Andreas Broeckmann on Mon, 13 Dec 1999 12:13:58 +0200

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Syndicate: ECB Helsinki repor

The European Cultural Backbone's Connected meeting in Helsinki
Lasipalatsi, 18 - 21 November 1999

[Note: The following is a report that is based on my own perception of the
Helsinki meeting, and my reading of the ECB. It is neither an authoritative
nor a consensual statement, but a personal account. Andreas Broeckmann,
Berlin/Rotterdam, 9 Dec 99]

Preface and Summary

ECB General Information - The European Cultural Backbone (ECB) is a
coalition of media laboratories, cultural and media organisations and
individuals who do research, development, presentation and distribution in
the field of digital media, as well as the promotion of media literacy and
participation among local communities. They share a commitment to the
fostering of a culturally-driven, people-centred growth of the 'Information

ECB History - The ECB is the result of discussions at a series of
conferences and seminars, including the conference From Practice to Policy
(P2P) in the Netherlands in 1997, the Cultural Competence conference in
Austria (1998), the ECB founding meeting in Vienna (March 1999), and most
recently, the Connected conference in Helsinki (November 1999). The
principles and the context of the ECB's work are outlined in documents such
as the Amsterdam Agenda (1997) and Networking Centres of Innovation (1998),
and in the publication New Media Culture in Europe (Amsterdam, 1999).

ECB Goals - The goals of the ECB are described in the ECB Protocol which
was developed during the Vienna meeting in March 1999. The ECB seeks to
enhance the visibility of independent media culture and to strengthen
co-operation within this field. It strives to become a hub for the meeting
between art, research, industry, education, and media policy, and a window
of creative and artistic work in the field of digital technologies, by
fostering cross-disciplinary co-operation in research, development and
independent experimentation; strengthening the cultural dimension of
policies relating to new technologies; and enhancing the critical discourse
and the public accessibility of creative work with digital media. The ECB
calls for the direct access of cultural institutions to the Internet
backbone of academic or other research networks, as an essential element in
the development of a democratic European information society. In addition
to the ECB's role as a catalyst for European media-culture, the ECB seeks
to further extend this work beyond the boundaries of Europe in partnerships
and co-operations with groups and organisations in Northern and Latin
America, Asia, Australia and Africa.

ECB State of Things - At the moment, the ECB is still in the process of
building up a structure and formulating its strategies. There is a group of
ca. 20 institutions that are currently associated with the ECB through the
fact that their members participated in one of the ECB meetings. There is a
steering group of four people who have taken a degree of responsibility for
pushing the ECB project in this initial phase, each representing a specific
area ('ministry'): Konrad Becker (Public Netbase, Vienna; ministry of
campaigning), Frank Boyd (Artec, London; ministry of funding); Andreas
Broeckmann (V2_, Rotterdam; ministry of programmes), Marleen Stikker (De
Waag, Amsterdam; ministry of information exchange). Membership in the ECB
is based on the co-operation in one of the working groups that will
eventually be set up around specific issues (like festivals, distribution,
education, legal issues, lobbying strategies, etc.). In principle, these
working groups can be initiated by anybody and are made up of people
working in the media-cultural field who share that specific concern,
interest, or problem. The working groups are goal-oriented and strive to
facilitate existing working practices by helping to co-ordinate
co-operation, enhance the exchange of information and experiences, and by
developing models which can be adopted by others. The aim of the ECB is to
make life easier for people working in this field by facilitating closer
collaboration and sharing of tasks. A number of questions, like the level
of formalisation of the ECB and its membership, or the problem of political
representation for the ECB on national and international levels, will
continue to be discussed in an open, critical and constructive manner.

Connected Meeting in Helsinki, November 1999

On the occasion of the Finnish EU presidency during the second half of
1999, the Lasipalatsi Film and Media Centre in Helsinki invited members of
the European Cultural Backbone (ECB) to participate in the working meeting
/~Connected - Networked Media Culture in a Changing Europe. The meeting had
the dual agenda of providing an opportunity for the ECB to consolidate its
activities, and to help foster the debate about mediacultural policies in
Finland (cf also Minna Tarkka: The scene in Finland,, Dec
99). Encounters and discussions of cultural practitioners with policy
makers were complemented by closed working sessions and public
presentations of models of best practice in media culture.

Friday 19th, afternoon. The Connected meeting started with an introductory
session and the presentation of some basic models of institutions connected
to the ECB. Marie Ringler (Public Netbase, Vienna) introduced the ECB,
Katarina Zivanovic (CyberRex, Belgrade) talked about the vital importance
of international networking, David Sinden (Artec, London) talked about
media labs, and Sara Diamond outlined the work and strategies of the Banff
New Media Institute in Canada. She stressed the fact that the research and
practice at Banff is driven by culture, values, and curiosity. When the
Finnish Minister of Culture, Suvi Linden, briefly joined the meeting and
gave a welcoming address to the participants, Tapio Makela (Meteori,
Helsinki) used the opportunity to spell out the relationship between
media-cultural practice and policy, and the necessity for policy makers to
take independent media culture into account when developing new
media-political programmes.

Friday 19th, evening. In two separate sessions, two working groups then
discussed 'Networks' and 'Centres' as crucial aspects of media-cultural
practice. Both groups got slightly caught up in the quagmire of funding and
political representation, but there were some very concrete principles
which were emphasised during these meetings: the current field of media
culture is unthinkable without the interational network structure within
which it operates; the purpose of a specific networking activity has to be
described very precisely in order to avoid false expectations and
redundancy; networks are often more secure when they are financially
independent from specific funding bodies - models of self-funding (through
membership fees, etc.) or distributed funding sources should be
investigated. A crucial task for the ECB is to find 'light' and effective
networking structures and a form of organisation that is able to enhance
and catalyse the work of its members, individually and collectively,
without stifling it through another bureaucracy.

Saturday 20th, morning. After a summary of the results from the two working
groups of the previous evening, Marianna Kajantie (Lasipalatsi, Helsinki)
and Jarmo Malkavaara (Arts Council of Finland) offered their perspective of
what had been discussed and encouraged both the ECB and the Finnish media
arts community to continue in the development and profiling of their work.

An obvious feature on this first day of the meeting was that there were
many participants who had not been at the ECB's founding meeting in Vienna
and were thus not familiar with the basic structures of the ECB which had
been outlined there. This made it possible to broaden the group of people
associated with the ECB, but it also meant that the Connected meeting had a
slow start during which some of the discussions of previous years about the
cultural role and political strategies of media culture had to be repeated.
This proved necessary and useful, however, to establish a common ground for
the more practically oriented discussions.

Saturday 20th, afternoon. After the lunch break, the meeting split up into
four working groups that would develop concrete proposals and action lines
for the ECB in the areas of: Policy and Lobbying; Communication and
Education; Resource Development; Distribution and Presentation. Within two
hours, a long list of concrete short-term and long-term goals were set out
in these areas, which included as maybe the most important ones:

- The creation of an ECB portal to provide the network and its examples of
best practice with a clearer presence and visibility on the net;
- the creation of an on-line resource of policy advice documents produced
by members commissioned by national and local governments;
- the establishment of professional exchange programmes, residencies, and
mentoring schemes between institutions;
- the connection of cultural institutions to high bandwidth research
- the creation of a distribution system for media-cultural productions;
- the promotion of co-operation with the education sector and of community
based training and community outreach programmes.
- the development of model contracts and protocols for transnational
co-operation and production.

For a few of these, definite commitments were made to research and pursue
their realisation, whereas others are pending until a working group will
begin to tackle them. Other elements can probably be realised in the
context of existing co-operations between ECB member institutions
(MultiMediaLabs, the ENCART network, EMARE/ECX, Produced@, etc.). In that
case, the results will have to be communicated back to the rest of the ECB
through the website.

Sunday 21st. After a short planning session for the afternoon
presentations, Maria Brewster (FACT, Liverpool) gave a presentation of the
planned new Media Centre that FACT will develop in the coming two years.
Then we moved into the hall of the Bio Rex cinema where we spent most of
the afternoon in front of a small audience, giving presentations of some of
the work that is being done in the context of the ECB: Katarina Zivanovic
(CyberRex, Belgrade) showed recent video productions from Belgrade and the
CyberRex website; Marleen Stikker (De Waag, Amsterdam) presented the
MediaLounge database of media-cultural initiatives in Europe; Amanda
McDnald Crowley (ANAT, Australia) talked about the media-cultural scene in
Australia; Cathy Brickwood (Virtual Platform, the Netherlands) introduced
the work of the Dutch Virtual Platform; and Andreas Broeckmann summarised
the work of the ECB and moderated short presentations by David Sinden
(Artec, London) about the research-aspect of the MultiMedia Labs; Balasz
Beothy (C3, Budapest) about the presentation strategies of C3; Nils
Claesson (CRAC, Stockholm) about the artistic production facilities in the
CRAC studios; and John Hopkins (nomadic teacher and networker) about the
educational dimensions of the Polar Circuit project.


The European Cultural Backbone remains under construction. Following the
Connected meeting, presentations about the ECB were done in Helsinki at the
European Commission's IST99 conference, and at the Europeans Forum for Arts
& Heritage's (EFAH) annual conference. There are considerations for
national funding opportunities for member organisations of the ECB, in
order to give them the possibility to devote more dedicated time and energy
to the development of this international network initiative. There are also
applications to the 5th Framework programme of the European Commission
being prepared which would enable financing some of the work that needs to
be done for the ECB. The idea behind this being that, so long as the ECB
does not have an office and staff (and we don't know whether it ever will),
the best way to support its work will be by offering people within one of
the member institutions the possibility to dedicate some or all of their
time to efforts relating to building and fostering the network. These
funding opportunities are as yet undecided, a fact that should not hamper
the development of the practical strategies and concrete work towards the

For more information on the ECB please refer to:

Report by Andreas Broeckmann, V2_Organisation Rotterdam
Berlin, 9 December 1999

------Syndicate mailinglist--------------------
 Syndicate network for media culture and media art
 information and archive:
 to unsubscribe, write to <>
 in the body of the msg: unsubscribe your@email.adress