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New Media, the Left and online video: opportunity knocks.

By Dave Riley

After a few years exploring podcasting and enriching my audio skills above zero, I've taken to video.

While I still do a bit of audio recording and publishing online there is simply no doubt that video is the thing. YouTube-ing has kicked in to such a degree that a new international language has been created that transcends many pother web platforms.

That doesn't mean that YouTube is it but that YouTube is a the best example of how much video has permeated our everyday web presence.

While it has been a standard argument that blogging was the new political discourse, it's success has in effect only really displaced a lot of what used to be carried in the print media. On the left what y used to be editorialising has simply now been encased in a blog post.

We may be better off in that the traffic numbers can be exciting -- the left has lost that opportunity to engage people face to face in two way dialogue. Despite all the egroups and comments threads there's very little in these online tools that fosters commitment and the taking of responsibility. It's all very nebulous.

I may blog but I recognise its limitations and when I'm given a soapbox will argue that what we should also be concentrating on is those online tools that facilitate organising rather than just chit chatting.

Most people cannot understand this potential option.

To my mind there's a real dialectical challenge on offer webside that is not registering. To this to register we'd need to transcend a lot of the formats we are currently relying on and mix them up very aggressively in a sort of multi- tiered engagement protocol.

However, there's one web feature that is a tad different: online video. My experience of shooting and editing, then publishing online video, convinces me that we have a new tool at our disposal in the similar way that the socialist parties in the 2oth century embraced and exploited the weekly hard copy newspaper.

I'm still a proponent of hard copy and weekly newspapers. Video, on the other hand, is a whole new ballgame.

Audio published on the web suffers from the fact that the ongoing thread of radio culture has been irretrievably broken. Podcasting and web audio programming is hardly "New Media" at all. It is simply another way to listen to radio. This shows in the way web audio is produced and formatted. Episodes replicate radio style and approach.

The packaging is constrained by the forms that have been sustained by radio for almost a hundred years. While many progressive community radio stations exist in Australia -- with 3CR being the very best example of politicised airways -- battles to achieve this presence were mainly won in the seventies and eighties.

In comparison video production in Australia has in the past settled into offline activity with various exponents -- such as Art Resistance and Ska TV -- securing a niche via local community television stations.

However online is something else again. Rather than relying on collectives and a lot of hardware your internet TV options can be very low tech indeed -- even one very small mini-DV video camcorder and some good editing software. Uploading and publishing is free and video editing is easier to master than editing audio.

And anyone can do it! Even with a digital camera or a mobile phone!

And people will watch your efforts in their hundreds at least.Video is the preferred medium, the one that people will relate to and respect and share.

While there is indeed a lot of political video available on the web in way of advocacy -- documentaries, vox pops, montages. etc -- it is still a very open and flexible tool as the syntax has not been established. The world is your oyster.

I doubt that there is any one way to video anything for web publishing. The medium is so creative you can bend it every which way.

Audio may still be the preferred means to share a lecture or many interviews -- but video can be so easily manipulated to focus your argument or the discoveries of your journalistic inquiry. This is indeed another language because the tool, the hardware, speaks its own speech.

If you don't shoot video with politics in mind you probably can't understand my argument. Despite my skills and creativity with audio, when I took up video production a whole new and larger audience was open to me. This audience wasn't just on YouTube or on BlipTV or on my blogs and podcasts -- but my video files were being handed around and shared as though they didn't have a use by date.

Maybe I can edit well. Maybe I have skills that make the end product more useful and a tad more appealing. But what I'm finding is that any video segment has its worth and all you have to do is squeeze as much content out of it in the shortest segment of time: why say in 10 seconds what you can summarize in three?

And the more people practice it the more of the medium will be available for online deployment. The irony is that you can take better shots with a video camera than with a digital one. While any form of photojournalism is innately useful and can only supply a limited narrative , if you move to slide showing your images you are in effect moving toward video mode anyway.

But if you simply shoot and publish video without consideration for editing the product and making it as succinct as you can, then your output will only sink in the YouTube soup and be no more interesting than the crudest of online offerings. So there is a question of standards -- of skilling up, of seriousness and application. It doesn't have to be pro level stuff. In effect the challenge is the very same as publishing the left press -- edit, edit, edit : until your vid is parred down to essentials and runs no more than 10 minutes and preferably less than five.

But hey! the left's penchant for didacticism and detail can be a real handicap. Nonetheless, that's' the core message that I see the left not learning. If you are going to offer Comrade X speaking at a lectern for 65 minutes in a video of 7 parts... don't bother. Record and publish it as audio. Who wants to sit and watch a person talking -- and only talking -- and pay good web access dollars for the privilege?

The medium can indeed be the message so it has to be horses for courses.

The matter and motion of an Eisenstein montage drilled with a fascination for counterpoint is a magical political journey.

1 Com:

Louise | March 17, 2009

Good article
Neil

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