Geert Lovink on Fri, 16 Mar 2007 06:24:17 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime-ann> Video Vortex: Responses to YouTube (event & discussion list)

Video Vortex Conference: November 30 and December 1 2007, Amsterdam (NL)
Organized by the Institute of Network Cultures

First announcement, March 15, 2007

List info:

In response to the increasing potential for video to become a significant form of personal media on the Internet, this conference examines the key issues that are emerging around the independent production and distribution of online video content. What are artists and activists responses to the popularity of ‘user-generated content’ websites? Is corporate backlash eminent?

After years of talk about digital conversions and crossmedia platforms we are now witnessing the merger of the Internet and television at a pace that no one predicted. For the baby boom generation, that currently forms the film and television establishment, the media organisations and conglomerates, this unfolds as a complete nightmare. Not only because of copyright issues but increasingly due to the shift of audience to vlogging and video-sharing websites as part of the development of a broader participatory culture.

The opening night will feature live acts, performances and lectures under the banner of video slamming. We will trace the history from short film to one-minute videos to the first experiments with streaming media and online video, along with exploring the way VJs and media artists are accessing and using online archives.

The Video Vortex conference aims to contextualize these latest developments through presenting continuities and discontinuities in the artistic, activist and mainstream perspective of the last few decades. Unlike the way online video presents itself as the latest and greatest, there are long threads to be woven into the history of visual art, cinema and documentary production. The rise of the database as the dominant form of storing and accessing cultural artifacts has a rich tradition that still needs to be explored. The conference aims to raise the following questions:

- How are people utilising the potential to independently produce and distribute independent video content on the Internet?
- What are the alternatives to the proprietary standards currently being developed?
- What are the commercial objectives that mass media is imposing on user-generated content and video-sharing databases?
- What is the underlying economics of online video in the age of unlimited uploads?
- How autonomous are vloggers within the broader domain of mass media?
- How are cinema, television and video art being affected by the development of a ubiquitous online video practice?
- What type of aesthetic and narrative issues does the database pose for online video practice?

Conference themes:

Viral Video critique
Vlogging Critique
Participatory Culture, Participatory Video
Real World Tools and Technologies
Theory & History of the Database
Narrative and the Cinematic
Database Taxonomy and Navigation
Internet Video: Art, Activism, and Public Media
Evening Programme / Exhibition

Viral Video critique

YouTube made 2006 the year of Internet video. The video content produced bottom-up, with an emphasis on participation, sharing and community networking. But inevitably like Flickr being consumed by Yahoo, Google purchased YouTube. What is the future for the production and distribution of independent online video content? How can a participatory culture achieve a certain degree of autonomy and diversity outside mass media? What other motives does Google have for Internet video in terms of searching and advertising? After the purchase of YouTube, Google was asked to remove a number of clips that breached copyright laws. What comparisons can be made between the Napster incident with audio and video-sharing websites?

Vlogging Critique

This section will deal with vlogging criticism. Is video blogging a form of text-based blogging with other means? How can we develop a form of criticism, and a critical practice, that is not derogative and yet surpasses the anecdotal diary level? Is vlogging the next stage of ego boosting of the blogger, who wants to raise his or her ranking status? What is a video diary and how can this emerging genre be shaped? Can there be sophistication in ‘vlogging’? How can we overcome the evangelical that stresses the possibilities of gadget features? And how can we overcome the amateurish aesthetics of this new genre?

Participatory Culture, Participatory Video

The Web 2.0 holds the promise to create a participatory culture that can renew the stagnated democracies in the West. In this utopian approach, the user has the historical task to overcome the old regime of top down broadcast media and create decentralised dialogues. To what extent can user-generated video content be energized by presenting the material as citizen journalism? Is the increased user participation really a sign of a new political culture or is it a mere special effect of technological change?

Real World Tools and Technologies

In this session we will investigate the progress that open source and free software initiatives have made in regard to the development of the codex and the player that can compete with the proprietary standards such as Microsoft Media Player. It is not enough to critique the corporate takeover of MySpace and YouTube and upload alternative content. Increasingly the intention of programmers shifts towards Peer2Peer solutions in order to create a truly distributed network in which content can freely float around without having to use centralised servers. In this session we will present projects such as;

Theory & History of the Database

Searching databases has become a dominant cultural practice. Instead of flipping through a radio and TV guide, the cinema programme or the library, we browse the Internet. In this session we would like to go back in time and investigate the history of the computer database. What are the ideological underpinnings of ‘taxonomy’? What do we search when we perform a search? Should the aim be to overcome the fragmented experience of our contemporary database culture and create overriding meaning structures that deepen our understanding without having to compromise on content diversity?

Narrative and the Cinematic

Do these fragmented video databases lead to new narratives and genres? Does a database like YouTube evoke a skill such as continuous partial attention, or a contemporary disease like the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Against the medicalization, scholars have put the ability of users to reassemble short stories into larger new narratives as a reassuring alternative that replaces old media skills. The bricollage is assembled by the end-user, not the producer. Is there a new cinematic experience?

Database Taxonomy and Navigation

How do artists relate to the possibility of building large video databases? Is YouTube the future of video art? Traditionally, artists have always worked with found footage but nowadays it has never been easier to access. The remix culture, online video tools and increased server space make it possible to create large databases in which complex interconnected content can be offered to the viewer. What is the underlining information architecture? How does one navigate Steven Spielberg’s video archive of the holocaust survivors? Or take the Dropping Knowledge project in which 110 experts answered 100 questions of the audience, which can be accessed as a database. The same can be said of large museum collections.

Internet Video: Art, Activism, and Public Media

From 16mm film and video to the Internet and back, activists have always used the moving image to produce critical and innovative work. For many, the experimentation with visual language and critical content has been one and the same. In this session we will explore early examples of Internet video and investigate how artists and social movements have responded to the YouTube challenge. Is it better to integrate your message into large existing platforms or should we rather let a thousand blossoms bloom and each have our own video server? Online video databases like YouTube seemingly are the ideal artist portfolio online, with unlimited uploads and a massive audience. MySpace is inhabited by bands and musicians, but why don’t video artists and filmmakers occupy YouTube? If we look at the videos on YouTube, what aesthetics do we find? Is there a homogenous style that only builds on eyewitness tv and candid camera formats? And now that music videos and commercials increasingly resemble video art, can we define how exactly artistic practices influence the look of online footage? What would it mean to take YouTube Art serious? Is YouTube a medium and platform in itself for art works or is it merely used as a promotional device? Many have used YouTube to produce diary-type performances in which they either played themselves or pretended to be some character. What status do we give to such ego documents? Is YouTube used by artists as a tool to intervene in social and political issues? In this session we will present projects such as:

Evening Programme / Exhibition

Video Slamming
“Short, user-created videos are creating a new kind of watching experience, one more about ‘snacking’ than half-hour sitcoms.” (The Economist)

Much like poetry slamming the use of short video fragments has become a dominant mode in visual culture. Where are the video files found and how are they used and played with? Is ‘video slamming’ the new way of watching audiovisual files? This session is all about the new ways of watching, using, and playing with moving images: scratching, sampling, mixing, but also (meta) tagging, recommending etc. This session will feature performances, live acts and lectures.

Video Vortex Discussion List:

With this discussion list we like to gather responses to the rise of YouTube and similar online video databases. What does YouTube tell us about the state of art in visual culture? Is YouTube the corporate media structure of the 21st century? What are the artist responses to YouTube aesthetics?

General information about the mailing list is at:

To post to this list, send your email to: videovortex(at)

This list is meant for all those interested in the topic, and will possibly continue after the event in late 2007.

Practical info:

November 30 and December 1, 2007.

PostCS 11, PostCS building
Oosterdokskade 3-5
1011 AD Amsterdam
T: 020 - 62 55 999

Organized by
Institute of Network Cultures, HvA Interactive Media, Amsterdam

Editorial team
Geert Lovink, Sabine Niederer, Shirley Niemans

Affiliated researchers
Seth Keen, Vera Tollmann

Shirley Niemans

For further information, please contact
Shirley Niemans, shirley(at)
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