• Davis Media Access's offices
  • A video on Luminosity's YouTube channel
  • A visionOntv training template
  • An edit suite at Davis Media Access
  • A video on AbsoluteDestiny's YouTube channel
  • The visionOntv platform's menu
  • telex
    Davis Media Access's studio control room
  • Laura announcing a video on LiveJournal
  • visionOntv's YouTube channel
  • mixing board
    A mixing board in Davis Media Access's control room
  • Obsessive24 announcing a video on LiveJournal
  • One of visionOntv's Twitter feeds
  • Davis on air
    The entrance to Davis Media Access's studio
  • Laura recommending a video on her Dreamwidth journal
  • visionOntv's Facebook page
  • marin control
    Community Media Center of Marin's studio contol room
  • Here's Luck's website
  • visionOntv's Blip channel
  • mural
    Davis Media Access office's wall mural
  • Here's Luck announcing a video on tumblr
  • Merseyside Street Reporters Network's Facebook page
  • MarinWindow
    The Community Media Center of Marin's offices
  • AbsoluteDestiny announcing a video on Dreamwidth
  • Merseyside Street Reporters Network wiki page on the visionOntv platform
  • Davis camera
    A studio camera at Davis Media Access
  • Luminosity's video "Vogue"
  • Sara Newton's YouTube channel
  • Marin cameras wide
    Remote control studio cameras at the Community Media Center of Marin
  • researcher
    The reseacher (left) co-operating visionOntv's "pop-up studio" at OpenTech 2011

visionOntv

The three core members of visionOntv were Hamish Campbell, Richard Hering and Marc Barto (introduced here). VisionOntv’s purpose was to promote social change through the Internet using video. They did this through creating their own videos, distributing them and the videos of other activist on the Internet, and training others to produce and distribute their videos.

VisionOntv as video producer. Their videos varied considerably in length, format and complexity, although the emphasis was always on getting them online as soon as possible, so they were produced in such a way that they did not require any editing. The two main formats they used to achieve this were the "one shot news report" and the "pop-up studio" interview. The "one shot news report" was the shortest format video they made and was 30 seconds to one minute in duration.  These were made by one person, often just using the video camera on their phone, and were uploaded unedited to the Internet.

Hamish's "one shot news report" during the 2011 London riots

The "pop up studio" was used to record interviews, and could be configured in different ways. The simpler configurations used a single laptop running the Wirecast software program which mixed two video feeds, an audio feed and titling, as illustrated in the following video.

The simpler configurations of the"pop up" studio in action

The first part of the video shows Hamish (laptop) and Marc (microphone) using the system during the public sector workers’ strike on June 30, 2011in London (the full interview they produced can be seen here). The second part shows Richard (laptop) and two volunteers operating the"pop up studio" to interview Marc Wadsworth at the Rebellious Media Conference in London in 2011 (the full interview can be seen here).

The more complex configuration was for traditional interview settings, and used an additional laptop feeding cutaways into the Wirecast laptop, and two camcorders to provide different shots of the interview. Here is an example of volunteers using this set up, supervised by Hamish and Richard, to interview John Pilger, also at the Rebellious Media Conference (the full interview can be seen here).

The more complex configuration of the"pop up" studio

Due to the complexity of the set-up, and the reliance on old, damaged and make-shift equipment, this version of the "pop-up studio" was prone to the technical problems observed here.

VisionOntv as video distributor. They distributed their own and other people's activist videos on the Internet through the visionOntv online video platform. This was the central element of their venture, and the primary place they directed people to view their videos.  It was a large and complex website built on the Liferay content management system.

visionOntv platform page

A screenshot of the visionOntv platform (click to enlarge)

 

The main feature of the website was the various video “channels” it contained, which were both promoted on the home page and available from the website’s menu. VisionOntv did not host the videos themselves, but uploaded them to YouTube, Blip and many other hosting services, and linked them through to their platform.  

Richard explained that their videos appealed to a niche audience, and that being as many places as possible was the best way to reach them as different hosting sites attracted different audiences.  For instance, he believed that Blip attracted a “more cultivated audience” than YouTube. He also pointed out that if a video needed to be put up on the visionOntv site quickly, such as when they wanted to cover an event that was unfolding live, they would upload it to YouTube and link to it from there rather than Blip, as Blip could take between 6 and 12 hours to make a video available on its service.

They announced their videos by posting to Facebook and Twitter, and these posts would either link directly to the service the video was hosted on or to the visionOntv platform.

visionOntv Facebook

A screenshot of the visionOntv Facebook page (click to enlarge)

Hamish explained that the original plan for visionOntv was for it to be a video download service, rather than a streaming one: it was envisaged that people would download videos and organise screenings in their local area to show them. Due to a variety of technical and other reasons it became a streaming service instead, but a download service was still Hamish's ultimate ambition. Both he and Richard thought watching videos online was very "individualistic", although Richard acknowledged it was a way of reaching a larger audience than screenings could. On the other hand, Marc believed that screenings only attracted "lefty" people who were already in agreement with the message of the videos, and making them available on the Internet allowed visionOntv to reach a different audience entirely.

The visionOntv core members in fact had very little interaction with their audiences online, although the circumstances for this varied somewhat by platform. The visionOntv platform did not get any comments at all,  and Hamish and Marc said the reason for this was that the tools on the visionOntv site for audience interaction were too difficult to use.

They also had very few comments on the videos on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, although Richard said that their Twitter video posts did get retweeted sometimes.  With respect to the video hosting sites they used, with the exception of YouTube, there were almost no comments on these either. The YouTube channel attracted by far the most comments of any of the platforms they used.  However all three core members expressed little interest in the comments they got there.  Richard considered the comments as “low quality”, and described YouTube as a “ranters’ bin”, although he did answer factual question asked about the videos he was involved in making. Hamish described YouTube comments as "toxic".

YouTube comments on Wadsworth interview (click to enlarge)

Hamish explained that they did not in fact encourage people to comment on any of these “corporate sites”, but only posted on them to drive traffic to the visionOntv platform, because he believed that they were not conducive to fostering conversations that would eventually lead to social change.

VisionOntv as trainer. The final way they went about using online video to promote social change was by organising and running workshops to train people to make activist videos, showing them how to use the visionOntv platform to distribute these videos, and helping the participants organise into a self-sustaining online video activist group or “node” within the visionOntv network. I discuss this aspect of visionOntv through the case study of the Merseyside Street Reporters Network