re:assemblies

Video as an artifact always has been assembled. Now at this critical stage of digital video culture, it gets reassembled on a new level: between new affordances, attention shifts and the threat of over-regulation and customization, a.k.a. ‘walling’ and ‘gardening’.

An assemblage always has been a cultural form, itself consisting of other assemblages. Online video vortices such as Youtube, in this perspective, are assemblages of assemblages. On the infrastructural axis, we have databases, softwares, hardwares, screens, interfaces, protocols and server farms. In the users sphere, components are videos, titles, comments, tags, hyperlinks, lists and channels. Looking at the production level, one finds assemblages of cameras, video producers, filmed objects, frames, uploaders, users and audiences. Last, but not least, economic components like capital, money flows, corporations, employees, advertisers, property rights, eyeballs and statistics again create assemblages.

Youtube as one such agglutination is changing along with cultural formations of video as Google itself is strongly working on its reconfigurations. Powerful Asian alternatives, such as Tudou and Youku in China, or Nico Nico Douga in Japan, have developed significantly different properties according to local cultural settings and needs. More alternatives are constantly added, within, alongside or beyond Youtube, by corporations and entrepreneurs, just as much as by artists, hactivists and the users around the world.

VideoVortex #9 proposes that now is a time to re-engage with a ‘structural’ analysis of online-video culture. By calling for this re-engagement with structural questions and an analysis of ‘assemblages’, we point to the often loose forms of influence between components and processes each not fully determined by the other. Using this lens we do not aim to confine the analysis to particular theory brands (such as STS/ANT, Post-Marxist or Deleuzian approaches), we rather want to open up structural questions and to suggest a certain slicing.
Object-oriented approaches are as welcome as relational ones, critics as well as theorists and practitioners.

So how can we analyze and compare assemblages of online video? What new constellations are to be found around the video frame, be it on a social, aesthetical or technical level? How can we describe and understand recent shifts, such as commissioned channels on Youtube or the advent of amateur video in the news sphere? Do specific interfaces privilege specific forms of content and practices? Users, for example, encounter video hosting services in an assemblage with conventional television, torrents or blogs, what does this mean? What happens, if we extend the focus of the analysis to the integration into Google or Facebook, or narrow it down, to a particular assemblage of one video and its comments?

To ask such questions means to look and think beyond YouTube. YouTube itself overhauls its interface and syntax of use, with deeper integration into the Google-Verse, and a shift from user-generated to channel-commissioned content. New software, such as easy to use HTML5-based frameworks, open up new possibilities. At the same time ‘TV has overflowed its boundaries’ (FlowTV). The building block of the network-TV-era morphs further into lists, channels, apps and what-have-you, driven by recommendation engines and personalized profiles. Big players, such as Apple, Google, NetFlix, Hulu, Amazon and Samsung, aim to define the future of a medium once known as television, still unsure whether it knocks at the window from inside the computer, the old living-room-screen, or from within any other gadget nesting in our hands and attention spaces.

Fact is, TV-Networks are still struggling with their online-strategies, partly rolling out their content, trying to keep control of TV-tradition. At the same time Internet-giants are trying to translate ‚2.0’-culture into immediate domination of the field of online-video, while open-source initiatives or micro-social DIY cultures experiment within pre-existing frames of distribution or their own infrastructures. Often this content is re-floating to the surface of the global news sphere, most notably in larger political events such as the Arab Spring, showing the new dependances between networked media content and the social spaces of what was once regarded as ‘the public’.

Also video assemblages across media-spheres and in time – video-biographies – need our attention: Egyptian or Syrian protestors are seen on CNN or Al Jazeera, set-top boxes stream Democracy Now along Fox-News, and videos get re-embedded and re-annotated in teaching platforms such as Sophie, Scalar and MediaThread, or in sub-curated diaries such as Facebook Timelines.

What could new methodologies and epistemologies for the unfolding video-grammars in the global videodrome look like?
Without limiting Video Vortex #9 to the mentioned approaches and perspectives, we particularly encourage papers, presentations and workshops that look at

  1. assemblages of different videos, graphics and texts, be it in material or with a view to new environments of authoring or curation. Such an approach re-poses the question of interactive multi- and hypermedia in the age of html-5, Popcorn, Apps and the likes.
  2. assemblages of content, interfaces and infrastructures, as done in platforms, with their changing forms and logics of circulation, thereby scrutinizing the profiles of media-‘flows’, ‘liveness’, ‘channels’, ‘archives’, ‘lists’, and, addressing the current nature of visual experience, affection and attention, producing ‘dissolving originals’ and new forms of mash-ups.
  3. socio-cultural assemblages of producers, owners, curators and ‘audiences’. New forms of managing and staging video production, attempts to re-organize systems of retribution or questioning the conditions and social realities of video- and TV-production are of interest here. Issues of copyright, the re-organization of (‘imaginary’) capital or the ‘migration of images’ will evoke questions. The overarching question might be: To what extent technology, standards and protocols (and their symbolisms) are taking over the role of what has been ascribed to ‘culture’?
  4. assemblages contributing to ruptures and revolutions: Indeed “the whole world is watching” the (televisual) world being entangled in different real or so-called ‘revolutions’: social upheavals are transmitted via video, the system of the broadcast-era itself is being questioned and entangled in new ways, the question what it means to be an ‘observer’ (individually, socially or scientifically), a ‘participant’ or a ‘witness’ (going back to the Rodney King event) is projected on our screen, as we realize the ‘terminal identity’ we are all drawn into. Questions of relevance, media positioning and ‘real virtuality’ are urging themselves upon us.

And of course we particularly welcome analysis which crosses and combines the levels outlined above – as their separation is itself owed to a heuristic assemblage, which can be done in this way, or otherwise.