Punctured Vogs

Dan has made some excellent observations about vogs, with a bit of Barthes on the side. Amongst other things he writes:

I think of my vid blog as a box, a rummage bin, in which the visitor might find a memory, a taste, a trigger — something that pokes or caresses. Maybe a punctum (if you wanna get all shirty about it) but with all the studium scraped right out — that’s the hard frame I gave myself for this project, the palette I imposed. I create because I’m big time inspired by so many great people.

I think the idea of the punctum, in relation to blogs and vogs, is a fascinating suggestion. Punctum is Barthes’ term from his Camera Lucida, it refers (from memory) to that moment in a photograph where something is captured that calls outside of the sameness of the image. An exceptional moment, rendered all the more exceptional because the photograph has ‘snapped’ it in the everyday. The punctum is something that calls to you from the photograph, it is personal, intimate, quotidian and marked by the indexicality of the indifference of the device. (A bit like the distinction Deleuze draws between the ‘pose’ and ‘equidistant moments’ in Cinema One.) Vogs are about the punctum in this sense, the plainness of the everyday that enfolds the personal into the disinterest of the observational.

However, within that they are also somewhere about rarefying this aesthetically. That’s a grand way of saying that, like blogs as prose, there is an aesthetic endeavour in blogs which is not so much the punctum-as-universal but the attempt to show those moments or events that carry significance within the everyday. Vogs are microdocumentaries that aren’t about the exceptional – unless that is something you’ve found on the way to somewhere. They celebrate the quotidian simply because the time to observe, construct, and share has been made.

For example in the holiday vogs that I’ve been working on the images that I’ve selected are neither poses in the sense of privileged instants, nor are they ‘punctums’ in Barthes’ sense, but they show their collection of indifferent moments (a series of photographs snapped irregularly from the train with two minutes of people walking in the rain on the footpath) that are not indifferent simply because they form part of other narratives and other experiences. The point of vogs is not to go out and seek footage in the style of the ‘hunter’ documentarist, it is more like Ross McElwee in Sherman’s March. Just watch, assemble, and do.

Video Blogs, Vidblogs and Vogs.

On February 5th Mike Slone wrote in the comments here (you have to scroll)

What is the difference between a vog, a vidlog, a videoblog, and a vidblog? I see a lot of terminology thrown around with different meanings and I am curious if these are all the same thing or are there differences?

and Tim Hall replied with:

Mike–They’re identical; the difference is purely semantic. On the most literal level, “video blog” is a weblog that incorporates video content–whether one calls it vog vlog vidblog, etc. etc.

This is an interesting problem and I think it is probably similar to the discussions that go on about whether or not a blog is a journal, and if not why not. I don’t know if there is a difference, though in my own practice I currently think and insist that there is. I think a blog is more than regularly writing online. It is several things, including a Content Management System, it has links internal to the writing – so that a blog post can lead the reader outside of itself, and it is essayist in the older sense where (hopefully) informed opinion is evident.

Now for a me a video blog ought to pick these things up and do them too. So a video blog probably should have some links in it, that probably should go to other video blogs. You can already, rather easily, embed links in video, both at the level of a series of frames and more specifically as parts of a frame (so top left links to x, top right to y, and so on). In addition a genuine vog publishing system would allow all the CMS stuff for video. At the moment all video blogs are video inside text orientated CMS engines. But here’s a simple idea (more complex backend), you make a movie that has a sprite and a text track. The text track is there to show a number. The sprite reads an external XML file which simply indicates how many trackbacks that video has. Clicking the sprite loads a QT text track movie with the urls of the trackback sites, each of which is of course clickable. Now this is more or the less the same as Movable Type’s trackback feature, but it is fully realised in video. The trackbacks appear in the video, they are accessed in and by video, and so on. This sounds complicated but is largely what Movable Type already does via custom perl scripts, a database and http. Again, as I’ve argued here and elsewhere (pdf available) there is no technical reason why this can’t be done. It is simply that the paradigm for publishing isn’t there yet. Might never get there either.

This is sort of a trivial example, largely because it models itself only on the extant textual model afforded by contemporary blogs, but hopefully the idea is a bit clearer – a vog system should (and could) do this in video. Not in a text architecture with some video dropped in. So at the moment I probably argue that video blogs that are blogs with extra video are blogs with video as illustration. In the same way that I think it perfectly reasonable to say that a blog with a few photos in it is not a photoblog, it is an illustrated blog. The difference is significant.

Response on Flash

Jenny has picked up my comment about Flash and learning curves and provided a riposte. This is a regular sort of sparring sess

Quickie Across the Bows

The discussion that Tim and Mike have been having here is impressive, and unfortunately I’m a laggard at participating (largely because teaching starts in a fortnight and I’m running late as usual). But just a left-field-not-very-germane observation to toss into the ether.

A common criticism of those of us trying to ‘invent’ vogging as something a bit more than embedded video (in the same way that I’ve been arguing that blogging is more than a bit of text on a webpage – btw that’s where I’m completely in agreement with Mike about the significance and value of blogs as participatory) is that it seems a bit hard to do. Tim’s response was that it only took him about ten minutes to learn the basics, while someone like Beth Mazur worries about cost of access and that the intro tutorial (which reminds me, have to write the next part of that) was just way too much.

My point (as I eventually get to it) is pretty simple. It’s called Flash. These days its hard to find a university level design program that doesn’t teach something about Flash. Flash is non trivial to learn (I don’t care what anyone says) and to build compelling content in Flash you need design and coding skills. This hasn’t appeared to hinder a creative explosion around Flash which has basically allowed a community (a very large community) of graphic designers to become new media artists, interactive authors, or whatever it is we want to call creative Flash work. My point in regard to vogs is simply that QuickTime and something (sophisticated) like LiveStage Pro in the hands of people with audio and video skills (just like flash in the hands of those with computer and graphic skills) is already a powerful combination. If only these people knew, and didn’t think that they had to learn Flash in order to make interactive web based video and audio content.

Flash and its requirements (cost, expertise) were not constraints to adoption. I think the constraint with vogs is that the professional community who could or ought to be looking that way can’t see past Flash, or can’t see past or behind their existing professional competencies, what hermeneutics in another vein calls prejudice. That’s why I vog the way I do (now there’s a t-shirt), to paradigm can and should shift. Those who just want video albums, there’s acres of room for them, but blogs taught us to push the envelope. Now we need to push the frame.

Kids Ballet Vog

A quick build of a vog from some video material I’ve had hanging around since November, Ballet Class. It was shot at the kids last ballet class for the year, when parents were allowed in to watch. The content really only appeals to immediate friends and family, or perhaps those who enjoy the absent minded diligence that children display in these sorts of contexts. Some authority (the teacher), a specific set of tasks to perform, and the honest unencumbered effort of children doing their best.

The material consists of the edited video from the day (single chip domestic DV), intertitles that I have written, some photographs taken by my kids of what’s important to them (so the close up out of focus things are what Jasper photographed), with some photo’s I’ve taken of the kids over the last couple of years. This makes the work a sort of visual collage diary of 2002-2003.

Technically it is built the same as the recent holiday vogs. If you mouse into the video then there is a sprite track that will randomly select any of the images and lay that over the video. Since it completely obscures the video (which is still running), I’ve also added an action on the mouse click which restores the video track. (For those interested the sprite track is transparent to blue – so the intertitles are white text on a blue background – and to restore the video I just set the image index for the sprite to a completely blue png image.) The images are selected randomly, and makes no distinction between between my photographs, intertitles, or the photo’s taken by the kids.

The randomness of this I find interesting, it isn’t supposed to be narrative, I’m more interested in what others figure out the piece is about, or means. I think, particularly given some of the excellent questions that have been asked, my work is closer to poetry than prose (whereas I’d suggest Tim is closer to prose which is why his work has a much stronger narrative direction), they’re colour or tone poems rather than stories. However, I think a bit like blogs, some sense of ‘narrative’ is built over time through the different vogs – I think the seriality of blogging and vogging is important to the medium. This is what blogs owe to soap opera, and is probably what helps blogs be ‘understood’ (the literary community will insist that blogs come from an epistolary tradition, which is correct, however I’d argue that people are much more familiar with soap opera as a progressive narrative form than nineteenth century proto-novels), so rather than each vog being entire and closed, it is partial and its structure is built as much from the other vogs, as from its own specificities.

Materialities of Vogs (minor)

Eli in the long comments thread writes:

The network literacy of video blogging “assumes (requires, or teaches” social activities and interactions.

I think a lot of text bloggers would argue that the same happens with blogging. It is very much about communities forming in situ (again, to belabour the point, the environment is the network, they are networked communities). A common experience of most people who are active online, whether via chat, email lists, newsgroups, MUDs, MOOs, and so forth. I think Eli is suggesting that the camera in the world constitutes the ‘social activities and interactions’. I suspect this will become a feature of some genres of vogging, but I’m going to sleep on whether it is a required feature. Though, thinking quickly out aloud here, I could see how this would be one way to think about the extrinsic outward looking way in which a vog ought to engage with the world – in the same way that good blogs engage with a world outside of the individual blog.

However, when he earlier writes that:

The web (and the video blog) should be a byproduct of the work and ideas I am exploring in physical real world with my camera. Editing, encoding, posting, and titling are, to me, steps that need to be eliminated (skipped).

I disagree. I stand by the argument that blogs teach us how to make the network (as a quality) a material part of a writing-design practice. For all those reasons I wrote yesterday. The network, in terms of bandwidth, resolution, codecs and artefacts, lag, stuttering, interactivity, the computer screen (as a multiply collaged dynamic domestic space) are all crucial to determining what vogs will be. In the same way that because televisions live in domestic spaces, are viewed with the lights on, with lots of other simultaneous activities going on a particular form of televisual flow (thank you Raymond Williams ) has evolved. This is what I think of as the material practice of televisual narrative, and the televisual flow of the networked gui has major implications for vogs. It is not full screen full motion wannabeDVD, in the same way that a blog is not a novel.

First things first

Whew, 5 comments, perhaps the first swallow?

So, piecemeal over the next few days, I’ll pick the eyes out of everyone’s bits and pieces, starting with Tim’s:

Blogger technology has merely enabled a lot of HTML-challenged clatterboxes to spew their random unedited ‘feelings’ onto the page. For every “success” (Drudge and ‘the dress’ for example) there are 10,000,000,000,000 wasted man-word-hours.

Up to a point. Blogger technology also does the content management system stuff which is one of the things that shifts blogs so dramatically away from homepages with some linked other pages. The auto archiving, categories, permalinks (a word that didn’t exist until we blogged), trackbacks, etc are all important in blogging. I could probably build something that did some of that, using the skill sets I have, but it would be crude. To build what say MT does, no way, I can’t do that. So it’s an off the shelf content management system that is good enough to work, is robust for its intended use, and can be bent in quite interesting ways to do non blog sites too.

As a consequence anyone can blog. So there is a lot of bad blogs, though here ‘bad’ means poor writing rather than poor blogging. Poor blogging probably means a lack of links, blogroll, etc, something closer to a journal rather than a blog. Bad writing is bad writing. With vogs the same is happening, for me that’s the authority of a mass literacy. Mass literacy is not turning us all into Shakespeare, nor all of us enjoying reading Shakespeare, it is letting everyone write a shopping a list, a letter to their children, and reading the bus timetable. So with vogging.

This suggests that vogging is to networked video what the instamatic is to photography. There is art photography (and its many genres), there are sophisticated cameras (large format and so on), dark room techniques, and so forth. There is a professional and an amateur practice, which crosses over or through both of these. There are great amateur photographers, and there are great snapshots. In some ways the importance of the snapshot, and of course the consumer digital camera, is that anyone can do it. And we all do. The vast majority of these are dross. Most are only relevant to the photographer and their kin, some become (or are already) more than this. The issue isn’t the equipment (I’d have no respect for a ‘professional’ photographer who didn’t happily also use domestic cameras, indeed several I knew often experimented with the constraints of various low budget camera systems) but what is done with it. And as the history of photography shows, the snapshot had to evolve, there was a gradual movement from the pose (required for technical and cultural reasons) towards the ‘snap’. We have the video tools ready to hand, including (finally) editing. As Time observes, putting video on a web page is pretty straight forward. But why? How have blogs moved from vanity (if they have) writing to something else? How can vogs do this?

Why I Aren’t a Good Vogger

This morning coming in to work there had been a tram derailment (on my tram line, could’ve easily been the tram Anna or myself could have been on). Spectacular industrial images, police lights, ambulances, a large tram off the rails into a fence and a strip of parkland. Some injured people being attended to, news crews interviewing and investigators photographing the site. Walking towards it I got out my little Canon Ixus to grab some video or stills, but as I got closer and saw that there were hurt people I put the camera away. It just felt wrong to turn this into spectacle. I guess if no one was hurt, or if they’d already gone to hospital, I would not have felt like this. I did think about just photographing the tram, but just hanging around the accident to do that while it was still an accident scene felt the same.

What Blogs Teach Vogs

I’m currently sweating through an essay on blogs and vogs, partly prompted by Mike Slone’s comments and my realisa

It Has Begun

Via Tim Hall, Polywogg. The first step on the road to ubiquitious blogging – ease of capture, ease of authoring, ease of


Tim Hall has shifted some of the goal posts again. This is perhaps the first genuinely punning vog. Ever. A sense of humour I could take a shine too. Oh, that’s right, I’m an academic. What’s valuable here is that the combination of video, text, and of course knowledge about (computers, interfaces, the vernaculars of the digital) makes a concept evident. The concept lies in the intersection of all of these (where’s my copy of Freud on Jokes and the Unconscious?) as does the humour, but as a concept it reaches past each of these. It is one of the ways in which vogs make knowledge.

Games Conference, Peer Review.

It is with a bit of pride that I notice that the IT University of Copenhagen’s new Centre for Computer Games Research is holding a conference where:

The submitted papers that comply with the requirements stated above will go through a process of peer reviewing. Authors of accepted papers will be expected to perform one round of revisions based on the comments and suggestions of the reviewers.

Espen (and quite a few of the researchers at the game centre) established the DAC series, is the head of the centre and was impressed with how MelbourneDAC was structured academically. This also required authors to have to respond to the first round of peer reviewing. One of the ambitions of MelbourneDAC was to model how humanities (arts) conferences could work to improve the quality of work presented, simply by ensuring that written work was finished, reviewed, and responded to. So it is good to see that this has made its way to Denmark.