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Posts Tagged ‘youtube’

The anticipated image

August 28, 2012 Comments off

An Al Jazeera English news clip from August 27th, 2012 bearing the headline Syria military helicopter crashes in Damascus reports on the claims of Free Syrian Army shooting down the helicopter. The standard narrative which includes both the rebels and the official sides of the story is heard over images of a burning rotorcraft spiraling down the sky. A text bar that appears on the upper left corner of the footage reads “YOUTUBE.COM/ACTIVIST VIDEO,” i.e. Al Jazeera’s correspondents have not produces the videos. The 1:26 minute clip is a collage of ten indigenous videos shot by civilians or activists and uploaded on youtube. The crash is captured from all sides and angles; long shots from a far, from underneath, a shot from the building right behind which it crashed, long shots of smoke rising over the neighborhood. A collection of footage that is close to the dream of any news broadcast corporation a few years ago as such thorough visual coverage of an event would require ten cameramen on stand-by in ten different locations in the city, a financially and logistically impossible task especially in combat conditions.

Syria military helicopter crashes in Damascus, Al Jazeera, still frame from http://www.aljazeera.com

But this all-encompassing coverage of the event by civilian cameras is not particularly new, and especially not in Syria where the documentation of the conflict was from the outset an integral part of the protest-turned-civil-war. But following the stream of Syrian videos online, one of the recent recurring tropes was videos of aircrafts flying in the sky, usually to document the use of overhead shelling of cities by the regime forces. The videos, as discussed before, were for the most part isolated images of helicopters or airplanes flying against the blue sky, and it was only the supporting Arabic voice over that contextualized them within the Syrian conflict and were contingent upon their placement within the larger online archive of the conflict. But the videos signified a shift in attention, an expansion of vision or rather the dimension of the war, which now included the sky. In addition to documentation of the events and evidence on the ground, the videographers now pointed their cameras to flying objects in the sky in anticipation. The direction of the camera lenses preceded the event and captured the imminent falling of the aircraft before being shot down by the FSA artillery.

Syria military helicopter crashes in Damascus, Al Jazeera, still frame from http://www.aljazeera.com

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Looking through the window

June 8, 2012 Comments off

There is a genre of videos coming out of Syria that could be called “looking through the window” video, where people pull the curtains and record what is happening right outside of their window. There have been similar videos from other recent uprisings, showing the treatment of the protestors by the police in quiet streets and alleyways etc. In Syria, tanks are roaming through the streets, massacres are happening right across the sidewalk. In the tradition of news reportage, most of these videos provide a voice over that aims to contextualize the image. In Areeha | Idlib | FSA Destroys Regime Tank, a recent post on SyrianDaysOfRage’s youtube channel we can see the explosion of a tank captured on the camera of a citizen reporter. First we see the street through the window, a tank enters the frame from the right side and is hit by a missile. It immediately catches fire and accelerates, while the civilian reporter stops the narration and repeatedly chants allahu akbar.

Areeha | Idlib | FSA Destroys Regime Tank, youtube stil frame

The tank goes behind a tree and explodes right outside of the window, over-exposes, pixelates and wipes out the image briefly at the moment of explosion. Shattered pieces of the tank scatter over the rooftops, and fall right outside the window, the camera [man] is moved by the shockwaves and the video ends with the image of red drapes at the corner of the window, while the man still chants allahu akbar. This is one of the most dramatic and intense videos of this kind, showing a city turned into a war zone. This form of newscast, unmediated by the figure of the reporter in front of the camera, with his/her back to the event, has become an accepted format in journalism. Now there is nothing between the journalist and the event, and all Syrian buildings and interiors have become news headquarters, and all civilians war correspondences. Syrian windows have become screens opening to a theatre of destruction.

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Shifting locations

May 22, 2012 Comments off

The image on the internet is an image of the internet. Its provenance does not lose its relevance, but it is re-rendered after it is encoded into HTML.  Thus the image is subject to the modes of application, taxonomy, access and classification on the internet. As such the series of interfaces, and the lines of encryption that assign its location are part and parcel of its modes of signification. Each of these processes further “inform” the image in Flusserian terms.

youtube in the room, Constant Dullaart, youtube still frame

Artist Constant Dullaart, for instance, investigates how these digital vernaculars affect human gestures e.g. in becoming a DVD player’s screen saver in Joshua Tree, California; or how what was known as video, is now filtered through an online interface e.g. youtube in the room, where the youtube play button stands between the room and the camera. In this piece, it also prompts to certain objectivity of the interface as the sign is printed on transparency and held in front of the camera, and thus at times a reflection makes the filtering layer visible. It is a play button that does not operate in a click. This however does not imply a mere reduction of discourse to medium specificity, rather, it is a shifting location of experience that is significant. While for instance the urban and landscape experience was for the most part a horizontal one (with the exception of post WW I reconnaissance), now it is a combination of a vertical and a horizontal form of navigation. Thus the image of the city, has changed as it is encountered through navigation interfaces and maps. This shift of location of experience is highlighted in many of contemporary commercials, online and on television, where the product is advertised through a series of actions performed by the protagonist on a gadget, mostly a device that takes photos, a touchscreen browser, or a combination of both. Needless to say that these are not advertisement of the mediatory device. Thus an experience that is not worthy of mediation is discarded and unworthy of being advertised.

Premier League – Last moments – My Reaction. Manchester City win Title. United Fan. CJB, youtube still frame

As explained in the title, the youtube video Premier League – Last moments – My Reaction. Manchester City win Title. United Fan. CJB, shows a man’s reaction to the final minutes of Champion’s league final game. In the video we see a man watching soccer, in his living room, sometimes talking to his girlfriend (who we do not see), while we also see that two laptop computers logged onto Facebook on two coffee tables. Here, a feeling (of loss in this case) is experienced through its online representation, without which is not worth feeling. The video though, is hardly unique, there were too many reactions to the final minutes of the game online that talkSPORTmagazine has created an online compilation of them. Nevertheless, although these emotions were not experienced offline, they are hardly unique to each individual.

Single image of two

May 21, 2012 Comments off

On Monday, May 21, 2012, a bomber blew himself in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, killing more than 90 people and leaving 222 injured, says Yemen’s defense ministry, according to the BBC.

On youtube, there is a one minute video with the title 21/05/12 – Yemen Suicide Bomb Kills At Least 96 Soldiers. The video, does not show footage of the bombing or the security, paramedic or media responses to the event. It does not show images of blood-covered dead bodies on the asphalt, burning cars, crying witnesses, frantic policemen. Rather, following a Corona Light commercial, it is a silent, still image of a bomb going off in what appears to be a village on the edge of the desert. Half through the video, the image disappears and a text takes its place over a black screen: at least 40 soldiers have been killed in Yemen following a terrorist bombing. The discrepancy between the image and the title, might be due to the difference between the total casualties and the military casualties, leaving a total of 50 civilian deaths. What is significant about this video, is not the information that it is sharing, but rather the way that it is relaying this information. It recalls conceptual art strategies of media displacements, using one medium to address the other, here a photograph as video, a text as a still image and video. A picture of a bombing, here becomes a symbol for bombing, no matter what is the source and the context of the image. One image of explosion, the video suggests, can be used to visualize other explosions. Curiously, through google image search, it appears to be that the image of the explosion used in the video, is in fact not from Yemen. Rather, its related to the use of cluster bombs in Afghanistan by US forces, and among other articles, it accompanies a BBC report on developments towards a new treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs in combat. A treaty that “[t]he US has rejected …, saying the weapons have a place in its arsenal,” according to the BBC, adding that “The charity Handicap International estimates that 98% of those killed and injured by the weapons are non-combatants,” while “27 percent are children,” according to New York Times. While the predator and the victims differ, a single image of explosion encompasses the horror of modern warfare. The video also shows how photograph transfigures from an image to symbol.

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tagged image

May 12, 2012 Comments off

There is no lack of literature on images’ contingency on the representational context, how their meaning could alter according to accompanying text, placement, frame, order of appearance, etc. A recent example of an image’s shift of meaning is Mona Eltahawy’s recent publicity stunt on Foreign Policy, where the image of beating of an Egyptian woman by the military forces, (known as the Blue Bra Girl) was used to illustrate how men in the Middle East hate women. However, this image/text relationship has entered a new phase in web 2.0.

While previously images’ meaning altered or was affected by their positioning in the media and how they were contextualized, now they can be permanently tied to a set of words, according to both the text that accompanies them, but also, (and more importantly) to tag words. These tags could direct images to particular directions and define them within certain political and ideological landscapes. While for instance on the one hand the Blue Bra Girl is was tied to the Egyptian Revolution, on the other hand now has also has ties with that particular article, its writer and also its publisher. The same stands for other indigenous journalist’s videos , whose tag words more often than not are already hijacked by political and/or commercial forces on the web. Legends of metal music are a click away from The Syrian Days Of Rage youtube channel.

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May 12, 2012 Comments off

Racine’s Phaedra must die not because the flame of her incestuous love for her stepson burns so black, as she complains, but rather because after two hours the smoky candles in the Paris theaters had burned out.

In Optical Media, Kittler notes how the unavailability of durable light sources effected literary compositions, and as such dramas by Corneille or Racine, for instance, never exceeded 3,000 alexandrines. The lack of stage lighting technologies caused the early death of characters or their expedited their fall from grace. He also mentions how technologies similar to those used in theater were also used to summon apparitions and the eventual suicide of tricksters after their tricks were exposed. The ghosts and the protagonists’ lifespan was tied to the available technologies of perception. A similar imposed technological restraint is the ten minute maximum video time on youtube, due to bandwith limits.

annoying orange squash nylan cat

While these restrictions are now for the most part uplifted (the limit was raised to fifteen and now to unlimited for privileged users, the new fifteen minute restriction is more due to copyright rules), but the limits shaped the world of online video and set a standard that most outlets have taken, even though that technically they  no longer face those limitations. Thus, the Annoying Orange for instance, will seldom exceed even five minutes, and neither do most other web series. The ten minute limit set the tone for the duration of video files on youtube, just like the wax candles in the theaters set the limits of dramas.

Child taping what remains of his house

May 8, 2012 Comments off

In the youtube video Child taping what remains of his house, we see a boy filming a pile of rubble which used to be a house. It is of course difficult to confirm if the house belongs to the child and his family, but nevertheless, that is what the title suggests. The man who is filming the child first approaches him as a news reporter approaches a subject of interview in a war zone, and as he gets closer he apparently asks: can you tell me what you see? Which also could be read as “can you tell me what you are filming?” The child responds to the question and other questions posed by the man. Both of them are clearly acting a scenario and the footage also implies a spoof on official/traditional television reportage (they even laugh at some point to a joke that the child makes).

Child taping what remains of his house, youtube still frame

The same video a few years ago would show the child in front of the rubble talking to the camera, now both the child and the other camera are filming. The child delegates the task of experiencing the destruction of his house to the camera, similar to a tourist in front of an ancient a ruin. He does not want to be the represented, but rather the one who represents. Here, in the words of Adorno, one can witness the triumph of representation over what is represented. Not unlike the journalist, the child is also interested in dissecting the site of destruction with a camera, to describe what he can see and highlight the economy of access, but this time to his own rubble. Friedrich Kittler mentions a 1902 German Reich law that gave every man and woman the “right to one’s own image,” here the camera gives the child the right to his own rubble. This gives rise to a new figure of victim, one that is detached from his own destruction by a digital camera. A victim who removes himself from the ruin and whose “rejection of experience can provisionally embody a legitimate defense,” in words of Agamben. A generation that grew up looking at monitors from the point of view of first-person shooter games can now experience its own habitat as the game zone.