Cinekid MediaLab in de Telegraaf: Digital Landscapes

Telegraaf 2013

Digital Landscapes in the MediaLab



Cinekid’s new media programme  ̶  a place where film, television and new media converge in the form of installations, games and workshops  ̶  is brought together in the MediaLab. A digital playground and experimental garden where you will find more than 1,200 m2 of brand new works dealing with innovation and image culture, as well as golden Cinekid classics. A selection of the best children’s media from all over the world will be presented here, with artists, educators and other media professionals from the Netherlands and Canada, Estonia, Austria, the United States, Denmark and England all showing their work. The overall theme this year is Digital Landscapes. This concept can be explained roughly in two ways: firstly, a selection of digital and interactive works show specific translations of the traditional landscape; secondly, this refers to the contemporary media landscape in general in a more proverbial sense of the word ̶  what’s new, what’s cool and up-and-coming and how this is shaping the worlds surrounding us.


Beyond the physical

These days, our everyday professional and personal lives are increasingly determined by digital environments. An effect that is being enhanced in no small part by the fact that the digital is no longer restricted to specific objects. There is the home computer, the iPad and the portable Game Boy, but the ripples of the digital revolution are clearly being felt beyond the physical restrictions of these real-world objects, and are simultaneously creating new sets of relations along the way. As a result, the digital is ubiquitous, networked, immersive and deeply influences who we are and how we behave. Free Wi-Fi everywhere, urban screens popping up all over major cities, interactive television with hundreds of channels changing viewing behaviour, video on demand becoming the standard on any device, the mobile phone acting as the new nanny, GPS being used every day, as is the Internet of Things, not to mention full-body & iris scans at airports, all keeping tabs on us and our environments. This accumulation of interactive media surroundings demands an active, critical attitude towards this new, changing environment.



This ever-brighter new world also has great implications for kids: digital media is a concrete part of their world and often a topic of playground conversation, and moreover at the top of their minds – just like daddy’s smart phone or mummy’s laptop. The constant (virtual) presence of media can be disturbing or puzzling, but at the same time its possibilities are tantalizing – especially if you know how & where to take them. This is what Cinekid aims to do: to show you the where and the how of the best and most amazing of media. In the MediaLab, we will not just put on display the best of these latest developments, but we will also show you how they can make you smile, inspire you or even how you can make them yourselves! We will focus on technological innovation not simply as a new reality forced upon us, but also as a landscape offering us panoramic new worlds of amazement and creative expression.



The keynote presentations of the MediaLab in the form of its main installations this year together form the conceptual and visual underpinning of the theme Digital Landscapes . These are ‘Weather Worlds’, ‘Ghost’ and ‘Water Light Graffiti’. In Weather Worlds, created by Theodore Watson and Emily Gobeille, gigantic immersive landscapes grant superpowers over the elements to the user. By using their bodies, children can conjure up a storm, release a twisting tornado or rain down bolts of lightning with just a flick of the wrist. Immersed in a new fantastic world of stories, children experience a new form of narration in which they themselves are in charge. A completely different kind of landscape can be experienced in Ghost, made by Thomas Eberwein and Tim Gferer. Ghost is a freezing winter landscape, in which the visitor automatically becomes captured in a barren country made up  of a kaleidoscope of greys, blues and purples, while it just keeps on snowing and snowing and snowing. In contrast to Weather World, Ghost is not constructed from one single point of view, but rather uses the language of cinematography, with changes in depth of field, camera position and movement. In this piece, film and coding converge to create a new kind of experience. The third example is a more abstract landscape, to be filled in by the visitors themselves. Water Light Graffiti is a gigantic urban screen consisting of hundreds of LEDs that are sensitive to damp and water. This enables kids to collaboratively create huge live light drawings, thereby reclaiming the public space in an intuitive and spontaneous way. These huge digital landscapes can swallow and immerse us with their beauty, the interaction they offer and their size; they make us forget where we are, or allow us to literally get lost!


Proverbial Digital Landscape

The other meaning of the digital landscape is a more proverbial one, and consists of an overview of the latest games, developments and techniques that have emerged over the past year which arguably provide game-changing possibilities for kids. Here we find the nominations for the New Media Award, Gadget Corner and the MiniMediaAcademy. The New Media Award nominations this year show a remarkably rich selection of work, varying from commercial to independent games and from international to truly Dutch projects from young start-ups. For example Reus — a ‘god mode’ game which originally started out as a Dutch non-profit project by young professionals and interns, but reached break-even within a week of being launch̶  is programmed next to Wonderbook: Book of Spells, a major Sony production based on the immensely popular Harry Potter tales. Some amazing new tools and toys will be on display in Gadget Corner. For example, the latest screen technology from Russia, Displair: an interactive, translucent, permeable screen consisting of dry fog, floating in mid-air with an accurate gesture recognition system.

Or the Sphero, a little robot ball which can light up in different colours and can be controlled by a tablet or smartphone and even can roll through water. It is remarkable to see how these creative, amazing ideas are emerging from independent companies and start-ups using crowdsourcing platforms such as Kickstarter as a marketing tool. In addition to the newest games and latest innovations, media literacy is also a central focus of this MediaLab. For example, in the MiniMediaAcademy kids can get to grips with some of the more complicated media skills, such as redesigning an existing website using Hackosaurus, learning the basics of robot building with the Cubelets and building their own apps with Acroid. And of course the Cinekid classics will be here as well: the master classes in which renowned professionals from the film and television programme share their knowledge in comprehensive, layered sessions; workshops where kids can learn how to present the news or to make a stop-motion animation, or attend a professional casting session!


Games and Health

Another emerging trend— which is also represented in many of the projects described above — is the growing focus on health and games. After years of critiques in the media claiming that games create couch-potatoes and unhealthy, daylight-avoiding game nerds, a new era is arising characterised by truly physical, active forms of game play. Paperdude, a virtual reality installation from Canada, is worth a special mention in this context. Using the newly developed virtual reality headset called the Oculus Rift and a real bike, this installation allows kids to experience how it feels to be an all-American paperboy. Or, moving a little more in the direction of traditional technologies, in the workshop Wonderwheel kids have to get off their seats: after designing their own ‘phenaskistoscopic’ animation they subsequently kick another bike into gear to show off their mesmerizing animations. A production made by students from the Willem de Kooning Academy called JUMP also brings physical action to a higher level – literally. Next year, the theme of games and health will be followed up by a new collaboration between Cinekid and the University of Technology in Eindhoven, which is researching the relationship between health and games in a more profound way.



Last but not least, one of the more prominent developments in the new media landscape is the rise of the tablet computer. Mouseless interaction means the computer is suddenly easy to use by younger kids. This is resulting in a cascade of apps and online games: free, open source, commercial, serious, silly, educational, etc. The amount of apps available grows by thousands every day. In order to provide parents with solid guidelines on quality apps, what they do and how their kids could benefit from them, Cinekid is introducing the AppLab. This app will be introduced to parents in the MiniAppLab, and a selection of the apps it contains will be made available to the kids. Draw your own bugs that really come to life; fold, colour and print your own 3D models; make some music and learn how animals sound.


Come Out and Play!

All in all, this year the MediaLab offers an incredibly rich and complete programme where both kids and parents as well as other (media) professionals can pick up inspiration and information. Check it out, you can touch (almost) everything: and above all, enjoy!