This column is based on a paper I’m giving at the ‘Ephemeral Media’ workshop on online content at the University of Nottingham in June. In many ways the use of the internet as a platform for audio-visual content represents the current pinnacle in technological attempts to make such content permanent. Whilst the broadcast stream moves fleetingly through time, gone the moment it appears, the VCR, PVR and DVD allow viewers to capture a moment of this ephemeral flow, turning it into a piece of video tape or a section on a hard drive. The internet takes this even further with the construction of vast archives of content that offer permanent and constant access to televisual material.
However, the clips on the left, from web series Kate Modern, show how online video content is also working to recapture the ephemeral moment of broadcasting. Hosted by the social networking site Bebo, the series presents a form of entertainment that simultaneously utilises the ‘anti-ephemeral’ archive capacity of the internet whilst promoting a ‘hyper-ephemeral’ mode of engagement. The former is clear in the total length of the series (almost 14 hours over the two seasons) and the permanent access to the series offered through its website (www.bebo.com/katemodern). The latter is evident through techniques such as marathons, where viewers were invited to remain at their computers for 12 hours as new videos were released hourly, and quizzes that formed part of the narrative and viewers had to solve before the next episode. These clips show the most extreme example of this hyper-ephemeralisation where viewers were invited to go to Carnaby Street in London at a specific time, meet a character from the series and watch the following episode unfold in front of them. The drama of Kate Modern became as ephemeral as real life as its makers sought to encapsulate the real-time communicative capabilities of the internet within their video series. Despite being able to watch the series at any time, it is constantly made clear that if you weren’t watching at a particular moment, you have missed the ‘true’ experience of Kate Modern.