We are living in the Golden Age of Text. We most effectively communicate on blogs, in email and via instant messages where The Word is King. However, in the next five years or so we will toss away our text — along with our newly enhanced ability to cogently write to persuade others — in favor of video: Semiotics Shall Rule the Word. There are active rumors that the next iPhone will have a touch screen that is a camera so you can do live video conferencing via iChat right on your phone. There is one proof-of-concept using the current iPhone that persuasively argues for video communication over text right now.

Videophones are already in the home offering you the opportunity to see each other while having a traditional chat.

Video Conferencing is presently matter-of-the-day for many companies:

Do you welcome the idea of video communication over text if the price and personal expense are the same? Right now you can blog naked, IM in your pajamas, and swim nude in the tub while chatting on the phone and no one is the wiser unless you tell them — or charge them a fee for telling. Will video communication change all that?Will you put on your best clothes and comb your hair and brush your teeth for your every day, ongoing, video communications?

Or will you just get on your videophone as you are — tousled hair, ripped shirt or lacy nightie — because that is your present state and it doesn’t matter if your real time video communication is being watched and recorded for replay later? Will we create Video Avatars to stand in our place when we are feeling under the weather or just plain shy?

Do you think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will become the most popular Virtual Avatars we can “hire” to represent our bodies in live video communication? We’re already under video surveillance outside on the street and in public — shouldn’t we expect the same involvement in our private lives at home, in the car and on the operating table?

Do we still own our image or are our bodies and faces already in the public domain because we failed to Trademark our faces at birth?


  1. No thank you.
    I do not even have a mobile – let alone a web cam.
    I think I will just retreat into my cave again now.

  2. Nicola —
    Let me put it this way — you can no longer text. You must use video. ๐Ÿ˜€
    Do you “put on” your public video face? Or do you just remain as you are doing what you’re doing when the video light goes on?

  3. I don’t even text !
    OK – I blog and I email and I write real letters.
    IF I had to communicate by video only it would all depend on the situation – I do not mind my kids seeing me with my hair down and my “morning look” – customers might expect me to be in fetish wear – the bank might get a fright if I was and so would the local supermarket.
    I will go for an Avatar – and hide the real me!

  4. Nicola!
    Ha! Of everyone you probably have the most interesting “live” looks, I think. You could be a real delight to “video with” under the right circumstances! ๐Ÿ˜€
    I think these Avatars will be incredibly popular for video because now they help shape emotion in text, but in video they will hide the real us.
    Video is unforgiving in that bad video makes you look really awful and HD video makes you look REALLY bad!
    The middling video, where you’re sort of fuzzed but clear, is best, but hard to find.

  5. Thank you for the compliment.
    When I did my stuff for television I found it was not very forgiving at all – and that was before HD. I will say in my defence that I was ill at the time and was dosed up on megga antibiotics and pain killers. Neither did I have the benefit of a TV make up artist and wardrobe department.
    Radio and writing are my preferred mediums.
    In the UK a whole new industry in make-up and cosmetic treatments has burgeoned around High Definition TV. There have been reports of male presenters having their hands waxed because the audience could see the hairs on their fingers !

  6. My TV life lasted about 15 minutes air time – which took 8 hours to film. It was filmed about five years ago ( just before I was seriously ill).
    It was screened by local TV in a Series called “The Nether Regions” – one man’s journey of sexual adventure in the West Country. He came on a *course* here which they filmed.
    It now gets an occasional airing on the Lads channel Men and Motors.
    It was aired the following February when I was in recovery – we have a very grainy video of it – I am now wondering if we have the technology here to put it onto a DVD. NO I am not going to post it to YouTube!
    Yes to the phone – I have an elderly mother and if the phone rings late at night or wakes me in the night I run like hell to answer it …….. clothes or no clothes!
    I haven’t ever emailed in the nude though – maybe I should put that on my list of things to do ?
    Thanks for the article ๐Ÿ™‚
    Here is one about all the new make up techniques they will need.

  7. Nicola!
    I love your TV show details! Were you paid? Do you get residuals on re-airing? Hey, TV is TV! Doesn’t matter how good or bad you looked doing the episode!
    I think I’ve even blogged in the nude — replying to a comment or two before a shower, after a shower or bed leaping off to bed… it will be harder to do that in the total personal video age. ๐Ÿ˜†
    That’s a great article on HD makeup! I think the end result will be only TRULY beautiful people will star on TV because you can no longer hide the flaws because HDTV is hyper-reality.

  8. I got paid ยฃ250 – as yet we have no repeat fees as it is subject to ongoing discussions. We had a contract for one series and one repeat locally. The local TV company was bought by Grenada TV who screen Men and Motors . We raised the issue of our contract and it’s stipulations when we saw it being re-run.
    They promised to look into it …….. blah blah blah – I haven’t seen it being re-run since. We are happy to leave it there – don’t really what a stack of legal bills.
    I have never blogged in the nude either . I think that would be a hard limit!
    Maybe HD will teach us that there is more behind the appearance of beauty and that we all have flaws – ?

  9. That’s a good deal, Nicola, and you were right to raise the issue of reruns and residuals!
    There’s usually a computer always around so it’s sort of natural to be as “always on” as the computer when you have work to get done. ๐Ÿ˜€
    HD is definitely a slave-master. Some details are not meant to be seen. That’s why people love celluloid film so much. It provides great definition while adding beauty and sculpting to the human form.

  10. I honestly would never ever EVER switch to video over text.
    As much as I say I have friends that only know me from online and stuff, there are some things that I like to keep personal. Video chatting with others doesn’t strike me as something I would ever find interesting.
    I email, I text on my cellphone and I chat online as well as blogging, and most people do know what I look like from the few photos I’ve shared.
    I feel that we’re slaves to technology these days. people rush out for the latest gadgets so they can say they have them, regardless of whether those gadgets will enrich their lives or not. I find it’s rather sad.

  11. I agree we’re slaves to broadband, Dawn, but the point of today’s inquiry is VIDEO IS HERE! ๐Ÿ˜€
    Taking that fact into account — and realizing you no longer have the ability to be anonymous via text chat — would you change your appearance to appear in live video, or would you just appear as you are?
    There was a time in the aviation industry when flying in planes became a commercial viability. People would dress up in their finest clothes to “ride” on the aluminum sparrow.
    Today, the shine is off the wings and people dress as they wish to take a ride — usually looking disheveled and ratty. Is that change due to a democratization of airline travel or have we just become sloppier as a people?
    Will we see the same sort of changes in everyday video communication?

  12. Hrm, if I had no choice in terms of the video conversing and suchlike, then I think I’d have to be just as I am. Why dress up to talk to someone? On the other hand, my mother always taught me that I should “look presentable” and so making sure I don’t have “bedhead” and such would be a must.
    I’ve been on enough flights to have shaken my head at the way some people are dressed for flights these days. I don’t think that change is due to the democratization of air travel in the slightest. It’s very much that we’ve just become sloppier. So many people just do not care how they look these days.
    I don’t think we’ll see those same changes in video communication. I don’t think too many people from this day and age would bother to make themselves look presentable in the first place. But thats just my opinion ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Right, Dawn! That’s the core of the matter! Do we “look presentable” or do we appear as we are “bedhead’ and wrinkled clothes and all?
    That’s interesting you feel we’ve become sloppier. I agree. Some argue, however, that in the early days of aviation only the rich could afford to fly. Now that roundtrip fares can be as low as $23.00 USD — income and social status are no longer barriers to air travel.
    The “Democratization of Broadband,” some argue, is in its early stage because it is still expensive and many poor people do not yet have access to the speed and comfort that we enjoy and, by default, will be left behind in the video conferencing bell curve.

  14. When one of the new regional shuttle services hit NYC several years ago, they were offering $23 roundtrips to Orlando. It was a shocking deal that actually lasted awhile.

  15. Oh, it’s much more than $23.00 from Manhattan to L.I. ๐Ÿ˜†
    I think those flights were subsidized by Disney or some other Florida entertainment entity — you weren’t required to go anywhere or do anything to get that fare, though.

  16. I wonder when flights will start being subsidized by inflight advertisement. Today’s flight has been brought to you by the letter K and Kellogg’s, the breakfast of intelligent travelers everywhere – particularly everyone here. The $.50 coupon should help you in that department. In case of a water landing, you can find a Special K Floating Device under your seat.

  17. Heh! I think that’s a smart idea, Gordon! When the airlines are able to offer private cubicles to everyone then we’ll fly to the grocery store. Right now flying is too much like the old train cattle cars to me with people pinned in the pens instead of cows. You also see a definite economic stratification of people in one airplane. Not really a good thing.

  18. I wonder if we’ll ever progress to having planes that resemble long distance trains like those in The Darjeeling Limited – with nice little rooms where you can get a tea without it being feeding time. Sometimes when the food cart comes out I can imagine a farmer filling a trough.
    Then again, to people who have never flown before (I have a 25 year old friend who only flew for the first time this year and a 30 year old friend who still hasn’t flown) even all these cattle problems seem like a new and amazing thing.

  19. I think the most interesting point about this article is that we are so averse to the way we used to communicate before technology evolved to this point. Granted, it’s been a while since people thought of the rotary phone as the height of technology, but I don’t think that, at that time, the thought of a face-to-face conversation caused so much anxiety!

  20. I’m all for it. Of course, when web video becomes more broadly accepted, there will soon be a lot of ways to hide what you’re doing or how you look. That’s certainly not a bad thing and if someone wants to use an avatar or not even use video, that should be okay too.
    But yes, video is here and it’s here to stay. Just look at what Scoble’s doing, look at services like Ustream and Utterz. People want this. Maybe not all day, maybe not as a single option, but it’s around the corner, deciding which way to turn as we speak.
    So yep, I’d use it. Currently, a service like Utterz isn’t available in Europe yet + I lack the right hardware at this moment, but I’d encourage everyone to at least try it.
    Soon a lot of crossover forms will pop up too. Don’t forget that even something like screencasting (which is part of my job) isn’t widely used either. People need to find out what’s available, how they can make this work for them first.
    On the other hand, before this becomes standard, before the digital divide is closed, before people see this as second nature, well, that will certainly be a while.
    But if we won’t stand at the vanguard of things, who will?
    Good point, good post, and good blog of course ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, clearlii!
    I appreciate your introductory email to me very much. Thanks!
    You make a fine point about the invention of the telephone. Before the wire, you had to actually get on a horse and go over and visit your neighbor by knocking on their door.
    In a way, those horse ride visitors are just like the impending Video Age: You needed to be always “presentable” for visiting or accepting visitors without a moment’s notice! ๐Ÿ˜€

  22. Love your comment, Nils, thanks! I also love the look and feel of your blog. It is classy and quiet and full of fascinating content.
    Yes, you’re right that total video is inevitable. Your bank will require to analyze your facial features for identification. You wife will want to smell your breath via the scent attachment to see if you’ve been drinking at lunch. Your boss will install a bank of screens to watch you and interact with you all day long as everyone works from home: No Avatars allowed! ๐Ÿ˜€
    We’re moving into the age of Total Communication in the Instant On where the base expectation is that you are always “there” and “here” at the same time — and you are always presentable and fresh-faced and ready to get the work done. To not participate in this new functionality is to be relegated to the dark caves of the clickity-clack of the teletype machine and the staccato pitch of Morse Code dit dahs.

  23. Heh, thanks David, for the compliment and the reply here.
    It is a good point you make, and one we shouldn’t lose sight of: not participating in the latest “must-dos” should never park anyone in the dug-out. We should always respect that people need time for transitions.
    But inevitable, I think it is.

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