The question of user mediated media: Beeld (sound) & Geluid (vision) archives in NL

The ICT Delta 2010

So, this round table discussion was about -how you could use, or re-apply archives (audio-visual) and it was organised by V2, Rotterdam as part of the ICT Delta conference 2010. And there was something about using augmented reality, which was forgotten/dismissed midway during the talk.

We opened the discussion, talking about the current state of affairs, where institutes like ‘Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid’ , museum-ise the collection, people pay a fee to come and see/hear the content (curating and controlled distribution). So, now the proposed idea is to get some artists to make something cool out of all the ‘raw material’ that is, lets say is under-utilized.

As one of the directions to the project, we started with the word ‘democratising’, but soon came to a mellower ‘participatory’ – referring to the values behind it.The two polar usage trends include – ‘user-generated-shared-controlled’ content on one end and ‘institutionalised’ content on the other. The current trend is very much towards the first, but the challenges that the industry faces are of the monetary and copywrite kinds. A good option would be to ‘nominate/ author-ise’ experts, who would be responsible for creating content (sublevel facilitating agents). They could organise teams, workshops, but would retain some amount of authority ( & responsibly preserve some predeclared values + deliver quality output) during the process. The content created would again become  raw material for another project by a different team, managed by another facilitator. Thus, an eco-system of producers-consumers (i rephrase:  users- networkers) would be created, with each having claim to the rights derived from the creative output. Similar to how wikipedia, or successful peer to peer networks work.

A question that came up: As it is, people have very little time to do their own tasks, why do you think they would be interested in self-creation of material? its a valid question, but i’d say it totally depends on the context.

Identity was mentioned as an important consideration; on one end you had national identity (where the archive are the treasure house, curating the best of a culture) and on the other hand was the identity of ‘you and me’ (a subjective interpretation).

At this point the words of Rem koolhas (i am not particularly fond of him = i dont understand him yet) echo through my thoughts:

Identity is like a mousetrap in which more mice have to share the original bait and which, on closer inspection, may have been empty for centuries. The stronger the identity, the more it imprisons, the more it resists expansion, interpreation, renewal, contradiction. Identity becomes like a lighthouse – fixed, overdetermined: it can change its position or the pattern it emits only at the cost of destabilising navigation. (Paris can only become more parisian – it is already on its way to becom hyper-Paris, a polished caricature. There are exeptions: London – its only identity a lack of clear identity – is perpetually becoming even less London, more open, less static).

~ Rem Koolhas (Generic city, 1995)

What he is trying to say, i think is – that even the differences should blend into a compatible whole. Homogenization, to create a generic almost hallucinogenic world order (if observed from a macro scale).

And then i had an idea: A person’s identity is often made up of the soap operas he/she watches, the you tube videos, the books and movies he/she watches. Perhaps there could be a way to depict it as publicly worn accessories (maybe use augmented reality?), depicting media you like. The ‘product/accessory’ has to be low threshhold, bordering on the browsing culture – does not stop the flow of human activity, yet provides a visual unexpectedness that is interesting for others.

Value check: But It should not turn into another media consumerist project, engaging users for the sake of engagement. It should give off a meaningful message, make the users feel proud, responsible and respected. We should always be aware of the balance between hedonistic and meaningful ways of production-consumption. Both are equally valuable, if not overdone. As i write this, i remember this huge typographic advert on a building in rotterdam which said: Artists must live like everyone else : ) . Poking fun at the apparent ‘pointless ness’ of some art projects!

A question that came up during the discussion was: what would you do with all that content if you were the owner of the media company?. I would say, there are a decision to be made here- i would ask myself, how do i measure my success. Do i want to go ‘open-source’ (free for all to use and develop) or do i want to ‘control access’ (curate, and charge per access). Ideally there should be a balance for both.

It was also seen that giving media in the hands of untrained public, might not serve any purpose. Sometimes, people expect personalised service, & other people to do the thinking for them. Thats where these institutions come in, they  provide the platform for such guided engagement and give a positive direction and vision. And it is upto each institution to see how approachable, moldable it wants to be by public opinion.

Below is a video of the session in progress:

Closer: discussion table V2_ @ ICT Delta 2010 Rotterdam from Bergervoet Productions on Vimeo.

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