Are We All Prepared to Move to a Multimedia-Oriented World? Will it Last?

Multimedia Overload - Man Angry at his TVI remember back in the 90s when using Windows 3.1 and “multimedia” meant sound and graphics. Now, with substantial upgrades, that definition has changed. Just about everything today that categorizes a “multimedia experience” is video and audio — but not those 200kb WAVs you used to play (and complained that they were taking up too much space on your 1GB hard drive). Our online world has changed in the last decade to something much greater: online television and radio — and then some.

I am the kind of girl who likes novelty: AOL was a favorite of mine when Tom Clancy chatted in the Lobby among normal people (the service cost $5.95/hour back then). I had my father buy a 2GB hard drive for nearly $400 back in the day to store more .wav files. I caught onto MP3s before the Napster era. I enjoyed online video — about two years ago.

Suffice to say, except for MP3s on an occasional basis, I’m really not using the computer anymore for these intensive multimedia experiences. When I was into video, I’d only watch a small percentage on-demand; the others, I’d save on my computer with the intention to “watch later.” Later still hasn’t come.

A lot of the thought behind delaying the multimedia experience is that I personally feel that despite the novelty somewhat wearing off, I’m not ready for full immersion. In fact, my sound is muted on my computers 99.8% of the time. I realize that my computer is more of a tool of productivity, and I define my productivity by being communicative in the written word, by problem solving, by doing – not by watching or by listening. Consequently, video, audio, and all those bells and whistles that require more attention are on the backburner, simply because I don’t have time for it. As the saying goes, there’s “so much to do, so little time.”

The generation that embraces video is considered a high school and college-aged crowd. In the last two years, video has grown as we know it. Still, I can’t help but wonder: will it last? Are we ready for the huge changes to Digg, giving the site more video-centric exposure?

I’m not really sure if the same people who visit Digg’s video section and YouTube today are going to be the same people who visit the site in a year or so. A college student who gets a job might not have the freedom to visit YouTube anymore. Priorities change.

I also don’t see couch potatoes preferring the computer over a TV anytime soon.

From a personal standpoint, it becomes an issue of making time for everything I want to accomplish in one day. I’d love to squeeze video surfing there too, and even podcasts. I think we can all admit that this is impossible to do from a multitasking perspective. Video (and especially lengthy podcasts) require undivided attention. I simply don’t have it.

I like what Kim Krause Berg wrote today about the customer experience of podcasts and the inability to for search engines to access this information because they are not transcribed. It’s not really only for search engines, though. It’s for users like me who cannot take too much time out of their day to experience every interesting podcast at full length. I’d very much prefer to read at my own time and at my own pace. While video and podcasts allow that too, they take longer and it’s not as easy to stop and start the podcasts or videos all over again. (Oops, what if I pressed Rewind by accident?)

I don’t think I’m alone. Our lives are polluted with technology overload. And still, new innovative technology advances are trickling in, only to make it more difficult for us to determine what we really ultimately are looking for.

13 Comments

  • chris says:

    i agree w/ you 100%

    very good writeup

  • I guess we are all stuck with our photographs. Thanks for commenting, Chris ;)

  • Webomatica says:

    Interesting that you mention digg… their redesign definitely shows a move towards video. Also, StumbleUpon has a new video section. I think they’re pretty tidy and amusing, but like you, I don’t know about the staying power.

  • It’s the “viral” thing right now, but it’ll certainly die down. For the time being, I suppose it’s worth it.

  • wamylove says:

    I’m way past college and am finding rare and more obscure music videos of songs that have either never been popular or are forgotten. I prefer this addiction to TV, though I still go see live music several times a week. We all can check out what turns us on. I love the newer choices available.
    (I love your blog, too!)

  • You make a good point — with this method, you’re exposed to things you would not naturally be exposed to in the “natural world.” Still, I wonder that should your priorities change, would you still be video-immersed? I’m thinking it’s harder. Much harder. I can’t really take the time off at work to watch a video, for example. I’d love to though.

    Lengthy videos are worse. I have so many choices but I have to narrow them down. And unlike reading something (skimming and getting an idea of what to expect), you can’t do so with video. You often hear a lot of people say after watching something they just don’t like, “please give me my five minutes back.”

  • I find that the biggest drawback about video/audio online for me is that I have to stop everything and give my undivided attention.

    Now, I don’t want to make it sound like giving my undivided attention to something is a problem. I do it on a regular basis.

    But when I’m online in the text-world, I float in a state of multi-tasking that I appreciate. I can be writing or reading a blog post and easily interrupt it for a quick chat, or even, as I’ve done sometimes, write and chat in parallel. Or read and write. Or wander off and do something else, and come back to it later.

    None of that with audio and video. Once you start watching/listening, you’re stuck there, and you have to stop it if you want to wander off.

    It is a different mode from my normal online mode.

  • Matt Clausen says:

    I disagree about podcasts conflicting with multitasking, though I concede video since it is both a visual and audio medium. Podcasts do not limit a person to a static location, nor to a single task.

    Podcasts are designed for transportation: they were made to put on your iPod and walk anywhere you want with them. Podcasts can be consumed while performing other tasks that are primarily visual or related to touch, such as walking, driving, or writing. It’s significantly more difficult to read while doing any of those. The argument for ease of repetition or selecting start/stop points for the podcast is overcome by many devices, portable or desktop, whose GUIs allow users to easily move around on podcasts–it is very similar to having to scan a page for where you left off.

    I think you underestimate the flexibility of podcasts. I’m not arguing podcasts are usually better than text; I do think that podcasts have benefits that are worth defending.

  • Matt, I don’t dispute your claim for the most part. Podcasts, to me, are not to be consumed (at least if you want to give them your full attention) when you’re reading or writing (emphasis on the latter, as that was a claim you made). Podcasts are perfect when you’re driving and walking, but for those who are more or less stationary, it’s a lot more difficult.

    I can’t focus on podcasts if I’m writing. Granted, some people can. I’m just not one who can listen and write at the same time unless I’m literally transcribing what I’m hearing in which case my focus is still on what I’m hearing. But if I’m writing about one thing and listening to another thing, my writing would suffer and I wouldn’t firmly grasp what was being spoken on the podcast. That’s where the attention divide is for me. It’s just been a little hard to conquer.

    Note, by the way, that this was written two years ago. I’ve matured a bit (I actually participated in numerous podcasts last year), but I still find it hard to really attend to podcasts as much as I’d like. I’m still slowly embracing it, but it’s been a long process, and it certainly doesn’t help that I work from home (since I’m rarely driving far at least in NYC and when I do travel, it’s music for now). I just have to find the right podcast, I guess. :)

  • Tyler Willis says:

    I don’t really agree. While I understand that video/audio takes more time and commitment, it’s power is universal and (I think) greater than text alone.

    Is youtube/stumble/digg going to experience the same popularity when the novelty dies off. No. Because they are internet video “browsing” stations. But we can’t make the statement that video itself won’t be successful – it will just switch to a more “choose what you are interested in” format. I don’t know what that format is: Seesmic? Vlogging/videocasts? Live Streaming? Who knows, but I do feel confident in saying video is still the most effective way to get your message across in many cases.

    Tyler Willis
    Disgruntled Filmmaker Technologist :)

    ps – love the blog. I’m not attacking anyone, I realize this is 2 years old. I just wanted to express that I don’t think anyone’s personal distaste for media spans the culture.

  • I suspect that video will evolve over time to small media bites that convey a stack of information in 12 seconds or less of content.

    Hvae a look at 12 seconds of a popular game and see all the messages.

    Thanks you for a post that made me think. No really, I had to think :)

Comments are closed.