Constructing a video essay: my fully-realized experiment rationale

For my fully-realized experiment, I am choosing to rework my origin piece, an autobiographical essay that examines my social media profiles, into a video essay. My decision to work on a visual essay came down to my interest in the rhetorical and structural elements of video essays, which I believe will make for an effective transposition of my origin piece’s content. To be more specific, I am interested in video essay’s composite of audio and video modalities as well as time-based structure. Both of these features would be complementary to the linear and evocative nature of my origin piece.

In considering an audience for this experiment, I would describe my target individual as young, technologically-savvy, and intellectually curious. This individual views a platform like YouTube not as a mindless pastime, but as a gateway to informational and cultural content which can be engaged with critically. For my piece, I hope to encourage a more reflective approach to social media use by drawing attention to the implications of content persistence on social profiles, as well as user interventions to counteract this feature. My origin piece attempted to bring this out through a critical reflection on my decision to delete hundreds of old posts in an order to override the “automatic” construction of my Facebook profile, which I thought was no longer an accurate representation of myself.

While my piece presented itself as a personal narrative, it also takes on a critical lens to general social phenomena within the information age. The piece was originally motivated by my interest in general concerns over privacy and self-image in social-information contexts. I believe the implications of content persistence is important to discuss as more and more data from our lives are integrated into these incomprehensibly vast information networks. As I rework the content of my piece for video essay, I may also try probing further into notions of privacy, data ownership, and “the right to be forgotten.”

In my proposal, genre analysis, and reflection papers, I discussed three characteristic qualities of video essay which include, a condensed presentation of information, subjective argumentation, and continuous narration. I argued that these elements would allow me to strike a difficult balance between contradictory experiences:

between the visceral and contemplative,
the critical and aspirational, and
the personal and universal.

I also explained that I could create a more compelling piece by reworking the original text into a format and style that would be better suited for a video essay. I had hoped that I could develop a script that would allow me to toggle between general or universal sentiments concerning social media and my own particular perspective based on my personal experience.

To execute this experiment, I will first complete a planning and preparation stage which would involve, writing a script, drafting a storyboard, gathering visual materials (e.g., footage and images), and acquiring access to a microphone for recording and software for video editing. I would then need to actually record the narration as well as create, film, or appropriate images and footage for the video. My editing process would involve recursively moving from feedback reception to revision. By the end of this process, I may consider publishing the project on either YouTube or Vimeo.

A day in the life: James Bridle

I’ve chosen to focus this post on the writer, artist, and technologist James Bridle. New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future is the title of Bridle’s 2018 book which presents a largely pessimistic account of the technology and data that structure our society. Bridle’s work is interesting to me because of its critical lens on issues such as surveillance, drone warfare, and the refugee crisis. A large section of his writing is published on his personal website and blog, but Bridle has also written for publications such as The GuardianWired Magazine, and The Atlantic. Bridle also publishes on the online platform Medium, which is where I first encountered his writing through a fascinating post uncovering the YouTube algorithms that necessitate exploitation.

Bridle’s perspective and research seems to stem from critical and media theory. He also draws from his practice and occupancy in the art world where he focuses on new/emerging media formats. His book, New Dark Age, regularly cites scholarly pieces as well news articles and blog posts. This book was published by Verso Books which is known for its publication of works that comprise of critical theory / leftist / marxist perspectives. I suspect Bridle’s completion of his first book and entry into this larger publishing house in 2018 represented a significant step forward in his writing career. To get to this point, Bridle likely spent years developing his reputation as a writer with a focus on establishing expertise on socio-technical concepts. Bridle may have leveraged his blog and personal site to develop his abilities and generate a portfolio of pieces which would then allow him entry into smaller and then larger publications. I suspect that today, Bridle is regularly contacted for submissions based on the ideas he has become known for in his more recent writing. Bridle also might be proposing pieces of writing for the smaller publications he writes for on a more regular basis. To my knowledge, Bridle is not a staff writer for any publication. 

As an artist and writer, Bridle may have a diversified set of revenue sources. I suspect he is commissioned for most if not all of his art and writing pieces. Bridle is also likely gathering income from book sales and speaking engagements. 

Introduction to the minor

Hi everyone. My name’s Sam, I’m a junior at the School of Information studying user experience design (among other things). The usual order of labels I assign to myself in an introduction is as follows—designer, student, writer, and (sometimes) technologist. If I had to describe my interests in one sentence this is that sentence: I am interested in the intersection(s) between technology, culture, and society. 

Although I enjoy the process of writing, I find that I am often hampered by my inner critic. I’m hoping this program will help me break out of some of the counterproductive behaviors associated with self-criticism while allowing me to retain and even sharpen the helpful elements of my inner critic. I became interested in the Writing minor as I learned more about the program’s multimodal and experimental emphasis. I thought it would be interesting to develop my writing ability in the context of projects that also make use of other skills I have such as graphic design and coding. I also thought the minor could be helpful if it provided a framework for receiving feedback in combination with a structure for developing a consistent writing practice. 

All in all, my brief experience with the writing minor has been phenomenal. I am thrilled that we are able to take a more self-directed approach to our writing. I think this type of autonomy and creative freedom will help bring out a higher level of commitment and effort to my work.

The origin piece I have decided to work with is actually the piece I used in my application for the program. The text was originally constructed as a “self-portrait” wiki page that was accessible to the students and instructors for SI 410: Ethics and Information Technology. I thought this piece was interesting because it allowed me to reflect on my own self-image and relate it to the image of myself portrayed on social media. My piece focused on the implications of persistence on our Facebook timelines. These timelines have become a (semi-)public display of our lives, visualized chronologically in the Facebook timeline. The conclusion of my piece reflected on the act of self-censoring my own Facebook profile and irreversibly deleting hundreds of old posts and comments since they no longer conformed to my current self-image.

I thought the piece would be a good origin piece because the content was interesting to me and it generated a lot of interest from others. I think there are a lot of people who are grappling with the psycho-social implications of social media in our everyday lives, and I think we as a society are still trying to understand all of the effects associated with the self-generated data, broader audiences, and persistent “self-portraits” associated with social media. I would be interested in transforming my piece’s text into a more sensuous form, making use of my interest and abilities in layout design and typography