YouTube preserves unmediated Nature

Allison Guy
July 31st 2011

On Youtube, there's a whole sub-genera of safari videos that show, in gruesome detail, what exactly it means to live and die in Old Nature. The above film is a particularly stomach-churning example, depicting African hunting dogs that eviscerate and devour a kudu while the antelope is still very much alive.  It's the sort of material that winds up on the editing floor during the production of a typical nature documentary. Wildlife films sanitize the predator-prey relationship. Death occurs off-screen; if it is shown, it's bloodless and quick.  Amateur nature videos remove a layer of artistic interpretation between the audience and "authentic" nature. Without a sound track or a narrator contextualizing the hunt, death becomes neither triumphant nor tragic. It doesn't impart any moral lessons. In nature, as in YouTube, death just happens.

Amateur videos like "Survival of the Fittest" compete for page views, and so still maintain the entertainment edict of traditional wildlife filmmaking. Web cams trained on nesting birds or savannah waterholes offer an even more immediate experience. They're instantaneous, unedited, and usually unrecorded. In other words, wildlife web cams are the next best thing to being there. It used to be that professionally produced films, articles, and books were the main means for city-dwellers and office-workers to experience any wildlife more threatening than a pigeon.  Advanced digital technologies have helped to restore some 'truth in advertising' to the workings of wild ecosystems. In some sense, YouTube and other websites have become unintentional parks that uphold the conservation of unmediated nature.

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Allison Guy
Posted 04/10/2011 – 12:20

Hi Gillian, feel free to send me an email at allison@nextnature.net. Animality in web 2.0 was (partially) the subject of my thesis as well

Gillian
Posted 04/10/2011 – 11:35

I can't quite see who posted this youtube clip, but I'd like to talk further with you, if you're interested. Web 2.0 mediated experiences of nature is the subject of my thesis and this clip is a compelling example of how the social web has the potential to alter our mediated nature experiences. What this might mean, further down the track, is my interest. many thanks for sharing.

natinja
Posted 31/07/2011 – 16:05

I remember of an interview with David Attenbourough who explained that his wildlife documentaries were rarely sanitised on purpose but because of the limitations inherent to the means of production. Staging a scene with dead decoys and completing the picture with audio dumbing were part of the trade when the film crew had to carry heavy film cameras and multitrack tape recorders on the field, which was the case until the late 80s. Off-screen killing came latter with the video camera which permitted to capture live scenes as they occur. Amateur video grabbing with shaky framing is no different from professional "film" making, everything is mediated as soon as the human's senses kick in and framing is a conscientious act, except that amateur video is often ignorant of the language of the medium, hence its unmannered outlook.

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