• What Paris Knows – on video blogging and the like

    by  • February 2, 2009 • Everything Else, Personal • 0 Comments

    So I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few months about video production – about production values, and about the simple fact that the world is turning into one great big networked camera with 5.8 billion lenses and one archive. In this environment, I think we need some new ways of thinking about media. Or, rather, some old ways simplified. (warning: situationism)

    In the beginning, a looooong time ago, there was no media and no representation of things. There was just life and events within it. Then art began, and representation of what was far away by imitation, and some time after that by making things which resembled forms or symbolized ideas. Then came the age of recording devices, when an aspect of a thing could be captured and stored for later replay. At times people produce artificially perfect situations to record or transmit: we call this media and it includes TV, film and more.

    As the recording and transmitting devices multiplied, so did our access to what is far away in time and space. What comes from this is a new kind of awareness about how we represent ourselves.

    The Produced and the Pervasive

    What Paris Hilton knows is that the world is one big camera, a stage set. Life is lived in full makeup and costume.

    The Akvo.org video strategy that I’ve been working on is basically about mapping how Akvo will use two kinds of film: home movies, and media. The home movies will be shot by all kinds of people – project partners, Akvo staff, volunteers, villagers – just about anybody who is on the scene with a camera. Although we’ll strive to make the best home movies possible, these films are reportage of what was there, of what went on. They’re of interest to people who wish they were with you at the time, but otherwise any artistry that happens is incidental.

    The media we hope to produce is different: professional documentary film-makers hired to really get strong detail on tape about things that matter. It’s fully conventional media to the degree required to get professional results that will serve all kinds of people for years, all over the world.

    What’s interesting is this category I don’t have a name for, the “Produced Pervasive” category. It’s people who are always on camera, at least in their own minds. I don’t know how this is going to play out in society in general in the future, but it’s clearly something we find fascinating and loathsome.

    Ten or twenty years from now I think that more or less everything will be recorded and documented as a matter of course. It will take actual effort to create an event which is actually off the record, and feed synthesis devices will scrape together high quality coverage from a myriad of poor quality streams, resulting in a synthetic studio environment. In that place, we’re all actors and actresses.

    In a lot of ways, we have to take a stand for both privacy and openness. The goal of video documentation for Akvo is to prove certain facts for reporting, like “the well was dug here,” and to support various kinds of interpersonal communication. But we cannot deny that videogenic stars may come out of that process – entrepreneurs who really embody people’s optimism about the future – and that financial resources are going to flow to these people disproportionately.

    At some level, the best we can do is model responsibility in our own communications culture: to be real, not to over-produce our own films, to show up as we are on camera and tell the truth. My Blip.TV channel has a fair few films that seek to embody those aesthetics.

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    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


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