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.



5 thoughts on “Slow Viewing

  1. Hi Terry – we are doing some slow staff development in Romania.
    We started by deciding to DRIVE out from the UK rather than fly.
    This astonished many – but we thought that this slow way of getting here would mean that we did actually – arrive – here. Rather than just bring the UK with us in our bags before we dashed off again relatively unchanged by the experience.
    The organizers wanted us to fly – deliver the same session six times (six days on the trot) then fly out – immediately – that last night!
    So – no – we drove – we spent a weekend acclimatizing – we delivered some sessions (Tom in Buccharest – me in Sibiu) – then this weekend to recover and wander slowly about – then we deliver some more next week…
    Then a slower drive back home.
    The sessions themselves are not buzzy PPT lectures – delivering the word – quickly – but rather – role play – image mediated dialogue – structured writing – designing lessons like games.
    The Romanian delegates get to spend time speaking and being with each other – for that will be the best thing they get out of this… and we are asking for tweets with the hashtag #SGM15.
    If there are slow things that you would like to share with these professors who want to develop their pedagogy – that would be wonderful!
    Keep it slow!

  2. One of my favorite slowing down activities is annotating and since most folks know how to annotate and know what you mean by that, then it is great gateway or a gr8way across cultures. You might want to find out other ‘slow ways’ in Romanian academic culture specifically and general culture, too. Might be they have it figured out in ways we don’t. We often don’t appreciate our own glorious ways until an outsider notices. You are our English scout.

    Love your slow ways getting there–why not a tramp steamer through the Bosporus and into the Romanian Riviera? 😉

    1. Tom wanted to put the car on a ferry and slowly circle … Next time I must be more flexible!!

      And thank you for reminding me to gather in ‘their’ slow ideas!!

      The trouble with Euro-financed project (be assured i played no part in writing bids or anything dramatic!) is the great weight of expectation… the need to deliver, to hit those targets… So holding on to slow is taking … Well – just saying that I feel very supported by your arguments and thoughts here!

      1. Gotta render unto Caesar and keep your promises, but here’s hoping there’s room for you to slowly go. You sound so excited and happy to be there, it just has to be going well. Have fun, too.

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