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Haven’t picked up podcasting? Skip it. The vlogosphere has arrived.

Michael Verdi is famous.

So are Amanda Congdon, Ryanne Hodson, and Jay Dedman. Never heard of them? That’s okay; they’re famous anyway.

And they want to add you to the list.

These four, and an innumerable swell of others, are part of a surging movement on the internet known as video blogging, or “vlogging,” a video expansion of traditional blogging that, in roughly one year of existence, already boasts a tightly knit global community, legions of devoted fans, and its own hit shows and celebrities. To wit: People like you are creating, uploading, subscribing to, and sharing a vast and varied catalogue of video content online, and getting well-known for it, all with unprecedented ease. Vlog Nation, it seems, has arrived. And what’s more, it has officially hit San Antonio.

Video blogger Michael Verdi shows off his video iPod. Portable digital video is opening up new possibilities for video blogging and podcasting. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

With the recent opening of Node 101, a space for free vlog instruction and production located in the downtown Blue Star Arts complex, Michael Verdi — creator of and one of vlog culture’s high-profile founding parents — scored the first drops in the bucket toward River City vlog awareness. Now, with the announcement of two free, five-week vlogging courses on the heels of last Saturday’s “Meet the Vloggers” information session, he hopes he’s opened the floodgates.

“The biggest barrier to having people produce their own media is `knowing` that they can even do it,” says Verdi, a 38-year-old video artist and former teacher, “We want to teach that, for free.”

Not only are the classes free, he says, but so is much of the vlogging process.

“The most important and exciting part is that because there are `free online media archives like` Ourmedia and all these free services, you can do all this with materials you already have,” Verdi says. “My daughters `Dylan, 12, and Lauren, 9,` vlog with six-year-old Macs ... most people have better computers sitting around the house.”

Fine, so it’s easy. You can vlog, or learn to. But why should you? Depends who you ask.

Vlogging has made online stars of Steve Garfield, whose husband-wife collaboration, The Carol and Steve Show, is an internet staple, and Amanda Congdon, who, as the pretty, witty, mildly nerdy host of monster hit Rocketboom, is perhaps the consummate, and first, vlog starlet. Senator John Edwards, incidentally, vlogs. But assuming name-dropping doesn’t do it for you, there are other arguments.

“The impact of video-blogging is: What if we could look back five, 10, 20 years?” says Joshua Kinberg, a 26-year-old activist and Verdi supporter whose FireANT software has helped pave the way for the emerging “vlogosphere.” “Everything will be archived online — we’ll get to see people’s lives in a real, searchable way. What do we know about the 1950s, except what we read in books — and who writes those?”

Verdi posits vlogs as a voice for the voiceless.

“Because it’s so accessible, it opens up the possibility that anyone can do this,” he says, “especially for people who are traditionally excluded from the mainstream media.”

And for those of us who are, oh, say ... camera-shy?

“People always think, ‘I’m too ugly, my life is too boring, I’m too stupid,’” says New York vlogger (and erstwhile Texan) Jay Dedman, 32, who co-founded and teaches at a Node 101 in Manhattan. “Take a chance. You’d be surprised how interesting your life actually is.”

Verdi’s Node 101 (the first, by a hair), Dedman’s in New York City, and two nodes in California, near Los Angeles and San Francisco, are sponsored by Outh!nk, Inc., which jumped on board after coming across the vlogsite of Verdi collaborator Ryanne Hodson.

Hodson, a self-proclaimed “e-vlog-gelical,” co-founded the Manhattan node with boyfriend and fellow vlogging pioneer Dedman. The couple will celebrate their first anniversary later this year.

The two first met, appropriately, through Dedman’s video-blog.

As Verdi says: “It’s about connecting with other people.”

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