Video Essays: Alive and well

In the symposium a couple of weeks back there was mention of the video essay and how it’s not yet an academically acknowledged format. This immediately made me think about the video essays that exist as part of popular culture.

Regularly I watch several YouTube channels that don’t consider themselves, nor – to my knowledge – are called Essays. This includes channels such as Vsauce, PBS Idea Channel , CGP Grey , the plethora of TED channels, Minute EarthMinute Physics , and that’s not including the hundreds perhaps thousands of others that exist out there that I don’t personally view.

I wonder why this is so, and my first assumption would be the sloth like system of academia and the slow uptake of new technology, processes, and reliance of classic formats. I immediately considered however, should this kind of essay be expected to be included in the academic world? I mean it would be, eventually, I expect given that the videos provide thoughtful and logical discussion as the internet continues to grow, but with the speed at which information flows and evolves within the global network will academia even be able to keep up?

I expect it would have to redesign it’s regulations or whatever they do to call something ‘academic’ to do so, but even right now any piece of information is available via the internet which is inhabited by students and experts alike who are more than willing to share their ideas without hesitation. Just take a look at reddit with it’s numerous sub-reddit communities based on asking questions to experts (/r/askhistorians, /r/personalfinance etc.). Even Wikipedia which is relied on every single day by them asses to validate information without a second thought as to it’s source, could I dare say that academia in the traditional sense – writing, reviewing, publishing, updating – will eventually become defunct?

Blogging for the modern day lunatic

Blogging is generally a more alien thing for me. Over the course of my formal education at Primary and Secondary level the standard of archiving information was analog – paper, books, pens, pencils, filing cabinets, textbooks (redundant editions) etcetera etcetera – and with very limited motor skills in the handwriting department I became very quickly jaded of writing things down. Towards the latter end of High School I was long past sick and tired of having to manually scrawl out 2000 words using the diminishable and lossy medium of pencil and paper, where I could type the same 2000 words at least twice as quickly, ultimately leaving me more time for proof reading and editing. Unfortunately that was the standard, and it put me off my learning just a weeny bit because of it.

This left me with a rather sour habit of not taking notes on a regular basis, and subsequently, it’s made me very mental, quite literally. I think fast and talk fast, so analog inscription is insufficient for note taking or writing. Unfortunately, I have also neglected a digital medium to achieve this. 

How does blogging come into this then? Well after about 6 or 7 attempts at it, all eventually failing by the ways of quiet starvation I feel this current blog – as a requirement to pass the subject, hence the degree, and I do want to pass spectacularly – will finally kick me in the arse and prompt me to properly articulate my ideas in the form of media be it the English language, visual, or aural media. Ideally this will encourage me to be more thorough with any ideas I have, and decide to capitalise on; blogging then, I feel, is the perfect medium for me to properly articulate them, share them, and best case, receive feedback and criticism, which encourages further refining of the original idea.

Likewise I am very glad that RMIT in particular is embracing a more digital mode of teaching – such as the recent addition to the system allowing us to print from any device to any printer – which simply gives us more freedom as students. A strong, multi-block wi-fi signal is immensely useful when outside of class for communication, and I would love to see the Blog become a standard for personal academic notation and discussion across all subjects, as to replace some more basic marking systems like weekly reading logs to force students to engage with readings, rather than encouraging them to relate it to their own knowledge.

Edit: I noticed after writing this Adrian poses reasons for using blogging in education (in a much more articulate way) and it’s benefits in his article Blogs in Media Education