Video Transitions: The Changing Nature of Participatory Video
I recently finished 12 months in the field with my research informants: amateur video producing activists, television fans and public access television makers. I spent that time observing and filming how they went about making their videos, and how they distributed them online. I attended political demonstrations in London, fan conventions in Chicago, and visited public access television stations in northern California, observing how their videos were made, and helping out in some cases. I also followed their videos around the internet, from YouTube to blip, Vimeo, Facebook, Livejournal, WordPress, MiroCommunity and a dozen other online places, both public and private, mapping the producers’ distribution strategies and analysing audiences’ social interaction around the videos.
I found that their reasons for going online were varied, and depended on how they saw the online environment in relation to their overall objectives as video makers. Taking the public access producers as an example, while being able to reach a potential audience beyond their local cable television network area was a common reason given for going online, many other reasons and interests emerged during my research. Some of them were very tied to domestic concerns, such as reaching local people who did not have a cable television subscription, or creating an accessible video archive of the local community for that community. The archival aspect of the online environment was also emphasised in the context of creating an education resource for local schools, and as a place to direct the people that the producers engaged with offline to view their videos (e.g. a producer as a guest on a radio talk show directing listeners). Others went online as a way of directly or indirectly marketing their professional activity. While some believed that being online was expected by their local community, others resisted the idea to go online because of the effort involved, or in order to preserve a potential future professional career as film-makers.
I also found that instead of social interactions around videos being the major internet-related activity, the dominant theme during the interviews and conversations conducted was the producers’ engagement in an on-going process of enlisting, arranging and rearranging a wide variety of technologies and people (mostly known through offline relationships) with the aim to achieve different goals related to distributing their videos. I am now in the process of analysing these processes using theoretical frameworks from Gilles Deleuze, Bruno Latour and others, and developing a website to document these findings through text, photo and video material.