Reviews for Military Multimedia Websites

The use of websites dedicated to the interpretation of military centric videos from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan are still very hard to find at this stage. The wars’ recent proximity places their interpretation into the strategic and political affairs arenas instead of history. Despite the wars on terrorism surpassing a decade and becoming the longest-running conflicts in American history, it will still be a number of years before we can look at them through a historic lens.

The most interpretative example utilizing military videos of OIF and OEF is a digital history project created by Jennifer Terry and designed by Raegan Kelly called Killer Entertainments. http://vectors.usc.edu/issues/5/killerentertainments/

Killer Entertainments addresses the role of video in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The project attempts to answer the question of how to present and analyze videos taken by combat troops without diminishing or sensationalizing their contribution. The situations in Iraq and Afghanistan have become an afterthought for much of the American public. Killer Entertainments presents site visitors with the necessary scholarship to draw their own conclusions about the conflicts.

The site is dated with videos from 2007 and earlier, and a less than user friendly interface, but the nonlinear presentation and innovative design still hold relevance. A three frame horizontal format allows for indiscriminate viewing of the selected videos in single, double or triple playback mode. Depending on the level of action in individual videos, viewing three videos simultaneously alludes to the perception of chaos in war, suggestive of the variety of viewpoints available in a warzone.

As you watch, key frames trigger access to concepts, analysis, and contextual information. The scholarly points connected to each video literally strafe across the display with a changeover in footage. Only by participating are readers able to control the links that puncture the screen much like a bullet. After extensive exploration of the project, the page takes on the sight of a battlefield, littered with red tracers, dried blood spots and bullet holes.

Killer Entertainments’ greatest weakness is not in its presentation, but in its accessibility. Even though the site is not barred through means of membership, it is linked to less than five websites. Moreover, I had little success in my attempts to access the project through a keyword search using words used within the project, such as viral or military video.

Visitors are forced to actively participate in order to discover everything the project has to offer. Through the combination of music, voice, and visual interactive structures, visitors gain knowledge through experiences. The raw footage captures the full range of human emotions be it fear, panic, excitement, adrenaline, and calm. Viral videos allow the user to bear witness to combat in its truest form through the sights captured on film and the sounds of gunfire, commands and profanity. Although content is over 80 percent U.S., the use of insurgent video made by the Islamic Army of Iraq and locals leads to intriguing discourse against the American-centric view of the war. Visitors reach a new level of understanding while watching insurgent videos of RPG strikes on U.S. aircraft, IED attacks on coalition convoys, and views of dead American troops.

Creators Jenny Terry and Raegan Kelly’s design cultivates the many attributes of the digital medium by making use of its nonlinear capabilities. Simultaneous links and visuals allow the visitor to take in multiple viewpoints without focusing on a single argument, consequently giving the user a greater depth and range of knowledge in which to make their own interpretations. Killer Entertainments is proof that innovation and form do not have to be sacrificed for clear navigation. However, the project’s highly interpretive nature lacks a quantitative thread of commonality. A concept map tracking the number of times specific points were pushed could serve to reinforce their argument. Nevertheless, Killer Entertainments is a great step in the evolving realm of digital scholarship, pushing the envelope of media incorporation with abstract design and giving the visitor interpretive opportunities not afforded in the world of the monograph.

The next most viable options for military multimedia interpretation are military museum or war memorial websites. The National WWII Museum is a prime example of a website that straddles myriad categories. http://www.nationalww2museum.org/.  Its scope of projects varies from oral histories, virtual exhibit tours, teaching resources, a blog, and critical thinking interpretation, all while emitting a community feel. The site’s digital collections area is a valuable resource, linking images and oral histories, but does not make available critical documents or citations for researchers. Scholars have many primary sources available, but will have to search elsewhere for in depth documentation.

Other Interpretive Military museum websites:

-Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/

-Navy History and Heritage Command http://www.history.navy.mil/

-National Museum of the Marine Corps http://www.usmcmuseum.com/

The best options to get the largest selection of military videos and images are the Defense Media Activity (DMA) (http://www.dma.mil/Home.aspx) and the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) (https://www.dvidshub.net/). Both are official Department of Defense outlets for frontline public affairs coverage. DMA serves as a database hub for information on a “variety of media platforms, including radio, television, internet, print media and emerging media technologies.” Curated links guide users to the various armed forces websites. DVIDS offers a more modern interface with every discernible media available. Both websites have archival capabilities to draw upon the last 20 years of official information. These websites largest downfall is the restriction of topics to Department of Defense sanctioned information. To explore popular videos posted by individuals and units military.com, YouTube, and LiveLeak are the best options.

Other Military multimedia websites:

-Military.com video section http://www.military.com/video/.

-Youtube http://www.youtube.com

-LiveLeak http://www.liveleak.com

All of these websites serve an archival purpose but also gives the user a peripheral sense of community. Well known key word search websites offer basic levels of curation, and organization by subject matter assists visitors in their video search. Users have the opportunity to create compilations of the best videos, upload their own, “like” a video, and comment. Only after initial searches do the sites recognize users and offer suggestions for viewing.

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