If you ask your friends how they watch movies at home, a few will say they use their 100 inch flat panel LED screen. But many will admit to watching on their computer, tablet or mobile phone. This is one of the great ironies of modern media. As the TV makers race to make bigger screens, most of the audience chooses to use the most convenient screen — the small mobile phone. Interestingly, as the screens get smaller, the media gets shorter in length. We want everything quicker, faster, funnier and we want it now!
This need for quick bursts of short-form media has a huge impact on our brains. According to a recent study, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013. It gets worse. The average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds!
Seems like short-form media has been specifically tailored to our attention span. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Our attention has been hijacked and truncated by the media we watch. Either way, short-form media is here to stay. App developers have created dozens of apps that allow mobile phone users to create, edit and publish short-form media on their phone. We can put our head in the sand or we can accept the current trend. I say we take a look at a few of these apps, if for nothing else than to be able to have a conversation at a cocktail party.
Video length: 1 to 10 seconds
Snapchat lets you combine photos, video, text, and drawings and privately send them directly to a list of people. These photos or videos are called “Snaps.” The cool thing is that the sender determines how long the recipient will be able to view the “snap,” usually 1 to 10 seconds. After that time expires, the snap disappears from the recipient’s device. It’s like the secret packages sent in the TV show Mission: Impossible that said, “This message will self destruct in 10 seconds!” Here now – gone in 10 seconds. That’s Snapchat. People who want to say or do outrageous things but don’t want to worry about it being on the internet in 20 years favor this app. The self-destruct option is not completely effective however, so user, beware.
Length: 6 to 7 seconds
By using its in-app camera, Vine lets you record little video clips that total about six seconds long. Most users shoot a bunch of split second-clips and have the app automatically string them together – hence the word “vine.” The result is similar to stop-motion animation. The stop-motion style is what makes Vine quirky and unique. Comedians, musicians and stop-motion animators are big users of the app. Dunkin Donuts even used a single Vine as an entire TV ad.
Length: 1 second – 45 minutes.
Hyperlapse is Instagram’s new video app. While Instagram is famous for its ability to apply cool filters and transform the look of your video, Hyperlapse adds another cool dimension – time lapse video. Think of Hyperlapse as the Shrinky Dinks of video. You can take a one-minute video and “shrink” it down to play in five seconds. Everything in the video happens at hyper speed. You know all those videos you shoot and never watch? Well, now you can shoot them in Hyperlapse and watch them back in just seconds! This one’s a time-saver — kinda. It was just released this week.
Length: 15 seconds
Tout is unique in this crowd. Unlike the other apps mentioned, Tout’s purpose is for mobile video reporting, hence the name. Using the app, mobile reporters can shoot edit and publish a tout directly to their own website within 30 seconds. Talk about current news!
So what’s the fuss all about? On one hand, these programs demonstrate incredible technology. On the other, they seem to be contributing to our inability to concentrate. But I’d like to consider another way to look at it: Who’s to say a short attention span is bad?
Consider this: maybe one day our whole society will exist at an accelerated rate. We will talk faster, eat faster and our brains will process ideas faster. Perhaps we will travel at the speed of light. If so, wouldn’t this type of media be the training ground for this accelerated lifestyle? Maybe this is technological Darwinism. Those whose brains adapt will survive. Those who can’t keep up will not.
Are you a survivor?
Image credits: Jonathan Grossman