Bogost’s Take on Videos Informing Human Misinformation

In an age in which much of an individual’s gathered opinions of society is dictated by the internet, the perspectives and proponents made available to them become essential. In particular, viral videos have become a prevalent source of depicting social, cultural and political ongoings throughout the world. However, the light that a viral video sheds on its respective occurrence has started to be taken as an objective representation of said occurrence. These notions are explored by writer, Ian Bogost in The Atlantic article, Viral Clash of Students and American Indians Explained. In the article, Bogost argues that, the perspective that viral videos are shot in overtly creates an interpreted narrative of the situation it captures, which individuals take as a fact, ultimately suggesting that misled political opinions are formed through trusting cameras to depict the real world. 

Within the article, a large part of Bogost’s focus is the example that depending on what is apparent in a video, viewers will make leaps in judgement or interpretation about what is not directly apparent in the video. This notion of the explicit informing the illicit is frequently alluded to throughout the article and becomes representative as it reflects the idea of individuals creating a narrative of a situation seen on video. A principle piece of evidence that Bogost provides in support of this idea is a montage experiment carried out in the 1910’s by Soviet film director, Lev Kuleshov. Kuleshov showed different edits of the same film content to viewers, finding that the different edits resulted in varied interpretation. Bogost utilizes this “Kuleshov Effect” in providing evidence for the representative case of viewers making leaps in judgement on the non-explicit through comparing Kuleshov’s viewers with current viewers of videos on the internet interpreting vastly different things when provided with different perspectives of the same occurrence. 

Bogost further strengthens his example of individuals constructing what is illicit in a video through purporting that a vast difference in viewer interpretation can arise out of the smallest change in video content. Bogost argues for this claim through an analysis of the initial harsh reaction of the “viral clash of students and American Indian” video and how this reaction was seemingly less hostile after the release of a longer video of the same occurrence in a different perspective. Bogost extrapolates from this observed change in reaction that a change in camera location can vastly alter the way a video is interpreted, even if the same event is being depicted. Bogost furthers his claim in suggesting that if a small change in a video’s framing can completely alter the viewer’s interpretation of a situation, then no video can be reflective of the real life situation it captures, and thus no video should be used to entirely inform an opinion. Bogost’s uses these claims for his representative case of leaps in judgement occurring within video to reflect the real life implications that videos hold, as he has exploited a flaw in their trustworthiness. 

Evidence present within the article however troubles the interpretation of videos when their context is considered. Bogost’s claim consisted of stating that having knowledge of a greater issue, that a video purports to capture a subsidiary event of (such as the “Students and American Indian” video), does not give way to gaining a full understanding of what occured in the real life situation. Bogost uses said observation in reevaluating his argument as the emergence of the longer video of the student and American Indian scenario may have allowed for the raw conditions in which the situation arose from to become more obvious, however, the motives and thoughts of the individuals within the video can not be reflected in any video. Thus it is not only an interpreted narrative of the situation that is occurring, but additionally an interpreted narrative of the individuals within the video. 

It becomes apparent that throughout the article Bogost utilizes a variety of examples and pieces of evidence in arguing that the perspective in which viral videos are shot overtly creates an interpreted narrative of both the situation and the individuals within the video, which people will tend to take as a fact. The major suggestion that Bogost’s argument amalgamates in is that misled political opinions can be formed through the process of trusting videos. Bogost comes to this culmination through the stringing of both the notion that videos can not be trustworthy reflections of the real-life occurrence they capture, and that knowledge of the greater context of an issue that a video captures does not allude to understanding what happened within it.

Works Cited

Bogost, Ian. “Stop Trusting Viral Videos.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 22 Jan. 2019, www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/01/viral-clash-students-and-native-americans-explained/580906/.

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