In their infancy, truly innovative new technologies bear a strong resemblance to old or obsolete ones. Take the latest revolution in online filmmaking and distribution, courtesy of the two guys who brought you Twitter. Vine, an app for the iPhone, allows you to create a six-second video by tapping on the screen (no editing, no filters) and then immediately post it, looped, for the world to see.
As in early cinema, the typical Vine clip so far involves either animals, comedians, stop-motion animations, non-narrative abstractions, or some combination thereof. (Nudity got the app slapped with a 17+ rating early on and is now noticeably absent, possibly due to advanced selfie recognition technology.) Sans privacy options (or ads) and only searchable by tags, Vine returns us to the blessed randomness of the early, less overtly corporate Internet. Offerings range from a multipart experimental narrative involving melancholic distorted guitars and doppelgängers, to Will Sasso’s comedy series based on spitting whole lemons, to (of course) thankfully brief cute-kitten-and-baby videos. It’s also a vital showcase for emerging talent in experimental film, or talent that’s been written off: along with Sasso, actors James Urbaniak and Adam Goldberg number among the form’s top practitioners.
Vine’s popularity is no doubt attributable to that other great early Internet medium, the ever-resurgent animated GIF. The ease with which so many users adapt to the medium—and brilliantly play with it—suggests how important loops and low-res glitches have become to the Internet generation’s visual vernacular.