Video Transitions: The Changing Nature of Participatory Video
Participatory film and video has a long history, dating back to just before the beginning of the twentieth century. Some of the different types of groups and individuals historically involved in this have now appropriated the Internet as a video distribution medium. My research is an ethnographic study of three such groups which seeks to understand the reasons, methods and consequences of this appropriation: public access television stations within the California Community Media Exchange; visionOntv, the online video project of the UK activist group Undercurrents; and a television fan video-makers’ group based primarily on LiveJournal. My ethnographies of these groups were informed by participating in and observing their activities over a twelve-month period, both online (e.g. making and reading LiveJournal postings and comments, participating in Facebook group interactions), and offline (e.g. participating in video production at demonstrations and conferences, attending fan conventions). These ethnographies present a complex and contested landscape where a variety of people and technologies are enlisted by the different groups to achieve their various goals related to video distribution, and where this enlistment is sometimes resisted or unsuccessful. Also, the ethnographies present the Internet as having multiple identities; in particular, it functions for these groups both as a tool, or cultural artefact, and as a place, or cultural space (as has been observed by Hine (2000), Markham (2004) and others). I will analyse the issues emerging from my ethnographies through two different, but related theoretical lenses: the concepts of assemblages, developed originally by Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, and actor networks, from Actor-Network Theory.