Prime Source Video was a concept developed by Jack Adams when he was completing his Masters Degree at Ruskin College, Oxford. The approach owes a lot to the conversation with Stephen Hugh-Jones when Jack was studying Sumerian at Girton College, Cambridge. Jack had been awarded a Churchill Travelling Fellowship and was intending to research issues regarding indigenous relationships between elders and disaffected youth. Meeting in the senior common room at Kings, Jack asked Stephen for advice about the merit in avoiding research before going to meet indigenous people.
Stephen told Jack about his research trips out to the Amazon and his own studies of indigenous tribes. he expressed an opinion that before he first went to the region he had researched and read up, as anyone conscientious would do, as much of the published work as he could find. Over coffee he told Jack that after five years of summer research trips he realised that most of what he had read he thought was not accurate. Further, he expressed the opinion that the only real and meaningful way to undertake such research is empirically; to go there, be there and learn from the people themselves.
This meeting and the kindness and generosity of Stephen has never been forgotten. As a result of hearing his opinions Jack went to Australia without any plan other than to take a digital camcorder and record what happened. This was 1997 and digital camcorders were relatively new technology.
Having had the advantage of being taught by Raphael Samuel whilst at Ruskin, Jack understood the importance of the authentic voice, the prime source, and how all other mediation of history was effectively editorial. This insight had much power because in the 1990’s the definition of media delivery was changing, the BBC was outsourcing its production, there was a wholesale re-interpretation of the contract between audience and provider being negotiated. The main problem was that the suppliers were monolithic and trapped in an obselete technology so they ineveitably lost the race.
A world of facscimile exploded upon the selfie sticks of self obsession. An individual, no matter how talentless, no matter how idiotic, no matter how manipulative could inform the herd audience as all barriers to intellect were discarded. the lesson of the twentyfirst century is that the hold of the old elite, predicated on intelligence and superiority, is completely cast aside. In our days ideas are validated by friends, shares and thumbs up, we are in an age of real democracy but it reveals the lumpen stupidity of our contemporary cultures. For is it not the case that allowing that dense mass to have any say in political affairs will inevitably lead to disaster. Democracy as a political concept is only about a wet herring to a clapping seal in a circus rather than an operation of state. And so it should be.
If we are going to provide video content for You Tube or countless apps on hand held computers then we just need to shape the herring and slip it down the gullet of the nearest seal. This is about consuption for those without the ability, an ability, for critical insight. The majority of video media is about crowd control, it is an interpretation of the 18th century obsession in London of not disturbing the mob. The audience of You Tube and all the other rebellious outlets of media are actually serving the function of mob control. We have, in many ways, swallowed our own souls.
So where does that leave us with the idea of Prime Source Video?
Prime source is an idea of material which is authentic, material which is on some level indisputable. Most real historians look for prime source as the bedrock of their work. Too many academic historians are just happy to write about opinions on secondary sources relying on the reputation of the writer of those second hand testimonies to bolster their own status. Anyone styled as a “Royal Historian” is exactly this type of decrepite, woeful beast. Within academic history the lowest of the low are military and royal historians but they remain media favourites because the mob always swallows this turgid content.