Finally, I got around to trying the Muvi camera. For unknown reasons, it took over two months to arrive from Amsterdam by mail. Too late for my students, unfortunately, who wanted to use it for a ‘bikers diary’ documentary. After the test with the video sunglasses, I was planning to do exactly the same football game - same time, same place - with the Muvi, for easy comparison, but there was just no way I could motivate my son to leave the house today, so we did a game of indoor golf instead.
In the trial, the Muvi camera is attached to my forehead with a strap that comes in the ‘extreme sports set’ that I ordered with it. I don’t know if ‘indoor golf’ qualifies as ‘extreme sport’, but when I opened the box, I got very excited about the possibilities. It’s a very cool little kit with all kinds of straps and bolts, mainly meant to attach the camera to the handle bar of a (motor)bike. The head strap is supposed to go on your ski helmet - or wherever you like it to go, of course.
The results of this test are pretty depressing. The microphone is truly horrible and I can only bear to watch the video if I turn off the audio completely (and I recommend you to do the same). Also, this camera is even worse than the video sunglasses when it comes to movement. It only works well if you keep your head still and look straight ahead of you all the time, which happens to be the case when you’re skiing or biking. I had no idea I was moving my head so much! It’s really scary to see and it makes me feel I should consider yoga or meditation.
The resolution of the Muvi is also less than the video sunglasses (Muvi = 640×480 @ up to 30 fps, using motion JPEG recording to AVI format on a micro SD card of max 8GB) and the camera angle is only 72 degrees, which is not much when you have no viewfinder and cannot see what you’re filming at all. I also did some tests with the camera strapped to my arm. It generated less shaky video, but is totally uninteresting as a viewing angle. Really, the only reason I see to use this camera is to record a very specific point of view from a moving object that is going in one direction. And I would never use he sound.
The bright side is that it measures only one inch, it costs only 100 Euro (1,000 HK$), and the design is nice. It’s 50 grams of polished black metal, rather than a piece of plastic. The controls are also more user friendly than those of the video sunglasses because, luckily, there’s no MP3 player or photo option. It still takes learning some morse code to understand the language of the lights flashing in different speeds and colors.
In summary, the video sunglasses are a much more interesting addition to the toolkit of a documentary maker than the Muvi. Recording what you see with your own eyes, when you see it, is conceptually very different from a small camera attached to your bike or your forehead. So I only recommend this camera if you like showing off your biking or skiing skills (but only downhill, not slalom).
In a design store, I saw a very small HD video camera with a built in viewfinder, about three times the size of the Muvi. That would mean an enormous improvement of the image, I suppose, but it’s much closer in size to a ‘real’ camera like the FlipHD camera (starting at 200 US$), which has a viewfinder, an optional built in image stabilizer and instant video playback.
And this week, AP Photonics and the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Lab (Astri) presented an extremely small optical photo camera (one centimeter), which has a built in image stabilizer and allows you to take sharp photos while riding a horse. Sony, Apple and Ericsson are interested and will start using the new camera in their smart phones this spring. The Hong Kong government invested US$1.6 million into the project and the price of the camera will be: US$1.50 each!
Please note the comment by Jonathan Marks below, who recommends Kodak Zi8, which seems to have it all, including an external microphone.
My first trial with the video sunglasses involved just leaving the apartment with my son to go play in the park across the street. The second trial is wearing the video sunglasses during our game of football.
There are some positives and many negatives to report.
Negative - Some of the problems I encountered:
- The video sunglasses record sound and image, but the sound runs out of sync with the video image. So if you want to use both, you have to sync it manually. That’s a lot of work.
- There is no way to know exactly what I’m filming, because there is no viewfinder. I can only roughly guess the angle.
- The controls for starting and stopping video recording don’t work very well and, as a result, I had no clear idea of when I was filming. Also, there is no visible indicator that shows you’re recording when youre wearing the glasses. Sometimes, when I start recording, a woman’s voice will say:’You are recording now’, through the ear phones, but it’s not consistent.
- The camera comes with a remote control, which is convenient, but not very reliable.
- My hair blows in front of the lens, so it needs to be tied back.
- Any movement of the head is not well taken by the camera and produces a shaky, interrupted image. I had no idea my head was moving so much, until I saw these images.
- The video sunglasses also include an mp3-player and a photo camera, but this only confuses the issue and diminishes user-friendliness. I would have preferred just one option: VIDEO, but better.
- short shots (2 minutes) work technically better than long takes. After a few minutes, the camera starts to behave strangely, although it supposedly supports 2 hours of continuous recording, stored on 8GB built-in memory.
Positive - On the bright side:
- No one notices the glasses when you walk into a shop or a restaurant. I could really blend in without anyone asking any questions. This is appealing for spies, I guess.
- It is possible to record reasonable video in very small and badly lit places, for example in a dressing room.
- Both audio and video are pretty good quality: video resolution is 736×576@30fps, AVI format and fine for posting on websites.
- In low light, at the end of the day, the image obtains a wonderful, grainy, cinematic quality, which reminds me of 16mm. I shot a Nan Lian Garden and although my movements are crap, the image is mysteriously beautiful. I love the colors.
- Especially without sound, the point-of-view (POV) shooting can obtain a poetic quality. I imagine it could work wonderfully well as short segments in a larger HD documentary, representing a particular - subjective, poetic - POV of one of the characters, with music.
Conclusion - Summarizing my first experiences with the video sunglasses, I am disappointed by the lack of control I have over the recorded image. The a-sync sound is also a major problem, because it means editing is required for sharing a simple video, including blog posts and web video galleries. I will continue to experiment with the glasses though, because I love the POV capacity and I am pretty sure the user-friendliness and resolution of video glasses will be improved very soon.
As it is now, I would never rely on this camera for crucial scenes in a documentary. I would only use it for filming in highly secretive and otherwise inaccessible places, which brings along all kinds of ethical questions, which I will not go into right now. Filming secretively is not really my thing anyway. I would like to use video glasses to record a particular point-of-view or to avoid interrupting reality with heavy equipment and a camera crew, but not to hide the fact that I am filming.
Soon, I will do a try-out with the MUVI camera attached to my forehead, and play football again, for comparison.
On my way back from a recent tourist outing with friends to ‘The Peak’ in Hong Kong, I stumbled upon a talented salesman of ‘Exclusive’ video sunglasses. The sunglasses looked liked regular sunglasses to me, but concealed an invisible video camera inside the frame. Of course, this cool gadget opened the door to my wildest fantasies about ‘point of view’ filmmaking, and in true Hong Kong style, I had to buy it right away (for about 200 Euro).
May I record your point of view, please?
Think about it! How many times in the past didn’t I wish that I could have filmed with my own eyes? The thought of having a hard disk inside my brain, a camera built into my forehead, and a USB stick protruding from one of my fingers has always been very appealing to me. Something that would come to the world inevitably, but maybe not in time for me to make good use of it.
Just imagine, if only we could record what we see when we see it, and then edit… Life would be so much easier and documentary films would be so much more interesting. In our films, we would be able to engage with life as it is happening in front of our very eyes, rather than with staged and uncomfortable reenactments of it.
Incredibly small cameras like MUVI (discussed earlier on this blog) already offer something quite close to the direct cinema ideal of the camera as a ‘fly-on-the-wall’, but a camera that is visibly attached to your forehead - no matter how small - still takes away some of the natural interaction. And mounting it on someone else’s forehead feels close to a medical procedure.
Video sunglasses promise that all this will be over and I can now just walk up to my subject and kindly ask: ‘Would you mind wearing these sunglasses today? I would like to get your point of view on this matter’. And a few hours later, I would be able to see the events of that day from my subject’s perspective on my screen. If that’s what technology can do for documentary film, it seems a very valuable contribution to me. After all, many problems in the world arise from the fact that we are not capable of see matters from ‘the other’ person’s perspective.
Well, so much for the potential, now the harsh reality. My first trial with the video sunglasses involved simply leaving my apartment, walking to the park across the street and playing soccer with my son. I will show and discuss the results tomorrow.
One of the underlying assumptions of this research blog is that media exposure can produce identification and empathy in viewers. But is that true? What is the psychological effect of immersion in mediated stories? For example, do media images of suffering in far-away places really produce identification and empathy in viewers? And when will they resort to action? These are relevant questions for storytellers who are interested in using new technologies to connect viewers to the social issues and political struggles of our time.
In a recent talk at City University, the eminent sociologist and scholar of media effects Elihu Katz surveyed his his own 60-year career and recalled being struck intellectually by the introduction of the concept of “empathy” by Daniel Lerner in the 1950s. Lerner proposed that media affect modernization by expanding individual horizons, inviting identification with remote others and the trying on of new identities. Katz says:”Lerner attributed empathy to the kind of media exposure which produced an ablility to provide a substantive reply to a survey question like: “What would you do if you were editor of the local newspaper?” Or:”What would you do if you were Prime Minister?” Rather than answering, as most people did, “Who, me, editor of a newspaper?”‘ there were other, more media literate respondents who could imagine themselves in these roles. Lerner argued these were the newly modernizing individuals, who had psychological access to the world outside the village; they were the harbingers of a radical transformation.”
These survey questions of the early days of radio (and the very start of television) resonate remarkably with current questions about immersive journalism and the psychological effects of using interaction and first person perspective in new media storytelling. Have these types of studies been reproduced for television and new media ? Scanning the field, 84-year old Katz concludes that empathy and identification are central concepts in Film Studies, but are largely absent form the catalogue of studied media effects in communication reserach. Katz:” Most research effort has gone into the persuasive effects of political communciation and advertising and, ironically, what we have to show is only how surprisingly ineffective the media are in this domain. Even though we hardly believe it ourselves, the truth is that propaganda and advertising don’t persuade very well.”
Katz feels that more communication research on empathy and identification in the current (new) media landscape is needed and points out the emergence of a new field of communication research focused on “distant suffering”, which includes work by Luc Boltanski, Lilie Chouliaraki, Paul Frosh, Amit Pinchevski and others. Katz: ”There is a sudden rush of interest in the emotional, cognitive and, especially, moral aspects of mediated witnessing of widespread tragedy. Under what conditions, these authors ask, do people rise to the challenge of doing something to right a wrong, or save a life, in response to what they see on the nightly news or learn about from internet? When do people get up from their TV sets to demand that their governments intervene? When do people mobilize to donate money to cope with a far-away disaster?”
With ubiquitous online news and information, moral questions resurface with increased urgency. And, I would add, with increasing immersive media storytelling, reality literally flies in your face. Katz: “We have run out of ways of saying: ‘I didn’t know’. That’s why the concepts of empathy and compassion have been resurrected in order to explain everyday arousal and action, and to revive the idea that the media have the power to empower.” Maybe the news iscurrently not brought to us in ways which allow for identification and empathy. I guess it’s is my job to work on improving that.
My colleague Olli Tapio Leino wrote his PhD on ’Emotions in Play’ at the Center for Computer Games Research at the University of Copenhagen and was kind enough to share some of his insights with me. I am interested in exploring non-fiction storytelling in a gaming environment, since gamers seem to be very immersed and I am interested to find out if we could reproduce that intense experience with documentary content.
Olli explains that the Copenhagen School in game research - to which he belongs - believes that gaming has its own logic, which is focused on ‘play’ and therefore incompatible with ’story’. The idea that gaming represents some kind of new ’storytelling’ belongs to Film Studies and is discarded by the Copenhagen-ers, who believe that actively trying to reach a goal - essential to the gaming logic - is mutually exclusive with experiencing ’story’, which implies ‘being carried away’ and giving up agency to the storyteller.
Escape from Woomera
This being said, Dr. Leino comes up with a number of interesting examples of ‘news games’ which relate to the real world and provide user interaction inside a game world. Whether these games provide ’situations’, ‘worlds’ or ’stories’ is not so important to me. I’m willing to be very pragmatic about it. Just show me something that works! Unfortunately, Olli thinks that empathy is not an emotion that can be easily experienced during game play. Typically, game players experience frustration (and fulfilment) related to their performance in the game and even if they do feel empathy for certain characters, it is unlikely it will carry over into the real world. For example, in the news game Escape from Woomera, illegal immigrants try to escape from an existing prison in Australia. One can intensely enjoy this game and identify with the escapists, without feeling any empathy for illegal immigrants in the real world afterwards.
Olli and I agree that educational news games, which tend to put the player in the ‘objective’ position of journalist or investigator, are somewhat lame. First of all, those so-called ‘observer’ positions aren’t neutral or objective in real life at all and, secondly, the excitement of gaming comes not with being an observer, but with being an actor, whose acts have real consequences - inside the game world at least. ”The player of a game is locked up in the gamer logic and can not relate to the story in any other way than wanting to win it”, says Olli, “so the only way to critically confront a game player with a documentary story inside a gaming world would be to break that logic”.
That’s exactly what happens in September 12, a news game about the War on terror developed by Montevideo based computer researcher Gonzalo Frasca and the collective Newsgaming.com. When trying to kill terrorists in a crowded town represented in typical game aesthetic, the player will only kill civilians and continue to create more terrorists by doing so. In this game, the players’ acts have real but intended consequences, just as in real life. The game logic is defied, as there is no way to ‘win’ this game, and the authors prefer to call it a ’simulation’ for that reason.
In Madrid, a game by the same makers that was released two days after the terrorist attacks in March 2004, players have to push the buttons in an attempt to keep candles burning and pay homage to the victims of terrorist attacks all over the world. Again, winning is impossible.
Both games are powerful, addictive and painful to play. I would not say they are immersive, however, since I am not so much drawn into a world, but rather confronted with a logic. I guess that confrontation has to be preceded by me entering the game world somehow, but definitely not in a way which makes me forget the current one. In an interview, Frasca compares these ‘critical games’ with cartoons: “We see the concept of newsgaming as a 21st century equivalent to traditional printed political cartoons: short, controversial satirical pieces that convey biased ideological messages. Video games are a perfect medium for this since they can model complex situations”. Frasca, a former journalist with CNN Espanol, used to write the game research blog ludoloy.org (which closed shop last May) and currently runs games studio Powerful Robot . He’s also a researcher at the Copenhagen Computer Games Research Center. So yes, indeed, critical gaming exists. How immersive it is - or can be - deserves further experimentation.
Foxconn is the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, producing iPhones, iPods, Nokias, etc. It employs more than 900,000 workers in China. In the first five months of 2010, the world was shocked to see a continuous series of suicides happening in Foxconn. What actually went wrong? This video is part of the report “Workers as Machines: Military management in Foxconn” released by SACOM.
The most interesting new documentary filmmaker I met in Hong Kong is Jack Linchuan Qiu. He is, in fact, an outstanding social scientist, author of Working Class Network Society, professor at The Chinese University in Hong Kong and, until very recently, not a filmmaker at all. Last spring, he decided to pick up a camera incited by the wave of worker suicides at tech-giant Foxconn, which has close to one million employees in China and produces most of our iPads and iPhones. It also produces something like 40,000 broken fingers annually, as Qiu and other researchers had found out earlier from field research in hospitals in the Pearl River Delta.
Frustrated by the lack of access and information provided by Foxconn, Qiu and colleagues of universities in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Sjanghai joined forces with student network SACOM and decided to resort to new collaborative methods. They used the internet, mobile and video technology to organize a massive, networked data collection effort, in order to better understand the working conditions in the Foxconn factories connected to the suicides.
Pun Ngai - an acclaimed ethnographer who also wrote Made in China on the basis of her experiences as a factory worker - was among the initiators of the project, which involved students successfully applying for summer jobs at Foxconn factories and taking photos and video on the job with cell phone cameras. Qiu had been using video, photography and audio recordings in his fieldwork for years, but resorted to i-movie editing and documentary filmmaking for the first time with the Foxconn project. He started to edit the visual material gathered by the researchers (photos, video and audio) and made a poetic, angry yet very factual twenty minute film, which might evolve into a feature length documentary called ‘Deconstructing Foxconn‘.
Even more moving is his black and white short film about a visit to Taipei on a rainy day, where he reads a poem for the deceased workers in front of the Foxconn headquarters until he’s interrupted by a security guard. The way the camera keeps recording while it’s being handed to the taxi driver reminds me of Jean Rouch‘ best films. On the way back to the airport, Qiu gets involved in a lengthy discussion with the taxi driver, which he keeps entirely in the film.
The work is still in progress, but what I have seen so far is very touching and immersive in the sense that it takes the viewer deep inside Foxconn and provides a view from within through video, photography and audio recordings collected over a long period of time. In this case, the ‘author’ of the film is a group of researchers armed with mobile phones and dressed in Foxconn uniforms, who are able to mix with the factory workers and report unusually rich data on feelings and atmospheres, in addition to quantitative data about wages and working hours. Without photo, video and audio functions on mobile phones, this would have been simply impossible.
Twenty five years ago, journalist and writer Gunter Wallraff did something similar when he went to work as a migrant worker in Germany and wrote a book about it (Lowest of the Low, 1985). Barbara Ehrenreich reported on living the hard life in the US from her own experience in Nickel and Dimed: on (not) getting by in America (2001) and Ngai did it in China more recently, armed with a theoretical perspective. But they did not have cameras.
I do feel that the visual dimension is adding a rich and essential layer to this type of work, which explores new realities immersively, from the inside outward. In Qiu’s film, we meet a seventeen year old girl who jumped and survived but will never be able to walk again. She does not need to say much. Just by seeing her in the hospital bed, we start to understand how she feels ad what she did. I think this kind of rich ‘visual information’ is among the real gains of the pervasive visual culture that is emerging. Many intellectuals, journalists and academics lament the decline of reading and the diminished impact of words. But is that really necessary? When we just stop for a minute, look and think about the depth of information provided in those video frames, I feel grateful for the possibility to watch them. And I wish I could help her get up and go.
My students want to do a short documentary about biking in Hong Kong and I recommended them to get this little camera (100 Euro) to tie to the head of the biker and get his point of view as an additional camera angle:
The Muvi is a pretty cool, very small and incredibly cheap camera with reasonable image quality. It represents a new step in the continuous development of ever smaller and lighter cameras, allowing for a growing range of viewpoints and camera angles in documentary films. Just as direct cinema came with the liberation of the camera from the tripod, one can easily imagine new cinematic styles with the availability of these cameras the size of a thumb. In the current global media society, however, the impact would be far beyond aesthetics.
For example, it’s now literally child’s play to record the world from a child’s perspective - or that of any moving object or subject - adding more points of view to the current scale. Imagine the possible impact of all those emerging voices (and eyes) taking the stage. Will children get voting rights because their points of view can no longer be ignored? Will the current fringe Party for Animal Rights rise to power as a result of the increased representation of pets’ points of view in the flow of media images?
This camera is marketed as a cool gadget for ‘extreme sports’ lovers, but I can imagine much more interesting applications for undercover journalists and NGOs. This little camera can handle a 8GB memory card, which records four hours of video and, even more surprising, it is voice activated. You could go into any workplace with it attached to your forehead, and it will start recording automatically whenever the boss starts yelling at you. Any kind of (loud) abuse could be registered on video this way and serve as instant proof in a court room, which is quite scary when you start to think about it. It is as if we would be carrying a personal security and surveillance system on our heads.
Back to storytelling. The films of Leonard Retel Helmrich come to mind as a more poetic catalog of unusual and immersive camera angles. With the handy cam, we could already film inside a refrigerator, but with the Muvi, we can film inside a bag and its successor may allow for filming inside the body… Personally, I would like to use this camera to make a short film from a child’s perspective, simply called ‘UM’, which is short for ‘unaccompanied minor’, a term used by airlines to refer to the countless children traveling the world in airplanes without their parents for various reasons.
Watch this review, which includes some sample footage. There are many more similar test videos out there. I will share my first trials later.
“Capricious and profound, the experience definitely captures what it is to escape from the world a little bit, then return and find that you see things just a bit differently.” This is a participant of a so called SUBTLEMOB speaking and it sounds like a clear case of ‘being there’ to me. It describes exactly the kind of immersive experience I am looking for: the one that makes you look differently at the real world after you come back from it. Here’s a clip of some of the other survivors, talking about their subtlemob experience:
What is a ’subtlemob’? I would say it is a clever, poetic and artistic adaptation of the flashmob, which takes inspiration from location theater, performance art, and media experiments, like those by Willem de Ridder and Moniek Toebosch. It has a contemporary ’social media’ touch to it though, since the real meeting is now convocated through email, Twitter and Facebook.
This weekend, we were lucky to have one - as part of the Microwave New Media Arts Festival - in ‘a secret location’ in Tsuen Muen, one of the new towns in the northern part of Hong Kong. Participation required signing up on the website two days before the event and bringing an MP3 player, an iPod, an iPhone or some other device that plays podcasts - to a location revealed just hours before the meeting. Once there, participants were invited to download the podcast, start listening and be taken to another world inside the current one. It reminded me of Soundtrack City, a wonderful artistic project in Amsterdam last year, offering nine soundtracks turning walks through different parts of the city into movies in which the listener is playing a part (only in Dutch, unfortunately). Potentially, this could really be a revealing, consciousness raising and mind-changing experience.
This is what subtlemob creator Duncan Speakman says about ’subtlemob’:
We’re not sure if we know yet (what it is), but this is what we think it might be . . .
Imagine walking through a film, but it’s happening on the streets you live in
Subtlemobs usually happen in public spaces
This is music composed for those spaces
This is about trying to make films without cameras
It’s about integrating with a social or physical space, not taking it over
The audience listen on headphones, a mix of music, story and instructions
Sometimes they just watch, sometimes they perform scenes for each other
A subtlemob is not a flashmob
try to remain invisible . . .
For my new documentary about the global rise of the Pentecostal religion - which teaches that ‘body and mind are one’ - I am exploring storytelling options to bring viewers closer to the intense encounters with the Holy Spirit experienced by Pentecosta believers. I am considering using 3D or 360 degree photography to shoot in churches and I recently had the privilege to join a shoot with the 360 ‘Ladybug’ camera by City University students enrolled in the ‘Immersive Museums‘ course by Sarah Kenderdine.
The ‘Ladybug’ camera is a rather slick looking device with five cameras pointing sideways and a sixth one on top, recording 360 degree video footage, or rather a collection of six separate video images that can be stitched together in the computer during post-production to form a 360 degree moving image. We are familiar with this kind of viewpoints of the world thanks to Google street view, travel agents and real estate brokers, who use this type of video on their websites.
Google street view
Google has been a motor behind the development of this type of technology by constantly upgrading its cameras, which are mounted on the rooftop of cars to ultimately record every single street in the world. It is now using the fourth generation street view camera and also recently introduced a snowmobile (2010) and a tricycle (2010) to film roads where cars can not travel.
The ‘Ladybug‘ camera is slightly different. It has firewire and a higher resolution, allowing for projection on dome- and semi-dome shaped screens, and six rather than nine cameras to record a surround view. In my imagination, watching a Pentecosta believer meet the devil in person in a dome shaped movie theater, would be an awesome, important and frightful documentary experience, but the field trip with the students to Yau Ma Tei is a rather chilling experience for a documentary director like me. The students have planned to shoot just one shot of the Temple Street market, which requires about one hour of preparations, leading to the ‘director’ sitting in a wheelchair with a laptop on his knees and a sound engineer recording ambient sound on a separate recorder. The fixed focus point for the Ladybug is at 2,5 meter from the camera and no adjustment is possible. Also, the camera has to be at a certain height (about 1,5 meter) to allow the director - in the wheelchair - to be present at his own shoot, but not visible in the picture. And the wheel chair has to be motorized to make a traveling shot of the market, as anyone pushing would be in the picture frame… To a ‘content driven’ documentary storyteller like me, this all seems like a lot of hassle for very little ’story’.
I can still imagine that a visceral Pentecosta church service would be interesting to catch with the Ladybug camera. But the problem with all 360 degree video productions, is that the story has to take place in one - very exciting - location. If not, having the 360o perspective is pointless. Why would you want to look behind you, if nothing is happening? In documentary film, I can think of Raymond Depardon’s Délits Flagrants, set in the examination room of a police station, as inspiration for this type of shooting. Coincidentally, Depardon also made a film in Africa, structured by various 360 degree shots recorded with a regular camera on various locations in Africa. Or the documentary box office hit Etre et Avoir by Nicholas Philibert, set largely in one class room in rural France. Or the documentary films of Fred Wiseman, which deal with institutions and display unusual unity of place (a hospital, a high school, a welfare counter). Wiseman often shot over hundred hours of film though (spending up to a year in the editing room) and at this point in time, that would be technically quite challenging with a Ladybug, as one minute of 3600 footage takes more than an hour to render… Unfortunately, I must admit that after the field trip, it is easier to think of the limitations of the Ladybug (one location, lack of movement, fixed focus, no sync sound) than to think of exciting new opportunities. To be continued.
By the way, Yellowbird in The Netherlands also offers interesting 360 degree video recording packages, but they seem to focus on online productions and do not sell the camera. The result can be seen in Highrise: Out my Window (2010) directed by Katerina Cizek and presented at IDA Doclab.
This is what CNN did in terms of ‘immersive journalism’, using the Google street view camera to take viewers into ravaged Haiti. The uncut footage provides a 360 look on the human disaster, filmed from the roof of a driving car. For me, browsing these interactive videos definitely provokes a new and strong sense of ‘being there’ - but painfully so. Being confronted with the surround view, I dearly miss ‘perspective’. Who is looking through the camera? Who is looking at whom? What for? Why am I here? Gazing around from the top of a car makes me feel like a voyeur or a tourist, rather than a connected and empathic citizen. Here, the interactivity and 360 do not produce a sense of connection, but rather a confrontation with a reality that I am clearly not a part of, because I can manipulate it at will. Unlike the persons shown in the video. A lot of pixels and little storytelling.
This is just a Youtube rendering, but look on the CNN website for the real deal, with full control over your point of view. It’s a rather alienating way to relate to the world, if you ask me. Ffrom the CNN website: “Haiti: 360. Use your mouse to click and drag around the video to change the view. You can also zoom in and out. Pause and explore at any time by pressing the play/pause button under the video to stop and look around. The video was shot on Monday, January 18, at 9:52 a.m. EST in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.” I wish the Haitians in the picture were able to ‘pause and explore’ their world ‘ at any time.