Saga is an embeddable platform that could change how artists display their work online
Mat Dryhurst’s self-hosting framework wants to give artists the power to change how and where their work is displayed on the internet.
PAN artist and Holly Herndon collaborator Mat Dryhurst has launched v.1.0 of Saga, a self-hosting and publishing framework that gives you full control over how your videos behave in each different place they’re embedded online.
Dryhurst is no stranger to projects that expose the unquestioned inner workings of the internet – he’s previously used freely available Facebook data to create music compositions and visuals. Saga however encourages artists to challenge the way their work is being “exploited” online.
“When you self-host your work and publish it using the Saga framework, every distinct plot where your work is shown becomes your space,” Dryhurst explains at aCCeSsions. “You can choose to manipulate that space at your leisure, and those who share your work assume that risk when they choose to show it.”
What this means is a video embed much like YouTube or Vimeo that can be changed if you don’t like the context in which your work is displayed. For example, if someone posts your work next to something you don’t like, you can obscure it with a slogan or graphic. If someone is hosting advertising alongside you work, you can even charge them to keep hosting it. “For Tumblr teens in the UK only, make the first 500 plays free, and then have it dramatically self-destruct, or have it replaced with a video of cattle grazing,” Dryhurst suggests.
The benefits for musicians are obvious, especially with SoundCloud deleting accounts regularly and Spotify paying tiny amounts for streams. As Dryhurst points out, platforms and syndicators currently profit from videos and audio streams that people share for free, but Saga hands the power to the creators. “We hold the power and create the value, so perhaps we ought to start dictating the terms.”
Saga also gives artists greater freedom to change the meaning of their work depending on where it’s hosted. Changes made to the embed don’t have to be applied globally, so if you want to wage a guerilla campaign against corporate websites while leaving personal blogs untouched, you can add a message to an embed on one site but leave the rest as they are.
It’s still early days for the Saga framework, which Dryhurst explains is buggy on mobile devices and doesn’t work too well on Facebook. However, v1.0 does allow you to host your own media, use a back-end interface to track where it’s being hosted and make changes to the media. It works with video, music, text and images (whatever you can use with an <iframe> embed) and currently lets you add graphic expressions including “Happy” (pictured at the top), “Love” and “Anger” as well as custom text overlays.