Confessions to a new public: Video Nation Shorts

Nicole Matthews*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Television made about 'ordinary people' and featuring them speaking directly to the camera about their experiences has come to be a staple of popular broadcast television in the UK and elsewhere. This article focuses on one British series, Video Nation, produced between 1995 and 2000, which attempted to assemble a picture of the nation through the voices of such ordinary people. Where many more recent uses of 'first person media' have situated themselves explicitly as entertainment television, the Video Nation project was firmly situated within public broadcasting and a tradition of access television. The makers set out to extend the 1930s Mass Observation project. Video Nation, however, attends not so much to the 'public'world of graffiti or cinema-queue discussions of politicians as to personal narratives of domestic life. This article will discuss the significance of this shift in emphasis from the 1930s to the 1990s, a shift towards mapping the nation through practices of the self. The article will ask whether confessional style marks a renegotiation of the way we imagine public spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-448
Number of pages14
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Autobiography
  • Mass Observation
  • Public sphere
  • Television
  • Testimony


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