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Windows Live Movie Maker: helping democratize the new religion

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Benjamin Sibelman
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Living Worlds Productions

Windows Live Movie Maker: helping democratize the new religion

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"From the venerated saints and cathedrals of the Middle Ages to the pop stars and cineplexes of today, [Joe McHugh] explains why images and sound are increasingly supplanting the authority of the printed word, and by so doing, radically altering the cultural, economic, and political landscape of the United States and the rest of the world."
        - Description of a talk I saw at the Seattle Bioneers conference last year called "Slaying the Gorgon: Storytelling and Media in the Electronic Age"

Mr. McHugh is hardly the first person to compare modern media such as TV and movies to a religion; it is now a commonplace in some circles that they serve as the new "opiate of the masses."  But even those who use such dismissive rhetoric can't deny the power of moving images to shape public discourse, rather than merely suppressing it.  This is increasingly true in the Internet era, when passive consumers of media can quickly and easily become producers, with tools that allow them to create and distribute fairly professional-looking video content with very little effort.

The newly released free download Windows Live Movie Maker is such a tool, one I'm proud to have helped to build.  With just a few clicks, considerably more quickly than was possible with our predecessor Windows Movie Maker, our users can turn a selection of their digital photos and videos (along with a probably-copyrighted soundtrack of their choice) into a coherent and compelling story and show it to the world on YouTube or Facebook.

If media is a "religion," it has never been one with a single coherent "scripture"--the stories have always varied widely depending on which "media saint" (Joe McHugh's term for a celebrity actor or talk-show host) is telling them.  Now, though, the diversity of these stories is exploding along with the number of contributors, who no longer need any more wealth and power to become "saints" than is necessary to purchase a computer and Internet service.  Admittedly, we aren't seeing a super-radical reshaping of the media landscape--those with the most money and power still have access to far more eyes than any but the most successful viral YouTube video--but it's a step in what I see as a very positive direction.  (These statements are my personal opinion and not that of my employer.)


P.S. The good news: world electricity usage is projected to decrease this year for the first time since recordkeeping began in 1945, providing a ray of hope that an energy-efficiency revolution could cement this new trend and put us on track to solving the climate crisis.  The bad news: the U.S. just greenlit the Clipper Pipeline to provide ourselves with vast amounts of oil from Canada's tar sands, among the most ecologically destructive fuels per unit usage ever produced.
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