Slow Viewing




No, Charlie B, I will not shut up. In fact Charlie, if you don’t like it, turn around. It’s an experiment, only I am not going to use you for some vague research agenda. What I have found out over the last year is that asking people to give a damn is asking a lot. So this amounts to working out loud, for my purposes. If you get something out of it, well…I’d be surprised.

I am obsessed now and over the last few years about slowness. My last post was about slow living and slow learning. I live on a farm where it’s all about slow learning (unless a hawk is after a chicken and in that case the learning had better already be there for cluck’s sake).

The purpose of this post is to think and work out loud considering the concept of slow viewing. I take as my context Ze Frank’s recent talk about his work on Buzzfeed as president of their Motion Pictures division. I started watching the video on FORA (you may need to join to access the vid, not sure, but free) and I knew immediately that this was not something I could scrub through.  It reminded me of the awesome John Cleese video a few years ago on creativity where I did some very intent viewing. I needed to do a slow viewing.

Typically, I do slow viewing with the cloud  annotation tool, Vialogues.  Of late I have also been drawn to Thinglink’s relatively new video annotation tool.  For some reason I started annotating with neither one. I used les pense-bete, Post-It notes.

As I viewed Ze Frank’s talk, I started tacking them around the outer edges of my screen, but they weren’t the ultra sticky kind so the overhead fan kept blowing them off.  Plus, Frank’s presentation had lots of cool charts and I needed something more.  I decided on grabbing screenshots and then put callouts on those shots in Snag-It.  That would fit my workflow quite nicely.

The best part of using a screencapture tool like SnagIt is that it forces me to slow down. I pause the video, grab the image, save it.    Folks like Charlie B are lightning fast and probably don’t need to slow down, to slow view, but I do need that pause to consider.

Videos resist slow viewing because they have continuity, a loop and flow that I am used to watching from start to finish.  I also tend to be a passive viewer of moving media. All of these characteristics militate against ‘reading’ video slowly.

At first I thought that others might be interested, perhaps Charlie B, but then I remembered–it is hard for folks to care and attend and read because they are going too fast. This is fussy, stop-and-go work unpacking video content, but the good stuff like Ze Frank’s presentation practically demands that treatment. It is rich and deep and complex and begs  to be explored, translated and annotated, even to be remixed and transformed.

And that is what I did below





But Charlie D says this makes no sense if I haven’t viewed the video.

buzzfeed approach to reach and impact

Exactly so, the purpose of annotation and slow viewing is idiosyncratic and personal. It might have value for you, but I know it has value for me. It slows me down to reconsider.


This post has been influenced quite a bit by Ze Frank but also by my recent work annotating Nick Sousanis’ graphic dissertation, Unflattening. In the former, I champion the idea Frank presents at the beginning of his talk: we are using images and video much as we used text in the Guttenberg Pause. And we have to acknowledge this in whatever discipline we happen to be working, learning in my instance. Actually, we’re all in the learning business. It is the parallel discipline for every practice. Frank’s talk is full of amazing resonance for learners and is worth slow viewing for that alone.

Sousanis’ influence is very similar. His book is an embodiment of Ze Frank’s idea above. Unflattening is an acknowledgement that the disseration as we know it may be insufficient for audiences post-Guttenberg Pause. And my slow viewing is also a recognition that we must do something more with video than passively take it in through the funnels of our eyes.

The real fun of slow viewing is that you begin to internalize some of the disciplinary habits of those you are walking with.  For example, in my SnagIt annotations I began to experiment with how I used the ‘callout’ boxes on the page by adopting some of the design principles I learned about in Sousanis’ work.  And I am looking at the “Sad Cat Diary” exemplar that Frank presents as a way to begin to look at how I “sell” folks on the CLMOOC “brand”.

So Charlie B, if you made it this far, it’s a miracle.  Here’s hoping you got something out of it, but in the end it doesn’t matter.  I wrote this in part for you, but  really this is just slow writing for me.  It is a form of intellectual and emotional occupation.  Like the Norman one, its likely effect is permanent, an inner tattoo on the mind.  What do you think of that, Charlie B?  Really? Damn you’re such a troll, but I love ya anyway.



7 Replies to “Slow Viewing”

  1. Terry, my neurodevelopmental, and hopefully not too pedantic response. I applaud your idea of “slow viewing,” and wonder how many people engage in that kind of analysis. We are living in (surprise!) a highly visual era, and the general trend is “visual – everyone loves visual – so let’s give them visual.” UNFORTUNATELY, visual is NOT where conceptual thinking occurs. Conceptual (higher-order, abstract) thinking is all word/idea based, and watching all the video in the world will not develop those skills. Watching a video and then pondering on it, such as you did, engages the mind in conceptual thought, so has cognitive benefit. If only more people of all ages attacked the visual world the same way.

    1. I am with you on the conceptual thinking, but I suspect there is an even higher order of thinking that crosses back and forth from text to image to sound to movement and back again like a shuttle on a loom.
      And…I think Ze Frank (remember that was my prime intent, to understand his talk) is right, too. People are using video, music, gifs, pix as word surrogates, sharing them much as they would words. For example, the face plant meme is a kind of pictogram for that moment we have all had where …and here follows 250 words.
      I really believe that Frank’s little chat has some revolutionary ideas about rhetoric in it. I think that if we slow up/slow down/sidle crabwise we can begin to expand the neurodevelopmental idea of higher order or at least to modify it some. I think that all of my work in zeega and popcorn has been the highest thinking that I am capable of producing. For me the seemingly crazy crossover from words to images and back again has the greatest probability of generating what I mean. Whether that is high or low (the hi-lo metaphor makes me a little crazy) I don’t really know, but I do know that the movement from words to images and back is deeply satisfying in my body as a felt sense of knowing. Some folks feel a click with this, but for me embodied knowing raises the hair on the back of my neck. Is embodied knowing even higher on the order of thinking? Or are thinking and knowing not in the same musical score?

      1. Fascinating observation, Terry, that “movement from words to images and back is deeply satisfying in my body as a felt sense of knowing.” I haven’t spent a lot of time with Zeega (rest in peace), and none with Popcorn. I need to get busy. I’m sure #CLMOOC will offer opportunities. I wonder if kids get a “sense of knowing” when a care taker is reading a picture book to them?

  2. I am intrigued by audience notions when it comes to annotations with social media tools … are we annotating for the self, or the crowd, or the crowd of selves (us included)? The notions of slow, as you have been exploring (and I have been slow to comment, so I am right with you, my friend) does make me consider how fast I read and write and reflect and make, and what gets lost in the moments “in between” those times (you know, when I teacher to 80 11 year olds and father to 3 boys and husband to patient wife and all that).
    It’s funny because my word for 2015 — my One Little Word — was “pause.”

    I still need to remind myself of that.


    1. Ok … so I left a lot of white space towards the end of that comment to indicate “pause” and the blog wiped it all out, which has me thinking a bit about how technology doesn’t always allow us to represent our thinking the way we want.




      to force your blog to keep the open space of my thinking clear ….

      Annotate if needed.


    2. Glad you caught the drift on my use of Charlie Brooker as my foil here. I am also interested. Started with Diigo annotated links where you can be a better reader and you can ‘say’ in different ways. This is a very interesting writing space: we annotate for an audience of one with learning as our purpose, we annotate for an audience of one so as to share understanding with that one person, we annotate to honor the ideas and creative energy of a particular work, we annotate as our ante up in a pool of attention focused with others on some digital object. So the Venn diagram of pronouns you write about above is a dynamic one that can mean differently from different points of view, just like Sousanis draws about in Unflattening–parallax.

      And then there is the real world. The closest I got to teaching at your age level was as a substitute. I did teach eighth graders for ten years so I know how all bets are off in the “pausing” game for the kinetic jonesing of them rascals. Yet… there always seemed to be interstices, fallow spaces where you could be a crow on a post checking out the passing scene. I know you have those when you write, I know you have them when you play music, I know you have a hot tub time machine, a metaphorical one anyway like Walter Mitty did. Your imagination is your pause machine. You set aside the real world’s frenzy and pause inside your own comics, comments, and …I can’t think of another ‘c’-word (that fits, anyway). Maybe your life is like a score for “Flight of the Bumblebees” not many pauses, but that’s not the point in that music, is it? BTW have you ever heard the tuba version of that? This is the one that I think sounds most like bumblebees:

  3. Pingback: Miranda Warning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *