Arjon Dunnewind: Content with Context

By  Stijnie Thuijs
Arjon Dunnewind - 'Impakt Channel: Content with Context'. Photo by Anne Helmond.

Arjon Dunnewind - 'Impakt Channel: Content with Context'. Photo by Anne Helmond.

Being the festival, artistic and general director of Impakt, Arjon Dunnewind is in charge of a database of art related content for which he has to decide the most appropriate way of uploading to the web. An important factor to take into account, he explains, is that the audience on the web has different expectations than ‘offline audience’. Online archives are the next phase and make us rethink how we structure the art collection, connect both the online and offline audience  and exploit the merits of the online environment to use them in the best possible way.

How to involve an audience?
According to Dunnewind this can be done by providing the viewers quality instead of quantity. This means no comment space below the art content. Arjon would rather have a platform without any comments than low quality comments and spam on his channel. Moderation and hierarchy are keywords for the Impakt Channel, only inviting experts to give their opinion and opening little by little. Arjon wouldn’t mind never to open it for ordinary users though – as it can degrade the quality.

Legal issues
A struggle for Dunnewind are the legal issues. Foremost, who is responsible for the content and the legal issues is not always clear. While being online for supposedly 20 years, only since 5 years has there been options for artists as to in which degree their work is allowed to be published. There is no standard agreement with the artists (all permission has to be confirmed in direct contact with the artist) and more importantly: the artists themselves haven’t always cleared the legal issues of the materials used in their pieces. On the sunny side of the legal issues is that the organization is relatively small, so they don’t receive a lot of complaints. Also there is not much historical material in the database and the legal methods Impakt uses now actually bond the artist and the organization really well. Which results in allowing to put the work online.

The Impakt Channel : Give context to content. Or: how to make a difference
To differentiate yourself from video websites such as YouTube – which offer little to no context -  could be done in various ways. To Arjon, a way is to do that is to offer unique content. Also building a unique platform with alternate possibilities and limitations is a manner. Furthermore, connecting the online channel with the offline events, art projects and festivals, including bonus material for example, are adequate ways to create context. As are the display of background information, articles, introductions and comments by invited experts, interviews and curatorial texts from the original programs.

All that said, Arjon concludes with his wish for the online Impakt environment. ‘We want the Impakt Channel to become a new platform’, he says. A platform that creates exhibitions online, a flexible, dynamic, autonomous space on which can be experimented.

Annelies Termeer on

Video Vortex 6

Annelies Termeer - 'Instant Cinema: Sharing the Screen'. Photo by Anne Helmond.

Annelies Termeer was the third speaker during the lecture themed It’s Not a Dead Collection, It’s a Dynamic Database. She is ad interim head of digital presentation at the EYE Film Institute, formerly known as the Film Museum. The project she is affliated with is called InstantCinema. The goal of the website is to facilitate filmmakers with a platform that affords them to easily upload their films and connect with likeminded people. An important part of the target audience exists of experimental filmmakers, who now have a platform that has the ability to unite the separate spheres of the online communities, the art world and the film world.

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Teague Schneiter on Preserving Indigenous Heritage with IsumaTV

Joanne Richardson - 'Making Video Politically'. Photo by Anne Helmond.

Teague Schneiter - 'Improving Access and Facilitating Use of Indigenous Content with Isuma's Hi-Speed MediaPlayers'. Photo by Anne Helmond.

In Friday’s first session called “It’s Not a Dead Collection, it’s a Dynamic Database”, media archivist and researcher Teague Schneiter (US/CA) took off with an elaboration about the ‘IsumaTV‘ project she’s currently working on. The people behind this initiative aim to set up an accessible infrastructure for streaming and uploading video content in indigenous subcultures. This is not only a technological challenge, but also requires a lot of media literacy within these communities. Other than with traditional heritages, it doesn’t focus on the long-term storage but instead prioritizes the accessibility of the users.
When it comes to the technological part of accessibility, the project would require a solid approach to work for the across different communities. Since the Inuit areas are largely isolated from ‘regular’ broadband services (the costs / bandwidth speed ratio is one of the aspects that widens the ‘digital divide’), the organisation introduced special media boxes into these indigenous communities. Through this local server network, the IsumaTV network performs much better than mainstream platforms like YouTube or Facebook would have. Moreover, having a stand-alone video platform overall increases the feeling of (reclaiming) ownership, “it helps with having a good relationship with the users.” Even though the technological trade-off is that the network updates with a delay of about a week, this is still acceptable for a project with a goal to preserve cultural heritage.

In the end, the project seems very worthwhile. Especially in the “era of of rapid change, [in which] indigenous groups seek to preserve their subculture”. Since the project started in 2008, over 2000 videos in more than 41 languages have been uploaded as well as pictures and text. Content-wise, it proves to be valuable to have the locals themselves act as curators, instead of having slightly related ‘outsiders’ maintain the archives. The fact that the communities rely mainly on verbal communications is another point that video creates a lot more insight into the different cultures.

Future plans with this initiative are to attract more sponsors like repositories, institutes, museums and participatory media (especially now the Canadian government has cut the budget), as well as to add crowd-source (subtitling or voice-over) features as well as further improving the network its accessibility.