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What if viewers still don’t ‘understand’ television?

      Whether or not you think you understand tele-visual communication, I suggest trying again by other means, as verification.  Here, I choose to utilize a practical iconoclastic methodology.  While this has benefitted me greatly, I’m not exactly sure how to evaluate it.  After all, Cultural Farming’s experimental methodologies are not championed by anyone...yet.  Indeed, Television Studies of any kind are, at best, considered to be a tired musty academic topic today.   “What more is there to know, eh?”

       Still more obstacles to Cultural Farming lurk at every turn.  The entire field of Ethnography remains highly controversial when compared to more positivist standards of scientific technique.  Critical Theory, too, is routinely attacked, considered as narrow Marxist thought.  Theoretical purchase teased through the magics of montage are deeply questioned.  Reflexivity is criticized as self-indulgence.  Obligatory claims of interdisciplinary study seem little more than lip-service.  Surrealist practice is fundamentally ridiculed as vulgar psychoanalytics.  Even worse, TV news and information is publicly mocked at every turn.  In all, my experimental projects (begun in 2003) have received negligible support, and even less audience.  To be sure, any claim to be a ‘private thinker’ is a laughable concept these days.  Hence, I remain entirely alone in this project. 

      Yet, after a lifetime of watching, making and studying television, I have found no better approach than Cultural Farming for truly understanding televisual communication -- even though I wager that the ‘crimes of the camera’ --which I am attempting to elicit-- will escape most viewers to this website, exactly as most viewers will continue to mis-prioritize story and content over its production.  And so, whatever claims made or not made in these projects continue to seek confirmation.  So I continue to ask: Who else understands this way?

      Above I list my lenses, my filters, my tools, my ethical guideposts.  And these are the things you should hold close when watching my difficult prestations.  It is a lot to ask of any viewer.  However, my projects are not typical documentaries “As Seen On TV”. 

   “When communication is mechanically made primarily one way, only very few things can ever be said.

Spoon-fed conclusions do not appear; not even recognizable beginnings and endings exist.  Moreover, it can be disorienting when surreal media techniques perform the opposite of entertainment.  And that’s OK.  One needs craft to watch media as well.  We should always be asking ourselves: “What voice is truly speaking?... before asking, “Who is speaking?”  Before asking, “What is being said?”

      We should always be asking, “Why am I spoken to in this technological manner?  What has changed?  Who is holding this camera, pushing this button, and selling this to me...and... why do I keep buying into it all?”  Because the purpose of watching media and writing critically surreal media ethnography is to consider what is gained and lost through typical --common-sense-- communication production practices. 

     Always ask yourself: “Isn’t this all just the same old shit?”  Because of course, it is.  This project illuminates 100+ hours of “the same ‘ol shit”.  For when human communication is primarily made one mechanical way, only very few things can ever be communicated.  Indeed, all videos here profess the same mechanical pablum.  This project is about how humans actively communicate badly through machines.  And why it is we seem unable to care, let alone stop.  Oh... if only we could understand TV as an incredible means of representation, instead of as truth or reality.  Media are the makers of graven idols, tools of demon worship.  Handle with care.


      Persistent cultural inertia luxuriates here, betwixt and between identical drumbeats duplicating inside these addicting technologies.  Every mechanical medium is but a false communication via deprivation chamber: Hyper simulation and Ecstasy of communication.  However, once we begin to employ (C)ritical, iconoclastic, surreal filters and methods, we soon begin to awaken and discover we are more than willing attendees to this spectacle of our own obliteration into appearance.  And we begin to understand that our beloved -- necessary -- technologies too often trick away our humanness through endless pornographic promises of certitude, power, pleasure and immortality. 

   “Argue as much as you will, and about what you will, only obey!”

      Every project herein illustrates the profound folly inherent in contemporary media practice and interpretation.  And so, each of my videos is fashioned to encourage myself and viewers to slow down and see and think anew, comparatively, through new insights in new ways.  Hopefully, this might inspire other acts of personal emancipation from hegemonic media domination and consent.  After all, the point of (C)ritical investigation --and the work of Cultural Farming-- is radical translation over indefeasible interpretation.  At bottom, as if there could ever be a bottom, my video essays are comparative sketches --rendered as tools-- for sharpening our focus when understanding contemporary televisual communication. 

     So yes, of course, my videos display biases.  I am, after all, illustrating exploratory forms of visual critical response.   But my projects also display many media truths, triangularly, through the public act of “Show & See” (Mitchell).  Empirically speaking, Cultural Farming is the most ethical

   “Production is essentially all we CAN say with media anyway.

method to document media production because the reader becomes witness to the exact tribal rituals I see enacted to my face on my home screens.  For no amount of reading or writing words can re-pay TV for all it ceaselessly gives to me.  In this way, my videos purposefully do not tell viewers what to think; rather each becomes an illumination.  Each is a transgressing potlatch, willfully rendered and freely returned to broadcast ether.  It’s the least I can do to reciprocate.  It’s how I regularly ‘practice my scales’ -- to continually hone my (understanding) chops.

      My video ‘prestations’ illuminate common technological communication practices.  They reveal that the ‘manner’ in which we communicate always precedes -- and too often supersedes -- whatever it is we intend to say.  This alone must position media production as a ‘primary cultural actor’ worthy of ethnographic investigation.  Because increasingly today, as my videos document: Production is essentially all we CAN say with media anyway.  Indeed, the medium’s mystical message lies inside the video witch-doctor’s massage. 


        “To fall out of step with one’s tribe; to step beyond one’s tribe into a world that is larger mentally but smaller numerically – if alienation or dissidence is not your habitual or gratifying posture, this is a complex, difficult process.  It is hard to defy the wisdom of the tribe, the wisdom that values the lives of members of the tribe above all others. 

         It will always be unpopular – it will always be deemed unpatriotic – to say that the lives of the members of the other tribe are as valuable as one’s own.  It is easier to give one’s allegiance to those we know, to those we see, to those with whom we are embedded, to those with whom we share – as we may – a community of fear.”

                                               Susan Sontag, 2003



1.  What is going on here?

2.  How should viewers watch these video essays?

3.  Introduction to the research.

4.  What does understanding television mean?

5.  How do I understand television?

6.  What does using theory mean?

7.  Can you discuss one of your videos?

8.  What was discovered in this research?

9.  What if viewers still don’t ‘understand’ television?



An American

resident of Canada, experimenting with new forms of critical media ethnography in Cultural Farming


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