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Location: Cheverly, Maryland, United States

I'm a geek and musician in the Washington DC-area.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Wondering about a community videocast

I've been wondering recently what a community videocast would look like and sound like. Something that would be inclusive and that would bring together sights and sounds from across the city. Something grassroots and authentic that celebrates the many strengths in our community.

This videocast could be distributed for free via subscription, much in the way a podcast is distributed. It could be made available in a format that is viewable on portable viewing devices, such as the new iPod that plays video. People could watch it on their computers, too. It would need to be distributed in a format that is as widely viewable as possible. The MPEG-4 file format (.mp4) is viewable on Macintosh, Linux and Windows computers.

This videocast could include grassroots community news reports, as well as rich media announcements of upcoming community events. It could showcase some of the visual and musical artistic talent in our community. It could connect people living on the same street who had no idea they shared a common interest.

The videocast could also be a sounding board for opinions and editorials. It could be a wondering board for people wondering about things.

It makes sense to create the early versions of this videocast using recorded narrations and photos/graphics, rather than having people submit videos. Even someone with a donated computer can record audio using the free Audacity audio recording and editing software. Likewise, using free programs like Picasa and iPhoto, people can submitted cropped photos to a videocast.

It would be awesome to include locally written and recorded poetry in this videocast. That talent in our community never gets the attention it deserves.

After being distributed for free to subscribers, these videocasts could be archived for free, permanently in the Internet Archive.

If you're also curious about what a community videocast would look like here in the Washington DC-area, thanks for sending me an email with the subject: Community Videocast. Phil Shapiro, pshapiro@his.com

And here is a short Flash presentation I created sharing some of these same thoughts. I created this using 3 free software tools: Picasa, Audacity, and the free version of Powerbullet.

The videocast could be distributed very inexpensively using a service like Prodigem, which harnesses the power of Bittorrent. Bittorrent ingeniously uses the upstream bandwidth of people downloading files to assist in the distribution of files.

Or it might be distributed via the iTunes Music Store -- although someone would need to donate bandwidth for that.

For a videocast of this kind to be effective, there would need to be some free (or low-cost) citizen journalism workshops offered at locations around the city. Perhaps community technology centers are the right venue? Or public libraries? Or computer user group training labs? Or Boys and Girls Clubs? Or literacy organizations? Or all of the above?

The videocast could be produced monthly or more frequently. The choice is ours. The publiclication belongs to us. It need not even come out on any regular basis. It could be "done" when it's done -- and not a minute earlier.

Sometimes the only way of satisfy your wondering is to go ahead and do something -- and see what happens. Structures are assembled when people start assembling and piling up stones together. I'm ready to assemble and pile up stones. Are you?

Phil Shapiro