I haven’t written much on here about my dissertation work on mobile film, mainly because I was too busy writing it! (Although I did link a vlog on the topic here, and there are more on my YouTube channel.) However, as I finally handed it in three weeks ago today, I decided it was time I shared a few things about it on here.
Mobile Film Apps and social Media
After going through several topics, I found myself writing about the role of mobile video in social media, particularly looking at social media apps such as Vine and Instagram video. I was particularly interested in Digital Identity – how people present their public persona online, and whether using video affected that.
There has been plenty of literature on how modern mobile phone cameras have opened up filming to the general population, to the point where creating films has become a part of many people’s daily lives. However these apps have opened up sharing to the bigger population. People have been uploading mobile phone videos to the Internet for pretty much as long as there has been mobile video, and especially since the creation of YouTube in 2005. But doing this required getting the video off the phone, possibly editing it or changing file format, then uploading it… it was a much more complicated process that undoubtedly put a lot of people off. Now, you can record with an app which puts the video online and shared it to other social media platforms almost immediately, anywhere with WiFi or a 3G/4G connection.
Knowing this, I decided to try to find out exactly why people were sharing these videos. What was the content? Who were the videos aimed at? What was did they think was the purpose of sharing these videos, especially since they were being shared to quite open platforms?
Finding out involved doing a mix of studies, most importantly an online survey asking these kind of questions, but also a case study using the videos made for the #NextGenHello crowdsourced film, which I’ve written about previously. As these apps are so new, it was hard to reach out to the right people who were using them. But I did manage to come up with some conclusions.
I had looked at vlogging on other channels as part of my literature, as it’s really entered the global consciousness as a ‘thing’ people do, even as a career. I thought there might be connections between the way people vlog on longer videos – to gain followers, and mobile apps, and there definitely is for a small minority, particularly using Vine to create clever short films. Yet the majority of the people I got info from weren’t interested in that at all. They mostly made videos to share through social media to a small network of friends and family, even if the videos were open and public. Videos were being used as a form of communication to a small number of people, as well as adding to their Digital Identity (usually in a positive way; a way that made them look good online in other words!) Even the #NextGenHello videos which were made for a wider audience featured common themes of people’s lives, hobbies and families. In addition, many of the videos creative in their shots and edits, even within the short time span the app gives you.
Many people didn’t seem to consider this in any great detail – they weren’t deliberately trying to create a particular online identity through their videos. It seems to be something we do without thinking, ditto the creative element. Mobile video has crept into social media and become a massive part of it almost organically, part of the process of evolution within online spaces.