Video is rubbish

I’ve had an idea in the back of my head for ages for a post on how fundamentally rubbish video is as a medium on the Internet. (Rough outline: it’s not the quality/bandwidth/storage capacity issue – that’s a problem still, but will fade. It’s fundamental to the nature of high-intensity visual media. You can’t skim. Reading speed is way higher than spoken speed. Audio suffers similarly but you are usually doing something else while you listen. In an attention economy, video is far and away the most expensive format. Lauren Weinstein, writing in RISKS earlier this year, makes the contrary case that you need video to capture subtleties of expression.)

I was prodded again by Martin’s recent discussion about David After Dentist, the latest viral video. (Outline notes: I think that what this shows is that viral stuff, especially videos, are the antithesis of what higher education is about – very surface, very little consideration or thought required.)

But now I’ve been prodded by some solid proof that video is terrible – just take a look at these videos of me on YouTube.

Here’s me talking about my talk last week on Scholarly Publishing 2.0:


Here’s me talking about the Biodiversity Observatory late last year:

And here’s me saying Learning Design is going to be big, five years ago at a Lab Group meeting:

On the plus side, these are all good ideas. (Latching on to LD five years ago looks prescient, though I hadn’t grokked that the thing that would get it to scale was to relax the stringent standards thing.)

On the negative side: it takes an awfully long time to grasp these ideas from the videos. That’s partly an artefact of my dreadful presentational style (I’m aware of my propensity to um and ah, but these make it painfully obvious – and note to self: look at the camera, dum-dum, not shiftily all over the place – and letting that experimental beard be captured for posterity was a terrible mistake). But it’s largely because video is such a slow medium.

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