DECENT marks MEGATRENDS & MEDIA 2017 in Smolenice Castle!

May 12, 2017

One hundred and sixty participants gathered in the castle of Smolenice, former residence of the princes Palffy, to participate to MEGATRENDS & MEDIA 2017. The event is one of the Slovak mecca-type events where medias are concerned. This year’s program was divided in three : ‘Future of Media Technology’, ‘Future of Media Education’ and ‘Future of Media Influence’, each category with its set of speakers. The DECENT team, which participated to the ‘Future of Media Influence’ division was represented by Dr. Christian de Vartavan, our Head of Academic Relations, and Juraj Jurik, our graphic designer who for the occasion took the role of a reporting photographer. The very nice photographs in this article are his.

The event started at 9.00 AM on the 25th of April and finished the next day. The density of the program was such that if the opening morning plenary speeches took place in the main hall of the castle, the afternoon sessions were split between four other different locations: the red salon, the library, the hunting salon and the small round salon.

The opening plenary speeches of the conference were headed by the Dean of the Faculty of Mass Media Communication UCM in Trnava, Dana Petranova, and moderated by her husband Prof. Slavomir Magal as well as supported by various personalities of the Slovak academic world including the rector of the Comenius University in Bratislava. On this occasion prizes were distributed to various laureates, including the poet and editor of the wonderful Muuza book, Boris Brendza.

Mr. Boris Brendza, editor of the prize winning Muuza book and Dr. de Vartavan, Head of Academic Relations, DECENT.

The marking moment of this plenary speeches and indeed of the whole conference was the presence of Prof. Uemura, a legend to his country and to the world the creator of the Nintendo playstation and of Super Mario. Prof. Uemura, who travelled with his no less famous colleague Prof. Mitsuyuki Inaba from Kyoto’s prestigious Ritsumeikan University, came to give a talk entitled ‘A Japanese and video game’ but also to be awarded an honorary doctorate by university authorities. For such very rare occasion, also attended by Bratislava’s Japanese ambassador, twenty rectors, deans and vice-deans of the most prestigious universities of Bratislava but also of Czechia’s Charles University came and dressed in full academic gear. This was the opportunity for an official and very grand ceremony, accompanied by a choir, for the remittance of the doctor honoris causa diploma…in Latin, immediately followed by a speech by Prof. Uemura…in Japanese! Fortunately a translator for this latter language could make it, although no Roman was seen to help Prof. Uemura or the audience!

The rectors of Slovak and Czech universities getting ready for the Honorary Doctorate ceremony for Prof. Uemura.

Prof. Uemura in full honorary academic gear.

Prof. Masayuki Uemura, inventor of the Nintendo and Super Mario,  delivering his speech.

Thereafter participants rolled their sleeves and each went, where to give his talk or where to attend – when all did not meet on the sumptuous terrace of the castle when the sun, mostly present, permitted. An occasion to admire the sumptuous Carpathian forest and to socialize, exchange ideas and in some cases…perhaps more. It is during these intermedes that Dr. de Vartavan presented to many the activities of DECENT which is still very unknown among Slovak people.

Coffee break on the terrace of Smolenice Castle between sessions.

One of the striking moments was the round table to which the journalist Tibor Rostas, well known in Slovakia to be the controversial editor of the Zem a vek magazine, was invited following a petition to bar him from the conference in view of his views and various editos. In the name of the freedom of speech the organisers of the conference allowed him to expose his view and also face one of the students who had not only signed the petition but also had the courage to oppose him in front of various personalities. The round table made a buzz on the social medias and in a way further advertised the venue and its content. Among speakers who were very much noted, the communication of Thao Sadaba, vice-dean of the Spanish university of Pamplona, entitled ‘Smart Technologies or Smart Users? Youngsters and Technology’ was particularly remarkable as it embraced under a single roof and with great philosophical depth the subject.

As to Dr. de Vartavan, his speech was due on the morning of the 26th in the hunter salon – not the most comfortable of conference places incidentally. Despite a change of schedule made for practical reasons, several unexpected guests rallied the conference. Among them Prof. Margal and particularly Prof. Uemura, accompanied by Prof. Inaba honoured by their surprise and unexpected presence the speaker. The conference was delivered more or less within allotted time and thereafter, despite the overtime, questions and comments fused. Notably by Prof. Milos Mistrik of Slovak Academy of Sciences who wanted more precisions about how the DECENT platform could replace Academia.edu – a conversation which he and Dr. de Vartavan continued afterwards.

Dr. de Vartavan discussing the technical advantages of the DECENT platform with Prof. Milos Mistrik.

This was precisely one key aspect of the talk given by Dr. de Vartavan and entitled ‘Academia and Blockchain : Prospects and Potential’. Following introductory definitions of blockchain and academia, and the stress of how important security and trust is to DECENT, the conference compared the DECENT platform to the three main other social academic medias, namely Academia.edu, Researchgate and Mendeley. Two tables, made specially for the conference, compared for the first one seven key features of the medias, five of which are unique to DECENT, namely : ‘Non profit making, price tag set by creator, royalties reverted to creators, blockchain-ed securitisations of creations, bitcoin compliant, peer to peer selling through blockchain technology’.

The sixth key feature was content rating but one also shared by Academia.edu in view of their very criticized ‘Editor Program’ and one which initiated a scandal in the academic community as scholars who paid could see their work favoured and better rated. The second table, which like the first one will appear in an article to be published in the proceedings of the conference, lists all the technical features of each four platform. As Dr. de Vartavan pointed out the Mendeley platform, of all, is the more highly developed particularly in view of its citations and bibliography building modules – features which DECENT is due to receive in priority. But the DECENT platform, which already fares well, is young and shall see many a development in the coming weeks. Dr. de Vartavan ended his conference by citing Janneke Adema’s, of Coventry University, 2016 premonitory and very clairvoyant statements :

‘Building a more ethical publishing system based on a distributed commons with shared governance is something to strive for’

and

‘Let us therefore use our labour to support not-for-profit distributed and institutionally supported alternatives to Academia.edu and Researchgate’.

After the conference, Prof. Uemura, Prof. Inaba and Dr. de Vartavan discussed various technical aspect of the DECENT platform, Prof. Inaba coming with an important technical improvement which should invite Japanese students who cannot otherwise use Mendeley, to use the DECENT platform.

Prof. Inaba, Prof. Uemura and Dr. de Vartavan on the terrace of Smolenice Castle.

Participants departed from Smolenice Castle around noon during the 26th. Dr. de Vartavan had just returned to Bratislava when, to the surprise of our staff, a formal invitation came from the dean of the university of Trnava, Prof. Dana Petranova and her husband Prof. Magal, who holds himself several board positions in the same, for Dr. de Vartavan to return to Trnava and attend the private end of conference banquet to which Prof. Uemura was undoubtedly the guest of honour. Hence in the evening a sumptuous sixteen guests banquet took place in the Agatka Hotel. Were also present the aforementioned excellent speaker and vice dean of the university of Pamplona, Prof. Charo Sadaba, who later wrote to Dr. de Vartavan in a private email that she was happy to meet and would be happy to collaborate. Were also present Prof. Inaba and Prof. Alexander Fedorov, Honorary President of the Russian Association for Film and Media Education with his wife.

Hence in the dim light of candles and discussions, around a sumptuous four facing sides table, a printed menu detailed the remarkable French cuisine which four chefs had prepared to accompany the very fine local Slovak wines selected and of course presented, in English, by a sommelier. The dinner honoring at its very best the tradition of Slovak hospitality and no less French gastronomy as all guests returned the next day to their respective countries very impressed – Prof. Uemura foremost. As Dr. de Vartavan pointed out to Prof. Magal during the dinner the only guest of honour missing was undoubtedly the ambassador of France who would have been pleased to see his culture so well defended and perhaps…no less the red Eiffel tower printed on the menu. Next year perhaps as the venue of Smolenice Castle is organised annually. A future occasion for DECENT to be known and further mark its rising presence in the academic world.

Epilogue : Dr. de Vartavan to Prof. Uemura during the lunch immediately after the honorary doctorate ceremony : Prof. Uemura, next time you are given an honorary Ph.D, bring your phone and place it just between you and the dean who is offering you the diploma in Latin…BUT with the automatic Latin-Japanese translation app running, so that THIS TIME you MAY understand the 20 minutes long discourse which is told to you’:) ! Prof. Uemura (laughing). :YES ! This is absolutely right:) !