Bruce Sterling talk on "vernacular video"

Closing Keynote: Vernacular Video from Vimeo Festival on Vimeo.

Here's a very stern and sardonic Bruce Sterling at the Vimeo Festival discussing "vernacular video." Bruce notes, "This speech goes on for 56 minutes, practically forever by vernacular video standards." Despite that, I was riveted by all 56 minutes' worth -- Bruce takes an unexpected turn through the history of the Dick Van Dyke show on the way to explaining how to predict the future and then wraps it up with a sinister turn around the morality of cigarette sponsorship and what it is that vernacular video does that runs parallel to selling coffin nails.

Showtime: Bruce Sterling at Vimeo Festival, 'Vernacular Video'

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  1. Interesting talk, but he takes a Long time to even get to his first question “When will Vimeo stop trying to be old media?” Perhaps I was partly bored because I’ve seen the Dick Van Dyke show and didn’t need to hear 50% of the explanation, but it kinda drags on a bit. And his vocal range doesn’t vary that much, so it’s hard to listen to him for extended periods of time. Perhaps I’m just not that into the subject matter (which was hard to find anyway).

  2. Good god almighty is this guy rambling. I still don’t know what “vernacular video” is and 7 minutes of this guy droning on in a background browser tab about some chick who works for vimeo has actually driven me to the point of finally creating an account here to whine a little about it. Now you’re stuck with me…

    1. 7 minutes of this guy droning on in a background browser tab about some chick who works for vimeo has actually driven me to the point of finally creating an account here to whine a little about it. Now you’re stuck with me…

      Welcome, JiveBowie. We all like to whine around here a lot, so you’ll fit right in.

  3. So, just reality checking here. Sterling was being sarcastic when he said Andrea Allen was really funny and interesting, right? Because the poor girl said that Sterling’s compliment was one of the best she’s ever received.

    1. She also said this:

      I didn’t hear it live, so when people asked me what I thought of it, I couldn’t give an answer. Now that I have heard it all the way through, I can say I think Bruce Sterling is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and the way he weaves this talk — taking it from a strange, “why the hell is he talking about Andrea Allen” pattern to a unbelievably complex tapestry giving us an idea of what video on the internet will be like in 25 years is astounding. Truly. Astounding.

  4. fantastic talk bruce.

    bruce is talking about something like depth sensors + RBG being part of every “camera” making our current dslr hd videos look like like toys 25 years from now. it won’t be the same tech as the kinect, but you get where it’s going. another great example of bruce predicting the future by accurately observing what’s happening now. where is “video” 25 years from now when we all have 3 of these, or 2000 of these embedded all around us, all the time?

    old people in big dirty cities afraid of the sky, they’re going to love this.

  5. Bruce always has some fascinating ideas and always is irreverent– and I think the camera he mentions will be here much sooner than 25 years… thanks for posting Cory!

  6. Any good definition of vernacular video, someone, please, for the non enlighted of us? It seems interesting but my present connection speed sucks. :(

  7. i like the vernacular absences he talks about. Its weird what has happenned to language in that way, specially in technology driven countries. Channel. Tube. Film.

  8. I’m 17 minutes in an enjoying, but when he claims that Mary Tyler Moore looked like a bimbo on the Dick Van Dyke Show (before becoming a “titan” in executive production), I was like, huh? This comes after he called “I Love Lucy” Ricardo a bimbo – a little more accurate in its context. But still, if Lucille Ball and Mary Tyler Moore appear as bimbos in his view, I wonder what women or female leads don’t. Bea Arthur, maybe?

    1. They didn’t exactly act like rocket rocket scientists, but I agree that describing them as bimbos was a little over the top and probably just said for shock value.

      The more I listen and read Sterling, the more I realize he likes to get a little rise out of people. Kind of sociopathic, if you ask me.


  9. Mr Sterling:

    “If [the makers of the Dick Van Dyke Show] were really smart, they would ask us [citizens of the future] something like, ‘What is something that we’ve overlooked? What is something that we’re doing that really looks bad historically?’ And the answer would be your sponsor: Kent Cigarettes. You were selling cigarettes.”

    He then goes on to speculate that Vimeo “has its own Kent Cigarettes.” But, “[we] don’t know what they are, yet.”

    In other words, “vimeo’s Kent Cigarettes” would be some problem that users of Vimeo are morally entangled with, that its users will look back on fifty years from now and realize was regrettable.

    I think that’s probably piracy. I think internet piracy is probably the smoking of my generation. The thing we all kind of ambiently suspect is bad for us, but do it anyway because we can’t really see the long-term consequences of it yet.

    Does anyone have any further thoughts on this?

    1. Piracy isn’t really morally entangling. That is, possession/ownership is not a matter of the spirit, but of the material world. No one will care about ownership in an always-on, networked city filled with old people living in 100sq feet of cubed modernity.

      Privacy (or more specifically, the lack thereof) will be the smoking gun, if you will. The absence of anonymity will drive that fear Mr. Sterling referred to that is keeping those old people inside their tiny cubes. With the loss of anonymity also comes the greater loss: the individual.

      Delete your Facebook and Twitter before it’s too late!

  10. The cigarette ad could be the illnesses caused by sedentary behavior, before we all got our kinect-type browsers and started working like Ben Affleck in “Paycheck” or hurling virtual fruit while watching Bruce Sterling.

    His idea that there will be no cable was interesting. A post-peak cable world?

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