Television has been getting a much-needed makeover this year, thanks in part to the advent of new portable video-playing devices. The networks are scrambling to jump on the bandwagon by offering to sell episodes of various existing shows, and new companies like Lime are forming to create “next generation” media. But far more interesting is the explosion of independently produced video blogs offering lots of surprisingly great amateur video material. Add that to the always-improving peer-to-peer file-sharing networks such as BitTorrent and Veoh, which collect and efficiently distribute high-quality video, and video-hosting sites like YouTube and Ourmedia, which help disseminate it easily, and you get an explosion of media made by the people for the people. TV is unidirectional and devoted to its advertisers; post-TV media are made for and distributed among communities of user/producers in many-to-many networks that open things up. Below, five great online “shows” that reference TV in some way but go well beyond it.
This Spartan Life| www.thisspartanlife.com| Damian Lacedaemion’s talk show features his interviews with media artists and pundits. But instead of doing it in text or video, he meets his guests on the battlefields of the Halo online shooter game, and they converse while dodging would-be assassins. Interview subjects in this award-winning machinima show include experimental filmmaker Peggy Ahwesh, Future of the Book founder Bob Stein and machinima mavens Ill Clan.
Rocketboom| www.rocketboom.com | Rocketboom is a three-minute variety show made up of material culled from the Internet and organized by themes. The September 27 episode, for example, features a clip from Peter Fischli and David Weiss’ experimental 1987 film The Way Things Go, the 2003 Honda Cog commercial that’s an “homage” to the film, as well as a hilarious spoof of the original, all in a quick sequence with host Amanda Congdon making witty connections.
ACLU’s Freedom Files | www.aclu.tv | In August, the ACLU began hosting a series of 30-minute downloadable videos focused on civil liberties. The first one is about the Patriot Act, and the second is about the Supreme Court, focusing on the case of teenager Lyndsay Earls, who was required to take a urine drug test to sing in the choir. Co-produced by Brave New Films, the series is designed to inaugurate a form of “information activism” by creating a wider context online for considering — and then acting on — the issues raised in each show.
Nerd TV| www.pbs.org/cringely/nerdtv | This online talk show from PBS.org, hosted by Robert X. Cringely, is about all things geek. And while in terms of form it’s fairly standard talking-heads material, the show is distributed under a Creative Commons license, which means viewers can re-cut and re-mix episodes and share them with others. Interviewees have included Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, Linux creator Linus Torvalds and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
Hillman Curtis’ Designer Series | www.hillmancurtis.com/hc_web/film_video.shtml | Hillman Curtis recently began making short (five- to seven-minute) profiles of design legends, including Milton Glaser, Paula Scher and David Carson. They’re lovely pieces, with footage that is designed more than photographed.