Tubefilter reports, following the New York Times, that the New Oxford American Dictionary has picked “refudiate” as the word of the year, among a list of other candidates. These are words that, while not really real words, enter the zeitgest and start to be used as such.
Also in contention this year was “webisode.” Welcome to 1997, lexicographers!
I’ve never really liked the word “webisode,” but it’s one among a laundry list of terms describing “web series” I’ve come across while researching this space. There are a lot of them:
• web original
• online serial
• online series
• web serial
• web series
• web video series
• webisode series
• web show
• online show
• web TV / web television
• Internet TV / Internet television
It’s hard to develop a media form when you can’t agree on a name. This list doesn’t even include format-specific terms like “vlog series,” “transmedia narratives,” “ARG series” (I’ve heard it!) and even things like “social stories” — which come with more specific expectations of format and experience. Newer attempts to integrate social gaming is making matters worse (though undeniably cool).
The issue is becoming more pressing as the IAWTV (International Academy of Web Television) queries members on whether it should rename the organization, and, if so, to what. Some “web series” are like vlogs (classically, Fred); others are as long as television series.What the heck do we do?
Meanwhile, as media converge — see: the rapid deployment of web/TV devices like Boxee and Google/Apple TV — the “web,” “online” and “Internet” part of the equation are fast becoming outmoded. We knew this would happen. Some alternatives like “digital entertainment” seem too broad. Some like “digital arts and sciences” — a nod to AMPAS — are taken, and not any more useful. “Interactive Storytelling” and its cousins are possible choices, but the degree to which any one series is interactive is highly variable, and not really a necessary condition for success, I might add.
I’ve always used “web series,” which seems to be both elegant and descriptive — but I also hew the topics on this blog to TV-like experiments for online distribution. I like “web originals” for its inclusiveness — it’s also the choice of YouTube, Hulu and other networks — but it, like web series, begs the “web” question. What will happen when content goes on different devices? As it already is?
I have no answers. But I will say this: coming up with an infallible term is a fool’s errand. Just ask the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People about devising a name to stand the test of time. Many of the media-related terms we now accept as descriptive have become abstract and hard to pin down: what is “television”? “Film”? A “record”? Film as a material is dying, nobody listens to records, and television is no longer in a box. The terms are more metaphors now, nostalgically pointing to experiences and senses than concrete materials.
How about “converging entertainment”? Not snazzy enough. Drat.