Video Essay Models

I’m going to cheat a little bit and post two examples. But they’re both fairly short (and you don’t have to watch them in their entirety to get the point). More importantly, they both show the power of video essays in very different ways. Here’s the first one:

As you’ll see in the info section, this video was created by a college student for a class project. And while this video is certainly not perfect (I find the choice of soundtrack to be absolutely awful), I do think it interestingly shows how a digital medium (YouTube) can be used to explore itself.

The videographer used YouTube to create his driving question (why do people use youtube?), to collect data (through sending out a survey request), to compile that data (through creating the video itself), and to present the final project (through hosting the video on youtube). It seems to me that this multi-layered use of a single medium is something that is distinctly digital. That is, it is something that really could not be accomplished in other mediums.

And that’s what I find most interesting about the possibilities of digital writing—not only does it allow us to transform “traditional” texts into something else, but it opens up whole new areas of research and production that were heretofore unavailable.

The second video is something I just came across on Facebook earlier today (and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you have seen it already as well). Here it is:

While this video is different from the one we watched above in many ways—perhaps most obviously in its production quality—it is similar in that it is using digital mediums to make an argument that would otherwise not be possible (or at least not nearly as effective).

This video not only relies on the visual footage itself to make much of its argument—both through the people walking past their relatives and through their later reactions to watching themselves—but it seems to me that it is also relying on social media in order to spread its message. Through creating a short, relatable video with a clear message, this video just begs to be shared with others (which, according to my Facebook page, it is accomplishing).

Taken together, these two videos all show the possibilities for collaboration that come through digital mediums. Both of these videos use interviews as their primary source of content—yet they are also both edited to reflect the overarching argument of the videographer. It seems to me that this type of interweaving of different voices is one that is not fully possible in static print texts, and it is one that I find to be very successful in crafting an argument.


3 thoughts on “Video Essay Models”

  1. Heather,

    I really like your choice of videos here. And yes, the second video has definitely popped up on my fb newsfeed a few times over the past week.

    I’m also especially interested in your point about the reliance on footage to make the argument, especially as it relates to the participants “later reactions to watching themselves.” The producers choose not to have their families walk in, or bring them back outside to show them their family, or ask them a leading question, or simply tell them. Instead, they let the video speak for itself without any contextualizing. There’s something really powerful in that moment where the laptop becomes a mirror – that perhaps speaks to how youtube goes beyond boredom or escapism, but can become reflective, and (more than reflective) purposeful and motivating.

  2. Heather,

    I’m actually annoyed by the second video, because it feels to me like a set-up. But the first one is pretty amazing in its own, rough way—since it enacts collaboration, connection, as it talks about it. Which leads me to two speculative hypotheses about writing in a digital age:

    1) Digital writing emphasizes the social nature of writing. Even if the final text is ascribed to a particular author, it usually clearly draws upon and features other voices.

    2) And here I echo Caitlin: Digital writing seems somehow to encourage meta-reflection—e.g., a video on YouTube about people using YouTube. I suppose this could be criticized as navel-gazing, but I like it.


  3. Heather
    I like the first video much better than the second one, although the second video sounds more professional. I agree with Dr. Harris that it feels like a set-up. I think this video is imposing an argument on the audience by creating a fake sentimental context. It’s natural if people cannot recognize their friends or relatives in disguise, that’s the goal of a disguise indeed. Moreover, how comes that these people accept to sit in front of the camera before knowing the reason of their being interviewed? This video goes viral by targeting instant emotions.
    But I find the first video argumentative enough as it tries to get close to the complicated nature of You Tube and You Tube people by selecting its samples from them. It’s providing us with facts, data and diverse personal approaches without imposing any final judgments.

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