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
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?