I did something yesterday that I do not normally do (a few colleagues have been asking me to do this for a long time) — make a video log. Marshall McLuhan, a visionary sage whose predictions and analyses have mostly stood the test of time, famously said that the medium is the message. What he meant is that the nature of the medium ends up changing or determining the message.
One of the reasons why I have never done a video log is that in a visual medium the focus is on engaging the eyes of the viewer — photography, ads, movies — and my message is just words. So no wonder that after editing the video my colleague came and told me that at 40 minutes it is way too long and asked me if I can tone it down to 4 minutes! I ended up giving him a short sermon — if my goal is to engage the eyes of the students then I have to start performing in front of the camera, do a snappy 10 things you need to do sort of a thing (the good old listicle), constantly changing camera angles, keeping the edits super short but that is not the goal, the goal is to communicate a few things that are best read or listened to. Even here the medium makes a huge difference.
When I write I can take on a varied range of tones, write sentences of varying lengths, paint a picture that will activate the imagination of the reader. A friend was telling me a while ago that she barely reads nowadays (in sharp contrast to her past voraciousness), but then she quickly rebalanced by saying that she watches a lot of documentaries and movies that are also another form of acquiring knowledge or getting entertained, so in effect maybe there isn’t much lost in this transition from reading to watching. I said there is much that is lost in the transition from reading to watching. A reader is active — the words, the faces, the landscape, the conflict are all imagined in the reader’s mind, a reader is a co-creator, which is why the saying, never judge a book by the movie :-). A viewer is just consuming and not creating at all since all senses are blocked with none open to the imagination.
When we listen, say to a podcast, the experience is yet again different, the writer or speaker of those words exerts a much larger influence, through the most persuasive of all tools at our disposal — the voice — we feel that we really know the speaker. This is why even on film actors with great voices have always held a peculiar sway, especially the villain — you can have a hero with a weak voice (and God knows we have had a few of them) but never a villain, a villain can’t even have a passable voice, it has to be overpowering (an actor I love in this regard is Hugo Weaving who excels both in V for Vendetta, where he has tons of dialogue and The Matrix, where he has barely any barring saying Mr.Anderson). A podcast that I have been listening to every day on my way to and back from work is Humane Arts by Wes Cecil, he is a professor in the US and most of the podcasts are actually recordings of actual lectures, listening to his voice makes me feel that I know him, I absolutely love the way he starts most lectures, and at times I feel it would have been great to sit in his class, but I also know that I haven’t missed much since his voice makes me feel as if I am sitting in his class and all that I am missing are the slides he shows. Those of you who are seriously interested in Philosophy, Languages, or the Arts, should most definitely listen to him, the others can give him a miss.
All of this just to tell you why I will never again try to do a video blog, a podcast or audio blog maybe, but by and large I will stick to words.
So instead of boring you with visuals, I asked them to just give me the audio version of what I shot. It is still not the same since if it was only audio to start with my tone would have been completely different.
What does the clip contain — the things to do from Friday till you take your chair on Sunday.