There’s nothing like a night out at the cinema, or staying in bed watching cat videos all day. There’s something about the appeal of visual images that is so magical and stimulating. If you took a moment to consider it, consider the impact that the development of video as a technology and a medium have had on western society. Imagine a world that exists without film, television, television advertisements, vines, and moving images.
Originating in the late 1890s to 1900s Hollywood cinema quickly took the western world by storm. The studio system thrived, with five major studios producing all of Hollywood’s films. The studios operation dictated that a select group of people would write, produce, direct, and star in the films. With a select group of people exclusively working in these films, this constructed the conception of an ‘a-list’ celebrity by a public invested in the idea of stardom.
This ‘golden age’ of Hollywood thrived until the 60s, where the US Supreme Court ruled that a rigid studio system was not sustainable long term. As a result, studios began to lose control of their contracted staff who wanted the freedom to move and to create films with other studios. Moving away from the rigid model of semantic mass production, films began to become more stylised and artistic.
With the constricting censorship of the Hayes Code removed in 1968, directors and studios were free to push more risqué content and images in the films they made. Sex, guns, and violence, all major themes of modern day films, were once restricted by the code. This content pushed by rebelling directors to explore the creative license that the Hayes code had prevented them from exploring. We can see these themes in many highly acclaimed popular culture – Game of Thrones, Easy A, and Breaking Bad, just to name a few.
While the spectacle and visuals of videos have dramatically transformed through technological advances, the attention spans of audiences have dramatically decreased. Once we could watch hours of films, now we hesitate before a two minute YouTube video.
We could argue that this is dually due to Google and the rise of Social Media. In the case of Google, Explored in his article, Nicholas Carr argued our attention spans are shrinking with the instant gratification that the search network provides. We no longer have to scour through countless books to find information, instead we have the information instantly available. This continuous instant gratification over and over again deters us from spending lengthy periods scanning books. Instead, we prefer the instant gratification, even if it means that we aren’t exercising our minds.
We can see a similar phenomenon in social media. The use of video in Social Media has shortened to seven second vines, and even shorter ‘stories’. In the modern context we use videos to communicate to one another, instead of using lengthy text messages. These videos communicate the information to us while we are scrolling through our newsfeeds so that we don’t have to go out and seek the information ourselves like we would when we actively allocate time to watch the news, or read the paper in the morning. We no longer go to thought leaders for information, instead, they seek us out. We can see this in the rise of news shows replacing the popular method of newspapers, and now the short video clips that news outlets post on their own social media accounts.
So, where to from here? Will we all be walking around with Virtual Reality Headsets in our backpacks within the next ten years?
Only time can tell.