flickr: jonsson

Millie Paine: Clip culture is a valid form of the screen

There’s something about clip culture that has got this generation hooked. The technological revolution, and the rise of social media, has led to an entirely new platform for creative expression. Websites like YouTube and Vimeo and apps like Vine mean that just about anybody with an internet connection and some initiative can make their work – using the term fairly loosely in some cases – available to an extensive global audience. There is something undeniably appealing about having easy access to short, watchable and often pretty amazing material that fits right into your study breaks. This is true whether we’re talking a creative and skilfully made short film or four seconds of a panda sneezing. Inevitably, the popularity of clip-based websites has lead many to worry about what exactly our increasing dependence on the internet and technology is doing to art. Is it really possible to communicate anything meaningful or worthwhile in a few minutes or even seconds? We’d better hope so because many of us have given up on the idea of sitting down to digest a long-form film. But I think worrying about this misses the point.

Surely even the attempt to entertain or to convey a more serious point in such a short and accessible form in fact stimulates some to explore new avenues of creativity that we haven’t seen before in long-form films and traditional media. Granted, remixes of Tish’s infamous ‘in my Mum’s car’ video to the tune of Harry Potter can hardly be deemed artistic brilliance, but the sheer popularity of viral videos and vines alike seems to prove that something need not be more than six seconds long to serve a purpose and gain recognition.

What’s more, it’s not all piano playing cats and laughing babies – there are some pretty brilliant and creative YouTube videos out there, including short films and amateur music videos (just watch anything from the Future Shorts channel). These can be attributed to the democratisation of media stimulated by the ease of making and sharing videos with the internet. Clip culture, contrary to popular opinion, has actually paved the way to a new wave of creative thought, which is no less valuable than previous trends in art and cinema.

Hana Gudelis: We don't take film seriously

Clip culture is an example of the wider denigration of screen media from high-art to mindless entertainment.

In an environment where we barely have time to go to the gym – that’s my excuse anyway – the thought of reserving two-and-something hours to appreciate a film is becoming harder. Unless it is to turn off our minds and enjoy a plethora of special effects and previously anticipated plot twists (à la Breaking Bad and Homeland), YouTube and its culture of short clips of cats prevail as the surest method of squandering away our free time.

It seems odd that we can easily while away two hours on YouTube and Vine, attempting to avoid that dreaded essay, and yet we don’t seem to be able to sit down and appreciate film in the same way that we do literature. We studied English in school, giving it an academic credibility that is not always associated with cinema. Perhaps this is because film is a relatively new art form. But this should not mean that we take literature more seriously. In my opinion, Fight Club was better as a film than a book. And there is plenty of innovation outside of mainstream cinema; just look at the films at the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival each year.

Then again, maybe it comes down to what we’re looking for when we seek out entertainment in our down time. As students, maybe we are tired of thinking. We just want to watch Mean Girls, or binge on Netflix and epic fail montages.

Yet it seems that our attention spans are continuously diminishing, to the point where watching The Godfather seems like an unbearable task we’d rather not confront (speaking from experience). Tarantino might have his fair share of violence, action and catchy music – things we would consider surefire ingredients to grab audiences’ attention– but even his work requires the thought and attention that simply isn’t necessary when watching a vlogger’s mindless ramblings on a Sunday afternoon.

It’s not that I’m coming at you from a higher intellectual pedestal. Not at all, my favourite film is Ali G and I’m not immune to the attraction of four second videos of pandas sneezing. I just wonder whether YouTube, Vine and ‘clip culture’ have altered the way we appreciate film, and whether this should be reconsidered.