How I Got Involved with the Rapidly Changing Clip-Culture

Lately, I’ve been waffling on my loyalty to the various video sharing sites. One day I’m watching Guba.com, the next its YouTube. Sometimes at night I sneak off to PeekVid. The relationships were starting to wear thin, until Warner Brothers stepped in on Monday and started offering movies for rent on Guba.com for $2.99.

Video delivery and sharing seems to be rapidly evolving. In the beginning, there was Blockbuster, then NetFlix, and now Guba/YouTube. The “clip-culture” of video sharing entered a new level with the Warner Brothers announcement. Coming soon to portals everywhere, video will be available. Amazon, Yahoo, and the networks are starting to offer video online, but the startups have been leading the way.

How I became involved with the clip-culture started by moving overseas and having no TV or radio. I started downloading PodCasts, which soon led to googling for streaming movies and video. At first, I explored the network sites, ABC and CBS, which teased me with free full-length shows, but my IP address betrayed my location. When I clicked on the new Lost episode, ABC said, “Only viewers within the United States can watch these full-length episodes,” and shunned me back to clips only. The same thing happened when I tried to watch World Cup games on ESPN and BBC.

I admit that downloading clips from ComedyCentral.com for the Daily Show and NBC for Conan O’Brien was fun, but I found myself leaning forward too often, clicking too much, and acting like Browning’s Last Duchess – “too soon made glad / too easily impressed.” I was merely happy to have a multimedia event in my apartment, and I kept clicking, clicking, every few minutes just to watch another grainy slice of network video.

An article in The Economist described my experience and the difference between the clip-culture and watching traditional TV. With the help of Chad Hurley, one of the founders of YouTube, the modes have been articulated:

“âÂ?¦it is a “lean-forward” experience, as people sit in front of computer screens. This “clip culture,” as Mr. Hurley calls it, is quite different from the “lean-back” experience of enjoying a half-hour show while reclining on the sofa.”

When clips began to tire me, I did a scouring search for movies online that I could purchase and watch, but the sites offering movies, such as MovieFlix.com et al, only offered very old movies or movies that did not interest me. I resisted the temptation to download BitTorrent and Morpheus because I knew that once installed, I would become, once again, a pirate.

That’s when I stumbled onto PeekVid.com. For a few weeks, PeekVid.com had my full attention. PeekVid provided good links to real TV shows, ones that were posted on either YouTube and Guba, but PeekVid did the dirty work of sifting through all the videos of kittens and kids fighting in their backyard. PeekVid had 20 episodes of Seinfeld, 15 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, House, Grey’s Anatomy, South Park, Scrubs, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, The Exorcist, and even National Geographic: Myth’s and Logic of Shaolin Kung Fu!

Of course, I suspected these shows were illegal, but for awhile I had that old Napster feeling. Remember that? And much like the early days of Napster, I felt innocent. I did not feel like a pirate because it was streaming video, not downloaded and parked locally. There was no Torrent, MP3, or AVI stored on my hard drive. It was like gawking at a roadside accident and then driving on. Watching the Daily Show with no advertisements reminded me of a Napster day in 1999 when I downloaded the full CD of Metallica’s And Justice for All, before I was indoctrinated with the new taboos of file-sharing.

It was a rush. Like drug-dealers say, “The first one’s always free.” The free shows started to disappear, but they were posted long enough for me to get acquainted with both Guba.com and YouTube.com. I’ve become a regular visitor on both sites, but because this historic Warner Brothers contract, which preempts a video-sharing state of nature, I am now more likely to mouse to the Guba domain. The contract represents forward-thinking by an institutional media group. Warner Brothers is embracing the new technology early this time.

What I set out to find was a little entertainment, a few movies, just to break the silence, but now I’ve joined the forward-leaning hunchbacks of the clip-culture. Without Guba or YouTube, I would never have seen either Stephen Colbert’s roast of George Dubya or Seth MacFarlane’s speech at Harvard. Now, I can watch clips and then lean-back again and watch a movie – legally. For me, the price is right; $2.99 is much cheaper than renting a DVD in Switzerland where it costs 10-15 Swiss Francs. That’s too much to gamble on a movie like Firewall.

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