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Hitchhikers Guide to the Future


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Net-casting - broadcasting on the net - has been hailed as a potential revolution in how we watch, but how much will it change our traditional viewing habits?

The experience of many net browsers is that, unless you are equipped with the most sophisticated downloading software, watching movie clips on the net can be a frustrating experience, rarely delivering images quickly enough. Web-cams offer a different and altogether more prurient experience. It's interesting that only when associated with another medium - such as TV - do they go some way to proving their addictive power.

Big Brother was a British TV phenomenon in 2000, but anyone wanting to follow the 'action' online will know that the site was subject to multiple meltdowns between long stretches of inertia. This is one problem that webcasters have quickly discovered: it's hard to concoct drama out of reality when so much of reality is, well, boring. Do you really want to stay up all night watching someone else sleep?

But, given the inevitable advances in technology, will web-watching in offices and homes across the land become the norm? Computers are not crafted physically to give the same viewing experience allowed by the TV or cinema, and the nature of the web means that it is both a more condensed and a more casual viewing process.

My guess is that, while internet technologies continue to converge, the old mediums of TV and film will not lose their distinctive appeal; if anything the internet will help redefine and enhance them. The simple pleasure of sitting in a cinema and watching the screen has arguably retained its power because it is a collective experience.

The alternatives - sitting alone at home watching movie shorts on the PC or spying on people through web-cams throws up vital questions about the power voyeurism and the dangers of alienation. Do you really want to be alone?

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