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Report on the Final EUscreen Conference, Part 2 of 2

EUscreen organised its final conference on September 13 and 14, focusing on Television Heritage and the Web. We looked back on lessons learned, showcased the achievements of the project and looked at the road ahead. This conference report wraps up the conference topics and debates and was jointly edited by Brecht Declerq, Florian Delabie, Berber Hagedoorn, Yves Niederhäuser, Elke Poppe, Katja Šturm and Erwin Verbruggen. Presentations and video recordings of the conference will be made available over the next days at the conference overview page.

Presenting the Virtual Exhibitions

The last presentations of the first day of the conference discussed the virtual exhibitions that were recently published on the EUscreen portal. These online exhibitions aim at helping visitors find their way throughout the mass of materials and sources available on the portal and providing more stories and background info linking together its contents. During this latest round of presentations, we were presented with the future of the exhibition builder, a tool built specially to create and manage the exhibitions on EUscreen. A second point for discussion was the editorial work to put them online and their use as sources for television history researchers.

Mr. Ockeloen and dr. Barber presenting the EUscreen exhibition development (Photo: Miklós Varga)

This last aspect was presented by Dr. Dana Mustata, from the University of Groningen. She began with the personal thought that she considered herself an analogue researcher in a digital world, wherein she realised that historical television items are often displaced and decontextualised when they are published online. Online archives have been pre-selected by archivists and are placed on websites with limited information or historical context. Dr. Mustata proposed methods and a historiography to be developed to use online sources. She first highlighted the phenomena, practices and processes of Europeanness and trans-nationality in television history, then explained how she prefers to present this kind of collaborative practices as visible agencies, so that it could help rediscovering neglected aspects of television history. Mustata concluded her presentation by stating that the scientific value of EUscreen could be increased with a collaborative platform through which experiences could be shared and could contribute to writing television history.

As dr. Sian Barber from Royal Holloway, University of London, presented, the editorial process to choose/select media to be published into the exhibitions follows the lines of such an intricate collaboration. The main purpose of the exhibitions is to give meaning to content through collaborative work between researchers, content providers and technological partners. Working together with these groups allows researchers to better understand the process of content selection, while content providers get the opportunity to show their archives in another way and to highlight new aspects of their collections. dr. Barber concluded with a presentation of the selection process that was used on some of the online exhibitions that have recently been released . Daniel Ockeloen from Noterik completed this presentation by showing the technical challenges of the exhibition builder, which has been custom-built within the project to create and manage exhibitions that include the various video sources and the descriptive information on EUscreen.

Workshop: Best-Practice Applications

Ms. Šturm and mr. Lavrenčič from RTV (Photo: Miklós Varga)

On Friday the Final EUscreen International Conference continued with opening and welcoming by Sonja de Leeuw, who introduced the two EUscreen best-practice applications showcased by TVR (Romania), RTV (Slovenia) and RTBF (Belgium). Due to unforeseen circumstances, keynote speaker Jamie Harley was not able to attend.

Irina Negraru from TVR and dr. Dana Mustata presented their personal experiences working with content within the television archive of the Romanian public broadcaster. Both emphasised the lack of content concerning social issues, sexual revolution or any other sort of socially related items during the Nicolae Ceaușescu era. They discussed the necessity of de-westernalizing and reevaluating the existing frameworks and concepts that emerged out of a Western reality. Together, they emphasized the need to redefine television research methods in future television history writing by adding new theoretical concepts that emerge out of Eastern histories.

Katja Šturm from RTV Slovenia carried out the second presentation in this morning slot. She illustrated a successful project in which audiovisual materials of a national broadcaster are reused and contextualised. In 2011, RTV Slovenia created a special web portal 20 Years of Slovenia to honour the country’s 20 years of independence. The online portal includes content from three media sources: television, radio and multimedia contributions. The next step was implementing the involvement of the general public on one side and of TV crews, journalists and reporters on the other to personalise the portal with their own memories and personal stories. The portal is now available in Slovenian only, but we recommend perusing through the portal with the aid of online translation tools to discover the wealth of national content and personal experiences that lie within.

Mr. Nemes from Kitchen Budapest (Photo: Miklós Varga)

Xavier Jacques-Jourion presented how his broadcast institution, the Radio Télévision Belge Francophone has performed a number of web experiments and has fine-tuned an application that links television archive material materials to the broader web of knowledge that is the internet. After concluding that for many access portals that have been built in the past it’s often more difficult to find the framework than the original videos that were on them, the broadcaster set about developing a browser that unites the raw archive data with information sources on the web. Instead of creating new separate web projects, they now intend to create a rich interface to support researchers, journalists and production assistants to go through the collection and discover unexpected sourrces. We’ve talked extensively on this blog about the power of the semantic web and Xavier’s GEMS example is a compelling next step into applying this theoretical model to a day-to-day application. For more info about this technology, take a look at Europeana’s video What is Linked Open Data or at the EUscreen LOD page.

The conference was closed by Hungarian curator Attila Nemes, who founded Kitchen Budapest, which is a new media lab that focuses on innovative research into fields as varied as mobile communication, digital storage and online content. His contribution focused on the use of digital media to improve people’s private lives, thereby including private materials and gathering information on how focus groups such as little children or the elderly go about using digital and moving image technologies and can use them to improve personal bonds, facilitate family communication and aid their daily dose of happiness.

Overall, the conference gave a healthy overview of the playing field in which EUscreen operates. It showed that the project has constructed both a technological platform – one that provides a place where unique content is gathered and contextualised for different groups of users – and a network of people from different backgrounds with a shared interest in providing access & context to historical audiovisual materials. In this double sense, EUscreen has a challenging task in a time where media outlets are rapidly changing and next steps to take in the years that lie ahead.

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