OVC as a Medium

“Old media are not being displaced. Rather, their functions and status are shifted by the introduction of new technologies” (14).

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. NYU Press, 2008.

OVC as a Medium
As I’ve discussed in the passed, while my research on the online video conversation (OVC) focuses on students’ use of the communication tool Viddler in the classroom, the study and the topic have little to do with Viddler. It is merely a tool that offers certain features that are beneficial to the OVC; it does not create it. Even through the course of this research, various tools and technologies are beginning to offer such features as the ability to comment within the timeline of an online video. As Henry Jenkins states, “[H]istory teaches us that old media never die–and they don’t even necessarily fade away. What dies are simply the tools we use to access media content…” (13). Regardless of whether Viddler persists, the phenomenon that is the OVC is not dependent on it or any other tool; it refers more to a method and a medium through which we communicate.

To define media, I’ll turn to (as Henry Jenkins did) Lisa Gitelman’s definition: “[A] medium is a technology that enables communication; … a medium is a set of “protocols” or social and cultural practices that have grown up around that technology.” These protocols emerge as highly important aspects of her definition. As she elaborates, “Protocols express a huge variety of social, economic, and material relationships” (13-14).

To differentiate delivery systems from media, Jenkins states that, “Delivery systems are simply and only technologies; media are also cultural systems. Delivery technologies’ come and go all the time, but media persist as layers within an ever more complicated information and entertainment stratum” (14). In this way, it could be seen that Viddler is a delivery system, the medium is online video communication, and the specific way in which this is used, the OVC, is a protocol.

However, I am not comfortable relegating the OVC to just a protocol. This emotion is certainly not due to any bias I’d have because it is the main focus of my study and therefore might have some elevated stature in my structure; I’d have no issue conducting an in-depth study of a communication protocol. Rather, after considering Gitelman’s definition(s), I the OVC as a technology that enables a certain kind of communication; for individuals to be able to communicate through online video methods, asynchronously, in a way that produces a trackable, scannable, conversation which provides a high level of social presence. Furthermore, it has its own set of protocols that grow around its use: it is embedded on other sites (it can also be viewed on the Viddler site), it allows people to respond via video or text, there is a membership involved, videos can be public or private, and perhaps more to the point, users find a certain value in the asynchronous nature of it.

Also informing my contention that the OVC is a media is Jenkins’ point that “[O]nce a medium establishes itself as satisfying some core human demand, it continues to function within the larger system of communication options” (14). Therefore, it can be sent that the OVC satisfies a certain human demand, one only brought about in response to a situation that the technological advance of the internet has brought about: the need to feel closer and a high level of social presence to those with whom we communicate online. Specific to my study is the need for online students to have a sense of their teachers’’ presence as well as that of their fellow students beyond the textual formats of email and online discussion boards which can be cold and non-human. Additionally, the OVC functions in the larger system of communication options, since there is a specific reason why it would be chosen over other online communication options.

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