DNA Symposium: Lightning Talk on Failure

I’m going to tell you a story about an archive.

Canada has one of the oldest online video art archives, if not the oldest, on the web. Few people know about it.

Launched in 2003 after a year as a pilot project, SAW Video in Ottawa was responsible for creating a repository of 486 independently-produced videos accessible for free online, in full length. This project was called the Mediatheque. Its web infrastructure was custom-built, and the archival process relied heavily on trial and error as no precedent existed for this kind of endeavour.

The funding for the Mediatheque was allocated specifically as an archival grant under the Canadian Culture Online Funding Programs from the Department of Canadian Heritage. Preceding YouTube by two years and reaching a terabyte (over a 1000 GB) of content , the Mediatheque placed an open call for video artists and paid 200 dollars per submission for the rights to showcase works for 3 years online.

The Mediatheque lived long enough to see this contract with artists expire, though most artists agreed to renew the rights, this time without payment. In this second phase, starting in 2006, the Mediatheque continued to add new works, and featured more than 300 videos from the original pool.

In 2009, the Mediatheque’s server crashed and the project has been offline since. There was no database backup at SAW Video, nor with their corporate sponsor who was hosting the project. Neither had assumed it their responsibility. Saw Video reassembled its website using Google Cache but never attempted to piece together the Mediatheque via the Wayback Machine or other means. For SAW Video, the crash represented an opportunity if not a cry for change. It was time for reflecting on the project in relationship to emergent social media that now largely constitute the web. After more than 6 years online, had the needs for this archive changed? Had the context for video art expanded in ways to render the project obsolete? Revived, would the Mediatheque be a relic, or does it remain a failure of the very concept of online archiving by virtue of its ephemeral nature? Is failure embedded into the concept of the online archive?

Apart from the grant application and few reports to the government, little documentation exists about the Mediatheque, and nothing at all exists that attempts to answer these questions or to situate the Mediatheque within the framework of media studies, archival theory, or video art’s art history.  (Besides my doctoral work, that is).

Today, SAW Video plans to rebuild an archive containing many of these videos, however no longer under the name Mediatheque and with no necessary attachment to the 2003 version. In this sense, the new repository is neither a straightforward continuation nor an attempt to replace the defunct project. The new version was originally intended for December 2010, but continued delays suggest that the conundrums of the online archive remain, for which pragmatic and philosophical questions alike are difficult to answer of in the long-term thinking demanded of the archive by very definition.

So the burning question is: is failure embedded?

VIDEO VORETX READER 2 Crashing the Archive/Archiving the Crash (2011)

Hogan, Mél. “Archiving the Crash/Crashing the Archive” Video Vortex Reader II: Moving Images Beyond Youtube Amsterdam – Institute of Network Cultures. 2011

Video Vortex Reader II: moving images beyond YouTube

About the book: Video Vortex Reader II is the Institute of Network Cultures’ second collection of texts that critically explore the rapidly changing landscape of online video and its use. With the success of YouTube (’2 billion views per day’) and the rise of other online video sharing platforms, the moving image has become expansively more popular on the Web, significantly contributing to the culture and ecology of the internet and our everyday lives. In response, the Video Vortex project continues to examine critical issues that are emerging around the production and distribution of online video content.

Following the success of the mailing list, the website and first Video Vortex Reader in 2008, recent Video Vortex conferences in Ankara (October 2008), Split (May 2009) and Brussels (November 2009) have sparked a number of new insights, debates and conversations regarding the politics, aesthetics, and artistic possibilities of online video. Through contributions from scholars, artists, activists and many more, Video Vortex Reader II asks what is occurring within and beyond the bounds of Google’s YouTube? How are the possibilities of online video, from the accessibility of reusable content to the internet as a distribution channel, being distinctly shaped by the increasing diversity of users taking part in creating and sharing moving images over the web?

Contributors: Perry Bard, Natalie Bookchin, Vito Campanelli, Andrew Clay, Alexandra Crosby, Alejandro Duque, Sandra Fauconnier, Albert Figurt, Sam Gregory, Cecilia Guida, Stefan Heidenreich, Larissa Hjorth, Mél Hogan, Nuraini Juliastuti, Sarah Késenne, Elizabeth Losh, Geert Lovink, Andrew Lowenthal, Rosa Menkman, Gabriel Menotti, Rachel Somers Miles, Andrew Gryf Paterson, Teague Schneiter, Jan Simons, Evelin Stermitz, Blake Stimson, David Teh, Ferdiansyah Thajib, Andreas Treske, Robrecht Vanderbeeken, Linda Wallace, Brian Willems, Matthew Williamson, Tara Zepel.

Colophon: Editors: Geert Lovink and Rachel Somers Miles. Copy Editor: Nicole Heber. Design: Katja vay Stiphout. Cover Image: Team Thursday. Priner: Ten Klei, Amsterdam. Publisher: Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam. Supported by: the School for Communication and Design at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool van Amsterdam DMCI). The Video Vortex Reader is produced as part of the Culture Vortex research program, which is supported by Foundation Innovation Alliance (SIA – Stichting Innovatie Alliantie).


To order a hard copy of Video Vortex Reader II email: books@networkcultures.org

Geert Lovink and Rachel Somers Miles (eds), Video Vortex Reader II: moving images beyond YouTube, Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2011. ISBN: 978-90-78146-12-4, paperback, 378 pages.

It’s not a Dynamic Database… It’s a Dead Collection?

Photo by Anne Helmond.

It’s Not a Dead Collection, it’s a Dynamic Database

Now that museums, distributors and TV channels have put their collections online, what is the next phase for these digitalized archives? How can ‘the audience’ be involved in order to avoid a dead online collection with zero comments? Moreover, what forms of social dynamism can be critically forged in the default rush towards greater participation? How to jump through the hoops of copyright legislation, format compatibility and the spatial culture of consumption and production? Who controls the database, and what are the different ethics involved in putting up content from artist collections to indigenous material? Once collaboration comes into play, what impact do conflicting skill sets, different modes of knowledge production and varying social desires have?

Moderator: Rachel Somers Miles (CA/NL)

Arjon Dunnewind (NL)
Impakt Channel: Content with Context
YouTube might be an incredible tool when it comes to reaching worldwide audiences, but when it comes to creating context it’s performing poorly to say the least. Information on basic facts is often lacking and background information, curatorial statements and critics’ interpretations are a rarity. Can YouTube be used as a tool that not only gives visibility but also insight and reflection? Or is it better to move away from this hype-dominated environment and establish new platforms that are dedicated to quality? And how to generate traffic to these platforms? With the Impakt Channel, the Impakt Festival Utrecht is researching these questions and is experimenting with formats to find the best way to make high quality video content available to viewers around the globe.

Sandra Fauconnier (NL/BE)
Mediating Video Art Online
The Netherlands Media Art Institute (NIMk) in Amsterdam is a distributor of a large collection of video and media art. The changing landscape of online video and of internet culture in general challenges NIMk to redefine its video distribution activities and the way it represents and mediates video art online. In the course of 2010 NIMk has researched the user communities of its collection, in the context of the research project Culture Vortex. Next, NIMk’s online catalogue will be redesigned in 2011, aiming to make the collection more lively and participatory, and of opening up more video art to a wider audience. What will be NIMk’s issues and strategies in this area, taking into account the diverse perspectives that video artists take towards video art online, and the role of curators and professionals?

Mél Hogan (CA)
It’s not a Dynamic Database… It’s a Dead Collection?
This presentation surveys Canada’s three largest online video art repositories, all of which encountered severe setbacks in defining, creating, and maintaining an online presence. Of the three, two remain indefinitely defunct, traceable only through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and local files stored at the various organisations. These examples serve as a case study and springboard into discussions about the larger issues that surround the context of online video art archives, nationally and beyond. Reversing the conference theme “It’s not a Dead Collection, it’s a Dynamic Database” this paper is intended as a provocation about the potential and limitations—dynamism or death—of the web within an archival framework.

Teague Schneiter (US/CA)
Digital ≠ Accessible: Improving Access and Facilitating Use of Indigenous Content with IsumaTV’s Hi-speed MediaPlayers
Historically there has been a problematic relationship between heritage institutions and indigenous cultural heritage, because indigenous people have not been afforded ownership and management rights of their own materials. By adapting existing technologies and acting as a middleman between heritage institutions and communities that desire content to be digitally repatriated, indigenous multimedia platform IsumaTV attempts to provide the technological infrastructure, such as their network of MediaPlayers (server networks) that allow low-bandwidth indigenous communities an equal opportunity to participate, to improve access and usability to Inuit content. Video archives can be uploaded and online for teaching, learning, sharing and strengthening language and culture. IsumaTV seeks to encourage (and build relationships with) indigenous communities and cultural heritage museums and repositories, indigenous language-speakers and participatory media organizations, to embrace more open and participatory paradigms, whilst enabling those that ‘own’ the content to be able to call the shots.

Catrien Schreuder (NL)
ArtTube: Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
In October 2009 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen launched ArtTube, an online video channel broadcasting videos about art, design and exhibitions at the museum. From the beginning it grew quickly, and at present, contains about one hundred videos produced by the museum, and visited by about 14,000 viewers each month. Initiated as an educational platform, ArtTube is intended to translate, in an accessible way, specialist information present in the museum’s organization, and through the highly popular medium of online video disseminate more of what’s happening at the museum. In her talk Catrien Schreuder will present the website and discuss its aims and possibilities. She will evaluate the experiences with this new educational tool in its first year of existence, offering a look behind the scenes, but also giving insight in the main questions and challenges arising for the near future.

Annelies Termeer (NL)
Presentation title
Presentation abstract

Blogged here:


Providing Context
– system of notes within videos
– short video documentaries about collections
– short ‘behind-the-scenes’ videos about organizations
– introductory texts for video
– artist biography/videography
– links to personal artists sites
– central repository for video art or organization-based repositories
– using multiple platforms simultaneously (having a channel on YouTube for reach + own website for context)
– link to offline/’real’ public events
– digitizing old works, showcased alongside new works on website

Facilitating Participation
– encouraging established artist to upload full length videos on the web
– artist-driven profile (where they can manage their own ‘accounts’)
– share/embed functions, including twitter, facebook, personal websites, etc.
– develop API to export collection to other sites
– open/public tagging
– permit the creation of ‘playlists’ for public curation (that can be saved)
– moderated or open commenting
– invite model for contribution (like gmail invites) / artist as curator
– open call for submissions vs. curated/selected calls
– moderation and expert respondents/guest commenters
– creating a CSM as template for other organizations to use independently or collaboratively
– video remix as critical responses to video
– showcasing web-based portal into public events and festivals
– addressing different audiences – researchers, specialist, artists, curators, general public
– thinking about deployment for mobile/potable devices (apps?)
– institutional Tweets
– geotagging

Other Questions
– video as clips or full length art videos?
– should video online be free, but be paid for (if) in a curated context?
– what constitute a curated context online?
– funding (online) via donations or pay system? other options?
– licensing – copyright as default or creative commons options?
– focus on quality over # of hits?
– maintain close relationship to artist in order to share ‘ownership’ of collection
– metadata (if and how?)
– collaboration and partners (corporate, art-based, academic, etc?)
– creating layers of access (something different for curators, artists, general public, educators, etc)?
– scarcity as a business model, is this only possible if limited edition videos (remain offline?)
– video formats and codecs (open vs. proprietary / html5 vs. Flash)
– creating ‘archives’ template for organisations to use/share-using open source CMS (Drupal, WordPress, Cargo Collective) vs. custom made sites
– sustainability

Pathways of Cosmopolitanism: London and Manchester?

Pathways of Cosmopolitanism:
London and Manchester?

23 November 2009
Hanson Room, Humanities Bridgeford Street Building
The University of Manchester

Speaker: Adrian Favell
Paper: The Cosmopolitan and the Provincial: London (and Manchester) as a Hub of Intra-EU Mobility

The aim of this symposium is to examine the relationship between Animation and Automation by bringing into dialogue two already highly interdisciplinary areas of scholarship: film studies, including new media and visual culture, on one hand, and social studies of science and technology, on the other. Our venture arises from a number of ongoing debates about the changing meanings of the two, interrelated concepts of animation and automation across the boundaries of the humanities, the arts and the social sciences.

Drawn from these diverse fields, the participants are joined by a shared interest in the entanglement of moving images, animate entities, and machinic agencies. The place of movement in the constitution of life, liveness and liveliness, the shifting of agencies from bodies to machines, unstable boundaries of the organic and the synthetic, and the remembered histories and projected futures of anatomical and technological configurations form the starting place for discussion. Our aim is twofold: to elucidate the specificities and diversity of initiatives in the creation of life, of life-like creatures or images, and of artistic, cinematic and scientific imitations of life; and to debate the justificatory assumptions on which those projects have relied, analysing the transformations in ways of thinking and their productive outcomes. Our discussions will be attentive to enactments of resemblance and difference, boundary making and connection, as well as to relations of discursive and material practices, imaginaries and politics. At stake are possibilities for refiguring agency and relocating responsibility in critical and generative ways that relate to questions of animation and automation in particular.

The symposium was structured across two days and hosted by The University of Manchester’s Centre for Screen Studies and Lancaster University’s Centre for Science Studies. The symposium began with a day of events in Manchester: 1) an opening performance piece ‘Animating Bodies’ by sociologist and live performer Professor Jackie Orr (Syracuse) whose innovative modes of presentation echo her groundbreaking conceptual work on the conference themes; 2) a UK premiere screening of Frances Leeming’s filmGenetic Admiration (2005), followed by a discussion with the filmmaker led by Profs. Jackie Stacey (Manchester) and Kim Sawchuk (Concordia, Canada) aimed at elaborating and illuminating Leeming’s use of ‘collage animation’ (a technique combining artistic and cinematic styles and genres) to explore the highly topical issues of the recombinant practices of new forms of genetic engineering and cloning; and 3) Screen’s 50th Anniversary Public Lecture by Professor Vivian Sobchack (UCLA), co-sponsored by the journal.

Together these presentations provided a provocative but also highly accessible introduction to new directions in film, artistic performance and critical scholarship and set the stage for a more detailed and focused academic discussion on the conceptual issues raised. Not only will this first day attract a broad audience of academic and non-academic participants but, in its very format of mixing live performance, film, artistic presentations and academic analysis, it will animate the problematic of the multiple mediations of ‘life and liveness’ that lies at the heart of our concerns.

The following dat the conference moved to Lancaster University, which houses a leading Centre for Science Studies (CSS), for a workshop designed to continue our exploration of the issues. Each of the invited participants were selected based not only on the thematic connections among their areas of specialisation, but also on the innovative and transdisciplinary character of their scholarship. Rather than a conventional set of paper sessions, the workshop allowed for in-depth debate and detailed theoretical and substantive discussions generated through pre-circulated statements of interest by the participants, and drawing on the performances, screenings and lectures of the previous day. The objective is that these discussions should result in a conceptual framework that might form the basis for a special issue of the journal Science as Culture and/or a special dossier of short pieces on animation for publication in Screen, and in the longer term for new work on these topics at the intersection of film studies and STS.

Speakers included (including links to abstracts):

Lisa Cartwright
 (Communications, UC San Diego)
Beth Coleman (Comparative Media Studies, MIT)
Stefan Helmreich (Anthropology, MIT)
Mél Hogan (Communication Studies, Concordia)
Sarah Kember (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths)
Frances Leeming (independent filmmaker)
Adrian Mackenzie (CESAGen, Lancaster University)
Fiona O’Neill (CESAGen, Lancaster University)
Jackie Orr (Sociology, Syracuse University)
Kevin Parker (Arts, Histories, Culture, The University of Manchester)
Kim Sawchuk (Communication Studies, Concordia University)
Vivian Sobchack (UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television)
Jackie Stacey (RICC, The University of Manchester)
Lucy Suchman (CSS and Sociology, Lancaster University)
Aylish Wood (Film Studies, University of Kent)


Professor Vivian Sobchack delivered a lecture on Thursday 26th March at the Whitworth Art Gallery in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the film and television studies journalScreen.

The conference poster and conference programme are also available.




Digital dilemmas: feminist reflections on current debates

Digital dilemmas: feminist reflections on current debates

“It’s a Long Walk Down the Clinic Driveway”: Using Digital Photography to Explore Rural Youth Sexualities

Katrina Peddle PhD Candidate, Communication Studies

In this presentation I discuss how young people in Southern Labrador negotiate issues of sexuality in their everyday lives. Drawing from a digital photography workshop series held in Labrador in Fall 2006, I elaborate on the ways in which rural youth articulate their thoughts about sexuality, their opinions on alternative sexualities, and the barriers they face in terms of access to information about sexual health. I also argue that participatory methodology offers valuable insight into rural youth sexualities, and that community technology can be used to engage youth in creative ways that situate them as experts in their own lives.

“It Just Sucks You In!”: Young Women’s Use of Facebook

Leslie Regan Shade Associate Professor, Communication Studies

This presentation reports on focus groups conducted by Media Action and Ekos Research Associates in June 2007 with young women aged 14-24 in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver on their perceptions of popular social networking sites such as Facebook. Questions focused on the nature and use of social networking sites (SNS), perceptions and awareness of privacy issues, and whether or not social networking sites can be used as a viable tool to disseminate alternative messages about female sexuality distinct from mainstream media. This research raises important questions around issues of gender and SNS, particularly gender-based commodification processes latent in Web 2.0 applications, young women’s perceptions of privacy, whether they are cognizant of proprietary terms of content they produce, and how these dynamics interact to prevent young women from engaging in or generating the creation of alternative/positive messages.

From Pixel-dust to Ro-dot world: agency, art and lo-fi embodiment

Kim Sawchuk Associate Professor, Communication Studies

Two core concerns within feminist theory are “agency” and “embodiment.” This paper will discuss these terms by examining Nell Tenhaaf and Melanie Baljko’s research-creation project “Artificial Agents and Lo-Fi Embodiment”. The project was designed for two inter-related

This panel presents four papers that examine, through diverse methodologies including participatory action research, focus groups, political economy, case studies and interviews, various ways that women of distinct generations engage with digital technologies. From engaging youth in discussions about sexual health in a rural context, to gauging young women’s perceptions of privacy on popular social networking site Facebook, to assessing the potential contribution of feminism to science and the relationship of art to “agency” and “embodiment” to, finally, exploring the shifting nature of archives and the impacts of emergent technologies that challenge (the absence of) queer women’s historical trajectories—this panel offers a range of topics which come together through their decidedly feminist frameworks.

purposes: as a future interactive art installation and to conduct experimental research into our understanding of the attribution of agency, which is a part of the research terrain of cognitive linguistics, computer science and artificial life. The result, thus far, has been a series of prototypes that serve this dual function. In their experimental prototype users actively engage with two sets of projected images, or two virtual universes, known as “pixel-dust” and “ro-dot world.” A web camera tracks the movements of inter-actants allowing them to have agency, or believe they have agency, through their movements and gestures. In this paper, I will address how the legacy of feminism has informed the project aesthetically and conceptually, but as well, how working within computer science has transformed Baljko and Tenhaaf’s ideas of the potential contribution of feminism to science, technology and art. In so doing, I draw on the research of Justine Cassell on gendering in human-computer-interaction (HCI) and my own observations of the project as a participant-observer.

Portals of Proclivities: Archives done differently

Mél Hogan PhD Student, Communication Studies

In this paper, I suggest that lesbian and queer women’s lives are not prioritized within any memory institution in Canada; as such, I propose that traditional archives are limited in their function as historical repositories. Increasingly, online portals are used to record and disseminate information about sexuality and queer histories, which simultaneously mediates and expands its reaches. Using both queer and non-queer online archives as case studies (qzap.org, ubu.com), I explore and expand on the shifting nature of archives and the impacts of emergent technologies that challenge, defy, reject and/or re-conceptualize queer women’s attachment to the past, our need for collective narratives, and our reliance on original and valuable artifacts as evidence of historical trajectories. In particular, I look to these alternative modes of preservation, display and dissemination, in order to put forward an argument about social change as it is reflected in our everyday engagements with media and its potentially transformative power in re-imagining the social.

Dykes on Mykes Radio Archives: From Live Shows to Podcasting

Taking a Stand conference (Ottawa)
Library Archives Canada

This paper focuses on archiving as a form of activism within a lesbian community-radio context. What we intend to do is initiate a conversation about the different ways in which traditional radio and, more recently, podcasting, inform the triadic relationship between media activism, lesbian communities, and queer archives. More specifically, we discuss the Dykes on Mykes Archive Project—a project based in Montréal, which aims to preserve the longest-running Anglophone lesbian radio programme. Dykes on Mykes has been on the air for 18 years as part of McGill University’s CKUT 90.3 FM community station in Montréal.

We begin this exploration by situating the Dykes on Mykes Archive Project within the broader Canadian gay and lesbian archives context; we look specifically at the place of lesbians within our established GLBT history. Secondly, we describe and outline some of the goals of this project, and engage in a discussion about how podcasting informs community, and how it pushes us to re-conceptualize the ways that we record our collective history. We end our presentation with a conversation, or question, about archiving as a form of activism.

This paper combines a range of approaches, from oral history interviews with long-standing GLBT archivists, participatory action research (from the point of view of the radio programmers and producers) as well as an analysis and practical how-to guide to podcasting within a community environment.

Mél Hogan is currently in her 1st year of the Joint PhD in Communication at Concordia University. Her work focuses on queer women’s oral histories and gay and lesbian archives in Canada. She is also involved in various community media projects, namely Dykes on Mykes radio, artthreat.net and nomorepotlucks.org.

Marie-Claire MacPhee is a recent graduate from the Simone de Beauvoir Institute for Women’s Studies at Concordia University. She is an activist, with a focus on community-based research and media, co-host for CKUT Community Radio’s program Dykes on Mykes and she is a researcher and events coordinator for www.nomorepotlucks.org, a web-based ‘portal of proclivities for queer women in Montreal’.