<videovortex> multitude.tv: A YouTube parasite - Matthew Mitchem’s response

Seth Keen sethkeen at internode.on.net
Tue Jan 1 11:44:48 CET 2008

multitude.tv: A YouTube parasite

Here is Matthew Mitchem’s response to some questions I sent him about  
the multitude.tv project - http://www.multitude.tv/ Matthew is  
presenting at the Video Vortex conference on the Alternative  
Platforms and Software panel (Amsterdam, January 18/19).

SK - I am interested in the differences you are working on addressing  
in contrast to the way YouTube operates as part of offering an  
alternative. Along with the political motivations and undertones.

MM - Well we're not entirely disconnected from Youtube, rather per a  
bit parasitic on it.  YouTube is related to multitude.tv as more or  
less one host amongst other platforms.  This is largely to reduce  
bandwidth, but also to exploit those particular platforms out of  
their own context.  YouTube, I think, is an "alternative" largely in  
relation to "old media" particularly television.  On the Internet  
YouTube (and other major hosts) are really large databases each with  
their own rules, and their own relations to each other and old  
media.  I would agree with Geert that when we talk about YouTube were  
largely speaking of video on the Internet (not that this is accurate,  
but it is easy).

Then of course, multitude.tv has obvious activist undertones, There  
is with many members of the site an activist history, my personal  
history in this regard is largely tied up with a kind of late 1990s/ 
early 2000's Midwestern situationism of an "Adbusters" flavor.

Less, and perhaps unrecognizably political, is the broad range of  
interest, philosophy, art, science (lifted from Deleuze & Guattari's  
"What is Philosophy") and global, cultural, and media (arenas of  
activism).  These aren't the only reasons for these organizational  
choices, but this example reflexes some of the thought behind them.   
I think these are all intense points of political intersection,  
though not necessarily partisan.  Also with Deleuze, and against  
Badiou, I would resist counting politics amongst the "disciplines" of  
"Philosophy, Art, and Science".

In some ways I think this capacity of multitude.tv to be parasitical  
of the YouTubes of the net differentiates it from YouTube, and that  
it is healthier for the functioning of the site (in terms of database/ 
directory load) to be parasitical is not without import. This I would  
suggest is part of its malleability.

Another consideration in organizing multitude.tv is a consideration  
of the flows of integrations on the site.  For example, all of the  
comments are run through the same component as the forums  
(Communicate).  While some information is less integrated (user  
profile information for example).  There is also, in contrast to  
YouTube, a relatively transparent editorial organization, editors are  
more active members of the site who express interest in being editors.

Currently another site member and I are putting together editorial  
guidelines.  All of this of course operates on a different  
organization than membership of YouTube.  On YouTube members are more  
or less equal (there are corporate and promotional exceptions), but  
in terms of users they are equal; there are more administrative  
barriers to adding different kinds of content on multitude.tv (I  
don't like it, it is managerial and I resist it), and like YouTube  
one does not have to be a member of multitude.tv to access most of  
its content (user profiles being major exception); and like YouTube  
one must be a member to add videos to the site.

However, the content of multitude.tv is placed within an organization  
around topics; in this way it acts more or less like a standard web  
2.0 collective blog (wordpress, etc), especially in regards to News  
items. Furthermore, like those blogs, videos may also appear in the  
content.  However, we also act as a video-filter for videos appearing  
throughout the Internet on multiple sites; bringing them together by  
and for a community.

For example, we've recently been bringing together videos on  
philosophers, longer documentaries, which are then searchable via the  
site; so that multitude.tv can act as a kind of interest filter for  
on-line video.  (Philosophy professors for example may direct  
students to the site) This is a minor use of the site, but one that  
is concrete; a use that was an affect of the organization and  
presentation of the content.

SK - There seems a lot to work with and explain in relation to the  
motivations behind the project and the actual way these work within  
the framework of the website. It would be good to get a better  
understanding of how multitude.tv works - I read the 'about' and  
engaged with the website and wanted more explanation of what is  
taking place in this space and possibly how you see it being  
developed in the future. i.e. What has been learnt? What is being  
seen as a focal point for that development?

MM – Right now, we are busy getting the format of the on-line journal  
launched, it will be an on-line journal with Articles, Reviews and an  
Art section, replacing the current Articles and Reviews on the site.   
The focus of development at this point is to stir registered users to  
use the site, and to get new members.  We have discussed the  
possibility of a conference, and we are participating in various  
forums. Though we are hesitant in being overtly political, largely  
due to the current polemical nature of politics, particularly in the  
US.  Ideally the site could be a space for other projects to emerge  
from, for collaborations to form; the area called “Collaborate” is an  
area for users to create groups.  In a similar way that myspace/ 
faceboook etc work, but with an a priori interest in those fields  
through which the site is organized.

SK - In your earlier reference to open source software this could be  
seen as secondary maybe to the alternative platform focus - possible  
briefly covered as part of working with open source applications and  
integrating these with this type of initiative...even looking at the  
issues faced in doing this etc...

MM - This is the final major part of the redesign of the site, which  
included all kinds of lessons learned about operating and configuring  
a CMS, in this case Joomla.  Many of the previous components that  
made up the old site were replaced... and the redesign went much  
deeper than the template.  I might want to discuss particular  
components operating on the site, especially Seyret, the component  
that host and organizes, the video.  This component more or less  
makes easy the creation of an online video site (much like YouTube),  
for free (there is a pro version available with more features and for  
a price).  It lends itself to various ways of organizing and  
presenting videos from all over the net and is the video content  
poaching brain of our site.  Furthermore it's highly configurable by  
the user, our designer did a complete template overhaul for it (and  
for much of the site), which was with relatively straightforward  
modifications.  I should also say that regardless of the parasitical  
relationship to YouTubes, multitude.tv can host videos, though we are  
limited in format (and unfortunately presently do not support ogg);  
and we encourage members to upload/submit their own work to the site.

Thanks for your notes on the 'About' page; I would agree that it is  
very ambiguous, and needs to continually be fleshed out, and it is my  
hope that as the community expands (slowly) and develops the about  
page will change... It is modified about every 6 months anyway, as  
strategies and interest moves in the user community.

SK - Some questions - How is editing and posting handled (is there  
gatekeeping?) When something is posted by multitude.tv is that one  
person or a group?

MM - A post by “multitude.tv” is usually by me, though editable by  
anyone in the editorial collective (publisher status on the site).   
At one time we did have a more explicit membership structure, but now  
it is a reflection of organization and administration access to the  
site.   I am more or less a fulcrum of the site, more as an  
administrator than as an executive; and different projects of the  
site have more active participants (I work principally with one user  
for design, a few others for editing, another for publishing of news  
items, and a few folks for translation, and one user that watches  
where our traffic comes from).  I largely address technical concerns  
myself and don't bother anyone until I can't do anything more, though  
volunteers are always welcome.  I don't enjoy multitude.tv being  
referred to as my project, or my site, and I have a resistance to too  
much organization, and the "lessons learned" are all about making  
concessions to organization, and trying various strategies.  It  
should also be noted I am not the only person with access to the  
backend structure of the site, there are other administrators.  One  
has to be an idealist on some level to experiment like this...

Thanks a lot, I get a great deal out of thinking and writing about  
these things... We made the forum "multitude.tv" in the Communicate  
section (viewable when signed in) to discuss the site itself,  
discussions like this (though the forum has been fairly mute)…


sethkeen at internode.on.net

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