By Dave Huth
Critical commentary and ponderous ramblings about new ways to make media, and new ways to watch it. My own observations and opinions, open for response and discussion. Join the conversation!

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October 13, 2005

Ready for Mantime: Soon We Will All Be Our Own Media

Each week I meet with friends for what we call "Mantime." I'm not sure why we call it that. I guess it's because the founding members of the group are men, though women (spouses, friends, colleagues) are welcome and often present. We do a mix of things together: console games, belching contests, rude jokes. Also we talk about relationships, bake cookies, and look at pictures of kittens.

Though it's called Mantime, the activities don't fit stereotyped categories. Just like the media we watch.

Dave P. has a large TV screen so we meet at his apartment. He's connected it to his computer, and we use the computer to take control of what we watch, when we want to watch it. There's no top-down dictation from one or two huge multinational entertainment conglomerates calling all the shots. Here's what we watched last night...

Eric was visiting from out of state. It was great to see him, and part of what we did was share with him the video we've enjoyed in Mantime over the last year or so. We sat there for over an hour asking things like, "Have you seen the Numa-Numa guy?" A keyword search at an amusing video Web site called that up on the screen. "How about the King Kong trailer?" It looked so cool we applauded. "How about the slide show of the Amazing-Smile girl? Or the pantomime of the Natalie Imbruglia song?" We watched that one twice.

For an hour we were our own media station, in complete control of programming.

Over the evening we watched movie trailers, home made music videos, hilarious TV commercials, videoblogs, news photos with user-photoshopped captions, pictures of cats from pet owners across the world, re-mixed movie trailers, clips of stand-up routines, a very grim Canadian public service announcement about domestic violence, and stuff I don't even know how to categorize. We could watch them as many times as we wanted (and we did). We could skip ahead to the best parts. We could pause the whole show to take a break for cake.

We watched it all on our terms, as a group of friends rather than individual consumers, with no intrusive advertising, without caring what any network wanted us to see, and it was a fantastically great time.

This was a glimpse of things to come. People ask me what I hope to see happen with all my blathering about vlogging and shake-ups in media creation and distribution. Last night's party is the start of what I'm excited about in these changing times.

But it's only a start, because I've left out of this story how hard it was to set up and navigate this new media landscape.

Connecting the computer to the TV was way harder than it should be. Lots of switches and cords for audio and video. Some video formats play through to the TV and some have to be watched on the computer monitor. Mirroring the monitor to the TV isn't seamless, and sometimes the person at the computer can't see the TV in order to click the play buttons. The resolution could be better on many of the videos.

Finding what we wanted was chaotic. We rarely remembered which site aggregated which videos. Google was helpful at times, but it took Don's super-ninja search skills 10 minutes to call up one of the clips. I suggested checking delicious, but no one had tagged the clips we were looking for yet. There is much, much work to do in streamlining the process of putting people in charge of making, distributing, and watching their own media.

But here's one reason to be hopeful: the evening we spent being our own media programmers was on the day of Apple's release of the video-enabled iPod, and iTunes 6. This is why an iPod that stores video (and plays it, and outputs it to a TV!) is cool: because we wonder about the potential of all these new gizmos to effect some kind of positive cultural change.

Anything that puts more control into the hands of people who want to decide for themselves how to engage our changing culture is something to celebrate.

Comments on "Ready for Mantime: Soon We Will All Be Our Own Media"

 

Anonymous jonny goldstein said ... (Friday, October 14, 2005 2:50:00 AM) : 

Sounds like a cool evening. Kind of like you were all DJ-ing the video entertainment.

 

Blogger Cyndi Gusler said ... (Monday, December 05, 2005 4:45:00 PM) : 

I'm going to share some of this with my mass comm class at EMU. We've been dealing with topics like how to read images, getting outside the web of advertising, and predicting the future of mass communications.-Cyndi Gusler

 

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