I am listening as I write, to poet John Berryman talk about Anna Karenina in a 1967 interview on YouTube. He died by way of horrific, dramatic suicide in 1972 (bridge, missed water) but when I click out of this tab, I can see him in grainy black and white footage in a small box that measures 5 inches by 4 inches. He has a thick, scholarly beard that I wouldn't have imagined on him, and he moves a lot when he talks. When he recites a piece, he fidgets and turns enough to remind me of Michael J. Fox.
He speaks with a incisive forcefulness; not loud, just very sternly. He seems to emphasize every hard sound, even hitting the silence of line breaks with steel stops. It's weird to watch old footage on YouTube, the contrast of the black-speckled film and the clean Web 2.0 layout. Nothing makes me feel like I'm living in the future more than meaningful, old, archival footage easily pulled up and squirted into my brain.
We are lucky to have this. I think history will look back on YouTube as the biggest development on the internet since its inception. "There was the creation of the world wide web, and later, YouTube." It feels like our printing press, despite the dogs on skateboards, the double rainbows, and Rick Astley music videos. Something about the value of motion and sound makes it a more effective, powerful and important piece of information to share. The internet had been around for decades before YouTube came into popular consciousness, and we were ecstatic just to be able to e-mail texts to each other and save pictures onto our desktop.
No one will remember a time when video on the internet was possible, but difficult. It's going to be this weird intermediate period of internet technology when all the tools for maximizing its power hadn't been yet developed. We had to download Quicktime or RealPlayer, and then those had to load and buffer, and they never stopped buffering. Maybe they would begin to play for a minute, and then get caught buffering. There was no waiting for it to load. There was just hoping your mousewheel-powered connection was enough. It is strange to think that there is a walking, talking generation that never had to experience the arduousness of video on the internet.
There wasn't even a central hub back in my day for videos. If you had filmed something, you kept it on tiny DV8 tapes and showed it when you could, but files were too big and it wasn't practical to spend the hours uploading it. Geocities wasn't giving you that many megabytes anyway. Then, two guys had the bright idea to build a code that made footage into a universal flash-based player, and all of a sudden the floodgates are wide open. Not only was it a open forum for people to just drop any video shit they wanted, it was embeddable and designed for sharing; a revolutionary second function that changed everything.
Now we have this tool for Presidents to address the nation, for singers to be discovered, and cats to play keyboard as man would. It is a human bank of consciousness and knowledge, moreso than Wikipedia, which is less accessible for contributors. Every laptop comes with a decent camera now. Everyone's face is now on the internet, past and present, dead or alive.
Fuck jetpacks, fuck flying cars. This is a more meaningful future than any low-hovering personal jet. This is pure information, warts and all, from the most worthless to the sacred. When I need to know how to tie a tie, or clean my car battery, or hear a song, I can pull it up in a near instant. I am effectively taking a piece of the collective human consciousness and using it, just as I contribute to it. Politicians have been usurped, rarities of footage have been disseminated and ordinary people have been imbued with followers. Dead men are speaking to me at 128 kbps.