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Europeana Media in the World, Part II: A workshop report from the FIAT/IFTA World Conference

This is the second part of a two-part workshop report series on the Europeana Media player. You can find the first part here.

On October 24th, Europeana Media project partners invited audiovisual archives professionals and researchers to discuss the state of the art of and recommendations for the aggregation and publishing landscape of European audiovisual collections, through the lense of IIIF technology. This second session of the Europeana Media World Café was hosted at the annual FIAT/IFTA 2019 World Conference, celebrated in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

The Europeana Media Project and the Enhanced Unified Playout Service

Despite the availability of significant amounts of video material published online by audiovisual media archives, users experience a number of drawbacks when accessing their video content and audio recordings. The Europeana Media Project acknowledges these limitations and as a result has developed the Enhanced Unified Playout Service (EUPS): a video player focused on providing a user-friendly experience that facilitates the cross-border content reusability of AV media content.  

As part of the user research strategy of the project, partners hosted two Europeana Media World Cafés. The aim was to encourage the discussion around personal experience and solutions on AV media archiving, retrieval, and re-use. At the same time, the key insights from both workshops served as recommendations for the next steps on the development of the EUPS and, for the broader Europeana network, EUscreen and FIAT/IFTA communities.

Knowledge Cafe: A step forward to a user-centric AV player

Following a similar format from the first Europeana Media World Cafe organized in Hilversum, this session started with a short introduction to contextualize the Europeana Media Project and the current state of development. Each participant was then invited to join one of four discussion groups, which included a moderator and a pre-selected topic. After 15 minutes, groups changed and everyone apart from the moderator moved to a new table, where participants “built” on the discussion of the previous group. At the end of the workshop, all participants had visited each one of the 4 tables.

1. Media Player requirements. Lead by Marco Rendina. 

During the discussion, participants outlined the desirable features that a media player should include. Some of the main points were the change in browsing audiovisual content (from item-based towards content-based search); displaying subtitles in multiple languages (to maximise accessibility to the content) and an option to improved usage statistics from users. Participants also mentioned the important role that AI might play in automating metadata from AV content, like face recognition and automatic speech to text. 

2. Opening up collections online. Lead by Maria Drabczyk.

The discussion revolved around two main points: the pros and cons of various available online access channels used by institutions holding archival audiovisual collections, and the promotion of their content throughout diverse online channels. Although most of the participants mentioned the use of multiple online platforms that provide online access to their archival materials, there are still a few that maintain limited access. Access is often limited because of copyright restrictions, and the still on-going digitization of content. As in the first workshop, the FIAT/IFTA participants also use a mixed-model approach to provide access to their collections, using both platforms developed in house and deep integration with social media channels. The discussion also focused on the importance of social media platforms as indispensable tools to disseminate and provide access to their audiovisual materials. 

3. How do Media Archives and Broadcasters Care about Users? Lead by Abiodun Ogunyemi.

Focused on defining who is the user and how this varies depending on the context, users are regarded differently depending on the type of institution. For instance, from the heritage institution’s perspective, a content aggregator is seen as the user, as well as the content provider in some ways. The discussion also highlighted how user research goals differ from institution to institution. Private institutions are driven by profit and prioritise user research, whereas public institutions don’t seek users but users seek them. However, taken from participants’ professional experiences, broadcaster’s archives do not make a habit of conducting (or ordering) formal user research. 

4. Storytelling with online heritage. Lead by Johan Oomen.

The discussion at this table focused on what are the best strategies are which curators, documentalists/media managers and other staff working at audiovisual archives and broadcast archives can apply to present their collections. Participants discussed strategies and trends in which storytelling can help disseminate their audiovisual collections. Some of the discussed strategies were personalised experiences for already engaged audiences; utilizing a subscription-based business model for an ongoing service-oriented experience; opting for the use of an open movement model like open access to data, and offering their content on social platforms like Facebook or Instagram.

Workshop recommendations

After a fruitful and insightful discussion that offered insight into the current aggregation and publishing landscape, we summarized the key points from both workshops and presented them as suggestions. These are also proposed as a call to action for both the Europeana Media Project, and the broader Europeana network, EUscreen and FIAT/IFTA communities: 

  • Foster collaboration between archives and journalism.

Collaboration between journalists and archives has increasingly gained importance. Journalists help to connect archives content with users’ interest, while non-broadcast archives serve as a source for journalism and fact-checking. For this reason, there is a need to exchange best practices on how to set up collaborations between archives and journalists in the most effective and mutually beneficial way. 

  • Social media and an open internet

Social media platforms have become an essential tool for archives for sharing collections on a regular basis and to drive audiences to institutional websites. There is a general agreement that archives, given their public missions, should support a more open internet.

  • User-focused

Given the trends discussed in the tables, participants outlined how crucial it is for institutions to gain insights from users. This can be done in three ways: (1) by gathering statistics on the use and study their queries, (2) have discussions with current users to understand their expectations, as well as to (3) explore what the users of the future will be. 

  • Open up collections

Despite the significant amount of collections that are still in copyright, participants agree open access to audiovisual collections will drive creative diversity and contributes to innovation in the private and public sectors. It is encouraged to participate in small-scale projects, despite their size they have a significant impact. 

  • Hire young professionals

A fifth and final recommendation to explore new ways of storytelling is hiring young professionals, as they tend to have a positive impact on deciding on new outreach strategies and pick up potential new trends and platforms at an early stage. 

What other strategies do you think can be implemented to facilitate users the access and dissemination of great European AV collections? Let us know in the comments!