Taking Pictures To The Public

Evaluation Report Nationaal Archief & Spaarnestad Photo on Flickr The Commons

On October 21, 2008 the Nationaal Archief and Spaarnestad Photo were the first Dutch heritage institutions to place a small selection of their photos on Flickr The Commons, the ‘archives section’ in the popular online photo community Flickr. This initiative is part of a series of pilot projects that are being developed within Images for the Future in order to conduct research on involving the broad audience in photographic collections and metadata generation. Within two weeks, the photo stream of the Nationaal Archief had over 400,000 page views and 400 comments. These large numbers were caused by the extensive amount of attention the media dedicated to the initiative–resulting in, among other things, articles in national newspapers De Volkskrant and Het Parool, radio reporting by the Wereldomroep and, most spectacular of all, a prime time news item in NOS Journaal (causing page views to rise up to 100,000 in one night).

The pilot was decided to have a duration of 6 months (October 2008 – April 2009), followed by an evaluation. Now, after this period, the Nationaal Archief Flickr account contains almost 800 photos, had more than 1 million page views and has almost 2000 comments and over 6800 tags added.

In the evaluation report evaluatie-nationaal-archief-op-flickr-commons.pdf  these results are reviewed. Are the initial goals achieved? What can be said about the quality of the audience’s comments and tags? In the conclusion, we seek to answer the question of what added value Flickr can have in making photographic collections more accessible to a broad audience, and in enrichment of these collections by the end user.

Read the full report here (in Dutch, 3.7 Mb): evaluatie-nationaal-archief-op-flickr-commons.pdf  (please open in Adobe Reader)

The socio-economic impact of file sharing [popular science edition]

I just finished reading ‘Ups and Downs – the economic and cultural impact of file sharing for music, film and games’ (see my earlier post for context). All in all the full version does not contain a lot of surprises when compared to the executive summary (which my first post was based on): It is a well written report that, although it makes a lot of sense to someone familiar with the subject, does not really come up with much new insights either. The strength of the report is that it places file-sharing within the wider social and economic context (as opposed to placing it solely within the economic logic of the entertainment industry). While they sometimes appear naive (it does not seem to occur to them that buying CDs or renting DVDs from the video-rental-shop is rapidly becoming obsolete from a technicals point of view) the researchers do seem to have a fairly good understanding of what is going on.

The core of their argument (to be found in sections 5 & 6) is that there is no direct causal relationship between file-sharing and the decline in revenues in the music industry. On top of this the researchers argue that even tough it is likely that there is a substantial decline in revenues for the recording industry as a result of file sharing, this is offset by an even more substantial increase in welfare for the general public (or at least that proportion of the general public that downloads musical works). This finding is based on an economic model that is summarized in figure 6.1:

figure 6.1 from ‘Ups and downs’ – blue boxes and grey arrows and labels mine (personally i am a bit surprised by the relative amounts of lazy and smart peple implied by this figure. life experience tells me to expect the opposite distribution).

  1. The orange block represents the revenue generated by selling recoded music in the absence of file sharing, which equals the maximum possible revenue for the recording industry. In this situation the rich people(a.k.a stupid people) profit (save money) because they would have been willing to pay more than the market price. All the people to the right of the orange colored block simply could not afford to buy recorded music.
  2. With the possibility of file sharing available to consumers we see a shift: a certain amount of people who used to buy recorded music now download it for free (’cheap people‘). In addition the smart people (a.k.a poor people) now have the same access to recorded music as all the others and finally there also is a group of lazy people who simply cannot be bothered to download because they perceive the process as too burdensome.

When comparing the changes between (1.) and (2.) in economic terms the researchers conclude that while there is a negative impact on the recording industry (caused by the cheap people) the fact that the smart people now also have access to recorded music represents a much bigger increase in economic welfare (and does not hurt the recording industry as it is ‘demand without purchasing power’ that is being met)1. As mentioned in my earlier post the researchers value the damage to the recording industry at a maximum €100 million p.a while they value the socio-economic gain caused by the increased access to recorded music at at least €200 million p.a.

Personally i am not sure if this will be of any consolation to the recording industry, but as far as i can see it is a fairly adequate description of the current transformation process: A business model anchored in an outdated means of distribution is (partially) being replaced by a social practices that are (a) more in line with the technological state of the art and (b) provide greater socio-economic benefits to society at large.

For the rest the report does not contain much news: Chapter 3 (’the legal framework’) gives a solid and up to date (it even includes last years legislative battle around the EU’s telecom review) overview of the legal implications of file sharing (in the Netherlands) and Chapter 5 gives an overview of recent studies on the economic impact of file sharing2. Apart from the economic model described above chapter 6 also lists a number of ‘dynamic and indirect’ effects of file sharing that are fairly obvious but nevertheless worthwhile to repeat: The researchers argue (p.123) that while it is likely that file sharing hurts big successful artists (as cheap people will buy less CDs from them) it has a positive impact on smaller artists (as it allows more people to sample their works, which will turn some of these people into buyers of their CDs or make them attend concerts). More interestingly the researchers also argue (p.125) that acceptance by consumers of the substantial increases in ticket prices for live-concerts has to be seen in the context of file-sharing: The increased willingness to pay high prices for concert tickets may be due to the fact that consumers are aware that they are spending less on recorded music (or the other way around: as they have to pay more for concert-tickets consumers are less willing top pay for recorded music and resort to file sharing).

When it comes to their conclusions the researchers note that file-sharing is here to stay and that we (the recording industry) are beyond the point of no return: It is impossible to build a successful business that is solely based on trading recorded music. According to the researchers is is also highly unlikely that there will be a point in the future where all music will be obtained from authorized sources (p.136). Given this they argue (inter alia, their official recommendation comes down to a pathetic paragraph where they make a plea against criminalization of end users and for more awareness building among file sharers) for a model where internet service provides offer internet subscriptions that include a fee for the access to copyright protected content (a.k.a the content flatrate).

  1. note how the rich people profit in both scenarios: they always pay less then they could (or should). this is probably why the distribution model the Nine Inch Nails used for Ghosts I-V worked so well.
  2. Chapter 4 ‘Downloading in the Netherlands’ is a bit of a disappointment. If presents the results of a representative survey that was conduced (by an external research-firm) among Dutch internet users. While the researchers repeatedly mention that the survey shows that file sharers have no clear understanding of what they are doing the data presented by them also underlines that the researchers (or the company contracted to carry out the survey) lack a clear understanding of their research object: see table 4-9 (usenet and newsgroups are two synonyms for the same source of files) or table 4-13 (most sites listed as sources for paid-for downloads do not offer downloads to users based in the Netherlands). Given this Chapter 4 casts a shadow on the otherwise high methodological standards claimed by the research team.

Open Content Business models

Last week we were asked to give a presentation at the ‘Ilovebusinessmodels‘ conference on the subject of Open Content in Utrecht- The Netherlands. A good overview of the day, including the presentation of Alex ‘Dr Businessmodel’ Osterwalder can be found at Frankwatching  (in Dutch). The audience consisted of specialists covering the complete spectrum of the media industry, varying from music publishers, magazine editors, filmproducers, even a good representation from the archive community. A decent crowd to test out some ideas we developed over the past couple of months.

Business model canvas

Our pitch was that as the internet makes copying so easy and is close to becoming ubiquitous, the business model of the future should clearly not be focussed on the low added value of distribution, but on something else. So what else? Chris Anderson has already provided some strong arguments that content, or for that matter anything for which the variable costs of distribution is close to zero, will available for free in the very near future. Free as in free lunch? No, Anderson argues, ‘it doesn’t mean it’s being given away; just that someone else is picking up the tab.’ Which means that it will not be the end user who pays, but entities that have an interest in the behaviour of the end user, very often advertisers but increasingly also service providers that use open api’s. Not surprisingly, the advertiser model came up in several of the presentations that day. Someone in the audience rightfully remarked that it is hard to believe that a multi-billion dollar media industry can be saved solely by advertisement budgets! While it is true that these budgets still increase and that internet ads show a fairly sharp increase I fully agree with this remark. We have to look for the solution elsewhere as well.

First of all, content providers should deeply realise (again) that the media industry is very literally a ‘medium’ between someone who creates and someone who consumes (also read Clay Shirky ) for more on this subject). Because we live in an imperfect world we need service providers to connect the two, gift-wrap it and make the delivery. In this context the internet should be recognized as an incredibly efficient distribution system providing a new problem, or opportunity as you like, of abundance. This abundance is exactly where we should look for our future business model.

To investigate this we mashed up the ideas put forward by Kevin Kelly in his remarkable blogpost ‘Better than Free’ with the business model canvas developed by Dr Alexander Osterwalder (check out his blog). Kelly argues that when copies are free, you need to sell what cannot be copied. He provides 9 ‘generatives’, psychological drivers, that if applied well will make people pay for something that is also available for free. We put this theory to the test using Osterwalders businessmodel canvas and looked at example like Hulu, Big Champaign, Radiohead and others to see if the theory would hold out against reality.

The bottom line here was that certain generatives like ‘authenticity’ and ‘immediacy’ are perhaps still too ambiguous and certain drivers like ‘convenience’ should probably be added, there is certainly enough here to continue our investigation. And that’s exactly what we are going to do. Because Open Content business models are the key to an environment where social, cultural and economic value can happily co-exist.

Interesting links

Below you’ll see some interesting reading material which could be useful one way or the other for our project Images for the Future (and of course other digitization projects). Click here for previous links. Some of the entries are in Dutch.

1. ‘Als ik op het bord ga, gaat m’n hart sneller kloppen’
2. Trent Reznor’s Path To Accepting And Embracing New Business Models
3. Eerste cijfers aantal video streams: Q1 2008
4. Topman Microsoft: Papieren krant over 10 jaar verdwenen
5. iTunes opens 700-film UK film download store
6. New copyright agreement provides greater online access to film
7. Eerste onderwijsgame ter wereld als open educational resource
8. Auteursrecht en het recht op informatie verzoend

Economies of the Commons blog posts

Students from the MA programme ‘Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image’ covered the event with posts on this blog. You’ll find the sessions in the list below:

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Economies of the Commons and the Blogosphere

Students from the MA programme Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image are covering the event with posts on this blog. Other participants are also posting reponses on their respective blogs.
First finds:
Jon Phillips @ Technophobiac News
Pierre Gorissen @ ICT & Onderwijs BLOG
Stoffel Debuysere @ Diagonal Thoughts
Alek Tarkowski @ Kultura 2.0
Peter Suber @ Open Access News
Meike Richter @ Commonspage.net
Gulli Community Verein @ Gulli
Jonas Woost @ Twitter
Silke Helfrich @ CommonsBlog
Brianna Laugher @ All the Modern Things
Felix Stalder @ Nettime.nl
Robin Kawakami @ weeklyblog
Paul Keller @ Kennisland
Twan Eikelenboom @ neW Media Wanderings

Panel 6: Professional Cultural Producers Sat Apr 12 15:15

By this point in the conference, the afternoon of the third day, the challenges of the commons had been fairly well explored: Current copyright law thwarts free access and reusability; archives aren’t sure where to position themselves in the continuum between protecting their assets and promoting their collections; digital information can be copied and distributed so perfectly and cheaply that the value of the information is approaching zero… information wants to be free.

Which raises the question- if information is free, how do the people who manage and create information survive? Are we devaluing their efforts as well? Musicians seem to be navigating this tricky situation by using their digitally distributed music to promote their “in the flesh” touring schedule; visual artists can hope that people will come to see their work in person even if their images are splashed and appropriated all over the internet; educators and lecturers can perhaps be subsidized by universities, or can get more speaking gigs in order to make money. But what are filmmakers doing? What about authors? How does this potentially new audience of freeloaders help the creative person?

The timing of this segment on Professional Cultural Producers was very well planned, as it seemed necessary to hear from them about their abilities to navigate this tricky market. First to take the stage was Florian Schneider, a videomaker, essayist and cultural organizer, who overlaid his own theoretical talk of imaginary property with a video of a piece of physical artwork being carefully transported to a museum by a registrar. His talk focused on these issues of imaginary property, information flows, fears of representation and mis-representation, the fear of the illegitimate copy. In this discussion, he represented the theoretical side a practical issue, but I was looking for some practical case studies.

The next speaker was Bauke Freiberg, from FabChannel/Culture Player, who spoke about their product, which acts as a platform for concert videos from Paradiso and Melkweg, popular clubs in Amsterdam. Just as a museum might record registrations of its art shows, Paradiso started recording its concerts, and over time this grew into a sophisticated 6 camera system, which now records and streams concerts, with ads and corporate sponsoring. In this regard, they are tied into the traditional marketing model of wrapping content in sponsorship. They hold traditional contracts with the artists on their site, and everything seems to follow the normal copyright model. So, it is a concrete example, and a good-functioning one, of a sort of “corporate” solution, in terms of distribution or control of images.
So, from a very theoretical and open-source argument from Florian to a clean, corporate solution from Bauke, we arrived at the final speaker of the day: Kenneth Goldsmith, from Ubuweb in New York. He reinvigorated the audience by injecting humor and irreverence by declaring that he was not interested in creating community or having user feedback, that his site was not democratic, and was run only by a field of expert volunteers. Ubuweb never clears copyright on anything – his panel of volunteers mine and re-post artist text and video from a variety of sources, including members-only sources like karagarga. They have no ads and make no direct revenue from the site, and have a page http://www.ubu.com/resources/shame.html for people and organizations which have asked to be taken off the site.

Afterwards in the Q&A, with Rick Prelinger joining the stage, and moderated by Eric Kluitenberg, and audience member asked a simple yet difficult question – what can one tell an archive who wants to get started, who wants to enter this digital environment? The answers ranged from “Just get started.” to “ I really don’t have any advice for you.” It may not have been the brightest note for the ending of the conference, but certainly reflects the dilemmas and confusion facing archives and creators as we come up against the new economy of the commons.

Panel 3: European Digital Library

The third session of the second day was held under the heading European Digital Library. The four speakers presented the initiatives that they work on, the gaps that are called to fill, what has been succeeded by now and what are their future plans.

Paul Doorenbosch, the first speaker, presented the project of the National Library of The Netherlands, the Dutch approach of the digitisation project in the European Context, the creation of a Digital Library.It is based on the i2010, the EU policy framework for the information society and media for a European Information Society for all citizens, based on a series of flagships; the key proposals of i2010. Digital Library focuses on both cultural heritage and scientific information. Paul Doorenbosch talked about the national plan for developing infrastructure, professionality and copyright issues. He mentioned the Dutch governmental actions in digitisation, the nationally – such as Images for the Future (Beelden voor de Toekomst) and Dutch Heritage:Digital!- and internationally based projects such as MICHAEL and EDN. EUROPEANA, a project which was analysed by the second speaker, is the reference point for the digitisation activities of The Netherlands.

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Jill Cousins, the director of European Digital Library, took the floor to talk more thoroughly about EUROPEANA,a European digital library net that aims to connect museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections under the supervision of European Digital Library Foundation (EDL). She started by mentioning the gaps between vision and reality that EUROPEANA tries to fill, such as the relationships of users and content providers, content and copyright, Europe and nation, nation and Institution, funding and attitude.

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Jill Cousins continued by presenting the work plan of EUROPEANA, what has been succeeded by now, which is the current situation and what are the next steps. A fully working prototype will be launched in November 2008. What EUROPEANA aims for the future is to increase the number of partners, to determine the discussion model, conceive the roadmap and, last but not least, find the funding for next year.
The third initiative was VideoActive, presented by Sonja de Leeuw, professor of Film and Television at the University of Utrecht. VideoActive is a two-year project (2006-2008) for bringing European television archives together. It has 14 members in 10 countries. It is about 10.000 items of television archival content from earliest TV recordings on film, to data such clipping of TV guides and still photos. The portal will be launched in May 2008. What adds value to this project is the procedure of comparison. It studies the differences and similarities of European television in different topics, like the content, the language. It is about a comparative survey of TV holding of archive partners.

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The last speaker was Georg Erkes, who talked about the European Film Getaway (EGF) project which will give online access to film archival content. EFG will start in September 2008. Its aim is based on the new user expectations and the necessity of internet accessibility. Its objectives are to create a single access point, a common European filmography and a gateway to content from film archives. At this moment, EFG has 22 partners and 16 content partners. Georg Erkes mentioned that the technical part of the project will be supported by DRIVER (Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research). The content will be based on catalogues and film content, so it will be both media and document types. Of course, Georg Erkes pointed out the IPR issues that EFG has to deal with facts such as that the half material, especially the moving images, is not owned by the archives partners or the public domain and that there is not experience in rights-clearance. Netherlands Filmmuseum will lead on IPR work package. What it is attempted is the evaluation of copyright laws and regulations in each member country.

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All speakers mentioned the difficulties of their projects but they also stressed their intention to continue the European vision for the digital unification of European archives.

Economies of the Commons: Public Keynotes & Responses / Sustainable Images for the Future

Tonight we had a four-part presentation. It all started with an introduction by Beeld & Geluid director Edwin van Huis giving a brief overview of the Images for the Future project, currently the biggest digitization project for moving images in Europe. They were able to get the massive sum needed for this kind of project by using not the cultural argument (“this is our heritage – please save it!”) but by making an economic equation which had to prove that the government would get a 20-60 million euro return upon investment. Or in other words by convincing them that the Dutch audiovisual heritage is valuable simply because it sells.

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Next was Rick Prelinger from the Prelinger Archives. He gave a high-speed talk reflecting on the nature of (moving image) archives, his experiences with opening up his entire collection to the public on-line by using a free/fee division and his self-criticism on the archival world. Basically he stressed that what’s crucial for an archive is to be accessible. Archives have a social contract, which means that they should be an active part of the society they gather the remnants of. He stated that what the US archives lack in coordinated efforts, their European counterparts lack in local, small-scale, DIY projects to get involved in a community and to get that community inside their walls. His talk was illustrated with a series of photographs of which a different, older version can be found here.

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David Bollier from On the Commons talked about how the commons disrupt the old business model, about how a different way of creating value came into being with the rise of the internet and its community-based inventions such as open software, wikis and the likes. The public domain may once have been a wasteland for things unnecessary to all, he propagated, but is now the place where creativity peeks. What the commons called into life was a ‘great value shift’ in which socially created value has become a macro-economical and cultural force in its own right. Part of his talk was based on a text by Benkler & Nissenbaum which can be found here.

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In the discussion, Emjay Rechsteiner from the Dutch Filmmuseum was then invited to respond to these talks from his (institutional) point of view. Most of the topics discussed were about copyright issues, about which Edwin van Huis explained that their difficult position is that, as a moving image archive, most of their materials were obtained by promising the owners they would never let the public have general access to them. The response of the public was that, as big institutions, they are exactly the ones who could be able to broaden or alter the copyright restrictions they are caught up in. Another issue was what’s happening to the AV heritage of countries that don’t have the fundings for such massive projects like Images for the Future, to which the answer came that an organization called Archives at Risk is currently taking steps in this field.

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in the final wrap-up, Prelinger expressed his (pretty realistic) fear that the monster projects certain cultural institutions are putting a lot of money in nowadays, may turn out to be useless in a few years, overtaken by developments in technology…


Photostream Sebastiaan ter Burg

… a nice photostream from Sebastiaan ter Burg at Flickr you can find here.