The Case for Video Literacy


…..psst… on final cut pro how do you set the dissolve times again?….

The average American now watches more than 4.2 hours of television a day.

Every day.

For their entire lives.

If we spent 4.2 hours a day reading instead of watching television we would be a very different kind of culture. We would have a very different kind of President.

But we don’t.

So let’s accept the idea that video is here to stay. It has now become the dominant means of communicating in the early years of the 21st Century. And with video now moving to the web, it is seems more than likely that we are going to be looking at a lot more video… a lot more.

The end of the 18th Century saw a great social movement both in this country and also in Europe to begin to educate people, for free. Public schools were opened looking to offering free education for all. It was meant as a free education for all in reading, in writing and in maths.

People were not taught to read and write so that they could perhaps earn a living as novelists. They were taught to read and write so that they could participate in print-driven culture.

We don’t live in a print driven culture anymore. We live in a video driven culture. But we are not educating our people in video literacy, and we should. This is not so that they can then go on to earn a living as cameramen or editors. It is so that they can then go on to participate in an increasing number of facets of the society that is surely coming.

Reading and writing are great, but so is video literacy.

And at the moment, the ability to create video, to express yourself in video is held in the hands of a very few… and elite few. Even if they have the best intentions, this is dangerous to a healthy, democratic society.

If public discourse is going to take place in video, which is increasingly is; if the transmission of knowledge and opinion is going to take place in video, which it increasingly is; if entertainment is going to take place in video, which it increasingly is; then it is critical that we create a population that can give.. as well as receive. A population that can participate.

Otherwise, we run the risk of turning over the most powerful institutions and conversations we will have to a very very few.


4 responses to “The Case for Video Literacy

  1. I’m sure that Cliff will be too humble to toot his own horn, but he just posted a story on his blog that addresses part of this: well, I’ll let him tell it:

    “The interesting part of this article is David’s interview of Claudio von Planta, both in written form and flash video. Claudio’s tools for producing the top notch content he has created is within any Solo VJ’s budget. Using a SONY A1U and a laptop, he has produced projects that have gone to broadcast for CBC and CNN.”

    I personally find that the web design over at is a little odd and not intuitive, but I tend to be harsh in my criticism of web sites — I hate anything that’s clunky or makes me wait or spend time trying to “use” the site rather than downloading the content into my brain. By the way, good websites will be as important as good content. Think you could have found a Pedro Almodovar movie on the shelves at blockbuster a few years ago? And how hard is it to find one at Netflix?

    The article covers a lot of what’s been discussed here in the last few weeks and is about a very successful VJ and others like him as well as the future of TV. The site also has lots of other VJ related stuff, but I’ll let you figure out how to find it on your own.

    In one article, the site details a program where 8 newspaper journalists were made into spanking-new VJ’s (never used the gear before) and then were sent out to cover a big murder investigation in the UK.

    If you read the article that Cliff points to, you’ll see that Mr. Rosenblum is not some sort of pie in the sky dreamer as has been asserted in comments on a previous blog here, but is a leader in what is going to be the future of TV; some are already giving it a go and are making a good living, and we don’t want to be left behind, do we?

    Okay, the article is about professional journalists, and Mr. Rosenblum is talking here about public discourse via video. As the price of technology is now within reach of anyone who would like to express himself this way, we are now finding ourselves needing technology to figure out which voice to listen to. We’ll need VJ’s, web designers, and production companies that can keep this all straight as the public seeks to find its voice in the new medium.

    Thanks Cliff, good read.

  2. Jim, thanks for the kudos.. 🙂

    Michael is right – there does need to be education in Video (I would call it Visual) literacy. Again, I’m sure that Mini-Me or someone else who is holding out for the G.O.D’s will chime in on why Michael is a charlatan, snake oil salesman, blah blah blah…

    Although I am not a big fan of the design of David’s site (I’ve worked as a freelance web designer now for 10 years), what I do find is solid information – and that makes up for the unusual design in a major way.

    David and I have been corresponding of late and he’s of the POV of either join the revolution, or don’t – it’s happening either way.

    Claudio’s story shows what can truly happen when someone who knows what they are doing chooses to go minimalist and produces content that is of a high level of professional broadcast standards – using a Sony A1U and a Macbook as his tools of trade. For the nay sayers – It can be done – it is being done.

    I’m reading various blogs from newspaper photographers debating the issues of “Professional” versus “non-professional” gear. Of course, there is a benchmark that needs to be kept with regards to what one’s equipment is capable of doing. But, that is only one small piece of the puzzle. The ability to see, the ability to act, to record the moments as they happen and to assemble them in a cohesive solid story takes more than just equipment – it takes talent. There will always be bread and butter type shooters – those who shoot to get the job done. They will feed the masses. It takes someone with talent that is above the status quo to, meet and a as result, raise the bar of craftsmanship for the Solo VJ paradigm.

    ENG GOB’s banter about how the profession is diminished by this new wave of Solo VJ’s

    WAH! Deal with it.

    Put your money where your mouth is – step up to the plate and SHOW US what you’re talking about.

    I don’t think they can.

    And that’s ok, because those of us who have been self disciplined in becoming a swiss army knife VJ will reap the rewards of our hard work.

    When one can comfortably conceive, script, shoot, edit, narrate, score and render out the final product – all done by one person – and done with a high degree of professional quality, then that is the VJ worth hiring to meet the needs of this new wave.

    Claudio’s work is a benchmark, a standard by which we as Solo Video Journalist’s should look to as we develop our skills.

  3. Actually Cliff, you’re the one who needs to show us something. I’m getting a paycheck for my work.


    Didn’t think so!

    Keep waiting for your revolution. Until you actually do something other than take classes, it’s a little hard to take your point of view seriously. You talk about how it’s happening yet you seem unable to do anything of your own.

    Why is that?

  4. Pingback: Brooks Andrus » Blog Archive » Jing: A Perfect Storm is Brewing

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