Updated 15 April 2015 to include new applications and revise the format.
As part of my research into how Skype Qik is being used in the wild, I’ve been looking into the larger space of social mobile video. The ‘infographic’ above (for want of a better term) is a first and very rough attempt at mapping out a continuum of focus on utility to creativity. I have included livestreaming apps on a similar continuum but not explained their production/response aspects as my emphasis is on pre-recorded video for the time being. YMMV. ;) I’ve included a little background on the thinking behind the infographic below.
The vernacular of video
In our study, we asked participants in our study about the place of video in their personal communication technology ecosystems. Here’s an excerpt from the paper (reformatted for this post):
Descriptions of messaging, sharing, and calling had distinct characters:
- Messaging descriptions highlighted ‘nowness’: To touch, to whisper, to dwell-apart-together, to make arrangements quickly and without burden e.g. (e.g. WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger).
- Sharing descriptions highlighted ‘look-at-this-ness’: To broadcast, to fish, to create for attention but not to demand of others (e.g. Facebook, Weibo, Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine).
- Calling descriptions highlighted ‘personal newsyness’: To commit, to schedule, to be present, to improvise ongoing focus on one another (e.g. Skype and Facetime).
Video was described as having a special place in these three categories:
- Messaging video involved occasional special video moments to be dropped in amongst ongoing chat.
- Sharing video involved specially created or curated video moments to be broadcast and get attention.
- Calling video involved a special need for ongoing video, proposing that the relationship is special and video can be used to manage that specialness.
Expansion of the mobile video production space
Thinking about these vernacular categories of video led me to consider how they might be mapped out. The continuum of utility to creativity above is extrapolated from discussions that we had with participants, and is obliquely referred to in the paper, but has really become clear with the recent sudden expansion of the mobile video production space:
- There are several new asynchronous video messaging applications such as deaf-teen community favourite Glide, the pop-art inspired Pop (actually made with the Layer platform), the odd ‘Vine-with-strangers’ Peeq, and the now-defunct Kevin Rose Tiiny.
- Prior to video messaging Vine and Instagram reigned short video creation mindshare, and Snapchat was in a class of its own due to its hard ephemerality (which Stories have not changed substantially).
- With ‘open class’ short video mindshare taken up, structuring mechanisms have become popular recently, with karaoke video apps Mindie and Dubsmash dominating the space.
- Mobile livestreaming has gone into hype mode with the Meerkat versus Periscope wars, but there are plenty of others (many of which pre-existed) such as Stre.am. Mobli, and YY (and yes, I’m well aware that the original Qik was a livestreaming app, que sera sera)
- Most recently there have been new entrants in mobile collaborative video production, a space long dominated by the unique Vyclone (which auto-compiles multiple videos taken at the same time into one video) but now suddenly facing creative competition from Selvie from Real Networks (combine up to 9 videos from you and your friends in parallel or series, all in one frame) and, of course, Facebook’s brand new Riff (propose a theme and watch your friends and friends-of-friends add to it in one open-ended auto-compiled video).
That’s a lot of apps, with a lot of very different audiences and affordances. I’m especially interested in whether video messaging is a sustainable model, so the infographic probably emphasises that over many other important factors.
The Skype Qik study
The Skype Qik study is being discussed in the CHI 2015 Everyday Telepresence workshop this coming Sunday in Seoul, South Korea.
Rintel, S., Harper, R., Watson, R., and O’Hara, K. (2015). ‘Me For You’: Lessons About Everyday Video Messaging From Skype Qik. Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems; Workshop on Everyday Telepresence: Emerging Practices and Future Research Directions. [Format: Draft PDF]
In this position paper we outline the opportunities and challenges of pure asynchronous video messaging as an everyday utility. We recruited 53 users to try Skype Qik ‘in the wild’ for two weeks from its launch in October 2014. We found users orienting to an organizational principle that we term ‘Me For You’, a self-conscious yet creative orientation that allowed users to transform features of their everyday affairs into show-about-ables that can be subject to and warrant the interrogative gaze of a Qik recipient. We found that such acts implied a reciprocity that was valuable in some special contexts, while at other times proving dissonant with assumptions about mundane communicative practices between particular parties. To warrant another’s gaze requires artfulness, but in some relationships one might not want to demand that artfulness in return. We argue that richness is not a matter of mode but of perceived control, within which the morality of gaze represents an ongoing challenge for designing everyday telepresence. If you are interested in video-mediated communication research, you should also read my colleague Richard Harper’s blog post “Why Skype?”, in which he discusses “the grammar of Skype … the everyday vocabulary of being in touch.”