Here Come the Videofreex

In the documentary film “Here Come the Videofreex”, many things said felt strangely relatable and applicable even to the social broadcasting situation of today. There is a striking similarity in the way the Videofreex were running about with portapaks in hand and us, almost 50 years later, with our smartphones today. The desire for personalized content (video tapes of happenings in the past vs social media today) and stigma of manipulative television from main TV networks remain.

David Cort shooting ‘Mayday Realtime’

One of the scenes in the video featured an informal interview with Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Black Panther Party, where he discussed about the corruption in the government and expressed his desire to educate and lead the people. He was murdered by the police shortly after, but the tape remained in existence even up till today, as proof of his character despite the political situation at the time. Their work served not only as entertainment for the people in the past, but as historical archives documenting bits and pieces of protests and strikes, from their unique perspectives and participants that would never have been shown on mainstream TV. They gave a voice to the ordinary people of the community and the chance for their opinions (be it towards the government or about mundane everyday things) to be heard. As opposed to TV networks featuring reporters reading off scripts in specific locations, the footage recorded by the Videofreex were raw and showed nothing but the truth. 

Their work opened up new perspectives and unfiltered channels in which people can have access to a different side of the story. Their relentless search for content and broadcasting means, and eventual success in building their own pirated TV network was a huge step towards the future of broadcasting.

Videofreex and their neighbours at Lanesville gerneral store

Instead of the traditional one-to-many broadcasting, Videofreex was one of the first collectives to open doors to two(or more)-way communication in broadcasting. It appears the birth of the third space was in Lanesville, 1972. During their tv broadcasts in Lanesville, people could call in through the radio and provide feedback about the broadcast in real time, and further interaction is encouraged through it. With this addition channel for interaction, there is an increased level of engagement in the broadcasted content, and perhaps build and stronger trust in the tight-knit community of Lanesville. The establishment of remote two-way communication through television and radio at that time was indeed a huge achievement, sharing similarities with the comment and ‘like’ functions of Instagram and Facebook Live of today.


Social Broadcasting – Alter Ego

I am an adventurer and photographer. I enjoy solo traveling, and backpacking around different parts of the world whenever I get the chance to. I love exploring the unknown, especially high ones, to capture new perspectives of its surroundings. In this live feed, I climbed to rooftop of an abandoned building to catch the sunset, and the view overlooking the city was amazing.

– Joan’s double


Is it, though? Video and social media is often used to alter one’s identity or to influence another’s perception. We often show others the best side of us, but not what’s behind it, or the process of getting there, for fear of judgement or otherwise. From social media posts and videos alone, one can never tell the real thoughts behind the owner. Perhaps, the videographer didn’t want you to know her fears of falling off or dropping her phone. Or, the rooftop of the “abandoned building” that she had to climb to could very well be just an elevator ride away from her doorstep, but who would really know?

Social Broadcasting – Real-time Aggregation

Social Broadcasting Experience:

Before the broadcast, I was rather nervous at the thought of going live for a full 15 minutes, with no concrete idea of what I was going to do. While I do enjoy taking videos and sometimes posting snippets of them on social media, I was completely unfamiliar with live broadcasting and what was to come.

As everyone started streaming in the class, I felt excited yet comforted as everyone was still huddled in one location. Nervousness grew again, as we all started setting out of the room and into different directions. I ventured into the quieter areas of the school, such as the carpark, loading bay and the sunken plaza. Unfortunately, the WiFi connection in these areas are particularly weak and I disconnected several times.

(graffiti along the walls near the carpark)

The beauty of most live broadcasts is that they are not choreographed; no one really knows what is to come. During my exploration, I discovered many little details around the school that I don’t usually stop to admire, such as the wall graffiti around the carpark and the serenity of sunken plaza on a rainy night. I did feel a little more relaxed while exploring and describing my experience/whereabouts to my viewers.

One aspect of mass live broadcasting that interested me was the interaction between not only the streamer and his/her viewers, but also from streamer to streamer. Almost all of my classmates bumped into each other at some point while streaming, a phenomenon called “cross streaming” which I later learned.

It felt rather rewarding to watch the outcome – a video collage of 16(?) live streams played at the same time. The effects of us converging in the room, diverging into different parts of the school, and then converging again in the room was evident in the video collage. It was very enjoyable to watch what my classmates had captured in their live video, the effects of cross streaming between each other.

Personal Thoughts:

The main reason for my insecurity was the fact that it was public and the majority of views during the broadcast was from unfamiliar people on Facebook – from acquaintances to ex-colleagues to past teachers and even strangers. This increased my self-consciousness and the need to maintain a certain kind of image in front of these people. Personally, I would be much more comfortable if the live broadcast was only to close friends and family, though I feel that would defeat the purpose of a live broadcast.

Unlike pre-recorded videos where we get to do retakes, edits, and watch them prior to posting them on social media, live broadcasting shows the world the most authentic side of the broadcaster. The assumption that a video needs to be well produced and edited to generate views is invalid with live broadcasting, as the number of views depend on the abilities of the broadcaster to entertain.

Overall, it was a rather refreshing experience that managed to push me out of my comfort zone, and hopefully, I would be able to explore deeper into social broadcasting experiences in future projects.