Radical Software, Volume
I, Number 1
The Alternate Television Movement,
Click cover for thumbnails
In 1970, the height of the Nixon era, media activists
saw TV as a sophisticated vehicle for social control
whose broad purposes were to deliver the people to advertisers,
and make public opinion easy to orchestrate.
Reading Teilhard, McLuhan, Bateson, McCulloch, Wiener
and others, they developed the premise that if one could
understand how our culture used information, one could
devise a mix of strategies, using 1/2" video equipment,
to leverage the rigid world information order of the
They thought reversing the process of television, giving
people access to the tools of production and distribution,
giving them control of their own images and, by implication,
their own lives - giving them permission to originate
information on the issues most meaningful to themselves
- might help accelerate social and cultural change.
Connectivity, the Videosphere as defined by Gene Youngblood
based on an earlier idea by Teilhard, was an important
part of the vision - an early stab at articulating the
connected world, and a way to get there.
Part of the focus was on the psychological impact of
the direct video experience itself, a process Paul Ryan
called "self-cybernation." Ordinary citizens
did not see themselves on television except very occasionally,
and then were never allowed to directly address the
broadcast audience, but were always mediated by a caste
of television professionals who provided context - a
Perhaps it was a reaction only possible at that historic
moment, but the experience of seeing and hearing oneself
on videotape, unmediated, both alone and interacting
in society, not once, but as many times as wanted, was
startling and liberating. This 'feedback' process empowered
many with new self-understanding and provided much of
the impetus of early portable video.
"The Alternate Television Movement" pulls
these and other threads together providing a snapshot
of the state of independent video, and video art, as
the sixties turned into the seventies.