Friday, August 01, 2008

Putting Context Collapse into Context...

If you watched this from Michael Wesch, you might be interested in the further explanation of the Context Collapse he describes.
The context here is the moment the vlogger faces the webcam to record something (for youtube for example) and realises that they are about to share with whoever may ever discover it on the web, for all time.


Some pause for thought to try to let that sink in...
Most just crash on without thought for the ever-more or the endless variety of audience for their piece-to-camera.

Rather helpfully the prof has penned this.
Here's an illuminating excerpt:
"Context collapse: an infinite number of contexts collapsing upon one another into that single moment of recording. The images, actions, and words captured by the lens at any moment can be transported to anywhere on the planet and preserved (the performer must assume) for all time. The little glass lens becomes the gateway to a blackhole sucking all of time and space – virtually all possible contexts – in upon itself."

The same weight of history applies to our blog posts (even these words as I write them...), your comments, forums, the pictures you share on flickr, the relationships you share on social networks...

As I asked Mike in the comments on his post: "Assume you make the distinction for video (as compared to our words and pictures in blogs, forums and social networks) because of the lack of ‘face-work’* in those contexts?
Mike Wesch: "*Face-work is a complex collaborative dance in which all participants and their every word, wink, gesture, posture, stance, glance, and grunt take part. In short, how we present ourselves (and by extension, who we “are”) depends a great deal on context; where we are, who we are with, and what we are doing, among many other factors.

I guess the weight of history rests upon the very words I type now. But the process of writing has been one we are used to performing without direct and real-time feedback.

Out of interest, I wonder if Mike has done a comparison with how people reacted to home video when it first emerged (ie video that was never likely to be shared with history?)

Do you remember the first time someone shoved a video camera in your face? Could you guess who you were presenting yourself for?

The webcam, I think Mike is saying, puts us in a place where we can no longer make that guess.


POST SCRIPT: This inspired me to record a message to the future on qik. If you have one, post it where-ever you like (youtube, seesmic, qik, whatever) and, please, post a link to it in the comments on this blog?
I'll add it to our list.

Alan Moore's message to the future:

Rebecca Caroe's message to the future:


  1. if you ever want to understand enlightenment, it is exactly that - context collapse.

    the moment one sees without context, one sees what is.

    michael is doing amazing work. saints are smiling

  2. Yes this is all very interesting stuff, and thanks for pointing this out. It is very reminiscent of Virilio and Baudrilliard - who was working on a similar idea (The Telematic Man) in "Xerox to Infinity".


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?