Video Vortex Conference (Saturday) - recap

posted in Events on January 19th, 2008

The second (and last) day of Video Vortex kicked off with a promising presentation, given by Thomas Elsaesser on the narrativity in cinema and video in general.

Mr. Elsaesser used the Honda Cog ad, which worked very well with the crowd, especially since he also showed the “spin offs” of the actual ad.

Elsaesser concluded his speech by saying that:

YouTube can be addictive as it drags you along, but after two or three hours, a sense of entropy sets in and the joy of discovering the unexpected wears of

Powerful words, no doubt about it. All in all, his presentation is difficult to summarize in a few words, but definitely the kind of talk I was hoping to hear during the conference.

Next up was Jan Simons who talked about the effects of tagging (especially in the sense of Flickr) on a system as a whole.

According to Simons, tagging creates messy categories, which is of course true, especially considering that many things have more than one meaning (homonymy), such as “rock” in a musical sense and “rock” in a geological sense and then there are things that have more than one name (synonymy), such as the season known as fall and autumn.

It basically comes down to the fact that tags cannot be trusted when trying to categorize content, because, and I will use another example from Simons here, a tag such as “in England” might mean that one, a picture was made in England, or two, a picture could reflect the life in England.

The speech was concluded with an example of massive tag overuse, which can be found here.

The third speaker of the morning panel, Dan Oki talked about space and the importance of space in video as well as how, for example, the Blair Witch Project was important for the evolution of cinematography.

After a quick lunch, the afternoon sessions were set to start, but a Jane Doe (Gabriele something) took the stage to talk about a project of hers called “GaMa”, which tries to be a gateway to archives of media art.

A quick search reveals that they already received 1.8 million US Dollars in funding from the European Union nearly two years ago, yet the Jane Doe, initiator of the project, just explained that they are still trying to figure out their business model. It does make one wonder how the European Union decides who to fund and who not to fund …

After a quick intermission, the actual panel, with a focus on curating online video was kicked off by Sarah Cook

Patrick Lichty, professor of Interactive Art and Media Theory at the Columbia College in Chicago shared his thoughts about online video in relation to context, tradition and audience.

Nothing really ground-breaking there other than a couple of, to me, obvious reasons why artists have not yet embraced YouTube and probably never will, unless YouTube changes the way they treat their contributing members.

Lichty’s conclusion quickly referenced LOLCats and that, somehow, made the whole thing go full circle.

After another quick break, Tilman Baumgärtel started the final panel of the conference, Participatory Culture.

Pirated media in Asias was the main topic of Baumgärtel’s talk, he explained how piracy in Asia is different to Europe, because of the lack of availability of high-speed Internet access in rural areas and also because of the lack of trust.

Whereas in Europe and the Americas, downloads are the primary form of piracy, Asians prefer physical stuff such as CDs and DVDs.

The speaker also talked about a movie called Ciplak, an ultra-low-budget production that was filmed over the span of a month, with a Canon XM2 Mini DV cam and equipment such as Ikea lamps.

The movie, however, looks great and I would recommend anyone interested in indi-media (or Asian movies) to check it out - we were treated to a few minutes of it and all had a good laugh.

At one point, Baumgärtel talked about how some film makers use pirates as a(nother) selling channel: pirates are seeded with a semi-good quality version of the film and after enough momentum has been established, the director releases a DVD with a high-resolution version of the movie and to make it even more interesting, also includes games, screensavers and a making off. While it does sound a tad crazy to most Europeans, I can see how this kind of marketing would work in a market that primarily relies on piracy.

It would appear that the whole piracy thing is a very strict business. For every one master copy of a new movie that enters the country, three copies are made and distributed, within 24 hours or less, to the different islands. Only then does local reproduction of a pirated movie actually start and even then, the production only happens during the day. The reason for that is simply that the pressing plants generate more noise than most neighbors would accept during the night and with the police breathing down the necks of pirates, giving “the man” another reason to lock you up might not seem the smartest move.

More information on Baumgärtel’s talk and works can be found on, a name that spans from the time where the government of an Asian nation issued a decree that allowed the local populace to copy and distribute European and American books and other publications.

Ana Percaica’s topic was “Avi and Divx Art” and brushes topics such as the copyright laws in Croatia and the destruction and confiscation of videotheque copies in the early Nineties.

She talked about how, for example, a home-made porn video of a local celebrity gained so much exposure that we number of downloads came very close to the number of total inhabitants of Croatia and did a good job at explaining why the whole concept of “copyright” does not work all that well in Croatia.

Severina, the porn-lady, was also the underlying topic of the whole talk; it would appear that, in order to protect her innocence (uhuh), Severina apparently asked for all downloaded copies back (yes, the audience chuckled on that note), a clear indicator that the concept of downloads is not as obvious as it would appear to be.

Severina even instructed her lawyer to force the portal that distributed the clip to remove it, but could only support her claim by stating that the video invaded her privacy - which it did not, since she was the one that leaked it initially and her follow-up attempt, claiming that it was “video art”, was also dismissed, based on the grounds of the fact that home-made porn is not art, because it simply is not innovative. Maybe you should have gone for the whipped cream and honey after all, Severina?

The last speech of the day was given by Dominic Chen, who works with Creative Commons Japan.
Of all the speeches that were given during the whole conference, I would have to say that his was the best.

His topic, the critical point of the commons and digital prochronism (yes, it is a mouthful) was both interesting and innovative.

Chen presented on the explosive grow of content and the need for a meta-platform that would be able to handle the growth, he touched on subjects such as the war for openess between Google on Facebook and spiced up his talk with interesting images and video clips as well as clean presentation slides.

All in all, Chen shared some great notes and thoughts with us and really knew how to handle the, seemingly difficult audience.

As always, once Chen’s speech got interesting, the producers told the speaker to wrap it up and call it a day. A quick recap was given and the bar opened.

The first Video Vortex in Amsterdam, to me, was a moderate success. The second day was much better than the first one, mostly because the speakers were more interesting to me and talked about stuff I actually could relate to. Nonetheless, it was a welcome change of the

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European Bloggers Conference - conclusions

posted in Events on October 2nd, 2007

Someone just asked me what the best thing about the whole (un)conference was and while this is a tough choice to make, I would most probably have to say: equality.

No matter if you were a student, like Anne, Rina or me, a Web 2.0 business owner from Uzbekistan, like Serhiy, an A-List Blogger like Luca or a journalist like Dorien, Paul or Nick - you were as important as the next person.

Background ceased to matter during any and all conversations and people just took you for what you were, no one showed any arrogance at all and in that kind of setting, conversations can keep going for hours - like they did with us.

Dear EJC Team, thank you very much for a great two-day conference. You did a fabulous job with speaker selection and, incidentally, managed to attract a great audience and I will certainly be back next year!

On a related note: the EJC team is finally starting to upload some of the video clips their Austro-American Team shot at the conference - the first part is available here - while all the interviews they did are available here.

And for those that are interested, my interview, on censorship, embargoes and politics can be viewed right here.

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Freedom of Speech (and the lack thereof)

posted in Media on August 18th, 2007

Normally, I refrain from posting entries that contain a political message, even if it is only remotely political, but this one really deserves some air time:

According to Matt Mullenweg’s blog, Turkey blocked access to, Automattic’s hosted blogging service.

Earlier this year, YouTube was blocked because of a video that insulted Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Insulting the founding father of that Nation, apparently, is a criminal offense, punishable with a prison sentence. The interesting thing though is that the video was not posted by a Turkish national, but rather by a Greek critizen.

During the past couple of years, Turkey has struggled to gain admission to the European Union and they have done a great deal to improve various shortcomings situations for which I commend them.

However, it really does make me wonder if a country that kills access to a blogging service because it does not agree with the views stated on said site has the right character to join a community as diverse as the European Union.

After all, the motto of the EU is “united in diversity”. Thinking about the recent events regarding freedom of speech in Turkey, I, for one, am unsure how the European diversity compared with the Turkish way of dealing with journalists (and those that dare to voice their opinion) could possibly fit together in a peaceful way.

For the record, I do realize that the way the government acts does not necessarily resemble the way many Turks would act, but when it all comes down to a black and white picture, the government was elected as a representative of the Turkish citizens …

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On Human Nature

posted in Media on July 19th, 2007

I just came across a clip on YouTube that I felt was worth posting about. The clip has been viewed close to 500,000 times already and as always, this kind of attention also attracts those that try to take the high road by claiming that they would never do the things depicted in the video.

Now, before you get any wrong ideas about the clip, rest assured, its mostly safe for work. There’s no nudity or anything, in fact - its nothing more than a visualization of human nature:

Paul Robinett, director and producer of the clip is taping his son, who has been trying to bury himself under the sand, when all of a sudden, Robinett spots a trio of young women:

Now, beautiful women on a beautiful beach aren’t that uncommon these days, so what’s the fuss about you might wonder? Well, instead of stopping the tape or focusing on his son again, Robinett keeps taping the women, in order to point out that his actions (watching them) aren’t all that bad, considering that the trio is doing exactly the same, namely watching a handsome lifeguard and even having the guts of walking in front of the lifeguard in order to take a few pictures with him standing in the background.

So, I am wondering, how is it that it is acceptable for women to watch men and yet, at the same time, it is socially unacceptable for men to watch women?

As expected, this video gathered quite a few responses, with some of them complaining about the content of the video and others congratulating Robinett for being courageous enough to post this kind of clip on YouTube.

My take on this video is simple: Robinett has a point and a very good one at that. It is simply human nature to seek out the more attractive members of a society and there is nothing wrong with that and even more, that is nothing to feel guilty about.

Robinett does not portray these women as sex objects in any way, he only shows the viewer that females do not differ from males as much as socially accepted values would lead us to believe.

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Why Google is hot and Yahoo! is not

posted in Tech Talk on February 21st, 2007

Lately, namely, the last three years, it would seem that customer service is something out of the ordinary. Something you’re only entitled to if you have buckets full of cash. If you’re a normal customer, you shouldn’t even be thinking about getting to talk to a real person.

On blogs like the Consumerist, you can read about companies that eff up, businesses that treat their customers unfairly and the likes. Sure, there are situations when the customer is at fault, for example when yelling at a CS rep who didn’t even cause a problem. I totally understand (and agree) that such calls should be terminated as soon as possible, but there are also situations, where the customer didn’t do anything wrong and still doesn’t get what he is looking for.

A few days ago, I submitted a ticket to Flickr, in regards of a question I had. Basically, I wanted to switch the account name my Flickr account was tied to. My question to them was not if they could do it, but only if it was possible. All it would have taken is a simple “yes” or “no”. Now, I’m not the biggest Flickr user, because I have my own gallery and like it a lot better and in fact only bought the Flickr account so I could buy some MOO cards, but I am a paying customer nonetheless.

To date, I have not yet received any communication from them, other than the one their auto responder sends out telling me that my issue will be looked into as quickly as possible. Their site states that a human will be in contact with you, at some point. Really now?

Yesterday, I also came across an issue with YouTube. Basically, I was unable to update my channel info successfully. Whenever I entered my data in the fields, it would be saved but during the process, would also erase data I entered into other fields.

Since I thought this to be a general site issue, I fired off an email to YouTube support, letting them know of the issue. Naturally, I was sent a standard auto responder, telling me that the issue would be looked into, but that I shouldn’t expect any response. I’m fine with that. I’m not a paying customer, I know that YouTube is huge and if they would fix the problem, I’d be happy.

Google, apparently thinks otherwise. Less than twelve hours after submitting my original request, Elizabeth from the YouTube team told me the following:

Hi there,

Thanks for your email.

Thank you for your notification. It looks like the issue was the result of an issue with our website. It’s been reported to our engineers and should be fixed!

We apologize for the inconvenience, but you will have to try to make the changes to your channel again.

A simple mail, with an easy to understand answer. Sure, half of it may be text snippets, she just drags and drops into the response field, but at least they try - and to be honest, it’s working. I’m confident that the issue will be resolved in no time.

Google, while telling you not to expect an answer, actually always writes back (at least, they do in my case). I’ve had issues with AdSense, GMail and GTalk and I have always gotten answers out of them. All of these services are free to use and I’m not a paying customer. I’m no A - List blogger and I don’t have the power to kill their reputation, yet they treat me with the same kindness every time. Why they do it, I don’t know. I’m guessing it’s corporate culture and if it is, it’s a great one.

That same corporate culture is what makes people want to work at Google, it’s what makes those people proud. Now, I don’t agree with turning over all my data to Google and I only use my GMail accounts sparingly, but I gotta give it to them that they are doing (most of) the right things.

I think, if Yahoo! would take care of their customers a little more, they could actually gain back a nice piece of the market they lost to Google…

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