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AUDIO VISUAL STORIES OF A DIGITAL AGEICEM/ECFA, Conference Oslo / Norway 5 – 8 October 2003, report by Bernt Lindner

Bernt Lindner
(International Federation of Film Societies/
Fédération Internationale des Ciné Clubs,
Member of ECFA)

AUDIO VISUAL STORIES OF A DIGITAL AGE
ICEM/ECFA Conference

Oslo / Norway 5 – 8 October 2003

Divergent from former years when ECFA (European Children’s Film Association) hold its annual conferences in Italy this year’s conference took place in Oslo/Norway from 5th to 8th October. This is due to the fact that Mia Lindrup (Director of the Exhibition and Education Department of the Norwegian Film Institute) became president of ECFA in 2003.

The annual ECFA conference (formerly titled KID´SCREEN) this year was combined with the annual conference of ICEM (International Council for Educational Media) which is a worldwide operating body for the examination, recommendation and the commercial and non-commercial utilization of educational media for schools and leisure centres.

More than 200 media professionals were accredited to the combined conferences.

The following countries were represented: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, USA.

The place of the combined conferences was the "Filmens Hus" owned by the Norwegian Film Institute in Oslo which as well personally as technically is ideally equipped to host a big media event like this. Two state-of-the-art cinemas, libraries, video and book shops, a film archive, a cinematheque and a carefully designed film museum provide many possibilities to enjoy or work on film as a very vivid art form. Eventually the ground floor cafeteria should also be mentioned run by a good tempered Moroccan cook who managed to create mouth watering lunches for so many people.

Besides excursions to the beautiful landscapes around Oslo the two conference days were packed with film screenings, lectures, reports and workshops on the general subject how to motivate children and young people to understand and work with audio visual media in the age of increasing digitization including full length feature films of high quality.

Two principal themes ruled the conferences: "Media, Reality and Democracy" and "Stories and Technology". The first examined the intimate relationship present day children and young people have to media. The second theme examined how the use of communication technologies creates a growing demand for stories that appeal to us and affect us.

It is of course impossible to mention every contribution to the conference as there were more than thirty lectures of all kinds and contents. Instead here are only a few highlights to be pointed out in this short review:

"Digitization is less a technical revolution than a social evolution slowly taking place in society. What does an individual do with 100 TV channels or more? He or she is spending no more time watching TV than before. So the old media will survive – especially movies". "Digitization will lead to social isolation. This is a big chance for film societies".

"Good children’s films keep social role patterns like boys and girls alive.They can rouse consciousness of this and may create courage".

"Mythological stories in children’s films are important to keep alive traditions".

"Young people experience the digital age in computer games and science-fiction films and thus make the respective industries richer than the ‘old-fashioned’ feature film production companies which therefore need public funds".

"Parents are mostly ignorant about what their children experience when surfing the internet".

"Children like playing video games in peer groups and are not aware of the dangers they expose themselves".

For all member film societies of IFFS/FICC willing to establish film screenings, seminars or festivals for children and young people the Oslo conferences and their partners can provide useful encouragements. Here are the addresses:

Norwegian Film Institute – Department of International Relations
P.O. Box 482 Sentrum
N-0105 Oslo
Tel: +47 22 474579
Fax: +47 22 474597
E-mail: int@nfi.no
Web site: www.nfi.no

ECFA (European Children’s Film Association)
Rue des Palais 112
B-1030 Bruxelles
Tel: +32 2 2425409
Fax: +32 2 2427427
E-mail: ecfa@jekino.be
Web site: www.ecfaweb.org

ICEM (International Council for Educational Media)
Secretary General: Ms Margo Van Sluizer
Hanns-Fay-Str. 1
D-67227 Frankenthal (Germany)
Tel & Fax: +49 6233 46355
E-mail: secretariat@icem-cime.com
Web site: www.icem-cime.com

Author’s address: Bernt Lindner
Seefelder Str. 32
D-86163 Augsburg
Tel & Fax: +49 821 2620994
E-mail: Bernt.Lindner@web.de

THE OFFICIAL CONFERENCE REPORT:
AUDIO VISUAL STORIES OF A DIGITAL AGE, Oslo, 5-9. October 2003.
The ECFA Conference 2003 was hosted by The Norwegian Film Institute. The title of the conference was "Audio Visual Stories of a Digital Age", and together with ECFA, two other organisations participated at the conference, ICEM - International Council of Eductational Media and The Union of Education Norway.

The conference offered lectures, educational movies and a friendly frame for strenghtening international contacts through its many social events. The lectures took place at The Norwegian Film Institutes own house, The House of Film in Oslo, whereas The ICEM Media Days, which presented educational movies for sale, took place at the conference hotel, Hotel Comfort Børsparken. Among the social events, a trip to Lillehammer and the Norwegian Film and TV School was a highlight.

At the House of Film a wide range of lectures were presented – with contributions from professors in media science, producers of movies and video games, people making movies with children, and researchers within educational media. The conference opened with lecturers from the three Scandinavian media professors, Jostein Gripsrud, Anne Jerslev and Kirsten Drotner, who afterwards formed a panel for an open discussion about media eduaction.

Jostein Gripsrud discussed whether television as a social event will survive the digitalization of the medium. Digital TV's possibilities of non-linear communication, interactivity and special interest channels can theoretically lead to what is called "me-TV", where everyone put together their own personal TV-Menu. Gripsrud argued that the convergence between TV and PC/Internet mostly will affect our PC habits, and not so much our TV habits, as TV has become a well-established institution in people's homes, covering a number of our social needs, such as relaxation and common topics for discussions.

The topic of Ann Jerslev's lecture was how new forms of emotional TV shows communicate with its viewers. Jerslev have interviewed a number of teenagers about their opinions on reality shows like "Big Brother" and she has found that the use of new teenage friendly technology like SMS and Internet, the condemnation from older viewers, and how these programmes do not try to educate the viewers but let them see and judge for themselves, were important factors. Also important was the fact that reality shows let viewers reflect on their own emotions and how they would handle themselves the different situations presented.

Kirsten Drotner's main point was to make us observe the huge difference between how media is used by children and youngsters in their leisure time and how they are let to use media during school hours. In their leisure time different media is used at the same time and mostly to do media specific activities, whereas media in schools always is used as a channel for learning about something else. Schools therefore is found wanting in giving young people a systematic framework for understanding semiotic complexities and how to use multimedia.

After this, the conference opened up for a wider range of topics. International Council of Educatiuonal Media had its own series of lectures, where especially online education was a favoured subject. The differences between online education and face-to-face education were thoroughly presented and its implications for pedagogical practises discussed (Chih-Hsiung Tu, Charalambos Vrasida, Richard Cornell). Two projects also introduced some of the new possibilites of cross-cultural communication that internet is making possible, whether it is for solving common tasks across borders (Chih-Hsiung Tu) or for preparing oneself for crossing both borders, history and the generation gap (Robert Guecker). Another lecture was a description of the technical basis for digital film photography by Frode Nordås.

Two film professionals presented their own thinking about their medium. Charlotta Denward, filmproducer from Swedem talked about how children movies often tend to confirm gender prejudices and presented her new movie project about a girl and a boy who decide to switch lives. Maureen Thomas, professor and experimental film maker, presented her opinion on digital storytelling, arguing that interactivity rather than telling linear stories about heroes breaking out of boundaries, should go beyond our novellistic tradition based on story structures as we know them from novels and short stories and instead find inspiration from the oral tradition, where contact with the elements, the earth we live on, the stream of life, our relationship with ancestors and coming generations are important. As an example she showed excerpts from her own installation movie based on the oral epic Voluspaa. Thomas also held a lecture about the development within picture based storytelling in videogames.
The ethnographic documentarist, Katherine Gregory, presented her own ambitious project, a study of how a young woman from a maroccan family living in Amsterdam coped with being between cultures.

Some of the lectures at the conference had its focus on the movies that children make themselves. Erling Ericsson from Sweden presented his invention, the animation box, as an effective tool for making animation concrete and easy to do for children. Twelve 12 years old children from a local Oslo school got to make their own movie with Ericsson during the two conference days, and this movie, "Fun at the cinema", was screened at the end of the conference. David Halliday from Scotland presented projects where disadvantaged children got to express their concern for their local environment through the making of animated short films. A selection of films from the Norwegian Amandus Youth Film Festival, The Kids for Kids Festival arranged by CIFEJ (International Centre for Films for Children and Young People) and ECFA and ICEMs International Student Media Competition was also screened. The Norwegian Film Institute's Cecilie Stranger-Thorsen presented the e-learning resource mzoon, where young people can both learn about media by themselves and publish their own papers and films.

The use of internet as a channel for film distribution was given appropriate attention through a presentation of The Norwegian Film Institutes coming Digital Film Archive, Uwe Haas' discussion of the complexities of intergrating film and video in e-learning, and the lawyer Halvor Manshaus presentation of legal issues concerning digital films.

The internet as an unsecured place for children and youngsters was the topic of Elisabeth Staksruds lecture. Working on the safety of children navigating the net, she presented a number of web sites and statistics showing the threats of free use of the internet and the necessity of parental guidiance. A similar topic was discussed by two other advisors to the Norwegian Board of Film Classification. Jørgen Kirksæther presented a short history of video games, focusing on the positive challenges that video games poses for the players, and how these games fit into an old tradition of playing. Dag Asbjørnsen gave an introduction to how the video games industry in Europe classifies its games in cooperation with governmental institutions. A video games producer from the company "orgdot" who specializes in educational video games, Stein Sørlie, presented how games could be a medium for learning and how the role of the teacher seemed to be the pivot of finding successful solutions.

The conference was well organized, with a varied offer of topics, so that everybody could find something of interest. Socially the conference offered sight seeing in Oslo, an opening show with screenings of Norwegian short films and entertainment from the vocal group Cheezy Keys, reception at the City Hall and a conclusive conference dinner at Oslo's former official banquet hall. The trip to Lillehammer included a visit to Hunderfossen Family Park, where a five screen movie about Norwegian landscape was showed and a 3 D family movie where the audience suddenly could experience that a fourth dimension was included. The Norwegian Film Institute wants to thank everyone for their contribution to the event and we are glad for the positive feedback that we have received.