Tag Archives: news

Whether We'll Weather the Weather Well

I think the best way to go about this is to explain what my project is and then bend it explain how it fits into the framework of the course.  

For my project, I’m “writing” a short story in video.  Another way of writing this would be making a short film/voice collage, but I think the first makes more sense.  The narrative is set in a newsroom on a day when a mysterious fan letter to one of the co-anchors is found and the President is visiting the studio.  The story will be told from a single perspective, but will concern each member of the news team.  The video will be approximately 30 minutes long and use a mix of footage from an “actual” newscast and “actual” commercials.  The text that I write (the story) will be told via voice over and, ideally, by a variety of narrators.  I would also like to “direct” the readers of my text, correcting them and asking them to reread whenever I feel my intervention is warranted.  And, the story will only be told during commercial breaks.  The newscast portion of the video will retain its original audio content.  

Based on this synopsis, my primary interests, as relating to course topics are collaboration, ownership, interactivity and control.  

The collaborative aspects of my project can be found in a few places.  The characters in the story are more-or-less equal in importance, in the eyes of the action of the story; though there is a single narrator, each character seeks to “solve” the mystery of the letter that destabilizes their environment.  The newscast, in general, is also a collaborative effort: team members present individual stories or segments of the “news” and present stories with their team members.  An unseen team of writers, contributing reporters, camera and microphone and TelePrompTer operators, directors and producers work together to create a final product.  Television is a type of collaboration between content producers and advertisers.  The video project composition is a collage, which implies an artist/creator/organizer-driven collaboration of media and artifacts into a single body.   By using multiple readers to tell the story, I’m also seeking to establish a feeling of collaboration in the production and delivery of the narrative.

What of collaboration then?  I’m interesting in exposing the collaborative process, hence the obvious merging of newscast footage with original voiceover during commercial breaks.  The correcting of readers is another attempt at revelation.  I want to reveal (and portray) the newscast as collaborative, as I see the breaking of the artifice of objectivity and of a single, unified message as an act of resistance.  Seeing the news as a collaboration of individuals will hopefully encourage a wide range of non-writing/producing/telling, which I see as a manifestation of the activist spirit and healthy for democracy, discourse and empathic connections between a constantly shifting community.  This utopia is in the mode of Benkler. If the seams of the quilt become visible, the thought goes, the world is recognized as artificial – and therefore able to be constantly recreated in a manner dictated by the desires and needs of individuals.  

Bordando el Manto Terrestre, Remedios Varo [source for images]

In an a/v collage, the question of ownership of the material is inherent.  I am appropriating a newscast and assembling commercials I find interesting or to have a particular relevance to my message and place them into my own context.  With the production of the news by a group of individuals for a network with shareholders and paid advertisers, the question of ownership is likely surprisingly simple – the network owns the product, per contractual language: CopyRight.  Yet, this collaborative work and its process seems to be akin to much of the GNU GPL, LGPL, or OSL programming work.  Is the key difference the profitability of the news, as dictated by advertising revenue?  If so, how does this principle effect the understanding, viewing and bias of the for-profit media?  Does the co-option of an “actual” newscast into a work of fiction destabilize any claims to objectivity through a similar path? 

The myth of true interactivity in games, applications and websites [and the seeming frequent mention of the failures of virtual spaces and networks to allow absolute freedom] is something that has continuously intrigued me throughout many conversations and texts this semester. Whether in relation to interfaces or aesthetic, it seems that digital culture often reinforces the limits of the analog world: physical barriers, aesthetic choices and, for new users especially, the utility of programs and tools intended and sold to make life more efficient.  And these barriers (accessibility) and aesthetic homogenizations (Facebook and similar social networking sites) can be seen as methods of control – they are limits to what is capable, so long as a user does not have a mastery over code, as almost all users do not.  This homogenization is especially apparent to me in the converging relationship between commercial and informative content.  Commercials are often creations of entertainment, mini-narratives that are more product placement than product pitch – cool by association.  Some examples that come to mind are BMW commercials name The Hire [2] directed by Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, David Fincher, Wong Kar-Wai, John Woo, Tony Scott, Inarritu, Alejandro Gonzalez, Joe Carnahan and John Frankenheimer or the current series of Diet Mountain Dew Fact commercials [3] [4].

On the other side of the equation, programming is become more video-bite-sized with the rise and fall and sustained presence of reality television and entertainment news programming, such as E!’s The Daily Ten or, the ultimate example, VH1’s Best Week Ever.  The snippet-sized content flows into commercials almost seamlessly; in the latter example, the repetitive looping nature of the original piece of entertainment culture/celebutant “news” is surrounded, prefaced and followed by an endless loop of commentary from people defined by their occupation as comedians, actors and “television personalities” [isn’t everyone on television a television personality? another loop].  The show advertises what is coming up next several times in a segment, presenting a constant state of anticipation to the next “big” story feature – a rhetorical strategy typically employed as a segue to commercials.  Instead of commercials, however, VH1 gives the viewer more commercial-sized commentary on entertainment news.  I am left unsure of what I am watching is commercial or show.  It seems that everything is a preview for something that never arrives.  [Waiting for Heidi Montag?]  Vertiginous, schizophrenic and surreal are three adjectives that come to mind. 

[Can’t embed video from vh1.com and it appears that Viacom doesn’t like to allow users to post the video they own onto sites not owned by Viacom – and subject to their profitability.  This will get you to the available library of the show, if you’re interested.  Unfortunately, the episodes from 2004 aren’t available, which are the original experiments in editing-on-amphetamines while wearing sound-killing earmuffs.]

In my video project, I am choosing to use video to exhibit the limiting, passive nature of this visual and auditory digital medium.  The viewer clicks play and watches.  In particular, the limited use of voiceover during the commercial breaks forces the viewer to wait through the filler to get to the content – if they choose to continue watching, of course.  Ideally, I’d like to frame the video through a web page to further challenge notions of interactivity via applications and networks.  [This may depend on file size and resolution.]  The telling of the narrative during the commercial breaks is a furthering of m perception of the ambiguity between content and commercial – the content of this fiction takes place exclusively during the commercial.  The interference of the writer with the multiple narrators is another form of control, as well as a representation of interaction between writer and reader – a representation that is an artificial interaction.