Vine from Braden Thompson

By now you may have heard of Vine. If you’re on Twitter at all, you’ve definitely heard of and/or seen it. You may not have actually used Vine, but you probably will soon — it’s the newest multimedia format to hit social networks, a more complicated version of a GIF or a simplified version of a home movie.

The format, which was designed by a company that was bought by Twitter, consists of six seconds of video with sound. What makes Vines interesting is that they can also feature cuts, connecting disparate clips of film or making rudimentary stop-motion animation. It’s easy to create a Vine: just open your favorite Twitter app and choose “Take photo or video” from the camera button. A simple interface makes cutting together a finished clip easy.

Vine from Mashable.

On Hazlitt, Navneet Alang memorably describes Vines as “a bit like slowly walking past a living room in which a party is going on: it’s just a fleeting vision, but it can be evocative enough to conjure up quite the reaction.” In other words, there’s enough visual information to be engaging without being overwhelming, much like a GIF or more subtle Cinemagram.

No short-form video-sharing (or GIF-sharing) app has ever really caught on to the same degree as Instagram, and Vine could be the first major competitor. For now, though, Vine is relegated to a Twitter tie-in — there’s no reason for the company to make its own network based solely on the video hybrids. Twitter itself is pushing multimedia, as an official blog post reveals.

The easiest way to catch Vines en masse might be Vine Peek, a quick project that streams the latest Vines being posted. The subjects of the videos aren’t anything particularly special: shots of cats lazing near keyboards, emptying Diet Coke bottles, views into technology start-up offices. Other users are pushing the boundaries of the Vine format, creating elegant animations and clips that may as well be short films or documentaries.

Vine from
Vine from
Ian Padgham.

The destiny of Vine, if it becomes a popular vehicle for self-expression, is to descend into the realm of digital kitsch. The new format presents users with a powerful range of new possibilities, including a rare emphasis on sound (be sure to unmute the clips when you open them). But like the Polaroid, or Instagram after it, or the buzzy Snapchat, it’s also a limited medium that will soon develop its own typical aesthetic vocabulary. The familiar arguments will ensue: Can you make documentary with Vine? Are you just using it to shoot yourself eating breakfast? Is that okay?

Until the point when we all become accustomed to and bored with it, however, we can enjoy its brief novelty.

Vines embedded with VineIt.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...