When the medium limits the message

Here are three offerings that really drove home the whole “the medium is the message” message for me this week. I’ll share more of my own thoughts in separate posts; here, I’ll let the artists speak for themselves.

One: Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette [this is just the trailer, you can read more of my thoughts on it here]:

Two: This video essay from Lindsay Ellis [more of my thoughts on this video here]:

…and Three: something my friend Ethan wrote in the description of the Kickstarter campaign for his latest art book, The Evening Pink. [Please give him your support! And I’ve written up more thoughts about slow, thoughtful engagement, etc, here:

I am concerned about the distribution and reach of independent cultural production in 2018. The last time I pre-ordered an edition, in 2012, the cultural landscape was quite different. We used blogs! Artists are now producing more content for less pay, on channels that ask for shorter encounters with artworks. This is discouraging when you make books, and want to facilitate a slow, thoughtful engagement.



Manufacturing authenticity

In her video essay YouTube: Manufacturing Authenticity (For Fun and Profit!), Lindsay Ellis casts a very self-conscious, very critical eye on YouTube vlogs as an “authentic” phenomenon + livelihood… starting with, of all things, an analysis of the evolution of a couple of cake decorating channels.

I realize this one sounds like it’s a lot heavier on YouTube-specific geekery than most people would appreciate, but I recommend this video to anyone who recognizes that forging a connection with your audience (whomever and whatever that audience may be!) is an important way to get people coming back for whatever it is you want people to come back to you for (be it your videos, your music, your writing, your art).

And I especially recommend this video to everyone who has experienced the heightened trickiness of this territory whenever your livelihood depends in some way upon a public image you must therefore maintain.

So many insights into these juicy topics in this video. And in a stroke of brilliance, Lindsay interviews YouTube darling (and one of my faves) Hank Green, in a textbook tactic from Google’s YouTube best practices playbook: Create, Collaborate, Curate!

There’s a really great section on the history of emotional labor, leading into the impact of trying to maintain an internet persona, starting here. And she gets Hank to talk about why he does what he does here:

I want people to get excited about the universe and the world and… thinking critically and hard about stuff. More and more I want to foster some kind of better communication among people, and also more and more I feel like that needs to happen a lot more OFF of the internet than is happening now… we need to occupy the same physical space as other human beings.

I could not figure out how to get a transcript from this video. 12 points for anyone who knows the trick!

Sometimes life isn’t comedy: Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette

Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. There are so many things she nails in this… well, calling it “a Netflix Special” is I suppose technically accurate, if ridiculously insufficient. I’m sure I’m not the first person to implore you to watch it.

Out of all her spot-on revelations and observations about human nature, it’s her critique of the medium of a comedy show that has really stuck with me, though this says more about me and what I’m grokking lately than it does about her; which medium best fits which messages? I am so curious to see what medium she chooses next!

A note for readers like me who prefer to sit with written words in order to fully process something, I found this transcript, but do watch the whole thing first if you can; this is just the trailer.