- A new environment for media players -

Playing Field invites artists and groups of students in The Netherlands, Germany and Spain to create new artistic streaming content specially made for the Internet. It also challenges them to make new players in which this content runs.

One of the current disadvantages of live and on-demand streaming media on the Internet (video / audio) is the confined space in which streaming media applications run. Often this is not more than a linear interpolation of current video and television formats in existence. This is emphasised by the media player, which often is no more than a representation of a television only with low quality imagery and sound. This confinement is a restriction for creating and investigating new formats for streaming media.

Playing Field aims to combat these restrictions by expanding the current paradigm of streaming media through the creation of new streaming media players and content. By providing a technical background for art students and established artists, Playing Field is designed to be literary a playing field for new streaming media formats.

By joining all aspects vital to successful streaming on the Internet (format generation, content generation, content management, data traffic and technical development), Playing Field will be an innovative environment for students and artists. The open player approach combined with unlimited streaming facilities will be a true investigation of new streaming formats and communication methods in our modern world.

Anticipated results
By the end of the project we expect to have accomplished the following:
  - Nine presentations of the artistic content created in the course of the project by established artists and art students from three different countries (Work Package 1)
  - A new generation of new media players especially adapted for artistic use free available via the Internet (Work Package 1)
  - To have realised an open streaming licence document and a technical support framework to facilitate the realisation of and access to the national and international open streaming network (Work Packages 2 and 3)
  - Publication of the work made in de periods in the cultural streaming platform Central Station (Work Package 3)
  - To have given an impulse to the new media theory and international exchange during the Closing Seminar and the presentation of the work (Work Package 4)

Approach and methods for successful implementation
Playing Field is divided in four Work Packages and a Management and Control section:

Work Package 1 is about the creation of artistic content and new media players.

Work Package 2 is about creating easy access to streaming facilities for artists and students and provides a platform for the created content in a cultural context.

Work Package 3 aims to install an International Open Streaming Network and create an Open Source Streaming Agreement to facilitate access, lower costs for artists and students and take care of judicial and other issues.

Work Package 4 is a Closing Seminar to ensure a meaningful evaluation of the project, to foster international exchange and to engage in fruitful discussions about the future of (live and on-demand) Internet Streaming.

Below a short overview of the activities proposed in these Work Packages.

Work Package 1: Simultaneous working periods
Three periods of two months will be designated to create both artistic content and media players. Established artists and art students will be working together in the three participating countries, exploring possibilities, inventing solutions, exchanging ideas and learning from each other. A technical team will assist them. The end of each two-month period will be marked by a presentation of the work in the form of an exhibition, a CD-ROM, a publication or otherwise. The results will in any case be made available via the Internet to share with the partners and other interested parties.

Work Package 2: Creation of a Streaming Platform
Adaptation to Central Station, the cultural streaming server in The Netherlands.
In order for the general public to be able to see everything that is made, a platform will be created to publish all material on the Internet. Everything made (artistic content and media players) will be an integral part of “Central Station”, an initiative of several Dutch media centres[1]. This initiative is creating cultural streaming content for the Internet. In order to facilitate access and a schedule facility for artists and students, an Interface and a Technical Application need to be written.
Work Package 2 proposes the creation of a Playing Field Interface to enable streaming of the work created during Working Periods I, II and III (see Work Package 1) through ‘Central Station’ and the adaptation of the schedule application Frequency Clock[2] to ‘Central Station’.

Work Package 3: Open Streaming Network
Streaming is expensive and Playing Field aims to give students and artists – in and outside the project – the opportunity to experiment with it at low cost. Once an end product is created, the artists will be able to stream it through an open streaming network. The NIM currently has such a network in operation on a trial basis between organisations in New York (USA), Amsterdam (The Netherlands) and Adelaide (Australia). To implement this Network in Europe computer servers (nodes in the Network) will be installed at the partner organisations. Also an Open Source Streaming Agreement needs to be created to address the legal aspects of joining such a network in order to lower the barriers for interested organisations. Also a technical framework is needed to assist students / artists using the network.
Playing Field will sponsor the necessary computer servers, the development of the Agreement and the design of the technical framework.

Work Package 4: Closing Seminar
At the end of the project a Closing Seminar will be held where the results will be presented together, artists and students of different countries can meet and the future of live streaming will be addressed in discussions.
The findings of the project (the results of the Working Periods in Work Package 1 and of the Closing Seminar) will be published in a report and on a DVD.

Technical notes
An all-purpose media player that can easily be adapted and changed in design, interaction and programming will provide the technical infrastructure necessary during the working periods in Work Package 1. This general player is currently being developed and financed by the British R a d i o q u a l i a and will be ready before the start of Playing Field thus allowing more time and money for the creation of new formats.
All technical tools created during the project will be published on the Internet for free download and use under an open source licence. This will enable students and artists not participating in the project to benefit from the results as well.

NIM: Netherlands Institute of Media Art Montevideo/TBA, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
IMG: Institut für Medien Gestaltung, Mainz, Germany
MECAD \ Media Centre of Art and Design (Fundit Foundation), Barcelona, Spain

XS4ALL, Thuiskopiefonds.

Location, duration and relevant date(s) of project activities
Locations: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Mainz, and the Internet
Duration: June 2002 – June 2003
Dates: Preparatory Meeting Partners: 1 September 2002
  Meeting Open Source Streaming Agreement: 15-30 June 2002
  Working Period I: 14 October – 12 December 2002
  Working Period II: 6 January – 27 February 2003
  Working Period III: 3 March – 24 April 2003
  Presentations: 12 December '02
7 February '03
24 April '03
  Closing Seminar: 29 and 30 May ’03, Amsterdam

Work package 1: Content and format generation

The activity itself
This work package aims at stimulating artists and students in the three locations to create new content and media players. It consists of three two-month periods. During each period three groups – one group in each city – of artists and students will be invited to invent and create a new media player and / or content.

The mentioned player will be based on software which is currently being developed by the British artist group R a d i o q u a l i a. This software will be ready by the time Playing Field starts and its development is therefore not part of this application. The player can be modified to the actual need of the artists and students by software programmers from the Artlab of the NIM in Amsterdam. A software programmer will visit Barcelona and Mainz to assist students with their work. The adapted players will be released to the general public under an open source licence. The generated artistic content will be viewable at the end of each two-month working period through the distribution means described in work package II and III.

- To stimulate artists and art students to experiment with (live) streaming applications
- To develop new media players tailored to the specific needs of artists
- To generate artistic content for Internet streaming purposes
- To pave the way for future artistic streaming initiatives.

The target group
- Established artists and art students interested in experimenting with live streaming applications.

Indicative timetable
Working Periods 1, 2 and 3 will take place simultaneously at the partner institutes in Amsterdam, Mainz and Barcelona following the following time structure:

Working Period I: 14 October – 12 December 2002
  Presentation I: 12 December 2002
Working Period II: 6 January – 27 February 2003
  Presentation II: 27 February 2003
Working Period III: 3 March – 24 April 2003
  Presentation III: 24 April 2003

Expected results
- Nine presentations of the progress made during the three two-month working periods
- Formats based on the new media player ready for free distribution via the Internet

Work package 2: Creation of a Streaming Platform
Adaptation to Central Station, the cultural streaming server in The Netherlands

The activity itself
In order for artists and art students to show their streaming work Playing Field proposes to hook up to Central Station, an initiative of several Dutch media centres[3]. Central Station is an internet server designated to broadcast streaming content with a cultural perspective on the Internet.

Two actions need to be taken to connect Playing Field to Central Station: the creation of an Interface and the adaptation of a schedule application called Frequency Clock for Central Station. Frequency Clock is an open source software package, already in existence, which enables scheduling of on-demand and live content.

- Creation of a Playing Field Interface to enable streaming of the work created during Working Periods I, II and III (see Work Package 1) through ‘Central Station’
- Adapting the Frequency Clock to ‘Central Station’ to provide a streaming scheduler for artists
- Streaming the content created in Work Package 1 through Central Station.

The target group
- All users of Central Station, both public and artists
- Artists and students participating in Playing Field

Indicative timetable
Interface design: September – October 2002
Frequency Clock adaptation: October – November 2002
First broadcast of content: December 2002

Expected results
- The creation of a streaming platform and scheduler for artists and art students

Work package 3: An Open Streaming Network in Europe
Sharing resources and reducing costs

The activity itself
Internet resources are expensive. Playing Field is specifically designed to give students and artists access to these resources at low cost. This goal is achieved by combining the resources of different partners in an International Open Streaming Network[4].

The NIM currently has an Open Streaming Network in operation on a trial basis between The Netherlands (NIM), the USA (Location 1 in New York) and Australia (Virtual Artists in Adelaide). To implement this network in Europe we propose to install a server (a so-called "node" in the network) with the partners in Spain and Germany.

To make the network fully operational the following steps need to be taken first:
- An Open Source Streaming Agreement (OSSA) will be created to take care of practical and judicial issues. A draft version of this agreement is already in existence, but it needs a lot of work to be ready for implementation in the international Internet community. This agreement will describe the responsibilities of node operators but also the procedures if questionable content is presented to the network. The idea of sharing resources can be applied in a general context and the agreement will also be presented to the Internet community as a proposal[5]. Several organisations have already shown interest in the development of an OSSA and are willing to contribute money and time to the process: the Dutch internet provider XS4ALL and the New York-based Location 1. Playing Field will sponsor the further development and implementation, making sure European and international laws are being obliged.
- Playing Field will also develop a technical tool necessary to implement the Open Source Streaming Agreement, giving students and artists access to these resources. The network will be created so that students and artists can book encoding and / or relaying time on the server network. This will give an interesting communication platform where people can see each other’s work and even have to work together.

- Writing of an Open Streaming Agreement
- Technical implementation of the Open Streaming Agreement

The target group
- Organisations interested in joining the Open Streaming Network
- Students and artists using the network
- Platform of Audio Visual art academy departments in the Netherlands.

Indicative timetable
Open Source Streaming Agreement: Meeting: 15-30 June 2002
Judicial check: 1-4 November 2002
Programming of technical tools: 15 November-15 December 2002

Expected results
- Lower barrier for organisations to join the Open Streaming Network
- Lower (cost) barrier for art students to do streaming projects
- Lower costs for users of the Network
- Enhanced speed and quality of streaming output
- Combining efforts of art students

Work package 4: Closing Seminar
Presentation, information and publication

The activity itself
In order to evaluate, discuss the future, exchange artistic ideas and exhibit the developed formats and content, the project will be concluded with the Playing Field Closing Seminar and Exhibition. This two-day seminar will be held at the NIM in Amsterdam for about 50 people, including of course the artists and students who worked during Working Package I and the heads of the institutes. International Internet Streaming experts will be invited to intervene. A DVD and a publication will be produced to document and publish the project and its findings afterwards. Of course the work made during Working Package I will be on exhibit.

- To ensure a meaningful evaluation of the project
- To facilitate discussion and international exchange
- To promote the findings of Playing Field to the artistic and technical community

The target group
- Artists and students participating in Playing Field
- Professionals working in the field of internet streaming
- Scholars interested in discussing the future of streaming

Indicative timetable
The Closing Seminar will be held on 29 and 30 May 2003 at the NIM in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Expected results
- To have given an impulse to the new media theory and the artistic use of technical applications
- An increase of the awareness of the results of the project among artists, students, professionals and scholars.

Management and Control

The activity itself
A project manager will be appointed to co-ordinate all actions. This person will also be responsible for the communication between partners and to the outside world, for time management and for the final project report. The project manager will be based at the NIM in Amsterdam.

Most communication will be done via email and telephone, however one preparatory Partner meeting is necessary. The project manager and (a delegation of ) the three partner organisations will be present.

- To prepare the details of the project actions and ensure a smooth running between all participants
- To manage and co-ordinate the project in a professional way.

The target group
- All project organisers and participants

Indicative Timetable
Preparatory meeting 1 September 2002
Project manager 1 August 2002-30 June 2003 2 days a week

Expected Results
- A smooth running project.

[1] Society of Old and New Media - Amsterdam, V2 - Rotterdam, De Balie - Amsterdam, Paradiso - Amsterdam, Submarine - Amsterdam, Surfnet / Gigapoort - the Dutch university backbone (Internet2) and the Dutch Media Art Institute/Montevideo - Amsterdam

[2] Frequency Clock is an open source software package, already in existence, which enables scheduling of on-demand and live content.

[3] Paradiso (Amsterdam), De Balie (Amsterdam), Institute for Old and New Media (De Waag, Amsterdam), STEIM (Amsterdam), V2 (Rotterdam), Submarine (Amsterdam)

[4] The network works as follows: a student / artist will send a data stream to a local server, which is relatively inexpensive. The network will then distribute this stream to the international participants ("nodes"), who take care of the streaming costs, for example by finding a sponsorship with a local ISP (Internet Service Provider). The streaming network is open; any university or media centre could participate and add a node to the network. The expensive international data traffic will thus be minimised and will not be paid for by the student or artist. The more nodes join the network, the lower the cost and the better the quality of the stream becomes.

[5] The proposal will be presented as an RFC (Request For Comment) to the W3 consortium, which is responsible for the open internet standards.