See It Now


The google for the 21st Century?

If you want to know where the tech world is going, just ask a 9-year old.

The New York Times ran a fascinating article this morning about how 9-year olds, (and others) are starting to use Youtube as a search engine, even more than Google.

More than the tastes of 9-year olds, this reflects a fascinating transition of video and its place in our culture.

For most of us, we tend to think of video as primarily an instrument of entertainment, whether it’s movies or reality shows of music videos.  As a tangential application, we have always had TV News, but this has generally been little more than videoized radio – an anchor sitting at a desk reading copy with illustrative pictures behind.  Even the much vaunted 60-Minutes is often not much more than one extensive interview interspersed with b-roll.

Now, however, as very cheap and easy to use cameras and edits proliferate, a whole new use of video is beginning to emerge.  And it has little to do with entertainment (or television for that matter). It is increasingly about instruction and delivering useful information.  But instead of that information being delivered in text, it is now coming in video.

For a culture that reads less and less, and has spent the bulk of its life watching TV (on average, 4.2 hours a day, every day), it is understandable that video is the preferred medium of transmission of information. Easier to access, easier to absorb, easier to understand.

Until cameras and edits became cheap and easy to use, we were stuck with print, but that relationship has now become unhinged.

As The Times itself points out:

You can now find an online video on virtually any topic. Web videos teach how to grout a tub, offer reviews of the latest touch-screen phones and give you a feel for walking across the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy.

The consumption of video has followed a similar trajectory. In November, 146 million Americans watched videos online, streaming a total of 12.6 billion video clips, or nearly double the number they streamed just 20 months ago.

This is a trend that is likely now only to continue. In fact, I think we are only at the beginning of the videoization of America.

As video migrates to cell phones, we can expect vmail to replace email, and short videos to become the new powerpoint.

Text is going to go the way of carving on stone, (once a pretty popular medium in its own right, but also extremely complex and expensive).

Where does it end? This, no one knows. But I can tell you where it begins – in each person becoming video literate.  That’s the first how-to video that will gain massive traction.


6 responses to “See It Now

  1. The next iteration of youtube with better meta tagging, filtering and compression will I belief change how we view and use it as a medium.

    It is a cache that holds no bounds, limited by what we post, its content is as varied as human kind, and thus makes it extremely powerful, a social visual record of todays world. What a resource tool for future generations.

    A picture conveys a thousand words, a moving image (no matter what the quality) conveys so much more….

    Given at Pompeii I was fascinated with their lives caught in a moment, I wonder what future historians will make of Coke and Mentos footage illustrated via youtube.

  2. or then again we could just bring our 9 year olds up to have face to face conversations….

  3. I wouldn’t count text out just yet. As Edward Tufte has pointed out ( power point is a very, very inefficient way to present information. Video is also very inefficient with respect to text for many kinds of information. It’s probably easier, faster, and less expensive to read a calculus text to get a foundation in the subject than watching a number of videos. I don’t think I am ready to go to an MD who just watched clinical videos.

  4. my daughter is a language student at washington u in st louis. she’s an auditory learner, and one of her main resources is the french and italian rap songs on youtube. she claims there’s no better way to absorb the rhythms than thru the musiv videos.

    by the way, she thanks you for your recommendation of the flip video cam a while back. she’s having a lot of fun with it.

  5. Hi Mark
    My nephew, Adam Savaglio is a sophomore at Wash U in St. Louis, and a film major. She should look him up!

  6. Thanks, I’ll pass that his name on to her.

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