Now What?

October 8, 2007 - Poetics / Termite

A recent podcast interview with Adrian, gets me thinking about what he calls “minor video” or “minor cinema.” The value of the miniature in a networked world. The battle for attention, screen space, hits, ratings as modeled on youtube will, Adrian predicts, subside within six years. We are experiencing the growing pains of a new medium. The long tail hurts.

After the novelty of videoblogging, now what? What is networked video anyway? I had argued in the once active vlogtheory listserv that rss video was a good step in that it made watching, creating and conversing a somewhat unified process. But even the impressive Miro is still just a form of TV , because it separates the vlog text from the video and makes commenting on individual posts very difficult (especially when the video is served from a host like All we need is a permalink to the post on the creator’s website. This is the whole point, isn’t it?

I don’t look to net video to be informed, to be entertained, or to pass time. I don’t read blogs or books for entertainment either. Loaded in my rss reader are streams of thought-reports and thought-experiments that I find important to my daily life. The books stacked near my bed are half fiction, half non-fiction. I pick up what I need at the moment. What feeds my thoughts, what gets the blood flowing again. Movies (especiallly with my kids) still fall under entertainment. A kind of shutting down of thought. An immersion in cgi. But art films, like Lynch’s Inland Empire are increasingly like books for me. I dip into them, daydream inside them. I think this is what a minor cinema or literature seeks to do – to lead you to a place you have never been before. A clearing. A place to breath a different kind of air.

Take Sam Renseiw’s spacetwo : patalab. As video alone, there seems to be nothing special. But read what is attached to each post and look at the context of the project and you find a unique, electrifying “voice.” And there are many such voices (look under “Watching” to the right).

What distinguishes video in the deluge of images, is the contextual voice. Yes, the writer’s voice. Sometimes that voice can be brought into the video itself- I’m think of Liss’s pouringdown – and Jay’s Momentshowing where spoken or written text is a layer of the video post. I personally like to keep text and video separate but together: html and quicktime. Might the simplicity and elegance of dynamic html with linked video bring about a rebirth of hypertext fiction? A video blog that takes the writing as seriously as the video is well on the way.

Videoblogging is still show and tell, but it seems like the showing is increasingly being broken from its telling. The showing is what marks the individual moments of our own lives. But it is the telling that connects those moments to the larger ongoing Tale of us all. The Long Tale.

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  1. Dean says:


    We’re going to be putting a permalink right under the video (as it’s playing):

    We would love to show the comments right in the application, but haven’t found a reliable or standard way to do so. Many feeds aren’t even linked to blogs or commenting systems.

    If you have any ideas or input, I’d be interested to hear back.

    Dean Jasnen
    Outreach Director
    Participatory Culture Foundation

  2. jay dedman says:

    what a good post. You are correct that text is what puts the video in context. Not always, but its important, especially if we’re thinking of creating a huge “people’s history”.

    A video should be tied to a permalink with context. So when I find that page in 10 years, Ill know what it was all about. This is how we can avoid continuing the ephemeral video world that television has created.

  3. Rupert says:

    Great post.

    You’re absolutely right.

    Even the titles of posts are incredibly powerful in informing us and shaping our viewing.

    It allows us so much more freedom within our filmmaking to just make it without explanation and then channel the audience’s viewing as much or as little as we want with our titles and description.

    As for text within the video, I admire those who are articulate enough to write and speak this, and still leave room for the audience. Liss is a great writer, in addition to having an amazing voice (in both senses). But his videos without vocals or text are just as powerful – it’s amazing that it’s not something he depends on, it’s a tool he can use when he needs to.

    It’s funny, I’ve always thought of Jay (another of my favourites) as a primarily visual filmmaker, without text in his films doing any guiding or explaining. I’ll have to think about that again.

    As far as I’m concerned (my post yesterday, 8 Oct 07, is an appropriately mundane example) I find that I shoot and say one thing, and then find that when I come to write the accompanying text, I discover a whole new angle or meaning to what I’ve just filmed. Critical discovery for me, which perhaps can help other people understand what’s going on. What I filmed last night as I was going to bed wasn’t important – I just wanted to post about my ‘blockage’. Afterwards, I realised that I was breaking through the blockage, and that’s what I wrote about in my description, which is what people have responded to in the comments.

    Re: the best consumption methods, I subscribe to everything now by email via It might seem very web 0.9, but it’s a much better way of watching videoblogs, which make up 95+% of my subscriptions. I can’t hack readers and aggregators – this way feels much easier to deal with and much more connected with the creator than through another app or or web reader. You read the title and description – and then you click a permalink to go to the blog post to watch and comment (occasionally the video is embedded in the email).

    I also long for a richer networking of text and video, and networking within the individual frames of the video, so that contextual information and new journeys are possible, as a complement to the fairly static format of the click and play video being pasted into the middle of the click and read post. I’ve been studying the structures of hypertext fiction to understand how I can make it a reality for me. We’ll see what happens.

    Wow, what a ridiculously long comment.

  4. Will says:

    great to hear this about Miro, Dean. A vlog’s text in the same window would also be great! I know this all takes time.. and feedback. : )

    Rupert, thanks for the the link to RSSFWD. I subscribe to vlogs via email when i can. but this would be a great addition to my multiple readers. too many.