This second Video Vortex Reader marks the transition of online video into the mainstream. Staggering statistics of hypergrowth no longer impress us. Discussing a possible online video project for the first time in late 2006 in Melbourne with Seth Keen, the topic was still a matter of ‘becoming’. One collaborative research project, six conferences and two anthologies later, the Video Vortex project seems at a crossroads. Massive usage is not an indication of relevance. Heavy use does not automatically translate into well-funded research or critical art practices. Is the study of online video, like most new media topics, doomed to remain a niche activity – or will we see a conceptual quantum leap, in line with the billions of clips watched daily? So far, there is no evidence of a dialectical turn from quantity into quality. It is remarkable how quickly both pundits and cultural elites became used to online video libraries containing millions of mini-films. In our ‘whatever’ culture nothing seems to surprise us. Who cares about the internet? Continuous technological revolution, from social networking to smartphones, seems to have numbed us down. B-S-B: Boredom-Surprise-Boredom. Instead of an explosion of the collective imaginary we witness digital disillusion – a possible reason why online theory has had a somewhat unspectacular start. The low quality of YouTube’s most popular videos certainly indicates that this platform is not a hotbed of innovative aesthetics.


What are the concerns here? Was will das Medium? Are we condemned to fight over the exact percentage of user-generated content in comparison to remediated film and television material? Will online video remain a jukebox item that is passed from one social network to the next? Have we all switched from zapping to searching? Should we approach the potential of YouTube culture from the plasma screen angle? Is the final destination to be found in the living room, where the online video logic starts to compete with cable and free-to-air television? Is online video liberating us from anything? Instead of trying merely to measure this ever-changing field, we can also try to define future scenarios. Let’s dig into the destiny of online video and discuss three possible directions […].  [Geert Lovink, ‘Engage in Destiny Design: Online Video Beyond Hypergrowth: Introduction to Video Vortex Reader II’, in Geert Lovink and Rachel Somers Miles (eds), Video Vortex Reader: Moving Images Beyond YouTube (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2011) p. 9]

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