This type of video is often accompanied by a written text in which the motivation and analytical angle behind the video are disclosed. Although later works showed more theoretical promise, the rhetorical developments through which the audiovisual medium’s specific
While online videos that reflect analytically and critically on films are predominantly produced by critics, filmmakers and scholars, this is a form of expression that is available to anyone with access to video ripping and editing software. Though the amount of contributors is growing, most current output comes from a handful of ‘usual suspects’. As we will show later on (especially in Chapters II and III), the work of this selection of authors is arguably facilitated by the inception and rise of available multimedia extensions of film (or ‘
Considering this relatively new practice within the tradition of scholarly or academic communication, however, the
But, again, what makes a video essay academic? In the voice-over of his meta-video, Kevin B. Lee reaches out to our work and contrasts academic with the “more casual video essays that you typically see, the ones that capture attention and go viral [and are] short, smart, and addictively watchable” (at 1:33, and 2:04) [Figure 1].
Although the divide surely falls somewhere along these lines, it is not as simple as to define academic videos as less attractive or less prone to ‘virality’. Also, it goes without saying (although it is mentioned in Lee’s video [Figure 2]), that one does not need to be an educated and professional scholar in order to create ‘academic’ videos, nor is the production of ‘more casual’ videos reserved for those alternatively educated.
In his attempt to answer the question ‘What is digital scholarship?’, Martin Weller agrees:
Consequently, it seems that it is better to define ‘academic’ less as a question of affiliation, but more as a specific mode of communication – an approach we adopt and further
Traditionally wehave tended to think of scholars as being academics, usually employed by universities. (…) However, digital scholarship broadens this (…) somewhat [as] people become less defined by the institution to which they belong and more by the network and online identity they establish. Thus a well-respected digital scholar may well be someone who has no institutional affiliation. (Weller 2011, 4)
As for defining ‘academic scholarship’ as a specific mode of communication, Steven Pinker’s cheeky take – ‘Why Academics Stink at Writing’ – mentions a blend of two writing styles that characterizes such a format:
Although we acknowledge this discrepancy, even appreciating Pinker’s irony, we do not think that bad (‘self-conscious, relativistic, ironic, or postmodern’) academic writing should define academic writing as such. It is better if we focus on practical style and envision academic writing as a trade-off between the imprecise plain language, which is often low on cohesion and high on fluency, and the potentially obscuring ‘traditional’ academic style, which is, in turn, commonly high on cohesion and low on expressive clarity and fluency.
The first is a practical style, in which the writer’s goal is to satisfy the reader’s need for a particular kind of information, and the form of the communication falls into a fixed template, such as the five-paragraph student essay or the standardized structure of a scientific article. The second is a style that [Francis-Noël] Thomas and [Mark] Turner call self-conscious, relativistic, ironic, or
postmodern, in which ‘the writer’s chief, if unstated, concern is to escape being convicted of philosophical naïveté about his own enterprise. (Pinker 2015)
However, one must not forget that academic style is generally targeted at a critical audience that is informed at a certain degree of knowledge. This is not an elitist remark, but a reinstated acknowledgement of a professional niche market at which academic works should be aimed. Outweighing the academic context’s professional audience and thereby dominating the
In order to strengthen Pinker’s ‘practical style’, define and perhaps even improve that ‘fixed template’, and, ultimately, maintain certain standardized communicative principles aiming at an informed audience in our socially mediated digital era, we need manuals – something like an updated version of the ones such as Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell’s seminal The Wadsworth Handbook, which could offer clear criteria and practical guidance that can lead to well-rounded academic conduct. In Chapter III we will dig into Kirszner and Mandell’s work and appropriate its textual guide to the audiovisual practice of video essaying.
An audiovisual scholarly practice that fully embraces established academic principles while also refining their traditional standards
It should be noted that our exploration of the academic video essay or research video practice and the theoretical aspects that are directly affiliated to it are all relatively new.
Despite the fact that the Internet started off as a free-for-all sandbox (and many may still regard it as such), the need for gatekeepers and orienting collections have made it so that even hosts for user-generated content have come to closely resemble institutionalized media. To bluntly summarize:
That being said, novel experiments in audiovisual dissection, analysis, reflection and even theorization are being undertaken at this very moment, and new forms of appropriation surface regularly. Although there are scholars who engage with video, most fail, or are simply uninterested in translating and applying the same criteria on their efforts that the scholarly community impose on academic writing
For that reason, we wish to add to the knowledge surrounding this still developing phenomenon and investigate future possibilities of the practice in this book. Though we will present a
Our exploration focuses on the trans-medial evolution of film-related scholarship from a technical-representative point of view. Therefore, we are not particularly concerned with the content of the practice: neither in its ideology or
The leading question
In Chapter I we will designate three movements that preluded and influenced the current formation of video essays. These are the medial evolution of film theory; the audiovisual explorations of essay in personal documentary and essay film; and the inception of multimedia extensions, as explanatory supplements to films, found with digital video carriers.
In Chapter II, we will map the formal properties of current ‘video essay’ practice. This entails providing a taxonomy of the dominant manifestations, describing their context, and
In Chapter III we will match these practices up with the standards applied to the guidelines for academic writing, and supplement them with theoretical considerations for streamlining audiovisual rhetoric. This will result in the proposition of a formal blueprint, seeking to close the posited discrepancy between current practice and an ideal form.
This page has paths:
This page references:
- Figure 1
- PINKER, Steven: Why Academics Stink at Writing
- (un)reliable (un)reliability – or, Perceptual Subversions of the Continuity Editing System [an essay video by Thomas van den Berg]
- What is Neorealism? [by Kogonada]
- Snowpiercer - Left or Right [by Tony Zhou]
- Figure 2
- What Makes a Video Essay Great? [by Kevin B. Lee]