The vulnerability of video

Who are we when we are seen and heard, but without the fancy lights and face paint?

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Years ago in my telecoms work I used to talk a lot about the three basic elements of communications: information (like a stock quote), narrative (which has tempo and drama), and presence (like the smell of the pullover of a deceased relative). [To learn more read this paper.] Over the last month or two I have been experimenting with this new format of short 3-8 minute videos plus three paragraphs of supporting text to draw people in, give context, and fill in any points I missed when improvising. The visual medium is best suited to presence and narrative, and strongest when telling my own story.

I usually spend a few minutes thinking before each recording, and come up with three main points I want to make, so I have a structure in my head. Talking to a lump of plastic perched on a tripod on my sofa arm isn’t easy, as it doesn’t give you any interaction or feedback. I am gradually learning to tame my ticks and not mumble so much, as my head tends to run ahead of my mouth. I am used to giving conference presentations to large audiences, but these videos lend themselves to an intimacy and vulnerability that other formats lack. It is a change from using my cranium to sift and sort information.

In this piece I tell a bit more of my own story and what it feels like living my own life right now. Getting it out there is therapeutic, and seems to help others by validating our shared wartime struggle. What we are about to collectively confront — hearts and minds turning to mush from a bioweapon — is hideous and harrowing. The paradox we may have to master is “being strong together through sharing our common vulnerability”, so that we feel safer in the storms of change. It is a new skill for me, and not an easy one. You have to balance the public and private, avoid self-pity, and eschew fetishising your own suffering.

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We really are the news now. Including on video.