Alex Reid has some interesting things to say about the “disposable” nature of web video. In a video response to a post by Paul Bradshaw at Online Journalism Blog, Reid considers the value and nature of web video at a time when anyone can create, store, edit, remix, mod, share, and delete video cheaply and easily. YouTube, Seesmic, and other video sharing services allow videos to be “quickly made and quickly dispensed with.” Seesmic — a video micro-blogging service — is to video what Twitter is to writing. With Twitter, authors can post “on the fly,” wherever they are, in medias res, using thumbs on mobile devices to pen updates of less than 140 characters. With Seesmic, users participate in “conversations,” posting short, unscripted and unedited video starters and replies, usually from their home computers but also from mobile devices. User-created web videos can also celebrate artistry and technique, of course, just as tweets can be carefully crafted haiku poems penned from the comfort of one’s home computer. But the point is that video itself — the process of making, storing, and sharing video — has become extremely easy to do and thus, in some ways, less valuable. According to Reid,
As we increasingly come to see video as something that, hey, we can just do, and throw up there, and not really think about, then it becomes increasingly more like Twitter, it becomes more like blogging, and we’ll start to see something really different, I think, different kinds of video, video for different purposes. And it won’t exactly be like a twitter or a blog comment that’s text. It’ll be something, you know, definitely something different from that, but also different from what video has been before.
How does this understanding of video as disposable impact accessibility? When video and audio are treated as disposable, when they are created “on the fly,” when they are fleeting or easily forgotten, they are less likely to be accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Of course, the cynic might say that it’s debatable whether disposable videos have enough value to warrant being captioned anyway. But the larger issue is that video itself is undergoing a transformation that places it at odds with Web accessibility guidelines.
What is the answer? While we can’t ask or expect producers of disposable videos to spend an hour captioning three minutes of video (when it took a fraction of that time to make and post the video), we can ask for and expect to have access to better tools, tools that don’t exist yet but appear to be on the horizon ( see Jott and EveryZing). Such tools would automate or significantly streamline the process of transcribing audio and captioning video. Such tools would also solve some other accessibility problems, as noted by Bradshaw: users would be able to scan a video transcript before deciding whether to view the entire video (since scanning video is currently difficult); search engines would be able to index videos more easily (since search engines currently do a better job of indexing text); and users would be able to search video content more easily (for the same reason).
Addressing these problems can benefit all users.