• davis logo
    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

Visual Ethnography of Amateur Video Makers

This website is the audio-visual component of my doctoral thesis that investigated amateur video producers' use of the Internet as a video distribution technology. My thesis focussed on categories of amateur video producers who had established video distribution practices before the advent of the Internet, and investigated why this technology was adopted by them and how it was used. My approach offers a different perspective on this technology from those that begin with YouTube or the Internet as their point of departure.

My research is based on an ethnographic study of three groups of amateur video makers, and involved engaging with them online and offline continually over a period of 12-months from mid-2011 to mid-2012. I produced a written ethnography of each of the three groups in my thesis, and analysed my findings within a new materialist framework that was based on elements of Manuel DeLanda's reading of Deleuze and Guatarri's assemblage theory, and elements of Actor-Network Theory. This website comprises a visual ethnography of the three groups, and complements the written ethnography in my thesis, which is available here, and is best used in conjunction with it. However, this website functions as a standalone visual representation of my informants, and can be used without reference to any other documents as the visual and interactive elements are embedded within brief extracts from the written ethnography reworked to put those elements in a meaningful context, although the overall academic context, analytical framework and conclusions of my work will not be apparent without it being used alongside the full written component of the thesis.

The three groups of amateur video producers I researched are described on the remainder of this page:

California Community Media Exchange

Public access television had its genesis in the US in the early 1970s.  Public access channels broadcast non-commercial programming produced by local residents over their city’s or county's cable television network.  These channels are typically broadcast from television stations that also broadcast local education and government channels, and some also have a low-powered FM radio station associated with them.

CACMX logoThe CACMX logo

The California Community Media Exchange is an association of seven such stations in the greater bay area of northern California. My research focussed primarily on the public access activities of two stations from this association, Davis Media Access (DMA) and the Community Media Center of Marin (CMCM), along with a selection of their associated producers. A visual ethnography of the online distribution activities of some of those producers are presented here: Antonio Sausys and his programme YogiViews; Frankie J. Woods and his Frank DoggTV productions; and Deborah Whitman and her Environmental Voices project.



The VividCon fan group  

This group did not have a name, but constellated around the annual VividCon fan convention in Chicago and the LiveJournal online journal website.  The group started to take on the form that I found it in at the beginning of the 2000s: the migration of the group’s members to LiveJournal from other Internet technologies such as email mailing lists was already fully underway by 2001, and VividCon was founded in 2002.  Some of my informants from this group were pioneers of fan video making, active from the mid-1970s, while others had only become involved during the Internet era. 

VividCon logo

The VividCon logo

The videos they made were typically montages of scenes from different episodes of a particular television series, and occasionally from films, created to rework that material in some way, with the original sound track replaced by a music track chosen to support the theme of the reworking. Their specific reasons for reworking the source material varied, although they all centred on using music video montages as a medium to actively engage with a television series or film, and share that engagement with others. For example, as my informants Obsessive24 put it:

... my goal in making the videos is for others to see what I see in the source … especially in terms of subtext and drawing out things about peripheral characters that aren’t in your face in the source.

I discuss here the producers' reasons and methods of adopting the Internet as a video distribution technology, looking in particular at how and why they used the specific technologies they did. I also examine how they and their audiences used these technologies to interact with each other around these videos. I also examine all these aspects of their Internet use from the perspective of one of my informants, Luminosity.


VisionOntv began development in 2008 as the online video project of the activist group Undercurrents.  In 2009 it was incorporated as a separate limited company, jointly owned by Undercurrents, the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, and the two visionOntv founders Hamish Campbell, who was also a member of Undercurrents, and Richard Hering, a former BBC television investigative journalist. Hamish and Richard were later joined by Marc Barto from France, and these three constituted the core members of visionOntv during the period of my fieldwork, and they were assisted in their activities by various volunteers.

visionOntv logo

The visionOntv logo

VisionOntv’s stated purpose was to promote social change through the Internet using video, and I describe the different methods they used to do that here. One such method involved running training workshops, and I develop a case study of one such workshop and its aftermath here.