The Case for Video

January 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the fall of 1997, I was an English teacher at a local high school when a computer connected to this weird “Internet” thing was dropped on my desk. Not knowing what the term “early adopter” even meant at that time, I was quickly swept away with the possibilities of how this technology could engage students and enhance their learning. I was particularly drawn to this ability to access a seemingly bottomless treasure trove of useful videos. Even though most were terribly grainy and pixelated, they helped me communicate profound lessons and stories in a way that I could never do by myself.

Fast forward to 2011: over HALF of the total activity last year on the world wide web was people watching video. If you think that’s impressive, experts predict that video will account for 90% of all Internet traffic over the next three years. Think about that. How many emails do you send in a year? How many hours to you spend tweeting and facebooking? Furthermore, YouTube, the video sharing site, is the second most used search engine. Not Bing, not Yahoo. YouTube. Certainly, many of us are seeking a way to avoid the “difficult” activity of reading, but what if there’s a more powerful compulsion at work?

Where I work, we contend that the evolution of storytelling is now coming full circle by using technology to regain the power of face-to-face communication on an exponential scale. Think of how hard it is to convey sarcasm when you write an email to a co-worker or how unfunny a written description of Charlie biting his brother’s finger would be. Then consider video. If done purposefully, the audience can pick up on the facial cues, the vocal intonation, the visual comedy, even many of the non-verbal aspects of how we communicate. Add in cinematic effects like lighting, sound, music, and framing, and suddenly these moving pixels have the ability to tug at heartstrings, to excite, to persuade, and to move people to action.

“Video is high-bandwidth for a reason. It packs a huge amount of data, and our brains are uniquely wired to decode it.” – Chris Anderson, TED

It turns out that we are wired for visual storytelling. It’s baked into our very DNA. In eons past, this storytelling was only possible in intimate settings with a few people. Today, however, this ability to distribute effective video via the Internet has created a new golden age of communication. We’re living in the midst of a seismic shift back to an oral culture with one key difference: through Internet+video, anybody can now visually tell their story to not just a few people, but millions. It’s oral culture scaled to the nth degree.

People demand visual communication and are gobbling it up every chance they get. I’m amazed by the seemingly slow adoption rate of many popular brands and even mom and pop stores across our great land…

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