The conference, which took place at Reykjavik’s Bíó Paradís cinema, was officially opened on Monday 28th October 2013 by Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Industry and Commerce.
The evening reception set the tone for the next two days – allowing speakers and delegates to mix freely, and featuring performances from Icelandic artists including DJ Flugvél & Geimskip, visual artist Ásdis Sif Gunnarsdóttir, a Skype poetry reading from Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, a series short films from the Örvarpið website and music from Úlfur Eldjárn.
The following day, the conference kicked off with a welcome from Promote Iceland’s Kristjana Rós Guðjohnsen, who headed up the production team behind YAIC2013, before team member Remi Harris introduced a compelling keynote presentation from international branding consultant Peter Economides (Felix BNI, Greece).
Peter explained how re-branding a company involves more than changing the logo and advertising – you also have to change the attitudes and behaviour of the staff. “You have to find yourself before you talk to the world,” he insisted. “You can’t do anything unless you connect back with yourself. When people feel good they do great things. It’s about how people feel…”
In a talk that held immediate parallels with Iceland, his presentation also touched upon his work in helping to rebrand Apple which, in 1997, was practically bankrupt. He talked with optimism about his belief that the same could be possible with his home country of Greece.
Other speakers on the Tuesday morning included Finnish designer Teemu Suviala of Kokoro & Moi who explained the benefits of collaborating in an open process involving the input of citizens. Another Finn, Timo Santala, who co-created the worlds biggest ‘Food Carnival’ – called Restaurant Day – spoke about activism and citizen engagement.
All three speakers then participated in a discussion with Guðjón Már Guðjónsson, CEO of Icelandic technology and communications company OZ about openness as a facet of design and creative projects.
This spirit of collaboration was upheld during lunch, which was curated by Icelandic event designer Kristín María Sigþórsdóttir and involved the presentation of a “Virtual Bonfire” for conference-goers to gather around (as well as delicious food).
We then enjoyed a second keynote presentation, from theAudience’s Oliver Luckett, CEO of a fascinating company that circumvents ‘traditional media’ on behalf of more than 700 brands, artists and celebrities – enabling them to broadcast direct to fans over social networks.
In a wide-ranging talk, Oliver explained how ‘broadcast’ media – from the church to television – was essentially a one-way, top-down communication channel. Social media, meanwhile, operates more like a biological system – connecting millions of individual ‘organisms’.
He concluded by explaining the huge efficiencies in marketing that can be created by employing ‘frictionless’ social media, as well as the importance of creating content that touches users emotionally and encourages them to share.
Oliver was followed by Ingi Rafn Sigurdsson of Icelandic crowd-funding platform Karolina Fund – that, despite only being in operation for a single year, has already achieved a 7/10 hit rate of projects that successfully achieve their funding target – before the day concluded with a passionate debate about the challenges for artists to gain a foothold on social media between Oliver, Ingi, Seth Jackson (Strange Thoughts, UK), and Julia Payne (The Hub, UK). This was moderated by conference team member Adam Webb.
Outside of Cinema 1, YAIC2013 also featured a variety of workshops – many of them free and open to the public. Julia Payne (The Hub, UK) presented two of these – Business Planning for Creatives and The Art of Pitching - which provided practical hands-on experience of how to get support for your creative project.
Kristen Harrison (The Curved House, UK/Germany) ran a Digital Surgery For Writers which touched on the importance of both physical and digital books, and how authors can use the web for self empowerment.
Timo Santala ran two free workshops about Restaurant Day at Iceland Design Center, which were attended by approximately 40 people in total. Meanwhile, Iceland Music Export and STEF won the prize for best-titled workshop with “Mayday, Mayday, We Are Synching…” for their free event on music sync licensing (to film, television, advertising and games) with Joel Thomas Jordan (Synchtank, USA) amongst the speakers, and E4‘s Daddi Guðbergsson moderating.
Also well-attended was TechCrunchTV’s Felicia Williams’ practical workshop about online video, and expert tips on digital marketing and innovation from Seth Jackson of UK-based agency Strange Thoughts.
Finally, the largest workshop was organised by Karolina Fund and featured Jóhann Ágúst Jóhannsson of Kraumur Music Fund (Iceland), Sara Marti (Iceland), Ívar Kristjánsson, CCP Games (Iceland) and Eldar Ástþórsson, CCP Games and Ylir Music Fund (Iceland) explaining the process of funding for creative projects.
And then to Wednesday 30th, which began with a fascinating presentation from technology writer and consultant Shane Richmond (UK) about Wearable Technology – a subject he became familiar with when working as Technology Editor at the Daily Telegraph. Covering innovations like Google Glass, activity monitors and mobile-enabled watches, Shane concluded with a dystopian vision of the future when humans could be, to all intents and purposes, turned into computers.
Other speakers included Kristen Harrison, of The Curved House, who highlighted the opportunities for publishers and writers in the digital sphere, as well as a new project of her own called Visual Verse, and Ragnhildur Jóhannsdóttir, an editor at Endemi art magazine, which aims to popularise contemporary Icelandic art.
More evidence of Icelandic innovation came from Halldóra Rut Baldursdóttir & Harpa Fönn Sigurjónsdóttir who provided details of Örvarpið – a new online short-form video platform and festival – and musician Úlfur Eldjárn who discussed interactive composition and his ‘Infinite String Quartet’ which is seeking backers via Karolina Fund.
The morning session was completed with a focus on music. First from Anna Hildur Hildibrandsdóttir, Programme Director, NOMEX (Nordic Music Export) & Dagfinn Bach, President, BACH Technology AS (Iceland/Norway) who gave delegates a sneak preview of a soon-to-be-launched pan-Nordic service called Nordic Playlist. This will showcase the best new music from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, partnering with streaming platforms such as Spotify, WIMP and Deezer, as well as BACH Technology’s MusicDNA. The playlist model, they said, could be used as a blueprint for other creative sectors – providing an easily-accessible window for outsiders to understand the Nordic market.
As a counterpoint to Tuesday’s discussions around social media, this was followed by a panel focussed on the validity of professional criticism in the digital age. Featuring writers Árni Matthiasson (Morgunblaðið), Robert Forster (co-founder of The Go-betweens and latterly music writer) and Paul Bridgewater from the UK music website The Line of Best Fit, the session was moderated by Shane Richmond.
“The newspapers as gatekeepers have exploded,” admitted Árni Matthiasson; while Paul Bridgewater added that the real change was that “…print writers have increasingly been cloistered from reality. Online you can track what people are worth in terms of their words.”
Robert Forster argued that the cultural critic is just as important as the political journalist. The overriding issue is how to pay for them, as the economic shift from physical to digital does not add up.
Following another lunch around Kristín María Sigþórsdóttir’s “virtual bonfire” (and some fine goulash soup), the afternoon’s focus was predominantly on visual art. This began with academic Ruth Leary from the University of Warwick (UK) who talked about the recent Happenstance Project which saw “creative technologists” placed in residence in art galleries, in a bid to change the way they operate.
Then Frosti Gnarr (Iceland) spoke about his Grotta Zine website and magazine (which has already accumulated over 100,000 online followers) and his ambitions to extend the brand into a TV channel and even a music site.
Acclaimed Icelandic visual artist Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir (Iceland) presented some of her work, and detailed the processes of her creative output, before US-based Dutch artist Rafaël Rozendaal gave an intriguing presentation about his fascination with animation and interaction.
A pioneer in the digital space, Rafaël creates works online that are then hosted on a domain name and sold to collectors. He also originated the BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) concept – a series of one-night exhibitions curated by different artists around the world. The idea behind this is simple: find a place, invite many artists, ask them to bring projectors. The speakers were then joined by Þóroddur Bjarnason of the Icelandic Art Center who moderated a discussion about digital technology in art.
Finally the conference was closed by co-producer Ragnheiður Gestsdóttir and the guests followed on to a free BYOB event, the first ever in Reykjavík at The Living Art Museum curated by herself and Curver Thoroddsen.