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The Old Internet Is New Again: ‘If I Can Dream’ and Chatroulette March 11, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
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Original at SpliceToday

Does anyone remember Jennifer Ringley and Sean Patrick? Over 10 years ago, tens of thousands of Americans brought The Truman Show to reality by broadcasting themselves live for anyone to see. Webcams, people forget (especially people my age), were the original web videos. JenniCam and Sean Patrick Live drew thousands of viewers and became one-person brands long before Fred and Ryan Higa. Webcams were low-res and low-energy, but they were voyeurism incarnate.

You know the Internet is old when it starts to repeat itself. (more…)

FAME: Kade Style (Anniversary Cut!) February 26, 2010

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Posted at Gawker; Ronebreak; Philebrity; Arthur Kade (with commentary)

It’s been one year since Arthur Kade, ex-financier turned cult Philadelphia personality, embarked on his journey to fame! How’s he doing? Certainly, most of my friends still have no clue who he is, but Kade himself says he’s known on every continent on Earth, even — even! — the great continent of Alaska.

Sure, Kade has partied with the few celebs who ever come to Philadelphia, and he’s been on Gossip Girl for several seconds. Just this week, he debuted — spoke! — on Showtime’s La La Land. Of course we’ve all heard about his reality show in development with IMG and book deal with Trident Media. Although, when we contacted IMG, we found it difficult to find someone to confirm the Kade show; some didn’t know what we were talking about. And Trident Media never responded to our requests for comment. But who are we? Kade’s likely telling the truth, but maybe he isn’t top priority at either firm.

Now, our news! In honor of Kade’s anniversary, my Penn colleagues Heidi Khaled and Brett Bumgarner and I cut a short, ten-minute version of our documentary on Arthur Kade, Fame: Kade Style


“Real Girls” Are More Diverse, Less Frivolous February 22, 2010

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Last week, I wrote about how influential Sex and the City had been to various web series creators. Along those lines, I asked the creative team behind a new (gay) series about women, The Real Girl’s Guide to Everything Else, to talk about how they developed their show and what the philosophy behind it was. Carmen Elena Mitchell, the executive producer and writer, wrote me back and filled me in on the behind-the-scenes planning. The show premiered last week.

The main goal behind The Real Girl’s Guide was to offer an alternative on Sex and the City (particularly the film).

“We got into this conversation about the world of Sex and the City…the world of rich, white, straight fashionistas. And it started me thinking – what’s the inverse of that world?,” I was told. “Perhaps a more ethnically diverse world where materialism is not valued, where being straight is not ‘assumed,’ where a woman’s goals do not end at getting married or finding the perfect pair of ridiculously expensive shoes.”

Interestingly, however, it’s about more than just the story. Real Girl’s also provides opportunities for actors of color who are often typecast by traditional media. This is something I’ve heard from other web series producers.

Below, the creators talk to me about finding financing, producing extra content to engage fans, what’s good about The L Word, troubling about Sex and the City, and what a “web series” is!


Web Series Remix “Sex and the City” February 17, 2010

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Anyone who’s looked into web series knows most shows are marketed like traditional television shows are. Pitching a show to Hollywood, you come up with an easily digestible equation: Glee = High School Musical + The Simpsons (or some other “transgressive” show) or Flash Forward = Lost + Heroes (Season 1). You get the idea. If they aren’t hybrids, most shows are pure derivatives (Cashmere Mafia = Sex and the City, basically), or slight variations (Parks & Recreation = The Office + female lead). This doesn’t mean they’re bad, but, as Todd Gitlin argues in Inside Primetime, in an industry with so many unknowns, relying on past success is key. Shows that stand out entirely, like Arrested Development, are rare.

Same with web series. I just did a write of a show that was Twin Peaks + funnier. Or how The Crew is The Office + Star Trek. I’m surprised at how often Dallas and Dynasty get mentioned as influences by web series creators. As with TV, it doesn’t mean the shows are bad; all culture relies on variations of known stories.

Still, I’m amazed at how important Sex and the City has been to web video. It strikes me that, aside from perhaps The Office, no mainstream show has been as influential to creators.

So what’s the deal and how have producers worked with the canonical series?


List of Gay and Lesbian Web Series Up! February 1, 2010

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I’ve been meaning to do it for months, and I finally took the time to compile a list of gay and lesbian web series (mostly independent) and it’s up!

Here’s the list.

Some interesting things to consider/remember.


Lost About “Lost,” YouTube Tries to Help January 30, 2010

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Fine Brothers - Lost Video
Original at Ronebreak

I don’t follow Lost. I don’t mean I can’t follow it, as in I watch it but don’t understand. I mean I’ve completely given up trying to watch the show. Around season three I tried once again to get into it. No go. Too complex. Too many peculiar things happening. What is up with this show?!

Let’s say you’re better than I and you’ve managed to keep up. Maybe you played the Lost ARG years ago (the Lost Experience) and stopped watching for a bit. Or perhaps you’ve watched passively and largely forgotten about the plot over the show’s hiatus.

Good news! (more…)

“Anyone But Me” Creators On Web Series, Coming Out and Being The “Un-Gossip Girl” December 20, 2009

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Original at Ronebreak!

When Sylar orders you to do something, you better do it.

Starting its second season this week, Anyone But Me, probably America’s first full lesbian teen series, has gained its share of fans, including Zachary Quinto (Heroes, Star Trek), through is intimate, nuanced storytelling.

“Life at sixteen is fraught and fertile for drama,” said writer Susan Miller, a veteran of The L Word and thirtysomething, who wrote the show with director Tina Cesa Ward. “Anyone But Me shines a light on identity – coming to terms with who we are as gays, African Americans, women, and citizens of the world.”

The show has carved a niche for itself in a relatively crowded field. The web has been home to dozens of series about gays and lesbians. People of color have shows like Drama Queenz and the Lovers and Friends Show. Shows aimed at gay men like In the Moment are equally diverse, and lesbian series have devised interesting and addictive gimmicks, like the HBO-funded web series Time Travelling Lesbian and B.J. Fletcher: Private Eye.


Fine Brothers: Making and Marketing Hit Videos, Today and Tomorrow December 1, 2009

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I’ve already posted some comments from the Fine Brothers before, but I thought I’d post the whole interview, which we did via email a couple months ago (Sorry folks! Scholars are slow). The Fine Brothers — Benny and Rafi Fine — are two standout comedians in an online world awash in aspirants. They’ve created numerous viral videos and web shows, not to mention collabing with some of YouTube‘s heavy hitters to create very successful parodies and comedic shorts.

They also happen to be pretty shrewd about how they market themselves and conduct their business, so I thought this interview — unedited, below — could help out people starting to make their own videos or interested in learning more about the space. Their response to my last question was particularly interesting: “At the end of the day online video is not a place to go to ‘make it,’ and we feel many come into the space feeling they will.” But they go on to say that the web still shows promise, if certain things happen. Very interesting, and perhaps true given current conditions.

Below Benny and Rafi talk to me about how they got started, how they make and market their videos and why success online may not be their ultimate goal: (more…)

B. Scott Reimagines Celebrity Online November 23, 2009

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a web personality more fascinating than the splendiferous, divine B. Scott. Ever since Madison Moore introduced me to the blogger and YouTuber a couple years ago, I’ve been ever more intrigued!

Since then, B. Scott’s star has risen. His website has seen its traffic balloon (Compete, Quantcast) and his YouTube channel has kept apace.

Last month when I heard B. Scott snagged an interview with Mariah Carey and launched his new B. Scott Show, I thought: this is it! B. Scott continues to revolutionize the production and consumption of celebrity on the web.

What has he done?


The Rules and Meanings of Vlogging November 5, 2009

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My first academic article has been published! The article, published in First Monday, titled, “Real Vlogs: The Rules and Meanings of Online Personal Videos,” looks at how users on YouTube talk about what vlogs are “real” or authentic, and “fake” or inauthentic. Here’s the abstract:

This paper explores what the “rules” of vlogging (video blogging) are: the various visual and social practices viewers and creators understand and debate as either authentic or inauthentic on YouTube. It analyzes a small, random set of vlogs on YouTube and highlight several controversies around key celebrities on the site. This essay concludes by challenging whether conversations around authenticity will persist in dialogues about online video.

The paper looks several different kinds of vlogs to see to examine what visual strategies count as a real vlog and which ones do not.

In general, however, what is interesting is that even though, for some users, certain vlogs are definitely more authentic than others, a number of YouTubers either don’t care or expressly advocate for doing whatever you need to do to your video to get views. This pits the “authentic” with the “commercial.” But it’s not always an either/or presumption. The essay concludes by stating that the distinctions between what is real and fake may be collapsing, and users instead defer to whatever moves them emotionally — through hilarity, seriousness, etc.

I think the most valuable contribution of the piece might be the section on Lonelygirl15, which has been written about, but I really speak a long time combing through blog posts and new reports to figure out who said what about Bree, who thought she was fake and why, and what all of those conversations meant for the meaning of online video. I also narrate an interesting incident about LisaNova — when she first started LonesomeRhodes — that is a small incident within the scale of YouTube, but nonetheless a significant one, I would argue.

I’d also like to throw in, which I only allude to in the article, that many of the debates I highlight are really remnants of YouTube’s early days of popularity (2006/2007). By now, most people on the site have seen it all, and few things shock. These debates still happen though, as with the young girl who cried about her legal problems with sexual abuse, and the Raz-B incident, two incidents I write about elsewhere.

Black Hulu: Creating a Home for Independent Black Video October 15, 2009

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Many thanks to Racialicious for reposting this!



Tickles_TVWhen new technologies emerge a host of new companies tend to sprout up. Tons of independent radio stations catering to diverse interests before 1970s-style deregulation. Digital technology brought dozens of new channels to television; that same technology fostered numerous production companies making independent TV and films. Now the drive to create original web video — a trend that dates back to the late 1990s, but has gained new steam with broadband and YouTube post-2006 — has attracted  new voices previously unheard. We have corporately produced web series, but also black web series and series made with virtually no budget at all.

Well, that’s great. But how do you distribute and promote all these shows and videos? Anyone can create a video, but if, like my YouTube videos, nobody sees them, then there isn’t much a point. Sure, decently endowed websites now fund and promote web shows. But what about black content, in many cases prone to smaller audiences?

Enter the sites pictured above. (more…)

Black Web Series and New Black TV October 15, 2009

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Tatyana Ali stars and exec produces this new web show directed and created by new filmmaker Julian Breece

Tatyana Ali stars and exec produces this new web show directed and created by new filmmaker Julian Breece

Please see my Black Web Series page for a full and updated list.

So I did a little bit of reporting and found some web series featuring all or mostly black casts! The full story is up at The Root:

A small but growing number of filmmakers, producers and writers are looking to the Web to make black shows on their own terms. Over the last year, a bevy of new shows have come online about the lives of all kinds of black people: gay and lesbian, rich and poor. Sites that focus on publishing black independent Web shows are cropping up as well, including Rowdy Orbit and BBTV (Better Black TV). This month, BET.com will premiere its first original Web series, Buppies, starring Tatyana Ali, directed by up-and-coming director Julian Breece and produced by Ali and newcomer Aaliyah Williams.

No matter what kind of black show you had, nobody wanted it,”creator Julian Breece said of trying to pitch Buppies to the networks a few years ago. “A lot of black people flock to the Web for content …. This is the perfect space to explore black stories that you don’t have the change to do in traditional media.”

Full list of shows with descriptions at The Root. Also, please check out my previous article for The Root on black vloggers on YouTube and my interview with Tatyana Ali on Buppies and review of the show.

I’ll be publishing more on the web series listed below later, and the sites distributing them, so check back. I’m focusing — for the sake of my own sanity — on scripted, fictional (or mostly fictional) series. And please, if I missed your web series or one you like, please let me know. The more I know, the better (and I’ll be sure to update this post with shows I hear of).

UPDATED (12/7): Updated separate list of shows above.

UPDATED (11/9): Add one two more series.

UPDATED (10/27): Added one more series. I promise I’ll start annotating these soon!

UPDATED (10/22): The official site for Buppies is up. It’s great! Click here for more on Buppies.

UPDATED (10/20): Added a series. Look more information soon, as soon as I get time.

UPDATED (10/16): Added two more series. Plus, one of my favorite blogs, Shadow and Act, covered my article!

UPDATED (10/15): With two more shows, keep them coming!



ONLINE VIDEO: A New Kid Delivers Mad Men Parody “Ma Men” September 16, 2009

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
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funnyordie-joey-mcintyre-MA-Men(Click the photo above for video!)

The level of humor here is pretty base: the Boston accent is funny. But, hey, it is funny!

Bloggers are already raving about New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntyre’s spoof Ma Men — although it really has little to do with the original. The 36-year old McIntyre is a Massachusetts native, hailing from Needham and Jamaica Plain, both outside Boston.

It looks pretty clear Budweiser sponsored this and that’s okay. Perhaps if it becomes sufficiently popular (70,000 views on FunnyOrDie in 24 hours isn’t half bad), it’ll become a web series. There are enough Mad Men fans to pull in an initial audience, and the fact that it’s hilarious will keep them coming! Could this be one of the next hit web series? Will it go viral? Time will tell!

TV: “Adam On The Road” and Other Web Series July 10, 2009

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You’re forgiven if you don’t watch any made-for-Internet television — also known as: web series, webisodes, web shows, or web originals; they’re still working on the name. Most people don’t. Ever since Lonelygirl15, the faux-vlog on YouTube turned ridiculously over-the-top web series, debuted three years ago, the web show has been consistently on the rise but never reaching a breaking point. Sure, there have been breakouts, most notably Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, the Neil Patrick Harris starrer recently honored with a few Streamys — a web series Webby — and now available on Hulu, and of course there is YouTube’s Fred, perhaps the most obviously popular (with 12 year-olds). But nothing has broken through the culture in a huge way. Not that celebrities aren’t trying.

More at Ronebreak

YOUTUBE: Music Video Remakes: The Video! June 20, 2009

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I’ve created a short YouTube in conjunction with my paper on music video remakes and their fair use. Check it out! For my written take on this, see my previous post.

DIGITAL CULTURE: If a Social Network Dies… June 17, 2009

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…does anybody care?

Quarterlife didn't get very big and didn't last very long.

Quarterlife didn't get very big and didn't last very long.

I fell hard for the social networking craze. I joined so many sites I lost track of most of them. Two or three years ago, each site promised to serve a new community, or niche market, and was trumpeted by the media as a novel, near miraculous invention. Every site was based on “you,” and so it felt like it could never die. If a site died, a little part of you would too. That was never going to happen!

Cut to last week when I received an email from Quarterlife, a social networking site for creative young people. HYW wanted to be my friend! I was somewhat excited, because I rarely receive emails from Quarterlife, and everyone wants a new friend! Then I thought, Wait, I never go on Quarterlife anymore; I wonder if anyone else does.

No, nobody visits Quarterlife anymore. I quickly checked the site’s Quantcast numbers and was proven right (a lot of people have problems with Quantcast’s methodology, but people have problems with every agency’s methodology, so I’m going to use Quantcast and Compete because they’re free). Quarterlife’s numbers are way down. Go to their homepage and you see this message: “Starting today we are asking for a SMALL VOLUNTARY SUBSCRIPTION FEE or a DONATION of any amount you choose. This is the only way to keep quarterlife from going dark, and losing all the thousands of photos, artwork, music, and writing you’ve uploaded.”

Begging for money is a site’s last resort. SimpleWeather.com did the same thing, falling from its meteoric high when Time magazine trumpeted it in 2007. Since Quarterlife’s user base is young, artistic people, I doubt they have the money to support it (I don’t). The site will die as fast as its television show did.

Friendster, my first social network, has been fading for years but is still strong internationally.

Friendster, my first social network, has been fading for years in the U.S. but is still strong internationally.

This is what happens when Facebook and YouTube amass large user bases and manage to hold their attention. Facebook allows you to upload photos and video; YouTube allows video and promises a large potential audience. Who needs Quarterlife? As ad agencies shrink their budgets in the recession, these niche sites cannot compete anyway, and subscription-based social networking will not work.

I started checking other sites I once joined. The owner of DList—the gay MySpace—had written off the site months ago, even as I still continued to use it (and even as ads remained on it). Saatchi’s social networking site for artists lost nearly all of its popularity from its much-publicized high, down over 90 percent in just about a year. Some sites have managed to maintain their popularity; LinkedIn stunningly is still holding strong, though I’d be wary of Facebook. Same goes for Vimeo, which has emerged as a propercompanion to YouTube. But others, like Orkut, have fallen flat on their faces.

It’s a curious thing when a social network dies. Users invest a lot of time and, sometimes, emotion into a site, literally creating it. Its demise can be sad and bemusing. A newspaper dying is one thing, but a social networking holds your information, a network of friends and often your work, your labor.

But the bottom line is the web may not be Chris Anderson’s long tail, capable of supporting thousands of small but thriving markets. If there is a long tail, it’s a sharp and vicious one. Facebook and YouTube—MySpace is dying a slow death—monopolize social networking and user generated content, and the niches cannot compete. I’m not complaining; I’m on Facebook several times a day. It’s wonderful, but it’s the Microsoft of social networking. The nice Microsoft, swallowing the competition simply by doing what they do better.

In the end, everyone wants to be where everyone else is hanging out. It’s why all the major artists, filmmakers, and hip people move to the coasts and Middle America is left with the scraps. Sure, people leave the huddle, but only when they’re so famous they don’t need it—like when Chris Crocker decided to leave YouTube.

Of course, soon after Chris Crocker thought he could leave the huddle, YouTube and its big audience, and start his own website, he was back again. No one can afford to leave a thriving social network. Just ask the ones that have recently died. They know this all too well.

TWITTER: Twitter-Perfect Memes: #3wordsaftersex and #3breakupwords May 28, 2009

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
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3wordsaftersex tweets were uploaded at amazing rates.

3wordsaftersex tweets were uploaded at amazing rates.

UPDATE 9/24: After this meme, a similar one cropped up — institutional memory on Twitter is short — called #aftersex. You get the idea. 3wordsaftersex, by the way, is still being tweeted, months later.


ORIGINAL POST: If ever there was a meme made for Twitter it was #3wordsaftersex (yes, that’s right, “three words after sex”). For those reading this who do not use Twitter at all — are you out there?? — a “#” is a way of linking keywords among tweets, so people can see what Twitterers are tweeting about a certain topic.

I’d seen the #3wordsaftersex trend for awhile, but I normally don’t click on these things. Once I clicked on it, it instantly became clear why it’s popular. 3wordsaftersex is simple: people simply tweet three words they say (or would say; or would never say but would like to pretend they would say) after sex.

3wordsaftersex takes advantage of what Twitter does best: short, witty, sensational messages easily intelligible and quickly repeatable, or re-tweetable. A short sample of 3wordsaftersex tweets reveals an incredible amount of wit among the Twitterati, a wit no doubt cultivated when you only have 140 characters to say what you want — truly, good tweeting is an art. Of course, the same sample of tweets also revealed misogyny (“swallow the nut”) and stupidity (“ima put it on her” — that’s not even three words, and it’s in poor taste!). Regardless, everyone on the site gets a good 10 seconds to express themselves before disappearing into the Internet dustbin. It’s pretty indicative of the web culture in general. (And yes, ten seconds is all you have, the tweets come so fast within that time you’ve been refreshed off the page).
This is a Twitter story. Something like this is too crass for most Facebook accounts — I for one have several employers and past employers as friends — and too short for MySpace, YouTube and most other social networking sites. Blogs are too slow, disparate and hard to find. Twitter is fast, immediate, constantly updated and self-contained. In the twenty minutes it took to write this post, well over 200 tweets were posted, and I’m writing at 3AM.

A companion to 3wordsaftersex is #3breakupwords (three words for a break-up), which isn’t as fun since it isn’t as narrowly constructed. Since there’s more room for possibility, more options and more possible situations, 3breakupwords doesn’t force the twitters to be as creative as 3wordsaftersex does. In my estimation it seems less popular than 3wordsaftersex.

It should be noted that a completely unscientific scan of the tweets shows that 3wordsaftersex does bring out more men than women, which instinctively makes sense to me, but the imbalance isn’t that stark. 3breakupwords seems more equal. But what do I know?! I’m looking at 3AM, my sample might be skewed. It’s surprising because Twitter is likely more female than male.

The big question is: who started this and why? Like many memes before, we may never know.

Three cheers for meaningless memes that rise and fall within the span of days!

PS – I know I keep diverging from my “televisual” theme/directive. But, you know, the Internet’s visual. Leave me alone.

ONLINE VIDEO: Porn 2.0 September 22, 2008

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Porn 2.0

By Aymar Jean Christian

Talking about porn is like talking about money. In America, it just isn’t done. So it’s a special day in life of every boy—and some girls’—when one day a friend pulls you aside and asks: “have you heard of XTube?”

Or YouPorn, YouPornGay, RedTube, Pornotube, Pornhub, Megarotic, Spankwire, TNAFlix, even DList, well, you get the idea.

What are these sites? If you don’t have friends like mine, then maybe you haven’t heard of the newest wave in porn, or Porn 2.0 as it’s being called. It’s YouTube but hardcore, Vimeo uncensored, and it’s become extraordinarily popular. Some of the sites attract about as many monthly viewers as popular news sites like WashingtonPost.com, and by my count the top six sites get as many eyes as CNN.com (27 million), though far less than the smut-free YouTube (75 million). That’s pretty impressive for a bunch of sites that have few outlets for advertising. Most people find out about them during indecent conversations with friends or lovers, samizdat-style, the same way porn’s been historically disseminated.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been living in a cave. These sites aren’t that new. They started getting noticed in the second half of 2006, according to Fleshbot, who’s been documenting the trend with diligence. They grew quickly in 2007. Now in 2008 it seems like it’s past the trend stage and become a staple of porn consumption.

XTube is, in my view, the best of the sites, even though it’s not the most popular. It is the perfect synthesis of what the Internet means today: connecting with others, generating your own material and, in some cases, profiting off that material. Of the top 25 XTube videos viewed recently, only three were clearly “industry” porn, the rest were uploaded by less (financially) endowed individuals. The top five videos have gathered a collective 25 million views, and only one of those was professional. Amateur porn has been around since the home video, but until now most of it has been confined to industrious entrepreneurs with lots of time to market and distribute. Now distribution is easier, the audience bigger and more eager to watch. Amateurs can actually sell their videos online for a few bucks on XTube. Those homemade sex tapes have become a business venture.

That’s because today—correct me if I’m wrong—people are yearning for authentic, sincere experiences. XTube allows people to create profiles, make friends, comment on videos, and subscribe to channels just like YouTube. And most comments are celebratory, a pat on the back for someone else’s good fuck. Sure, production quality isn’t always fantastic, and while some of the most popular videos on XTube will never win awards, they are visceral and raw (yes, very often not “safe” in the traditional sense). Some are sloppy—in real life things don’t always slip in as easily as with professionals! Most of the sets are dull—no posh couches and fantastic lighting. But you get the sense that the aches and groans are genuine, and that makes it hot.

Of course part of the appeal is that it’s fast. Remember the days of getting porn off P2P networks like KaZaA? Waiting 30 minutes for a download could really kill a hankering. No longer. Porn 2.0 sites promise thrills in seconds.

One of the greatest pleasures, besides the obvious one, of these sites is the chance to encounter something new. XTube has a fairly open door policy. There are fat people, ethnic people, old people, fisters, gay people, bi people, ugly people, hot people, S&M people, self-suck fetishists, dildo-play lovers, etc. all one site. Community sites like Ning, which hosts all sorts of communities have flourished by offering people with specific tastes a venue to share videos. (A large part of Ning’s four million regular viewers partake in porn). Porn on the web used to be quite segregated. If you wanted interracial porn you went to this or that site, straight porn at this site, twinks at this site, silver daddies at another one. But many of those sites dump short clips of their videos onto porn 2.0 portals like Redtube and YouPorn. The industry does it for promotion, to drive subscriptions. But for cheap people like myself, a 30-second to one-minute clip is all that’s necessary! You know what I’m saying!

All these sites constitute a profound development in the history of film and porn. Yes, porn is still, mostly, a solitary act, but these sites tell us that we all like sex—all sorts of us—and it’s all okay. It connects us through intimate networks. In the early 20th century, porn entrepreneurs would travel from town to town with a projector, round up interested men, and they would watch it together. Things have come full circle, and we’re all watching each other get off. It’s time to be honest about it.