Transitional Video

With video now available for your iPod, your cellphone, your television, your computer, your car, your sunglasses, and your refrigerator, there is only one place left for video to go. Before I tell you where that is (it should be obvious by now,) let me highlight recent announcements about the future of video.

  • NBC News will begin providing “NBC Nightly News” episodes on the Internet beginning November 07, 2005, just a few hours after the episode airs on network television.
  • Federated Studios, the producers of popular cartoons like The Powerpuff Girls (a personal favorite) and The Fairly OddParents, began offering last week a video podcast called Channel Federator. Quoting from the Channel Federator site: “We really love cartoons and the people who make them. Because of our day job, we see lots of excellent stuff that never gets seen by most people. Channel Frederator gives all cartoons a shot at being shown to the wired world’s masses.”
  • Apple claims one million video downloads in the first 19 days of $1.99 music videos, Pixar shorts, and series episodes from Disney/ABC becoming available in the iTunes Music Store. Steve Jobs is quoted in the press release as saying: “Our next challenge is to broaden our content offerings, so that customers can enjoy watching more videos on their computers and new iPods.”
  • Comedy Central is set to launch a broadband video channel called Motherload, consisting mostly of short clips from their existing cable network shows.
  • MTV recently launched a broadband video channel called mtvU ÜBER with clips of their existing cable network shows, longer form content, and music videos, supported by advertising.
  • Many technology news IPTV series are making iPod-compatible episodes and providing RSS feeds to automate downloading.

Meanwhile, vidcasts (another term for video podcasts) have become increasingly popular in just the past few weeks, as reflected in the increasing number of them rising in the ranks of the top 100 podcasts listed by iTunes. Several vidcast and IPTV directories have recently launched online to cover the burgeoning technology news and commentary series produced by amateurs and independent producers. Fan fiction and original fiction series are also increasing in number (as well as in quality) with Mighty Moshin’ Emo Rangers debuting today and Venus Rises coming soon, joining existing series like Star Trek: Hidden Frontier (completing its sixth season soon,) Star Trek New Voyages, The Scene, Red vs Blue, Stone Trek, and Ninjai: The Little Ninja.

Is this activity unrestrained hype or something significant? There is no question that the rapid-fire announcements coming from traditional networks and content producers are a knee jerk response to their uncertainty over piracy, consumer response to independently produced content, and the accelerating spread of Internet broadband around the world. The result is hype, as traditional content producers try to paint their picture of the future as if it was in their head this entire time.

Of true significance is the rapidly changing habits of televisions viewers growing accustomed to the Internet. The Internet is consuming television whole and transforming passive viewers into active participants. These new viewers want to watch AND create video content. They want to participate in the story, which they can do increasingly through video games. When they do passively watch video they want to do so on their own schedule on the device of their choice no matter where they are located.

And these desires, unleashed by the Internet, herald the radical change that will make this entire era of video transitory. Convergence will reach its logical conclusion inside of us. The devices – media player, television, radio, cellphone, camera, etc. – and their capabilities – mobile telephony, image taking, media playing, etc. – and their larger significance to communication, entertainment, and education are all coming together inside of the human body. The cyborg that results is not the Borg of fiction but a melding of technological capabilities with organic beings. It is not that the iPod of the future will be embedded in your body; instead, your body will become imbued with the capabilities of that iPod.

Of course, by that time the iPod itself will be a distant memory, it capabilities swept up into descendant technologies, not all of them physical and many of them purely digital. The leap from technology outside of our bodies to technology inside of our bodies may seem at best esoteric, but please stay tuned. I will continue to explore this idea here on Cybernudism.

Thoughtful Blasphemy

Marshall Brain used his engineering and computer science experience to help an Internet audience learn How Stuff Works, and then turned his attention to exploring The Robotic Nation. While finding Robotic Nation Evidence everywhere and contemplating on how this may lead to The Day You Discard Your Body, Brain has also written several books, published online advice about How to Make a Million Dollars, distilled his knowledge about creating a website for profit, and lamented at how Sad Tech can look today compared to expected future technologies. Now Brain has turned his curiosity, insights, and approachable and easy-going writing style toward religion, by asking Why Does God Hate Amputees?

The title is immediately blasphemous to billions of humans around the globe that believe in God. Brain’s latest work emphasizes the troubling paradox of God – why does this entity, if He exists, allow pain and suffering? Brain is not content with the typical religious response that pain and suffering are somehow part of God’s plan. Instead, he begins by examining particular stories of horror in this world, each leading to the same paradox. Then he asks, in a world where the religious believe such pain and suffering can be vanquished through the power of prayer, why have there been no miraculous regenerations of amputated limbs? Of all equally as amazing supposed miracles documented throughout history, why have amputees alone been left out in the cold?

The answer, Brain argues, is that God does not exist.

Although some Christians may insist that his style is confrontational, Brain uses the trademark approachability of his previous works to carefully navigates from point to point toward his conclusions. The paradox of God is not new, but the illustration of this paradox using the plight of amputees and the lack of limb regeneration in the record of miraculous events sheds new light on the issue, leading to his blasphemous (to many) conjecture that God cannot exist.

Some might call Brain brave. I instead call him an epitome of the Cybernudist, that person who willingly and without anonymity exposes his memetic processes while releasing the resulting memes to cyberspace and to the larger noosphere. This is not at all like the majority of citizens in cyberspace who remain anonymous while spouting off their own opinions. Brain does not hide behind a handle – yes, Marshall Brain is his real name – and he does not rest on the laurels of his past achievements.

Rather, he emerges fully nude and fully named, Marshal Brain, an explorer utilizing cyberspace to both facilitate his exploration and deliver the fruits of that labor, who in the process exposes himself in a way that only the immediacy and pervasiveness of cyberspace can, unmatched by verbal communication, books, radio, television, or other traditional media alone.

Cybernudism requires ownership of your thoughts, just as nudism requires ownership of your own physical body. That Brain openly identifies himself does not prove that his work is the truth. However, it does show that he takes ownership of his thoughts, unlike many of his critics who, quite literally, have allowed themselves to be named “Anonymous” by the automated tools of Blogger.com. Those who hide in the shadow of their anonymity remain fully clothed and safe, and yet they shout the loudest. They do not deserve a listen.

Marshall Brain deserves a listen.

An Open Letter to Apple

Dear Apple (with greetings, and apologies, to Disney/ABC),

Thank you. Thank you for finally providing legal downloads of television shows. I just deleted all the episodes of “Lost” I downloaded via Bittorrent and from now on I will pay US$1.99 per episode (plus tax in my state) the day after that episode airs on the ABC network. It took only ten minutes to download an episode of “Lost” using iTunes, compared to several hours to complete a download using Bittorrent. There were no commercials (making the US$1.99 price absolutely worthwhile to me.) It was convenient and legal.

Please continue to add other television series to your lineup and consider offering older series at US$0.99 per episode with a discount for purchasing an entire season (please, bring me “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer”!) Here are a few other changes and future additions that will keep me happy and eventually wean me from Bittorrent forever:

  • Double or quaduple the file size for better quality video. Episodes downloaded using Bittorrent still have the advantage in quality (an hour of television looks great at 340 MB and absolutely fantastic at 700 MB.) Currently, the episodes through iTunes look about as good as standard television. Let’s bring on high definition…
  • The first season of Lost is available for US$34.99. If I buy all 24 episodes of this second season of Lost, I will pay nearly US$48.00. Please offer a subscription to a full current season of a show for the same price as full past seasons. I will prepay before the season even starts.
  • Please consider adding in extras that would normally show up on the DVD release of a television series, for no extra charge, when purchased with a full season.
  • More series, including obscure series, classic series, series that were cancelled early, Internet-only series, independent series, public-access series, series from around the world (hello, “Dr. Who” and “ReGenesis”,) and free series. Oh, and “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer”!
  • Movies – no more than US$9.99 to own, no more than US$0.99 to watch one time. All movies. I will pay, I assure you. Just please, please, please, build a complete movie library of all known titles from the dawn of movies until the present, accessible at any time (like those sleepless nights when just one particular treasured movie or genre will do.)
  • Let these movies be displayed on my iPod video, computer monitor, big screen television, refrigerator, glasses, sunglasses, retina-writing contact lenses, etc. In other words – buy once, own forever, play anywhere. If I cannot buy once, then at least let me buy everything for one-time playback at US$0.99 or less. I promise I will spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year.

Again, thank you, Apple. Thank you, Disney/ABC, Pixar, and the music video publishers, for your early offerings. I no longer require physical media for my entertainment content. Put everything on the Internet, let competition work on the prices, and let me have immediate access to it all whenever I want.

Best regards,

Richard Leis

Rocketboom: Video Brilliance

Tivo and Bittorrent have allowed viewers to cull through the dreck of mainstream network television and the onslaught of nearly 18 minutes per hour of commercials to create an experience they will not give up easily. With vidcasting, viewing video entertainment has become an absolute joy again. Of special note is Rocketboom, hosted by the luminous Amanda Congdon, with two episodes last week that showcase truly creative and cutting-edge video art.

The first was on Tuesday, September 27, 2005. The brilliant use of yesteryear science-themed tunes, a recent astrophysical discovery, remakes of remakes of remakes of physical mechanics in motion, the blurring of image and reality, and Fidel Castro’s rant on American beer…beep, beep, indeed

Then, on Friday, September 30, 2005: silent film-era host/disco diva Amanda and a postmodern music video in BASIC…beautiful ground, indeed.

Other fantastic Rocketboom moments have included Amanda’s dance through Saint Petersburg, Russia, and her impassioned two-word impeachment plea.