Who does online video exclude?

Image by TarynMarie via Flickr Creative Commons

Right now Colonel Gadaffi is making a speech and I wish I was streaming it live online, watching it alongside my Twitter stream, Guardian liveblog and all my other multi-tasking, attention-shredding ways of following breaking events.

However, as I’ve previously mentioned on this blog, I don’t tend to watch online video. As we’ve analysed the power of video and its ability to provide authentic eyewitness accounts, I’ve found myself wondering more and more if the fear of a (no longer existent) boss peering at my screen is still what’s stopping me from engaging with it.

Then I realise: the real reason is right under my nose.

I am the proud owner of a quite incredibly ancient Mac laptop. I say proud because I’ve done all sorts of clever things to keep it more or less functional, and it lets me scour the web, write, and do everything else I need to do.

When it comes to video, though, it’s just not up to it: it chugs along glitchily at about 20 frames a minute, making a frantic whirring sound as though it’s full of tiny vacuum cleaners.

I’m not the only person with a faintly crappy laptop, or a dodgy broadband connection. In some parts of the world, my setup would be considered top-of-the-range. This means that huge numbers of people simply can’t experience online video to its fullest.

So while videos can be hugely powerful and direct, if that’s the only way to access certain stories or points of view then their audience will be limited by necessity.

For example, I would dearly love to know what Guardian Middle East editor Ian Black makes of the current situation, but as they’ve chosen to post it exclusively as a video, it’s beyond me right now.

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