yellowBird as participatory video
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In February 2010 the Dutch newspaper Het Financieel Dagblad reported that a Dutch '3D image'-company partnered with Google's YouTube. The topic of the article was yellowBird (yB), an enterprise producing a rather unconventional type of online video. YB uses a typical video camera, similar to the cameras used to produce the still images for 'Google Street View'. However, different from StreetView's still images, yB offers “...a moveable 360° image in a spherical shape.” (yellowBird, 2011b) The media technology used by yB presents itself as a new phenomenon and the challenge that presents itself is how to conceptualize this 'new' type of online video. It is important to note that 'yellowBird' is the brand name of the enterprise and not the category label for this kind of video. The technology goes by different names, such as '360 degree video' and 'interactive video' (yellowBird, 2011b). These terms do not do justice to the technology, because 1. interactivity is a fuzzy concept which does not explain what this interactiveness means for the user experience, and 2. yB goes beyond 360 degrees of video. Therefore, this term literally falls short of accurately describing yB. The aim of this research is to advocate that participatory video is a more adequate term by which to understand the category of yB's video technology. The research is both descriptive and comparative, where the research method is textual analysis enriched with elements of interface analysis. The object of the research is yB and where I address yB I refer to the 'showreel', which is a typical example of an online video by yB (yellowBird, 2011c). The research will provide insight into the concept participation as used in new media theory. First, I will introduce yB since this kind of video might be unfamiliar for some readers. Thereafter I will address the newness of yB by means of Huhtamo's article “Armchair Traveler on the Ford of Jordan: The Home, the Stereoscope and the Virtual Voyager” (1995). I introduce the concept of 'formatted spaces of participation' proposed by Eggo Muller (2008) because it promotes awareness of the design, structure and affordance(s) of a (new) medium. In short, the way in which its space of participation is formatted. Such awareness is important because design has affordances which enables and even suggests certain kinds of participation, while at the same time it prohibits others. Another valuable contribution of Muller's theory is that it circumvents the often unfruitful dichotomies in texts about new media, usually described by the labels 'utopian' (positive) and 'dystopian' (negative) discourses. In order to introduce the concept participation as used in new media theory I will zoom in on interactivity, participation and participatory culture, which is needed to understand the arguments for yB being called participatory video. Furthermore, I intend to employ the three domains of participation, as coined by Raessens (2006). These domains are interpretation, construction and reconfiguration. I develop arguments in favor of yB being called participatory video, providing that this term is more informative, and better addresses yB's medium specificity compared to 'interactive' and '360' video. In conclusion, I reflect on the arguments put forth and intend to have shown the need for, and value of, the concept participatory video.