Andreas Broeckmann on Wed, 1 Dec 1999 17:52:42 +0200

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Syndicate: <nettime> The scene in Finland

Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 00:17:20 +0100 (CET)
From: Minna Tarkka <>

The scene in Finland - some remarks and plans

"If [the Finnish phenomena of] leveling pyramids, opening back channels of
communication, collaborative improvisation, and subverting despots all
ring a bell, these have also proven to be emergent dynamics in the social
petri dish of the Internet. It's not just that Finns are embracing the Net
and figuring out ways to create mutually beneficial links between it and
the world of wireless telephony. It's that the Net is, you might say,
essentialy Finnish". - Steve Silberman: Just say Nokia, Wired September

"Although the level of technology in Finland is one of the highest in the
world, the reflection on the shape (and effects) of this rapid growing
'technological culture' remains underdevelopedä The happy consumerism,
gadget fetishism and male engineering culture are going hand in hand with
a lack of analysis about the economic dimensions of the IT sector, and the
implicit cultural agenda of new technologies." - Geert Lovink,
afterthoughts on a project in Helsinki oct-nov 1999, email 11.11.1999

"Why I like it better in California? Why was Silicon Valley developed next
to San Fransisco? According to research a central reason for the Valley
innovations is the multiplicity of cultures and values in Californiaä In
Finnish monoculture, the actors are traditionally grouped into closed
guilds. Academicians, artists, technologists and businessmen work safely
inside their institutional structures." Merja Puustinen, email 27.10.1999.

These quotes describe the paradoxical scene of Finnish media culture at
the turn of the millennium. The nineties has been a period of intensive
infrastructure building, establishment of educational programs (Media
science, University of Lapland, UIAH Media Lab) and institutions for
public display (Kiasma, Lasipalatsi Media Centre). 5 years after the
dynamic, critical and multidisciplinary ambience felt at ISEA'94 Helsinki,
it seems that the actors are dispersed and the field lacks a dynamic. Here
are some characteristics describing digital cultural policy and practice
in Finland today.

*Supporting infrastructures instead of 'content'.  The policy efforts have
concentrated on funding bandwidth, machines and buildings instead of
production, research and education. In general, the field is institution
and individual driven; not too networked or collaborative.

*Increasing polarization of the technology and cultural sectors; and the
increasing marginalisation of media culture and art. Technology projects
get easily funded, while traditional art forms have established public
support systems. Media cultural productions fall outside the categories.

*Lack of national and international coordination in digital culture. The
associations (MUU, AV-ark) in the field are too poorly funded to be able
to do professional work. Each event, such as the MuuMediaFestival is
funded separately and realized through volunteer work. The international
connections are maintained mostly through the efforts and contacts of some
active individuals.

*Lack of critical and constructive discourse on technoculture. Several
Finnish universities make excellent research on the social-economic and
aesthetic-philosophical aspects of media culture. Due to the existing
dynamics (read stagnated positions) of the field, the sectors of cultural
practice, academic research and technology development remain without
productive contact.

*Burn-out of culturally oriented media producers, whose energies are
consumed into putting up companies, seeking funding, volunteer work and
other organizational tasks. Due to the difficult situation of cultural
production, ever fewer artists and producers seem to emerge from the
younger generations. For some, work outside of Finland seems to be the
only option.

Some steps forward

In August 1999, Minna Tarkka (UIAH Media Lab) wrote a proposal to put up a
centre to coordinate cultural production related to digital media and art.
The proposal was sent to over 50 persons representing artists and
culturally oriented small companies, cultural and educational
institutions, as well as policy and funding organizations. Its aim was to
initiate discussion across different interest groups.

On October 28, Perttu Rastas (Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art) and
Tarkka invited a general discussion on the topic "Do we need an
independent media centre" The Kiasma event was attended by 70 people from
the above named groups as well as technology developers. There seemed to
be a consensus on each side - the need for a node for digital culture was
clearly expressed.

Also present in Kiasma were representatives of the 'Content Finland'
project, who welcomed the idea of the centre as well as more detailed
plans for its establishment. As described in the Cultural Industry working
group memorandum (Ministry of Education 1999), the aim of Content Finland
is to increase international competitiveness through projects that raise
content industries to the level of technology development in Finland.

Modelling the profile

The discussions so far seem to prove that the centre would help to bridge
missing links in the 'value networks' of Finnish media culture and
technology development, while also establishing a node in international
networks. The aims and functions of the centre could include the

1. Supporting content development. Production, design and development of
cd-roms, web works, networks, (digital) videos/films by independent
artists, cultural organizations and small/medium sized companies; support
environment for production - studios for digital production and
development; distribution and information services.

2. Shaping discourses and practices. Supporting and shaping
multidisciplinary critical discourses and practices through research,
debates, publications, events and conferences; acting as a promoter in the
formation of a 'new media branch' or digital artisan collectives.

3. Policy-making and collaboration. Involvement in cultural policy -
creating local, national, regional and European networks for exchange and
collaboration; joint ventures; information and communication services;
artist-in-residence programs, etc.

The next phases should involve drafts of different models of the
functional/economic setup of the planned centre. The work will draw on the
valuable work done on best practice models in European media culture and
hopefully produce a new member to the European Cultural Backbone.

ECB / Connected at Lasipalatsi, Helsinki November 19, 1999 / Minna Tarkka,
Media Lab, University of Art and Design

Minna Tarkka
Professor (Interactive and multimedia communication)
Media Lab, University of Art and Design Helsinki UIAH
Hameentie 135 C, FIN-00560, Helsinki, Finland
TEL +358-9-75630316, FAX +358-9-75630555

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