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Screen Media and Memory

The conference was hosted at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Report on the 2012 NECS Conference, Lisbon, Portugal

Every year NECS, the European Network for Cinema and Media Studies, brings together a remarkable amount of archivists and scholars from all over the continent. After London, Lund and Istanbul, the 2012 NECS conference ‘Time Networks: Screen Media and Memory’ took place in Lisbon on 21-23 June. Several of the papers given over the course of this three day event were particularly relevant to EUscreen.

Report by Erwin Verbruggen and Berber Hagedoorn

Television in Transition

A number of papers paid specific attention to the medium of television. Scholars from the Centre for Television in Transition (TViT, located at EUscreen partner Utrecht University) focused in their papers on forms of user engagement as ‘spaces of participation’, arguing how new forms of television not only use online media as platforms for distribution, but television programmes and website interfaces form new frameworks of interaction between producers, programmes and audiences. Eggo Müller addressed forms of participatory television in the Dutch TV Lab, which presents pilots for future shows on Dutch public television. Abby Waysdorf examined fan interaction and the emergence of a ‘television canon’ on the pop-culture website The AV Club. Karin van Es‘ paper focused on how constructions and constellations of liveness are at work in the US talent show The Voice. Berber Hagedoorn discussed how, as spaces of participation, multi-platform TV documentaries such as the project In Europe can offer new dynamic ways in which cultural memory is ‘performed’.

Unstable Television Histories

Dana Mustata presenting at the 'Unstable Histories' panel

In her paper on PhD research carried out at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Andrea Meuzelaar (University of Amsterdam) incorporated practical encounters with an archival institution. As an archive, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision relates how media discourse has changed towards Muslim inhabitants. By choosing and applying descriptions and keywords in particular eras, not only the media but also the archive itself reinvigorates that era’s discourse towards Islamic inhabitants.

The panel ‘Unstable Histories: The Problem of Seeing and Understanding ‘Old’ Television in the Digital Age’ informed the gathered media scholars about the EUscreen project and how the portal can be a tool for contemporary television research. Erwin Verbruggen from the Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision explained the origins and contents of the project, and argued how EUscreen is defined by its blend of academic scholars, technologists and archives. Dana Mustata (University of Groningen) and Berber Hagedoorn (Utrecht University) zoomed in on the challenges of providing online access to television history: Mustata focused on the fact that many TV historians today are actually analogue researchers in a digital world, while Hagedoorn concentrated on contemporary strategies in online projects by means of which television history can become a powerful cultural resource for ‘TV users’. Liam Wylie from Ireland’s broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann concluded this panel with a presentation from the perspective of the archive, and why it is rare for academics – or the general public for that matter – to gain full access to television archives. Head over to the EUscreen slideshare page to flip through our presentations.

Copyright and Remix

During the panel on ‘Copyright and Remix’, digital pirates entered the scholarly debate. IPR remains an ever-important topic for audiovisual libraries. May we even say: the begin-all and end-all of access undertakings. EUscreen has therefore set up a workshop and several documents and reference libraries related to these issues. During the panel, Anne Kustritz (University of Amsterdam) pointed out the bittersweet irony of large film companies creating movie franchises about thieving pirates who sue fan boys and -girls that craft remixed fan fiction about those very same thieving pirates. Katherine Groo (University of Aberdeen) brought up remix as an addition to the academic toolkit: media scholars are very much focused on words and discourse, but in examples such as this particular remix of filmmaker D.W. Griffith’s work, elements of continuity editing are explored in ways that words cannot. Her article on the topic of remix can be found in the first issue of the new journal FRAMES.

Melancholy is Analogue

Audio Cassette as a Design Object, MUDE Museum, Lisbon

By far the most ‘swinging’ presentation was provided by keynote speaker Andreas Fickers (Maastricht University) in his lecture on the transistor radio as an analogue memory machine. Fickers presented a cultural history of this plastic medium through songs and lyrics of ‘transistor memories’, emphasizing the analogue melancholia that marks our current media landscape and thus ‘investigating the complex relationship between the materiality of memory machines and their work as technologies of memory’.

In a related context, Richard Misek (University of Kent) presented the paper The Algorithmic Image about his current research into timelines as a driving force for audiovisual media. New algorithmic video and web technologies are changing properties and ownership of those timelines that before were situated in the sacred realm of post-production houses or film studios. His example of ‘web-friendly director’ Vincent Morrisset’s video Sprawl II, which he made for the rock act Arcade Fire, showed how algorithmic tricks opened up the rhythm of the film to the influence of the viewer, who thus becomes a participant in the creation of  his/her own viewing experience.

Another ‘melancholic medium’ discussed at the conference was the home movie. Researchers from the Amateur Cinema Studies Network (ACSN) presented several papers – from approaching contemporary home movie technologies through the lens of amateur culture (including Skype as a contemporary form of the home movie) to the changing status of home movies in a digital and networked culture. In this context, Susan Aasman (University of Groningen) argued in her paper From archival desire to performative pleasures how contextual integrity has gotten lost – for example, a personal home movie is now part of the world of YouTube. Paradoxically, the internet now also offers new possibilities for contextualisation.

To conclude, the conference provided insight into historical and theoretical work relevant to the EUscreen project and was a great opportunity to talk about EUscreen to media researchers in Europe. At the conference, the NECS network launched the first issue of its scholarly journal NECSUS which is worth a look. NECSUS currently cooperates with the EUscreen-hosted Journal of European Television History and Culture on the practical embedding of audiovisual materials in online scholarly publications.

Scholarly publications at the registrations desk