On The Death of VHS & Analog Media

story © Michael Betancourt, November 30, 2006 all rights reserved.


VHS tapes were the first genuinely popular, available to the masses media format. So much happened with VHS (and BETA, too) that it is easy to misunderstand what its “death” means for us: the replacement of VHS with digital “alternatives”—alternatives that change the balance from what the people using the tapes want to do with their technology to that they are allowed to do with it.

With the end of analog media, in spite of all its limitations (poor quality, poor reproduction), will also move us all that much closer to there being less independence and less ability to control our own media culture. In the past several years the established companies—TIVO, Creative—have chosen to cripple their devices to make the corporate producers and distributors of media happy, a crippling that in every case was based on the removal of those parts of the device that gave users the ability to control media.

For artists who work with the “consumer” and “low-end” media equipment—equipment readily available and usable with only limited skill sets—this is cause for concern; for those whose work is commercial and who work through post houses and production facilities, these changes may only appear as a slight annoyance, but which has no impact on their actual work.

If the Sony PortaPak “caused” video art, what will the death of VHS cause?

Copyright © Michael Betancourt  November 30, 2006  all rights reserved.

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