Do we need gatekeepers?

As the wave of video on the net slowly overtakes traditional broadcast as the medium of choice for watching things, a lot of people are trying to get in the game.

One of the chief arguments aggregators and commentators have made regarding the current video revolution is that there is simply so much of it, we must have some kind of mediator who is capable of sorting out “the good stuff”. So we have places like Network2, who accept video feeds based on the notion of “shows” and some relatively vague criteria of “quality.” What these folks fail to realize is that the mediator is dead. Channels are dead. They are hanging on to old paradigms without even realizing it. Update: Coincidentally, this is what is killing Joost, which I’ll get around to reviewing at some point- I’ve been beta testing it for about a month.

The social networks of today- and by social networks I mean social websites, the blogosphere and ad hoc networks of friends and neighbors who create communities on the net- provide mediation through hyperlinking, message boards, email threads and the like. Viral distribution is all that is needed to get a video into the hands of those who want it, and aggregation through a few mediators at the top of a site is completely unnecessary. Will some things be overlooked? Absolutely. I would love to see 54 Hours be more popular than it is. But then that raises the question of whether or not we are truly participating in a way that we could actually see our videos find increased mindshare. By not jumping into YouTube more fully and relying on the podcasting/vlogging methods, are we avoiding opportunities?

Pardon the digression. My point here is that the assumption that filters need to be provided is as dead as the television broadcasting paradigm. With limited bandwidth (both broadcast and temporal), television could only afford what it deemed most acceptable to the most number of people. Contrast that to today’s world of near limitless bandwidth and the ability to time-shift programming to suit your schedule. Why revisit that world by placing boundaries to content that people should be free to discover for themselves? We will create the filters we need through our networks of connected people. By participating in different networks we will witness and redistribute other content. Any new boundary based on these new freedoms is- whether intentionally or not- aimed at limiting access.

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