Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"World History in Two Minutes"

This little video has 19 million views on YouTube, so you may have already seen it--I just saw it this morning.

Although (because?) it's incredibly frenetic, it's effective affective: the images and soundtrack are illegally judiciously chosen and impressively synchronized.

A great deal of the power comes from the rushing onslaught of very familiar, vaguely familiar, and unfamiliar images thrown together. I experience a "microburst" of emotional and intellectual associations, for instance, when the famous image of the fleeing Vietnamese children and U.S. soldiers pops up. But before you can even begin to reflect consciously, the image flurry continues.

And the premises are fascinating. While you watch, think about what view of history it presents--and what is deemed important or insignificant based on what's included and emphasized, and what's left out.

A couple of my own immediate observations (I'd suggest watching it before reading my thoughts):

  • The sequencing of images presents a powerfully progressive view of history--mankind pulling ourselves up from the primordial slime into greatness. 
  • It's also very "presentist." Some of the omissions and emphases are frustrating; others are just plain amusing:
    • It covers the whole period from ancient Egypt to ~1900 in fifteen seconds, but the Second World War alone gets ten full seconds.
    • The First World War--"the Great War"--is completely skipped. 
    • The period from 1900-present is over half of the whole video.
    • We get more images of video games than we do of the entire Greco-Roman period!