The "Extimacy" of Video Blogging

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Today, blogs are nearly as commonplace as keeping diaries and journals was in the 19th and 20th centuries—and even before that! The main difference though, is that while these diaries and journals for the most part were kept private (disregard those of Anne Frank and other popular diary publications) blogs are simply out there for the entire world to see.

 

 

 

 

This beautiful map of the internet should put into perspective who some bloggers share their most private moments with—anyone in cyberspace. The internet is literally a web of publications; it has opened up avenues where professionals and amateurs publish their work side by side. I don’t see anything particularly wrong with this model of publication—I actually think it is quite unique and foreward thinking. I also strangely believe that the internet is fighting the hierarchical standard of academics and knowledge itself by giving those who may be quiet, handicapped, or formally uneducated the ability to express their ideas.

In our first classes we discussed not only our reactions to a wide variety of blogs—some academic, some travel, some EXTREMELY personal (i.e. Geekymom)—but attempted to characterize them in order to better understand their function. As a class we decided that bloggers often write to please their audience (this was supported by our visit from Tim Burke), that the distinction between what is “real” and “fake” is often blurred, and we also discussed if blogs were a new genre. One blog we encountered, Jo(e), described blogs as instantaneous and interactive, saying that they are not just a new genre, but a new medium. Although I personally don’t believe that blogs themselves are a genre, I do think that they are a medium through with the genre of autobiography can be expressed. Granted, the genre of autobiography doesn’t apply to EVERY blog, but I think that many blogs subscribe to the “Let me tell you about my day…” mantra.

In a society full of me’s, mine’s, I’s, it’s no surprise that individuals feel the need to share their day to day activities. Someone one day in class stated that blogging is all about the id ego. The id is said to be: “Amoral and selfish, ruled by the pleasure–pain principle… It is regarded as the reservoir of the libido or instinctive drive to create." Personally, I think this characterizes many blogger’s intentions when they choose to publicize their privacy.

Blogs however don’t epitomize the complete destruction of anonymity and privacy. The new fad “video blogs” takes that honor. In a technological age people’s desire to exploit themselves has moved from screen-name based public sharing to video sharing. Celebrities are not the “celebrities” of yesterday—this word can now define any online video personality who has accrued a large enough fan base worthy of recognition. What has pushed people to ultimately obliterate their privacy? To be honest I’m not sure, but I think it may have something to do with our society’s infatuation with fame.

Moving from our study of blogs to my research with vlogs it was extremely interesting to find more differences than I had originally thought existed. Everything from tone, to audience, to relatability is different. To be completely frank I found that it is a lot easier to hate vloggers than it is to hate bloggers.

With blogs readers are virtually distanced from the blogger. You can’t hear their voice, all you have of the writer is the voice portrayed via word choice, grammar, and a little bit of your imagination. You also cannot physically see them, again your imagination is able to create your interpretation of what he/she should look like. I also found that with blogs bloggers are apt to be more politically correct, more censored as opposed to being crude and obnoxious. There are exceptions to what I encountered, but on the whole this was a general trend. This trend was very much supported by our visitor Tim Burke when he came to one of our class discussions. He told us that he experiences a change of voice while blogging. In person Tim says that he is funnier and edgier whereas online he has adopted a more passive and logical tone in order to appease his readers.

Unfortunately though, these rules don’t apply to most vloggers. The viewers have to sit and listen to the inflection of the person’s voice, stare at the vlogger’s face, and try to focus on what the person is actually trying to communicate with his/her viewers. Ultimately, I think vlogging is not only much more distracting but much more frustrating than reading blogs as well. I will admit that vlogs truly expose the vlogger because nothing is held back, and I think this may be a good thing. Tones, like sarcasm, can be more easily picked up on by the viewer, but at the same time the vulgarity and crude behavior that characterized some vlogs I watched was horrifyingly absurd.

I believe that vlogs remove the protective layer that blogs have. Blogs are less “in your face,” I think mainly due to blogger’s self-editing skills. Although vloggers can physically edit their videos to extract the “um’s” from their phrases and include different camera angles, many vlogs that I encountered were less worried about communicating their experiences to share with others and more fixated on watching themselves be watched by their viewers. As I said before that blogs are id ego driven, I believe that vlogs are doubly as id ego driven.

YouTube is one of the most popular video sharing sites in the world, and with this popularity has come academic interest about the social art of vlogging. As writer Aymar Jean Christian defined in her article “Real Vlogs: The Rules and Meanings of Online Personal Videos” vlogs are “many things, and different things to different people, but most broadly it is an expression of a self. Yet this expression is not unbridled. There are rules and codes in vlogging; whether or not a video follows a set of standards distinguishes it as either “real” and “sincere” versus “fake,” insincere and professional — self– and community–centered as opposed to audience– or market–centered, to frame it another way.” While introducing myself to this world of vlogs I found this insight very helpful. With vlogs one cannot assume that the individual is being one hundred percent honest, we are unable to distinguish what is real and fake because we are physically detached from the person at hand. However, I believe that it is slightly easier to distinguish what is real and fake in the vlogging world than with blogs. Vlogs allow viewers to actually see the characteristics of the person at hand—are they fake bronzed, do they wear too much makeup, are they surrounded by certain products and talk about these products all the time, etc—and some characteristics (although stereotypical) allow viewers to understand the vlogger’s persona somewhat better. Blogs disallow other personal connection but through words, and as we all know words can be ultimately misleading. Vlogs can give hints, usually by appearances and surroundings, that blogs cannot. The ability to capture a series of moments on video and hence visualize these moments gives the viewer authorship to form more detailed opinions about the vlogger.

As has been the case with novels and blogs, insincerity and fakeness has affected the trust readers have with authors. This trust, ultimately created or ruined by the author’s integrity, serves as a foundation for all internet relationships. In a world where parents constantly tell their children to “never talk to strangers” the internet is providing another way through which relationships can be forged. Paul B. de Laat argues that online diaries represent a different and complicated trusting system than what humans rely on in face to face (and even other) situations. He says, “ On the one hand, blogging would seem to be a less frightening affair. An author entrusts his/her intimacies to the world at large, not as a one-to-one but a one-to-many relationship. Moreover, these spectators are invisible and anonymous. In that sense, blogging amounts to a generalized act of trust (addressing not a specific stranger but a non-specific, invisible, multitude of strangers).”

         So, as online video diaries, do vlogs generate the same trust? I believe that they do, at least for the most part. Vlogs may even generate MORE trust between the author and viewer because the intimacy of vlogs is much greater than blogs—simply because the relatability of the vlogger is increased by being able to see them. On the other hand, vlogs may make it easier to dislike someone because appearances, voices, mannerisms are given and not assumed (as they are in blogs). I think the trust between two individuals is very personal, and because vlogs personalize the whole internet relationship experience trust is an implicit effect. 

         Some vloggers however, have trust issues—like bloggers, vloggers face the problem of lurkers and voyeurs. In my first essay for this class I expressed my concern about the words lurker and voyeur when applied to the blogging world. I felt as if these words were being used in the wrong way, and I hence coined another term for the silent viewers of blogs: sustained silent readers. I was unsure whether or not this term would be applicable to silent viewers in the vlogging world, and I can honestly admit that I don’t think it is. I believe the trust generated between vloggers and viewers in the video blogging world is caused by responses by both parties to the vlogger’s videos (a similar relationship also occurs with blogs). If hits on certain videos continue to increase but comments are not being made, vloggers feel jipped and become resentful. In one video blog “lurkers” are deemed as the fifth circle of hell. In another, a vlogger vehemently calls out the lurkers who so called “stalk” her vlog.

         I believe the issue of lurkers and voyeurs in the vlogging world is somewhat more serious than in the blogging world. Due to the ability to see and communicate via video, it is easier for viewers to become obsessive and attached due to appearances, sex appeal, etc.—with blogs this is virtually impossible unless explicit pictures accompany the blogs. Vlogs allow individuals to become identifiable, recognizable—easy targets for personal attacks. The state of exposure is dependent on the vlogger, but I feel as though “sustained silent viewer” doesn’t adequately account for the possible percentage of individuals who silently watch online video blogs. I will continue to argue that the term voyeur and lurker is still wrong, even if applied to the vlogging world, but I do feel as though another word is needed to describe those viewers who silently watch without commenting.

         In his article, Paul B. de Laat also discusses “extimacy.” Extimacy, is now my new favorite noun to describe vlogs, blogs, and other sorts of online diaries. The term, coined by Jacques Lacan, means “intimacy turned inside out.” Vlogs absolutely personify extimacy by giving individuals a medium through which to share activities, feelings, opinions, beliefs, and practically anything else they want to share. It’s an absolute dichotomy—but extimacy has become a staplepoint of modern internet relations.

In order to understand the behind the scenes work of vlogs I decided to watch a few “how to make a great vlog” videos. One particular video I found exposed the vlogging industry as a superficial and ego driven practice. In the tutorial the young man explains the five necessities for YouTube popularity….

1)      BE A GIRL and be attractive:

As the number one important thing to include in a vlog I find this to be humiliating. It truly exposes our society for its downfalls: sexist and extremely superficial. As a man making this video his sarcasm (indicated by his superficial excitement while discussing video blog qualities) is amusing and tolerable. This sense of sarcasm would most likely have been lost in a blog unless the blogger had a wonderful control of English.

2)      Have as many random cuts as possible:

 I believe this “must- have” quality speaks to our society’s short attention span. Unfortunately I will agree that watching someone speak to the camera at the same angle for minutes on end is boring; by the end of the video I will probably have forgotten about what he/she is talking about in the first place because it’s un-engaging.

3)      With wide angle shots make sure it’s in black and white:

This claim epitomizes the emotional ploy that many vloggers use in order to generate sympathy from their viewers. As de Laat says in his article, online diarists feel the need to develop a community of sympathizers “Otherwise there would be no point in publishing one’s diary in the open.” Black and white shots have a tendency to make the videos much more severe—pair this quality with lots of eye makeup and sad low-key music and BAM! You have a recipe for ultimate vlogging success. Unfortunately vloggers, this is not the case—most of the time this plea for sympathy will result in sarcastic responses to deal with your problems.

4)       The Camera must be at a downward angle:

Because I do not know much about camera shots I don’t exactly understand the fettish with downward camera angles. I must admit that many vlogs I have encountered do incorporate this downward angle faux-pax, and most of the time this proves to be boring and extremely frustrating. Not many people actually want to sit and stare at someone in the same angle for minutes on end.

5)      The Video Blog must be as pointless and as long as possible:

This statement was the most enjoyable part of the video. Not only is this statement extremely true (because most vlogs are utterly pointless and way too long) but it points out why vlogs enable rambling. With regular blogs readers/followers can read along at their own pace; they have the ability to skip from here to there if they choose. In vlogs the creators have complete control of the viewers. The vloggers control the topics discussed (which may or may not be geared towards the audience they want to have) and they also control the pace at which they speak/share information.

Just as Anne chose a variety of blogs for us to read: travel, pleasure, political, etc., I decided that it would be best to find three different examples of vlogs in order to have a variety of subject matters. Many of the vlogs I encountered were autobiographical—which supports my claim that like blogs, vlogs are a medium through which the genre of autobiography is shared—and many of them were different than blogs. I found that some vlogs I encountered did not share as much personal information as blogs did but seemed more personal because you could see the individual speaking. However, there were others who shared just as much private information as some of the very private blogs we discussed. Either way my interaction with vlogs has proven to be a much more personal experience simply because I have been able to hear and see who the person speaking is that chooses to share detailed personal information—this however has also made the experience twenty times more frustrating.

As I said before I decided that it would be best to choose three different vloggers in order to better understand the art of “vlogging. It was interesting that after a while I could only take so much of each vlogger—I found their personalities TOO present in their videos whereas with blogs I was never completely overwhelmed by the writer’s persona. 

 

Vlog 1 : 365Es

Her “About Me” Section:

Russian by heritage and upbringing

Creative by choice and talent

Smart by good gene pool and education

Fun by no hangups

Spontaneous by no boundaries

and more importantly really really nice.

 

If i do say so myself.

But really, I'm a pretty loving fun person. My friend's would say i'm the craziest person they know. at least they used to say :)

 

I adore photography, video, languages, ice cream, volleyball. I'm pretty much good at everything, I just haven't found something i'm unconditionally passionate about. Video and photography is the closest i've gotten to that.

Hope you enjoy! Please subscribe to my other channels as well.

 

After watching some of 365Es’s vlogs I understood that a) she was a foreigner (due to her accent) b) she was intent on describing her day to day activities, which were almost always trivial, and c) she has no fear of being “herself” on camera. It is also evident on her homepage how apologetic she is to her audience if she is slow to post her vlogs (this phenomena of apologizing is extremely popular in blogs). I believe that this vlogger takes her vlogging much more seriously than others do because she adds music, action shots, and other interesting bits to make her pointless blabbering (at points) somewhat tolerable. In other words, 365Es edits her videos as if she is a professional. I believe this vlog is a perfect example of what vlogs do that blogs cannot—vlogs can physically follow someone through their day to day activities. The freedom to speak whenever she has time—for instance as she is driving to her hair appointment—allows this vlogger to stay more current. She is not necessarily tied down by her responsibility to sit and type out her day at a computer; she is however, still reliant upon the internet in the same way blogs are in order to share information.

 

Vlog #2: Incorporatedfx

His “About Me” Section:

Are you Korean?

Nah, I'm Chinese!

 

Why are you so sexy?

I think it's the lighting :P

 

If you want to stalk me, click below!

 

            I chose to study this Asian vlogger because he seemed obsessed with racial issues—although not in any serious way. Incorporatedfx was constantly cracking jokes about Caucasians, other Asians, Blacks, etc. and I was very surprised to see that he was so VOCAL about spreading certain stereotypes via the internet. For instance, in one video he is walking down a hallway and sees 2 envelope shoots for apartments and he continues on to say how these look like an Asian person—because the slits look like slanted eyes… My jaw just about dropped. I couldn’t believe that this young man was not only communicating stereotypes about his own heritage, but that he was also including stereotypical and somewhat racial slangs into his videos. Now I’m sure there exist blogs where individuals are very vocal about their feelings towards other nationalities, but I believe that this vlog embodies the aspect of vlogging that is detrimental to anyone on cyberspace: the vulgarity and crudeness associated with individuals who do not self edit.

            I know in class how we discussed that self editing was detrimental—but I feel as if this vlog in particular showcases exactly why self-editing may be a good thing. Imagine if incorporatedfx had taken the time to censor himself or edit how he says things in his video—I think his vlog would have taken on a completely different, more palatable, tone.

 

Vlog 3: Loraandlayton

Her “About Me” Section:

Hey y'all! Thank you for checking out our channel! My name is Lora and I am 21 years old. I've been married to, Layton (my high school sweet heart) for over 3 years now! Together, we have a BEAUTIFUL baby boy named Tripp, who was born December 18th, 2008. He makes everything wonderful! We also found out on February 9th that we are expecting our second baby on September 24th 2010!! We can't wait!! I met Layton when I was 16, got engaged at 17, got married on my 18th Birthday, got pregnant with our son at 19, and gave birth a few months after I turned 20. Some people told us we were rushing, but we knew what we wanted. Not many teen marriages work out. In fact, you hardly ever hear of them being strong. Layton (who is 2 years older than me) Tripp, and I are proof that young marriage and young families CAN actually do well! We don't only do well. We live our own fairy tale. We are a young family, beating the odds. Sure, we go through hard times. Who doesn't?! But our hard times and struggles only make our relationship and our family stronger. We are a TEAM and we never forget that. A marriage is a partnership. Layton is my partner, my love and my best friend. We don't always agree on things, but at least we can agree to disagree and we always find some sort of compromise. We treat each other with respect and love each other more than anything in the world. Our baby boy, Tripp is the light of our lives. He is the reason we are alive! Please feel free to subscribe and join us on our journey through life. We document everything we do and share it with y'all! I've been Vlogging since I was pregnant and have continued to do videos ever since. I have filmed every single day since my son has been born and I have a video for every week of his life. We've documented his growth, development, and all of his many stages and mile stones, along with how his Momma and Daddy deal with all those things! We may be young, but we make it work better than anyone else I know. Our marriage, family, and friendship is stronger than ever and the three of us continue to grow in love, each and everyday. We are so blessed and so fortunate to all be happy and healthy and to have our amazing families. We don't take one second for granted and we treasure each moment we have together.

 

            This was the most interesting vlog that I found. Not only did this mom-to-be decide to share every detail (and I mean EVERY detail) with her audience, but she showed no shame in doing so. Her bubbly personality coupled with her almost nauseating “About Me” section truly epitomizes the individual at hand. In every vlog she seems perky, even if she is discussing the horrible pain that she has in her back or the new stretch marks that she’s found on her inner thighs. I understand that we followed travel blogs and lifestyle blogs—but boy, this vlog really combines the two. Not only did viewers watch this woman transform as her body grew, but they were able to watch how she grew as an expectant mother. I found it beautiful and awkward at the same time. Beautiful because watching a human being grow is an absolutely amazing experience, yet awkward because I feel this certain time of transformation is so incredibly personal. I give her kudos for having the guts to talk about stretch marks, weight gain, etc. seeing as many expectant mothers find these things hard to think about even with themselves.

            I don’t know what it is about vlogs, but I feel as if vloggers are much more gutsy than bloggers are. Maybe it’s because vloggers feel as if they have more creative freedom, but at the same time this sense of freedom doesn’t make sense. Vloggers are more identifiable and hence less anonymous because they expose their faces, their nature, their voices to the entire cyberworld—bloggers are only identifiable by their username and their written tone.

            I believe that vlogs have distinguished themselves from blogs in multiple ways, some good, some bad. As the times have changed individuals have gotten tired of communicating via words and online diaries—the desire for virtual connection has increased, spawning the age of online video sharing. Vlogs allow for individuals to share their stories—whether real or fake—and allow for cyber-communities to follow the leaders. Although crudeness and vulgarity has become a part of vlogs, this has to be expected when a medium of autobiography is made easily accessible to a wide variety of individuals. My experience with vlogs has been just that—an interesting experience. I was pushed to think about my term sustained silent reader (or viewer), and consider the ways in which increasing technology is altering the state of trust in today’s society. Ultimately we all must accept that in this day and age “extimacy” will continue on—and may even increase. But, at the same time, extimacy may lead to the cultivation of real-world relationships that would have been unrealized without the help of the internet and the ever emerging medium of video blogs.

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