Recap of Building a European Cultural Backbone - Labs and conference

In late may 2022, we organized a week-long gathering together with our friends from the Cultural Broadcasting Archive in Linz, Austria.


The meeting circled around our shared endevour to build open-source tools for the exchange of community media. In the first days, we had a variety of talks and workshops. We were especially involved in two parts:

  • Designing a data model for community media. We've gathered quite a few technical experiences in the past years, and realized that for things to become practical, we really need to take the time to develop a common data model that can represent the variety of content from community media. This includes shows and episodes from community radio station and podcasts, but also event recordings and other formats.
  • Designing replication protocols. For the past two years, we've been developing Sonar, a peer to peer database built on Hypercore protocol. These experiences provided the basis for an introduction into self-authenticating data structures and replication protocol. After additional presentations on ActivityPub and Matrix we had a few longer sessions on how these protocols differ, how they could be combined and how to move forward with a replication toolset for community media.
  • Providing a rich search and discovery experience. In the past year, we developed Open Audio Search, a tool to automatically create transcripts from audio or video assets and make them full-text searchable. Sonar also prominently features a search engine replicated over a peer-to-peer network. With these experiences and another presentation on self hosted search engines we discussed the requirements and state of things for community media search and discovery.

After these labs days, a two-day conference followed that was focused on the wider ecosystem and had many participants from different spectrums of community media producers. Finally, we discussed the potential of joining forces to develop and launch a project for a larger federated platform/network for community and civil society media in Europe.

The week was very dense (a bit too much so) but we had a great time and it was wonderful to finally meet many of the people we've been working with for the past year. Due to Covid, this was not possible before. We're very much looking forward for follow-up meetings and continuing the path towards grassroots technology for community media exchange.