The BBC's 'open source' series on the history of the Internet, Virtual Revolution, though a relatively conventional set of programmes once it made it to air, went to town with the idea of sharing its ideas with a knowledgeable audience. The programme blog brought us into the decisioning-making process, arguing ideas, explaining trains of thought, testing hypotheses, exchanging information.
However, the truly ground-breaking work is being done by Adam Curtis. The director of the uber-cultish The Trap, Power of Nightmares and Century of the Self has established a blog, Adam Curtis - The Medium and the Message, to show projects in embryos and the fruits of his research, which may end up as programmes, events, installations, or maybe nowhere at all. He has used it to preview It Felt Like a Kiss, a programme (yet to be broadcast on TV) which was also part of a shock art event at the Manchester International Festival in 2009, and to cover subjects ranging from the British art of heckling to the strange relationship between anthropological filmmakers and Brazilian tribes.
However, the major use of The Medium and the Message has been the series Kabul: City Number One. Curtis outlined his ideas at the start of the series in September 2009:
"I am researching the extraordinary history of the West's relationship to Afghanistan over the past 200 years. It is a very complex, and sometimes weird, story. These are notes on some of the characters and episodes involved."
What he writes are notes, though rather more artfully composed than the random jottings this might suggest. Curtis's trademark is unearthing hidden histories in which remarkable and seemingly disparate elements come together to relate a history of our times that is unknown to most, yet which Curtis persuasively argues has come to shape the way our perception of the world is managed. It is borderline conspiracy theory, but it also makes us rethink our assumptions. Curtis also makes bravura use of archive footage, both for its mocking commentary on the times and for the special evidence it provides on the past.
Kabul: City Number One is now eight blog posts old, and weaves an extraordinary tale of past and present British and American involvement in Afghanistan, of opposing the opposing forces of modernism and traditionalism, of conflicting ideologies and the triumphs, trasgedies and idiosyncracies of some remarkable (and often little-known) individuals who have played their part on a history that becomes ever more fascinating complex the more Curtis delves into motives and connections.