Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A (Very Short and Early) Theory of Web Video

Having worked on several videos for various blogs recently- my work has got me thinking about web video and content-- specifically: context and content.

I am going to attempt to keep this as short as I am able- but here's my general theory on making video for the web:

If the piece that you are making will live on a site with strong informational or aesthetic point of view--and not simply on youtube or in a black and gray video player-- web video should not focus on providing too much context. It is merely part of a larger whole of the site-- which includes the text above it, the photos beside it, the design behind it and, ultimately the comments below it. It becomes a piece of a larger puzzle- a piece that you need to experience in concert with everything else on the page to appreciate it.

A complication arises when the video gets embedded, or removed from the above mentioned context. But I don't believe that this encourages more contextualization in-video.

Embedding does in fact strip the video from its original context-- and it would thus seem that the video would loose it's informational and/or aesthetic value. However-- my experience with embedding is that there is always new commentary attached to the embed, because the impulse of the embed is to re-appropriate.

Often, bloggers "appropriate" things from other sites that they feel embodies the aestheic of their own space. So- when they embed a video from another site-- even though they may be stripping the video of its original content design by removing it from its page-- they are re-contextualizing it so that it becomes part of their own expression, thus gaining a new meaning and aesthetic value on their own site. The video gains new value and also new meaning-- and thus it is, again, important not to include too much "proprietary" information in the video itself. [Here- by "proprietary" -- I mean overt pieces of information or expressions-- things that will prevent a re-contextualization because they are too personal or convey too much of a sense of ownership].

Blogging is about a dual interest in personal expression and community expression. I know that I started blogging because I wanted to both express my own views on design, art, food and culture, but also because there appeared to be a strong dialogue between the community of bloggers that I read.  Embedding, borrowing photos, and other re-contextualization become a key part of that dialogue because it mutates and evolves the content itself according to the personalities of the bloggers involved.

I suppose, my frustration here is that photos and links have evolved the blogging space so that they are always a part of a whole-- see, for example-- The City Sage and how she re-appropriates and curates photos with her text into a post that is an aesthetically complete self-expression using borrowed content (expressed particularly well in "Palette Lust: Thunderstorms").

Because people are so used to watching video in a stand alone context-- they are not trained or simply refuse to see video in such a fashion-- as part of the whole. There is an expectation for it to feel like mini-television. But, hopefully, as more video appears in innovative and interesting contexts, the expectations and reception for pure web video as I describe above will become more adaptable.

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