Tag Archives: NFB

Digital life in Estonia and the National Film Board of Canada’s ‘reclaim control of your online identity’ series

Internet access is considered a human right in Estonia (according to a July 1, 2008 story by Colin Woodard for the Christian Science Monitor). That commitment has led to some very interesting developments in Estonia which are being noticed internationally. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Wilson Center) is hosting the president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves at an April 21, 2015 event (from the April 15, 2015 event invitation),

The Estonia Model: Why a Free and Secure Internet Matters
After regaining independence in 1991, the Republic of Estonia built a new government from the ground up. The result was the world’s most comprehensive and efficient ‘e-government’: a digital administration with online IDs for every citizen, empowered by a free nationwide Wi-Fi network and a successful school program–called Tiger Leap–that boosts tech competence at every age level. While most nations still struggle to provide comprehensive Internet access, Estonia has made major progress towards a strong digital economy, along with robust protections for citizen rights. E-government services have made Estonia one of the world’s most attractive environments for tech firms and start-ups, incubating online powerhouses like Skype and Transferwise.

An early adopter of information technology, Estonia was also one of the first victims of a cyber attack. In 2007, large-scale Distributed Denial of Service attacks took place, mostly against government websites and financial services. The damages of these attacks were not remarkable, but they did give the country’s security experts  valuable experience and information in dealing with such incidents. Eight years on, the Wilson Center is pleased to welcome Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves for a keynote address on the state of cybersecurity, privacy, and the digital economy. [emphasis mine]

The Honorable Jane Harman
Director, President and CEO, The Wilson Center

His Excellency Toomas Hendrik Ilves
President of the Republic of Estonia

The event is being held in Washington, DC from 1 – 2 pm EST on April 21, 2015. There does not seem to be a webcast option for viewing the presentation online (a little ironic, non?). You can register here, should you be able to attend.

I did find a little more information about Estonia and its digital adventures, much of it focused on digital economy, in an Oct. 8, 2014 article by Lily Hay Newman for Slate,

Estonia is planning to be the first country to offer a status called e-residency. The program’s website says, “You can become an e-Estonian!” …

The website says that anyone can apply to become an e-resident and receive an e-Estonian online identity “in order to get secure access to world-leading digital services from wherever you might be.” …

You can’t deny that the program has a compelling marketing pitch, though. It’s “for anybody who wants to run their business and life in the most convenient aka digital way!”

You can find the Estonian e-residency website here. There’s also a brochure describing the benefits,

It is especially useful for entrepreneurs and others who already have some relationship to Estonia: who do business, work, study or visit here but have not become a resident. However, e-residency is also launched as a platform to offer digital services to a global audience with no prior Estonian affiliation – for  anybody  who  wants  to  run their  business  and  life in  the  most convenient aka digital way! We plan to keep adding new useful services from early 2015 onwards.

I also found an Oct. 31, 2013 blog post by Peter Herlihy on the gov.uk website for the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS). Herlihy offers the perspective of a government bureaucrat (Note: A link has been removed),

I’ve just got back from a few days in the Republic of Estonia, looking at how they deliver their digital services and sharing stories of some of the work we are up to here in the UK. We have an ongoing agreement with the Estonian government to work together and share knowledge and expertise, and that is what brought me to the beautiful city of Tallinn.

I knew they were digitally sophisticated. But even so, I wasn’t remotely prepared for what I learned.

Estonia has probably the most joined up digital government in the world. Its citizens can complete just about every municipal or state service online and in minutes. You can formally register a company and start trading within 18 minutes, all of it from a coffee shop in the town square. You can view your educational record, medical record, address, employment history and traffic offences online – and even change things that are wrong (or at least directly request changes). The citizen is in control of their data.

So we should do whatever they’re doing then, right? Well, maybe. …

National Film Board of Canada

There’s a new series being debuted this week about reclaiming control of your life online and titled: Do Not Track according to an April 14, 2015 post on the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) blog (Note: Links have been removed),

An eye-opening personalized look at how online data is being tracked and sold.

Starting April 14 [2015], the online interactive documentary series Do Not Track will show you just how much the web knows about you―and the results may astonish you.

Conceived and directed by acclaimed Canadian documentary filmmaker and web producer Brett Gaylor, the 7-part series Do Not Track is an eye-opening look at how online behaviour is being tracked, analyzed and sold―an issue affecting each of us, and billions of web users around the world.

Created with the goal of helping users learn how to take back control of their digital identity, Do Not Track goes beyond a traditional documentary film experience: viewers who agree to share their personal data are offered an astounding real-time look at how their online ID is being tracked.

Do Not Track is a collective investigation, bringing together public media broadcasters, writers, developers, thinkers and independent media makers, including Gaylor, Vincent Glad, Zineb Dryef, Richard Gutjahr, Sandra Rodriguez, Virginie Raisson and the digital studio Akufen.

Do Not Track episodes launch every 2 weeks, from April 14 to June 9, 2015, in English, French and German. Roughly 7 minutes in length, each episode has a different focus―from our mobile phones to social networks, targeted advertising to big data with a different voice and a different look, all coupled with sharp and varied humour. Episodes are designed to be clear and accessible to all.

You can find Do Not Track here, episode descriptions from the April 14, 2015 posting,

April 14 | Episode 1: Morning Rituals
This episode introduces viewers to Brett Gaylor and offers a call to action: let’s track the trackers together.

Written and directed by Brett Gaylor

Interviews: danah boyd, principal researcher, Microsoft Research; Nathan Freitas, founder, and Harlo Holmes, software developer, The Guardian Project; Ethan Zuckerman, director, MIT Center for Civic Media*

April 14 | Episode 2: Breaking Ad
We meet the man who invented the Internet pop-up ad―and a woman who’s spent nearly a decade reporting on the web’s original sin: advertising.

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written by Vincent Glad

Interviews: Ethan Zuckerman; Julia Angwin, journalist and author of Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance*

April 28 | Episode 3: The Harmless Data We Leave on Social Media
This episode reveals how users can be tracked from Facebook activity and how far-reaching the data trail is.

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written by Sandra Marsh | Hosted by Richard Gutjahr

Interviews: Constanze Kurz, writer and computer scientist, Chaos Computer Club

May 12 | Episode 4: Your Mobile Phone, the Spy
Your smartphone is spying on you—where does all this data go, what becomes of it, and how is it used?

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written and hosted by Zineb Dryef

Interviews: Harlo Holmes; Rand Hindi, data scientist and founder of Snips*

May 26 | Episode 5: Big Data and Its Algorithms
There’s an astronomical quantity of data that may or may not be used against us. Based on the information collected since the start of this documentary, users discover the algorithmic interpretation game and its absurdity.

Directed by Sandra Rodriguez and Akufen | Written by Sandra Rodriguez

Interviews: Kate Crawford, principal researcher, Microsoft Research New York City; Matthieu Dejardins, e-commerce entrepreneur and CEO, NextUser; Tyler Vigen, founder, Spurious Correlations, and Joint Degree Candidate, Harvard Law School; Cory Doctorow, science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist; Alicia Garza, community organizer and co-founder, #BlackLivesMatter; Yves-Alexandre De Montjoye, computational privacy researcher, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab*

June 9 | Episode 6: Filter Bubble
The Internet uses filters based on your browsing history, narrowing down the information you get―until you’re painted into a digital corner.

Written and directed by Brett Gaylor*

June 9 | Episode 7:  The Future of Tracking
Choosing to protect our privacy online today will dramatically shape our digital future. What are our options?

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written by Virginie Raisson

Interviews: Cory Doctorow


Interactive haiku from Canada’s National Film Board

This comes from an April 2, 2015 posting on Canada’s National Film Board blog,

Designed to surprise, move, and inspire thought, Interactive Haiku will be released throughout the month of April, with 4 stories launching today. The project will also be featured at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, as part of Tribeca Film Institute Interactive’s “Interactive Playground.”

Recently, the NFB and ARTE [France, interactive platform] asked creators to experiment a new kind of short interactive work: the very short form, or digital equivalent of the haiku. The 12 winning proposals come from 6 different countries and were selected out of 162 submissions from 20 nations.

The projects are accessible online or via tablets.

All of the interactive haiku follow 10 creative rules. These include: a 60-second time limit; being accessible to an international audience, and creating an experience that nudges us to see the world differently.

Discover the first 4 of these bite-sized, mind-jolting experiences below, along with some creative footnoting, courtesy of their vanguard creators.

Don’t want to miss a haiku? Subscribe to receive an e-mail notification (top left corner)! A new haiku will be released every Monday and Thursday of April (except for Easter Monday.)

Here’s a description of the four haiku pieces released in the first batch (from the April 2, 2015 NFB posting),

Cat’s Cradle

by Thibaut Duverneix, David Drury, Jean-Maxime Couillard, Gentilhomme (Canada)


A game of strings, frequencies, stars, and distances. Elegantly explore the theory of everything! (Experience Cat’s Cradle)

Who knew theoretical physics’ Superstring theory was such child’s play?!

“What is fascinating about [Superstring] theory is that it is extremely hard to prove – it forces mathematics and physics to work in an imaginary and deeply complex sandbox. The theory and its implications give rise to a wealth of poetic, even romantic, imagery, which is where our treatment begins.

In our interactive haiku, we propose a novel conception of this topic, treating it metaphorically with one of the most playful, simple and naive of childhood games: cat’s cradle.”


Speech Success

by Roc Albalat, Pau Artigas, Jorge Caballero and Marcel Pié (Spain)


The crowd is huge, tightly packed, and merciless. All eyes are on you. Will you be cheered… or will you flame out? (Experience Speech Success)

“If the haiku is based on the poet’s amazement at the sight of nature, here we look at certain attitudes toward technology – our present environment.

[Our haiku] gives a parodic representation of online social relationships. The Internet works as a public screen through which we try to break our isolation and be recognized. Often, our public shows of vanity don’t find targets: that’s why we have created a virtual public. We’ve programmed this audience to react to mood: the spectators’ reaction varies according to the speaker’s emotional intensity. The aim is to be ironic about our attempts to be heard on the network: finally you find somebody on the other side of the screen that listens and understands you –  for 60 full seconds.”


Life is Short

by Florian Veltman and Baptiste Portefaix (France)


From first to last words, everything goes by too fast. Relive the key moments of your life in a few seconds. (Experience Life is Short)

“As time goes by, our lives begin to appear shorter and shorter. And yet, we rarely take the time to stop and contemplate everything we’ve lived through and are still experiencing in the moment. Our haiku offers a quick opportunity to stop and reflect on time, memory, and our own inexorable demise. But pay attention! Life is Short can be only be enjoyed once – like life itself.”


Music is the Key of Life

by Theodor Twetman and Viktor Lanneld (Sweden)


Everyday objects possess an innate melody. Scan the barcodes of the objects around you and let the music play! (Experience Music is the Key of Life)

“Our haiku takes something ever-present but seldom noticed – the barcode – and makes it the star of the show. Relying on the camera, a tool seldom used in web applications, it brings interactivity beyond what’s on the screen, forcing the user to interact with physical objects that aren’t usually perceived as valuable or interesting.

In normal life, the barcode announces its presence with a simple beep noise when scanned at the supermarket. With our haiku, each code is given the opportunity to be noticed for its uniqueness, perhaps helping people notice and appreciate their beauty and the hard work they do.”


Meditating and neuroscience: Canada National Film Board movie and a Dalai Lama talk

These documentaries are usually focused on Buddhism and its meditation practices but in The Mystical Brain, Isabelle Raynaud starts with some archival footage of brain work, paintings of brains through history, and a Buddhist monk  before segueing to a neuroscientist trying to talk some Carmelite nuns into a research experiment he wants to run. I haven’t seen the whole film yet but The Mystical Brain, a National Film Board (NFB) of Canada production, by  Raynaud offers a fresh and neuroscientific approach to the age old question, ‘Is there really such a thing as a mystical experience and, if so, can we measure it?’

Carolyn Weldon in her Apr. 9, 2013 posting about The Mystical Brain on the NFB.ca blog describes it thusly (Note  a link has been removed),

First, the film follows a team of Université de Montréal researchers studying, through electroencephalography (or EEG), the brains of Carmelite nuns asked to remember a moment of divine communion they experienced in the past. This was as close to the “real deal” as they could study as Carmelite nuns, like most of us, apparently can’t trigger mystical experiences on command.

Nine nuns later, the 2 scientists were able to demonstrate that prayer increased the brain’s Theta activity, or Theta waves. Theta waves (4-7.5 Hz) are some of the slowest waves our brains emits. These waves are associated with REM sleep, daydreaming, super learning, and increased memory and creativity. For most people, Theta activity is only experienced momentarily, as one drifts off to sleep from Alpha, or wakes from deep sleep, from Delta. For nuns, especially cloistered ones, like Carmelite [sic], this is a state they spend hours in – consciously – every day.

Next, the film takes us to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where a different team is studying the meditating brain of Matthieu Ricard, a French-born Buddhist monk who also happens to be the French interpreter to the Dalai Lama [and holds a PhD in molecular genetics]. Ricard, the author of numerous bestselling books on meditation and happiness, is a natural at explaining what meditation is and isn’t, and his on-camera sequences are some of the film’s strongest.

Buddhist monks and long-time meditation practitioners, on the other hands, are like the Olympic athletes of the mind. Their minds are clear, serene, and less vulnerable to the vagaries of external events. At Wiconsin-Madison U. [sic], the neuroscientists found that meditation has a robust impact on brain function…. and not only for Ricard and his kind. Positive physical and psychological changes can already be observed in new practitioners, as early as 2 months into their practice.

The documentary, for those who are interested,  is embedded in Weldon’s posting. As she notes, meditation has gone mainstream in a very big way. And not only with the general public, it sometimes seems that I come across at least one new research study about meditation and the brain on a daily basis.

Raynaud’s film about meditation and neuroscience reminded me of my Aug. 21, 2012 posting where I mentioned an upcoming dialogue with the Dalai Lama about science. At the time I was under the impression that it was to be his third such dialogue with Natasha Mitchell in an Australia Broadcasting Corporation series but I’m no longer sure about that.  Yesterday, I searched and found the Happiness & its causes event (June 19 – 20, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia) which features Natasha Mitchell and the Dalai Lama in two presentations, from the Day 2 Conference page, (Note: Links have been removed)

9.15am     In conversation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Be inspired by words of wisdom and compassion from one of the world’s most revered spiritual leaders. In this intimate conversation with the Dalai Lama, Natasha Mitchell delves for practical advice on how we can lead a happy and meaningful life.

9.45am     Science of Mind Forum

Isn’t the mind amazing? Science is only just beginning to glimpse the extraordinary workings of the mind and how it governs everything. Witness a  unique dialogue between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a panel of world renowned scientists.

› His Holiness the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Australia
› Dr Mario Beauregard, Associate Researcher, Departments of Psychology and Radiology, Neuroscience Research Center; author: Brain Wars, University of Montreal, Canada
› Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Professor of Psychiatry, The Alfred and Monash University, Australia
› Professor Lorimer Moseley, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience, University of South Australia, Australia
› Natasha Mitchell, Presenter, Life Matters, ABC Radio National, Australia

I could not find any information about a third dialogue for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Science Please! part 2 from Canada’s National Film Board

I wrote about part 1 of this series which ran both as 1 minute snippets which were then compiled into a 30 min. DVD and two 15 minute online compilations (Parts 1 and 2), in my April 1, 2010 posting but didn’t include any excerpts from the interview with the series producer, Marc Bertrand. On the occasion of tripping across part 2 of the series compilation, here’s a little information about it from Bertrand’s interview in Carolyn Weldon’s March 26, 2010 posting on Canada’s National Film Board (NFB) blog,

Marc Bertrand, a producer with the NFB’s French Program, looks back on the time he spent working on Science Please! with great fondness. It was his first job at the NFB, and he’d been given a clear mandate with 3 objectives: to focus on science, incorporate archival footage, and use animation. The target audience: 9 – 12 year olds.

“It’s kind of amazing,” says Marc, “there’s a certain pride in knowing that we managed to explain electricity in a minute. Just one minute. That’s not a long time.”

Marc attributes his success to the creative freedom he was given.

Because he wasn’t tied to any particular pedagogical program, he and his team were able to choose whatever subjects they wanted to take on.

“You’ll notice, for example, that most of the video clips are about subjects in physics rather than biology. We made this choice because knowledge in the area of physics is the most stable. There’s not much chance that new discoveries are going to put into question Archimedes’ Principle,” Marc explains.

The huge success of the series is also attributable to the quality of the visual elements. The NFB has some outstanding animators who agreed to illustrate one or two of these video clips in between their work on larger projects.

At the end of the interview, Bertrand mentions that he’s working on a new project, one about the brain. I did search but have not found any indication that this project has been released or completed yet.

Getting back to Science Please!, I’m not sure when part 2 was released but you can find it here now. It runs for approximately 15 minutes.

Canada’s National Film Board and the Webby’s

Canada’s National Film Board (NFB) has seven nominations for Webby Awards according to the April 12, 2012 posting by Carolyne Weldon on the NFB blog,

What do a bear, a parable on human language, a Northern reserve, and a brother in the army have in common?

Why, they’re the subjects of the 4 NFB/interactive projects nominated for 2012 Webby Awards, of course!

The Webby Awards, which people sometimes refer to as the “Oscars of the Web”, are international awards presented annually by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS) for excellence on the Internet. Saluting greatness in Websites, Interactive Advertising, Online Film & Video and Mobile & Apps, they are, in short, a huge honour.

This year, 4 of our interactive projects have been nominated for a grand total of 7 awards. (Lucky 7! We’re tickled pink!)

Weldon goes on to describe and provide links to the four nominees for interactive projects and notes that the Webbys will have two winners in each category, one selected by the critics and the other by the public. You have until April 26, 2012 to vote here where you can view all the nominees. You do have to sign up/register to vote.

For anyone not familiar with the Webbys, 2012 marks the 16th year the event has been held. This year, the awards will be given out on May 21, 2012 in New York, New York. The night is the culmination of the May 14-21, 2012 Internet Week.


Canada’s new copyright bill being introduced June 3, 2010 (we think), NFB, RIP!, and student copyright video

Last week’s handy dandy National Film Board (NFB) newsletter directed me to their blog post about copyright, documentary filmmaking guidelines, and the video, RIP!  From Julie Martin’s May 19, 2010 posting,

The Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) released a set of guidelines last week that help filmmakers make sense of how to use copyrighted materials in their films. The Guidelines draw on existing fair dealing provisions set out in the Copyright Act.

In addition to finding out more about the guidelines, you can also access, embedded in the posting, a related  NFB documentary RIP! A Remix Manifesto by Brett Gaylor (approx. 85 mins.), if you follow the link.

Meanwhile,  Michael Geist offers two postings of interest, one about a student-produced video (he offers the English language version and a link to the French language version) calling for fair copyright. In his second posting, Geist offers information about the government’s new bill which is to be introduced (according to reports) this Thursday, June 3, 2010. From the posting,

This is copyright week in Canada as multiple reports indicate that the long-awaited copyright bill will be tabled on Thursday. The recent round of reports are noteworthy for several reasons. First, they confirm earlier reports that the government plans to introduce DMCA-style anti-circumvention legislation.

There’s more including possible changes to fair use and the suspicion that the government may try to fast track the legislation by holding summer hearings.