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COMMUNIA and the Open Video Conference

On June 19-20 the New York University's Law School hosted an exciting event: the first edition of the Open Video Conference: "Over 800 attendees (and thousands more online) discussed this medium’s implications on software, politics, journalism, art, education, industry, business, technology, culture, communication, freedom, and democracy", states the post-conference announcement on the event website, which provides also full video recordings and more recent news.

The COMMUNIA Project was also actively involved: two COMMUNIA members from the Netherlands, Institute for Sound and Vision and Kennisland, hosted the session “Audiovisual Archives” that investigated how memory institutions could provide access to their holdings in a way that enables creative reuse. Thanks much to Johan Oomen and Maarten Brinkerink (Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision) for providing a detailed report about the two-day event, available here in its entirety - please read below for a short summary. [29july09]

The event covered a wide number of topics, from the nitty-gritty world of metadata interoperability, democratization and journalism, interests of commercial players, to novel ways of production and the role the ‘pirates’ are playing. Although many industrial players where present in the programme, some notable absentees included Microsoft and agencies such as MPAA. If open video is to driven by a movement (cf. Benkler speech), than this movement will operated from the ‘bottom up’; showing the advantage of for instance HTML5, open video codecs, Creative Commons, fair use and so on to a wide audience on the web. Wide, omnipresent adaptation of these essential building blocks by practitioners (consumers, web developers) will eventually force large industrial entities that are still clinging on to closed and proprietary systems to change their current practices and eventually embrace the concept of open video. This might sound overly positive but the main message the Open Video Conference send out to the word is the fact that open video is maturing in a stunning pace. In a short time a great variety of initiatives across the globe have been working to offer alternatives for the closed practices. The chain from production to distribution no longer depends on proprietary software, more and more content is being offered under open licenses. It is the combination of ‘brands’ like Creative Commons, Firefox, Linux, EFF, Wikipedia, OGG, VLC, P2P and so on that manages to offer an alternative ecosystem in which innovation and creativity (but also business opportunities) will be able to flourish.

The break out session (“Audiovisual Archives”) focused on a couple of key questions that we found influence how successful the networked archive will be in establishing themselves as a key node in media consumption; and how memory institutions will continue to serve as care keepers and storytellers of our mediated past. This is also one of the key topics in COMMUNIA’s Working Group on Memory Institutions (

Audiovisual archives across the globe are engaged in large-scale migration programmes. An important driver behind the investments related to these programmes is the physical state of the analogue carriers; the films, the tapes, the optical discs and so on. Migration is a way to preserve the information on these physical carriers and securing access for future generations, a key mission of these institutions. However, migration also opens the door to the establishment of the networked archive; where material can be made available online to an infinitely large audience. Different services can be built with this ever-growing resource, such as specialized services for education, video on demand, and access through portals such as YouTube and Also, as viewing has shifted away from television and onto the Internet, the public interest in access to archive resources online has exploded. Some collection owners go a step further and allow their material to be downloaded so everyone can truly engage with the material and use it as building blocks for new productions. Back in 2003, the BBC coined the term “the creative archive” and entities across the globe are bringing this concept to life. is another one of the leading examples.

A more detailed report about the two-day event is available here.

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