I am sure people range quite widely over their feelings on the “value” or “dangers” of YouTube, probably as polarizing as the take on WikiPedia. But let’s cast aside the value judgment, and recognize in terms of technology and a social phenomena how it changes our concept and expectations of video.

Tonight I am in a hotel room in Dallas, Texas (I am here for the Pachyderm Conference the NMC is running this week); my normal television viewing habits are rather minimal, but while on the road alone, it just makes for nice background noise. For some reason, I was distracted by one of the new, quirky commercials for Geico (auto insurance company, known for its off-beat ads) – where it mocks a news documentary pointing at one of my formative cultural influences, The Flinstones (as a kid, my TV habits were a bit more “on”).

In the era I am now defining as BYT (Before Youtube), there was no easy way for me to share, re-publish television content- but now, in the flash of a Google Search I have something I can now re-watch (again and again), and share with you:

I have this strange flashback to my very first experiences with digital video, in fact, it was the first weeks of my employment in 1992 at the Maricopa Community Colleges, that I found myself at the QuickTime 1.0 conference in San Francisco, being mesmerized by those herky jerky tiny video clips that look just horrible by today’s standards. In fact, I still have the CD full of those first clips (they still work 15 years later, a testament to file formats)- I forget the name of the guy who did the comedy clips like Mac Aerobics:



And wouldn’t you know it- this video too is on YouTube.

But back to that Geico commercial. AsI re-watch I am struck by how the commercial form itself has evolved into something more complex than a product pitch – it is tapping into pop cultural references, and playing off in a form that might give question to, “is this a commercial”? Sometimes I am wondering the strategy of the Geico commercials as they really tell you nothing of the product (yes, I know its all abouts stamping by brain with a brand) — but these 30 second spots are very well produced, demonstrated modeern editing techniques (all of which are available in desktop/webtop software) effective as “short stories”. What else can we learn from them?

And for those still tsk-tsking the use of YouTube- take a look at Learning From You Tube– a college course in media studies that is using YouTube itself as a platform for the course content. For more, see Andy Carvin’s post on this project, YouTube 101, Yes It’s a Real Class. No, this may not convince the YT Skeptics, but to me, demonstrates the philosophy I aim to bring in my Being There presentations – that we can really only fully probe the potential of new technologies by R&D, experimentation, taking some risks.

Actually, as often the case, I started this blog post inspired by something else, and actually more trivial. When I was sitting here wondering, “is that commercial in YouTube”, my natural reflex was, like many others, to Google It — The first two results are YT videos, and what I did not notice before was that Google search results allow you to watch this video right in the pages of the search results “click the “Watch Video” link and it unfolds in Ajaxy glory right there in the Google search results page:

And this is the hallmark of the YT era- the ability to easily embed rich media in the context of content we create, not forcing us to go to the “home” site, not shoving ads in our face (yet).

What did we do for our short form video fix BYT?


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