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        80. To return to video and the notion that the extent to which a technology's potentials are manifested depends on the manner of its embedding in the culture. Only when a communications technology passes into universal self-determined use does its potential as an instrument for the music of group consciousness become open to realization. Now video power begins to pass to the people -- half a century after its invention. a quarter after its introduction. Communities, city neighborhoods, and ethnic groups make bids to own their own coaxial cable systems. Already upstart corporations are preparing hardware and software for semi-individualized programming: the viewer will phone upstream to a voice-operated dimwit computer, select from its categories, and dial in to the signal riding down-stream through the cable, tuning at will to news, teaching films, subject-catalogued commercials, live meetings of the city council. Or to a videotaped discussion of the contradiction involved in the real liberation of all this taking place within monopoly capitalism.

        81. The major shock-wave will come through the sub-technology of videotape. Already third-generation. fully portable systems provide recorded motion-vision (cum sound) as easy to use as good film equipment and of roughly comparable weight and vividness; and will shortly be superior to film in all three respects. The mechanical systems of processing, editing, storage, reproduction, distribution, and playback are all radically easier than film: most follow the simple models of sound-recording by magnetic/plastic tape and are equally simple to put on cassettes. Conversion of the present universal TV receiver to play videotapes is simple. By the end of the century the technology will be able to provide 3-D color holographic images with true ear-shaped system sound, a vivid medium which will open new potentials of transformation.

         Within this decade, such videotape equipment will be brought within the means of the middle consumer. The skills of film-making are already spreading rapidly and widely among the young. The implications of this marriage are amazing. Any home or group can be the creation or distribution nexus for memory images complete for eye and ear. Consider how the multiplication of music, even under essentially central control, has affected us. With video-tape anyone can create our most vivid live images and feed them into the common pool, to be available in breadth limited only by our access methods. The base for the creation and exchange of social information and art is thus radically democratized. From this refinement of the collective nervous system great consequences will flow. I suspect these will first be expressed through the transformation of our political and sexual behavior, in particular along lines of less exploitation.

        82. With cheap, simple video equipment everywhere available, and cheap, simple ways to recopy and exchange individual programs, we have the material base for a pure mode-β communications system. Its initial distribution-operation would be hand-to-hand and by mail, like a chain letter. Were a master-tape only ten times copyable, and its copies legible only unto the sixth generation, a program finished Sunday might multiply strictly through friendship-chains and be watched on ten million sets the following Friday. (Some prototypes now produce copies small as postage stamps.) A national interlock of cable systems, drawing on computer-coordinated memory banks open to any citizen's input (and providing an adequate indexing service) offers an alternate model for implementing the mode-β potentials of video.

        Some balance between these rustic and slick distribution models will be struck. And here we have what may well be an important cultural option. If technology is developed to further the rustic model, where programs are reproduced at home and passed on person-to-person. it will encourage more than simple human contact. People's tendency to depend, for their choices of what information to encounter, upon the dominant authorities of cultural interpretation will be undermined. Instead, they will be enabled to turn toward each other for example. Thus freed of central guidance, cooperative groups will tend more to develop their own unique micro-cultures (many of which will grow aggressively political).

        This pure acceleration of the process of cultural divergence is latent in the slick model also. Both models are like vats of nutrient broth, capable of harboring rich ecologies. But the slick model is more inclined to the Yang contamination: its technology enables people equally well to continue to hand their imaginations over to the arbiters of monocultural stability, dialing some masked representative of Uncle Sam for what to watch.

        83. Yet with an adequate phone system in use, with this slick model a fully democratic information-process can for the first time happen as rapidly as an authoritarian one in mass society, where hitherto throughout history the means of rapid mass communication have been controlled by an elite. For one's input anywhere into the system could multiply in generations whose length was that of one's program plus a call; and if it were sufficiently important to people could be watched by the entire nation in twelve hours. (In considering the efficiency of these pure mode-β models, it's well to remember that you have a friend who has a friend who has a friend who knows me and vice versa. We are this densely intertwined, it's not your imagination; six friend-steps will take you to anyone in the world. Electronic technology for the first time permits us to realize the strength of this connection. )

        84. Against the emergence of this popular power there is, of course, resistance. Right now a wide array of established firms are contending viciously for domination of the new, lucrative video-recording industry, with a variety of recording technologies. Overall, their research, development, and marketing are geared to establishing a passive consumer market. one as eager to be exploited in taste and pocket by mass-produced artifacts as is the rock record audience. Agglomerated as these industrial concerns are with the present industries of mass information and mass entertainment, they are not about to concentrate their priorities on devel oping and spreading technology that enables people to make their own movies and to get to see everyone else's almost free. Consequently, few video systems on the open market now are compatible with one another. Some playback systems depend on technology incapable of creative home use, others can come with cameras but don't, others provide a neo-Instamatic camera; all push pre-packaging rather than user creation. Through such soft inhibitions the authoritarian tendency struggles to reproduce itself in the further development of the collective nervous system, constraining the use of the medium to old patterns.

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