MCAT CARS: An Affectionate Nostalgia for Vines of Old


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CARS 80: MCAT CARS: An Affectionate Nostalgia for Vines of Old

Session 80

In this MCAT CARS passage, we investigate what it is about our nostalgia for Vines from the past that endures in a world driven by novelty and innovation.

As always, I’m joined by Jack Westin, the premiere online CARS tutor. Also, find more premed resources on The Premed Years Podcast as well as everything we have on Meded Media!

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

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Every evening before we go to bed, my wife and I watch Vines. Our mutual need for a little mindless school-night entertainment led us to delay sleep by sitting in bed watching videos of fails and cute animals, but at some point in the last 18 months, YouTube’s algorithm transitioned from feeding us new footage of faceplants and binkying bunnies to compilations of old Vines. Though these collections entered our media diet long after the service went dark in 2016, the absence of any fresh Vines is hardly a hindrance given that YouTube has, in the interim, become an inexhaustible host of compilations with names like “rare vines that were there for me when my fish died,” “vines I quote daily but nobody knows what I’m talking about,” and “classic and rare vines to watch when you lose your will to live.”  Whatever limited quantity of Vines either of us actually consumed on the app during its heyday (“duck army” is the only one I can remember obsessing over in the moment), our more recent nightly viewings have yielded a handful of new favorites that have been widely anthologized. There’s Renata Bliss: Freestyle Dance Teacher; Jared, the 19-year-old who “never fuckin’ learned how to read”; a legion of umbrellas chasing tourists off a beach as a disembodied voice murmurs, “Run.”

We’re far from the only ones stoking our nostalgia for the service. Many of the Vine compilations on YouTube boast over 10 million views and, in January, Byte was launched to helpfully fill the internet’s apparent need, since Vine shuttered, for looping videos limited to six seconds each. “Nostalgia is our starting point,” reads the Byte tagline, “but where we go next is up to you.” While Vine’s demise has mostly been attributed to Twitter’s failure to effectively monetize it — meaning they couldn’t figure out how to wedge enough advertising around the content to justify the $10 million the company was spending on the operation every month — the service may have been doomed for a decline into obscurity anyway given the widespread adoption of Snapchat and Instagram Stories, both of which allow for users to broadcast much longer videos. Unlike TikTok, which has retailored the user experience of the Vine app into an entirely commercial enterprise, Byte is betting that the endurance of Vine videos themselves — both on YouTube and in a cumbersome archive, now accessible only through unique URLs, that Twitter maintains to “preserve the public, creative expression of the Vine community” — proves that the artistry fostered by the six-second video format is vital to the social media ecosystem on more aesthetic terms. They too appear to be planning to eventually monetize the app with advertising, but whatever form that takes will likely be far from the wanton integration of TikTok.

Getting at that core appeal is possible because Vine, unlike its extant peers, has become a closed system, allowing for a cataloging of its contents in their totality. Well, to a degree. Since the archive’s 2018 move into a “more static archived state” you can no longer “browse Vine” the way it was once possible to on the app, meaning Vine’s archived content is becoming increasingly divorced from its users, profiles, and hashtags, and much likelier to be based on the memory of devotees of the form. While you could certainly find YouTube compilations of Vines prior to 2016, in the years since their numbers multiplied as they became the primary means for both revisiting and discovering old clips. Watch enough of the YouTube compilations and the vital remaining dimensions of the extinct service begin to take shape.

Across these compilations, the history of Vine is being crystalized, albeit in an ad hoc way befitting the app itself. Last year, Money profiled a handful of the compilers, interviewing a guy who had edited together every video he had tagged with #lmao on Tumblr as a teenager, as well as a college student who relied on other assemblers for her material, but searched out the rarest of Vines “hidden in other compilations with five or fewer views.” Whether scouring their own digital footprint or that of others, the work of these compilers speaks to a radical break in the paradigm of an eternally evolving present that social media is largely beholden to. A viral clip might be watched and rewatched millions of times the week it was uploaded, but the idea that those six seconds would be repeatedly revisited years later seems incongruent with the sense of novelty all of these companies rely on to keep their users tapping “refresh.”

[02:16] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1

Every evening before we go to bed, my wife and I watch Vines.

Jack says:

The author here is stating that he or she is married and they watch Vines before they go to bed. Vines is kind of the original TikTok, which is a short six-second social media video. If you don’t know what that is, that’s okay. They capitalized it. So you know it’s a proper noun most likely. In this case, we just have to keep reading and see where they’re going with this.

[04:20] Paragraph 1, Sentence 2

Our mutual need for a little mindless school-night entertainment led us to delay sleep by sitting in bed watching videos of fails and cute animals, but at some point in the last 18 months, YouTube’s algorithm transitioned from feeding us new footage of faceplants and binkying bunnies to compilations of old Vines.

Jack says:

We’re given a little bit of information about what vine is. It’s entertainment of fails and cute animals. But then this YouTube algorithm throws a wrench in understanding what’s going on. Just understand that these people are not watching as much of what they want to potentially and they’re watching compilations of old vines.

The fact that you watch Vines means it’s probably some kind of entertainment. And they established that now. We don’t know if whatever they’re watching on YouTube before the compilation of Vines was actually Vine material. But it’s probably similar to Vine. So we’re they’re still talking about Vine, and that it’s old.

[05:46] Paragraph 1, Sentence 3

Though these collections entered our media diet long after the service went dark in 2016, the absence of any fresh Vines is hardly a hindrance given that YouTube has, in the interim, become an inexhaustible host of compilations with names like “rare vines that were there for me when my fish died,” “vines I quote daily but nobody knows what I’m talking about,” and “classic and rare vines to watch when you lose your will to live.”

Jack says:

The author’s giving us some ideas of what these compilations are and potentially who they’re for.  So you’re basically putting these Vine together into a YouTube video and watching them all at one time.

[06:50] Paragraph 1, Sentence 4

Whatever limited quantity of Vines either of us actually consumed on the app during its heyday (“duck army” is the only one I can remember obsessing over in the moment), our more recent nightly viewings have yielded a handful of new favorites that have been widely anthologized.

Jack says:

They’re just saying that they didn’t watch a lot of Vines back when it was available on the app, but that YouTube has them all. That’s what an anthology is. Maybe Vine still has some kind of vigor or some kind of vitality here.

[07:50] Paragraph 1, Sentence 5

There’s Renata Bliss: Freestyle Dance Teacher; Jared, the 19-year-old who “never fuckin’ learned how to read”; a legion of umbrellas chasing tourists off a beach as a disembodied voice murmurs, “Run.”

Jack says:

Some examples of individual videos here. The main idea of this paragraph is that the person still loves the Vine videos, even though Vine doesn’t exist anymore. Now, this is a very tough read for most students, especially ESL.

The way it’s written is very conversational. So the author is trying to have a conversation with you giving you a lot of details. If you’re not really focused and if you’re not really paying attention, you’re going to be lost. As long as you know, we’re talking about some kind of entertainment and how this entertainment is now kind of being reintroduced.

[09:55] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

We’re far from the only ones stoking our nostalgia for the service.

Jack says:

The author here is trying to say that they’re not crazy. They’re not the only ones doing this. Nostalgia means yearning for the past. A lot of this is a little bit hard to read, but nostalgia is easy enough to understand.

[10:32] Paragraph 2, Sentence 2

Many of the Vine compilations on YouTube boast over 10 million views and, in January, Byte was launched to helpfully fill the internet’s apparent need, since Vine shuttered, for looping videos limited to six seconds each.

Jack says:

The author is pointing out how popular these YouTube videos of Vines are. And Byte is a replacement to Vine. Shuttered means shut down. And these are six-second looping videos. So you can assume that Byte and Vine are the same.

[11:35] Paragraph 2, Sentence 3

“Nostalgia is our starting point,” reads the Byte tagline, “but where we go next is up to you.”

Jack says:

A little bit of information about Byte and what they’re hoping to do, potentially.

[11:43] Paragraph 2, Sentence 4

While Vine’s demise has mostly been attributed to Twitter’s failure to effectively monetize it — meaning they couldn’t figure out how to wedge enough advertising around the content to justify the $10 million the company was spending on the operation every month — the service may have been doomed for a decline into obscurity anyway given the widespread adoption of Snapchat and Instagram Stories, both of which allow for users to broadcast much longer videos.

Jack says:

We’re given some information here. Twitter bought Vine and was spending $10 million on it. And the author here pointing out that maybe that wasn’t the only issue that Snapchat and Instagram stories were were both better alternatives.

Why are they talking about Twitter? That’s what a student will think. And you don’t have to know the history of Vine. I had no idea. Twitter even bought Vine. But the fact that they’re talking about Twitter suggests that maybe Twitter had bought it and try to, again, monetize over it.

It does say that they couldn’t justify the $10 million the company was spending on operation every month. So we can assume that it probably cost 120 million at the very least to run it in a year.

If you keep reading, realize that basically Snapchat and Instagram stories were in effect competing for that kind of market space. What actually made them better was the longer videos. It doesn’t say that. But that’s something we can assume. The fact that they say they both allow users to broadcast much longer videos, we can assume that what is what made it better.

'It's not about having historical knowledge. It's about reading and paying attention to the words. It's about keeping an open mind. And that's what reading comprehension is all about.'Click To Tweet

[14:50] Paragraph 2, Sentence 5

Unlike TikTok, which has retailored the user experience of the Vine app into an entirely commercial enterprise, Byte is betting that the endurance of Vine videos themselves — both on YouTube and in a cumbersome archive, now accessible only through unique URLs, that Twitter maintains to “preserve the public, creative expression of the Vine community” — proves that the artistry fostered by the six-second video format is vital to the social media ecosystem on more aesthetic terms.

Jack says:

So they’re sticking to their guns. They’re saying that Vine might still be a good idea. Instagram and Snapchat, they’re longer. But maybe Vine has some credentials here. But that begs the question, if it does, then why didn’t it succeed? That’s something that you might be thinking while you’re reading.

[16:54] Paragraph 2, Sentence 6

They too appear to be planning to eventually monetize the app with advertising, but whatever form that takes will likely be far from the wanton integration of TikTok.

Jack says:

The author here is basically saying that that Byte is likely going to try to advertise. They had mentioned earlier that that Vine couldn’t figure out how to advertise and make money that way. So they’re not gonna probably monetize it the same way, but they’re hoping that they could eventually monetize it in some way.

[17:37] Paragraph 3, Sentences 1-2

Getting at that core appeal is possible because Vine, unlike its extant peers, has become a closed system, allowing for a cataloging of its contents in their totality. Well, to a degree.

Jack says:

Vine doesn’t exist anymore. It’s extinct. So that means that there’s a finite number of vines available that we can catalog, that we can categorize. Extant means that it’s still existing. Extant is the opposite of extinct. So it’s instead of being dead, it’s alive. In this case, it’s Snapchat and TikTok, and all these other ones are good. So the idea that we have to really understand here is that it’s a closed system. It’s a concept that somehow the fact that it’s closed, then you can’t add to it anymore. And that there’s a finite number gives it some sort of advantage.

But if you don’t know what “extant”means, as long as you know that it’s closed and its peers are probably open, then you’re going to be fine.

“Cataloging its content in totality means that maybe if it’s close, you can have a total. There’s no such thing as a total for TikTok because as we speak, there are thousands of maybe even millions of TikToks being done every day. Maybe you can have a total per day or per second, but it’s ongoing. But for Vine, that’s not possible.

[21:18] Paragraph 3, Sentence 3

Since the archive’s 2018 move into a “more static archived state” you can no longer “browse Vine” the way it was once possible to on the app, meaning Vine’s archived content is becoming increasingly divorced from its users, profiles, and hashtags, and much likelier to be based on the memory of devotees of the form.

Jack says:

The author’s basically describing how the Vine videos are being archived. And that it’s becoming harder and harder and harder to watch that archived content. And it seems like they’re saying that the majority of those people watching are just the ones who are really devoted to it.

[22:20] Paragraph 3, Sentence 4

While you could certainly find YouTube compilations of Vines prior to 2016, in the years since their numbers multiplied as they became the primary means for both revisiting and discovering old clips.

Jack says:

The author is talking about YouTube and how the YouTube views have gone up, since you can’t find the older clips.

[22:42] Paragraph 3, Sentence 5

Watch enough of the YouTube compilations and the vital remaining dimensions of the extinct service begin to take shape.

Jack says:

The author here saying if you watch enough, you’ll figure out maybe what made Vine, Vine.

[23:12] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1

Across these compilations, the history of Vine is being crystalized, albeit in an ad hoc way befitting the app itself.

Jack says:

The author is talking about the compilations on YouTube, the history of Vine being crystallized. It’s being kind of memorialized or made in place in an ad hoc way befitting of the app itself. So apparently, the author is saying that the app itself wasn’t very good. Maybe the author is pointing something there to kind of represent the Vine app. But as long as you realize that these compiled YouTube videos are actually helping you to form a picture of Vine and what was actually important to vine.

[24:10] Paragraph 4, Sentence 2

Last year, Money profiled a handful of the compilers, interviewing a guy who had edited together every video he had tagged with #lmao on Tumblr as a teenager, as well as a college student who relied on other assemblers for her material but searched out the rarest of Vines “hidden in other compilations with five or fewer views.”

Jack says:

It’s just an idea of who’s doing all these compilation videos.

[24:43] Paragraph 4, Sentence 3

Whether scouring their own digital footprint or that of others, the work of these compilers speaks to a radical break in the paradigm of an eternally evolving present that social media is largely beholden to.

Jack says:

The author is setting up an idea that what these people are doing is against what is the norm for the internet. So something’s about to come up. We don’t really know what, but it’s pointing to the fact that these compilations are important.

[25:23] Paragraph 4, Sentence 4

A viral clip might be watched and rewatched millions of times the week it was uploaded, but the idea that those six seconds would be repeatedly revisited years later seems incongruent with the sense of novelty all of these companies rely on to keep their users tapping “refresh.”

Jack says:

We’re rewatching the same stuff over and over again, which goes against this sense of novelty that companies are relying on. Tapping refresh, meaning users are constantly looking for new stuff. And yet, all of these Vine compilations are proving that people love rewatching the old stuff.

Though you don’t need that fresh, new perspective every day, people are coming back. They’re nostalgic. They want to revisit Vines from the past. That’s an argument that the author is making.

The quality of Vine that made it popular, maybe existing today, to some extent, is the fact that you can revisit them right and watch them over again.

[27:05] Main Idea

The author is using themselves as an example of watching these Vines. So probably the author wants or thinks that Vines have an important place in history, or at least maybe even in the future with Byte. 

And the evidence is the YouTube compilations and the presence of these vine compilers. Vine remains and it’s persisting on a new platform.

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Jack Westin

The Premed Years Podcas

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