Collage Code (workshop)

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Notes / working text for a talk given as part of Collaborative Online Video workshop held in Brussels, November 2008 (Michael Murtaugh)


Collage & Code

Online video needn't be limited to the single image framed by VCR style controls popularized by sites such as youTube. By combining media plugins with scripting languages like JavaScript and PHP, the form and display of online video can reflect the potential of presenting multiplicity: multiple image, multiple authors, multiple playouts.


  • The Web as collage: Collage is discussed as a way of editing on the web by bringing elements from disparate sources and form/media. The resulting assemblages are "loosely connected" in the sense that each element retains its individual character (technically speaking, the media, the source in terms of server), but also in terms of the possible speed of assembly / re-assembly via the simple mechanism of HTML tags in a text file.
  • Toward a Video Wiki: Video is looked at as an element in a larger constellation of elements online, and new forms of presenting video online are looked toward that may better reflect the multiple authors and sources of collaborative projects. Collaborative online video tools need not stay stuck in the "heavy" and overly precise timeline-based model of tools like "Final Cut". Software such as the wiki, are suggestive of other approaches to collaborative work online that can have useful application in the realm of comparable tools for working with video as well.
  • "Cut-up the present and the future leaks out": Collage has a history in arts practices as a strategy for "cutting through" normative media by techniques such as concentration, repetition, juxtaposition, recontextualization. The structure and technology of the web (still) provides a kind of collage or "cut-up" space where these tactics find a natural home.

Watch Grab Arrange See

Watch Grab Arrange See: thinking with motion images via streams and collages 1993 Masters Thesis, Edward Elliott

In Elliott's VideoStreamer and accompanying Collage interface, the software facilitates an easy movement from viewing to editing by "grabbing" blocks from the VideoStream and dropping into the Collage where they may be viewing in parallel with other elements. The collage provides support for a kind of "engaged viewing" that crosses over into a new kind of editing -- and one that suggests new relationships of a viewer to video than simply a traditional television style presentation.

Loose Connections

The structure of the web is such that it allows a certain "looseness" of connection in the elements presented on a single page. For instance, using the image tag (<img>) a page can incorporate images taken from remote servers as easily as those from the same source as the page. Ideally, the web creates a collage space where disparate elements can be brought together. On a technical level: this means disparate media can remain independent (text is text, image is image, video video, etc.), and displayed in a browser that composites the elements at the time of viewing. From a network point of view, the elements may be pulled in from remote servers, either in real time (via using an "external" URL, or via a "cached" copy of material).

From reading to writing (and back again)

The approach of Active Archives draws inspiration from (and in part literally uses software of) the wiki. The name wiki, or formally "wiki wiki", as chosen by Ward Cunningham, is a Hawaiian language term meaning quick or fast. In the case of a wiki, it refers specifically to the speed and fluidity of movement between the act of reading to editing a website. In a simple canonical example, a casual reader of a website based on a wiki software, when noticing a simple typographic error, can very easily (by clicking a link) edit the text of the page and make the correction. In the recommended / "ideal" case, a wiki even forgoes the traditional login / registration process, so that even the casual or anonymous viewer can add changes, without requiring any kind of permission from the creator(s) of the site.

...[T]he absolute bottom line when entering wiki content is "just write" -- essentially, you can use the same, now ubiquitous, conventions as writing e-mail. (The Wiki Way, Leuf & Cunningham, p. 22)
You're browsing a database with a program called Wiki Wiki Web. And the program has an attitude. The program wants everyone to be an author. So, the program slants in favor of authors at some inconvenience to readers. (Posted on the original "wiki", the Portand Pattern Repository; sadly the original seems to no longer be online)

Raspberry Reich

Bruce LaBruce's Raspberry Reich is a collage on many levels: from it's production bridging porn industry and art house, to structure: separate actors dubbing voice over, visual style with split screens, prominent graphic elements, and overlayed and scrolling text. The narrative itself draws on a variety of sources, the Bader Meinhof / RAF history and the writings of Wilhelm Reich primarily, but also draws from text from Situationist, animal liberation, and queer canons. Also, while a "traditional film" in terms of media form, the film's mix of conspiracy theory, pornography, and visual style resonates strongly with the Web.

Other examples shown:

  • Videogrep example from prior workshop
  • Aaron Valdez: States of the Union
  • short exerpts from Abigail Child: Mercy (1989), and Mayhem (1987)

See also: Collage Code (software)

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