennium DDS did have trouble to cover debts and the board decided to change the foundation into a limited company. DDS became part of the commercial ISPs. This transition solicited a lot of emotions from inhabitants and led to a schism, named the only genuine digital city (DeDS).

A map of the Netherlands with digital regions, digital cities and villages

Digital cities
DDS was the first digital city in the Netherlands. But soon digital regions, cities and villages popped up like mushrooms and usually died as fast as they came up. In 1986 Wegener and later on VNU Newspapers launched City Online, a project designed by Maurice de Hond. The format looked similar to that of Digital City Amsterdam, complete with houses for inhabitants. It was an expensive project, which was dependent on the goodwill of the editor-in-chief of the printed newspaper in the city or region. City Online never really took off and by January 1, 1988 the project was over. Presently regional newspapers still experiment with digital cities, villages and regions e.g. 010 in Rotterdam andDichtbij (Near) in Enschede.

Web archeology project
An archive of Digital City Amsterdam was created, when the foundation changed into a limited company. But in 2016 the web archeology project, RE: DDS, was set up by De Waag, a foundation operating at the intersection of science, technology and arts, Amsterdam Museum, the Free University and the University of Amsterdam. The recovered digital devices, magnetic tapes and CDs and were able to emulate software even to a presentation level. One of the results of the RE: DDS project was the FREEZE! manifest.

Ther will be a celebration in Amsterdamat the Public Library. The former virtual mayor will speak and address the pressure on the public character of the internet: "Internet companies enter the public space of the city and also put the public character of the Internet under pressure. The digital public space that we saw before us 25 years ago is now a 'market place', where power is centralized in a handful of large companies with a data hunger that seems unstoppable. Can the mores of these companies be combined with the values of our society? And who actually determines the rules, now that online and offline are becoming increasingly interwoven?"