Viewfinder: Short Wonderings

Humans have always speculated with curiosity – on the stars, ocean tides, plants and seasons. Curiosity is not limited to humans. Those of us with pets know how inquisitive cats and dogs can be. Humans have the distinct benefit of recording our observations for future generations.

As society began to conduct experiments and document the findings, people were able to compare their curiosity against the experiences of others. In the third century BC, the largest collection of documents was the Ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt. People with access to this library were able to satiate their curiosity by reading books. This process of speculating until finding the desired information was long and drawn-out. Libraries of books were the primary resource to wondering about specific topics, but libraries are rarely comprehensive or readily accessible.

Now, in this day and age, we all know that the internet is the best place to go when wondering. Web browsers and search engines have changed wondering forever, because they are comprehensive and easily accessed. A web-connected device is rarely far away. As a result, people don’t wonder for very long in this day and age. We are in the age of short wondering.

Our wondering usually comes to an end abruptly, thanks to multimedia. Before the internet, you may have wondered about Evel Knievel, read about him in a book and looked at pictures of his motorcycle jumps. However, you may have continued to wonder, because pictures don’t tell the whole story. With the internet, you can search for videos about Evel Knievel, and you can watch videos of his jumps and falls. Multimedia files expedite learning and reduce wondering.

The example of Evel Knievel works well to make my point, but what if you didn’t know his name? What if all you remembered is that he wore a red, white and blue outfit? Searching for red, white and blue motorcycle jumping provides many results for text articles about Evel Knievel, but no videos. Search engines are based on letters and words appearing in website articles. In the world of video, people could wonder a while longer if they did not have enough information to conduct a thorough text search.

Blinkx is a specialized video search engine using speech recognition to listen to the audio component of the video content, and it then uses the phonetic and text transcripts to match content with search queries. If there was an internet video clip of Evel Knievel and the sound track included someone saying “red, white and blue,” then you could find it with blinkx.

The age of short wondering is upon us. Millions of people upload video to the internet daily. The videos we are all making will play an even greater role in search results and in satiating curious minds.

Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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