Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More Peering Through the Fog

I previously wrote about my curiosity over the changing media landscape here. I've already mentioned Clay Shirky for his article on how journalism is changing, and his book Here Comes Everybody. Now, here's a very recent talk from him that does a beautiful job of nailing down exactly how media have changed since the advent of the printing press.

While I'm not into video games, it occurs to me that the only area of the animation industry that's taking advantage of changes, where users can respond to content and can organize themselves around content, is gaming. TV and feature films are still operating with the 20th century broadcast model, while something like World of Warcraft is allowing users to form their own societies and teams within an animated world. While I don't think that a classical approach to storytelling, where stories are created by one set of people and delivered to another, is going to disappear, I wonder if the TV and feature model is sustainable in its current form. As the world becomes more social, what are TV and feature animation doing to keep up?


Pete Emslie said...

More social?! I would argue quite the opposite, that the world is becoming less social in the true meaning of the term. All of these internet based "social networks" are social in such a superficial manner. I maintain that people today are gravitating towards too much social interaction in the virtual world, while becoming less social (and less trustful) of each other in the real world. And with so much entertainment being sought out over the net, whether it be through multiplayer video games, downloading of music, TV shows and movies, as well as networking by way of Facebook, Myspace, etc, I believe we are losing a great deal of our humanity along the way. (And don't get me started on internet dating services like LavaLife, etc.)

Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in seeing movies in the communal setting of a movie theatre, watching TV in the living room along with family or friends, and meeting potential mates through honest to goodness social events or recreational meeting spots, rather than the sizing up of someone through a "shopping list" posted on some online meeting place. If society is headed more into the virtual world, becoming more and more uncomfortable in dealing with each other in the flesh, then this is a society that is doomed to eventual extinction.

I watched the clip you've linked to of Clay Shirky's lecture. While I don't dispute much of what he is saying, I do take exception to one of his points. At the 13:25 mark he says, "As recently as the last decade, most of the media that was available for public consumption was produced by professionals. Those days are over." Again, I don't disagree with what he says, but his implication that this new trend is a good thing is something I will never be convinced of.

Shirky is talking specifically about the news media, but the same thing applies to contemporary entertainment media as well. I get where he's coming from in regard to this more democratic dissemination of breaking news (through cell phones, blogs etc.), so that no government or media outlet can control or prevent the global public from hearing the truth on matters like his example of the Chinese earthquake. Fine - I agree that is a good thing. But if we limit this discussion to the world of entertainment, I see this democratic free-for-all of everybody having access to any artistic venue they choose as ultimately watering down what constitutes entertainment and resulting in mass mediocrity. I believe this has certainly happened in the area of music, and I can certainly see it happening too in the world of animation.

Because of the gravitation towards internet based entertainment and away from the major Hollywood studios, record labels and TV networks, we are seeing the mass audiences of yesteryear breaking up into ever smaller, fragmented niche markets. So while individuals are now able to seek out other likeminded individuals and form little fan bases to follow their preferred types of entertainment, they are alienating and isolating themselves from the greater public. Frankly, I see this as a very unhealthy and antisocial trend that is likely going to get worse. As it is currently (and it will get worse with time), all of these niche groups are drifting further apart from each other, not able to relate. Any "social interaction" that is happening through the numerous net based venues is limited to just the members of those particular groups, and not with society at large. I'm certain that many will argue with my theories, but I am not convinced that we are heading for a better tomorrow in the world of entertainment. I've seen the future, and it stinks...

Brubaker said...

Pete probably wrote what I think better than I could, so I won't dwell into it and just say 'second'...well, most. I don't think social networks are a bad thing (in small doses, at least).

And to prove that I'm not a geezer, let me point out that I'm still not allowed to drink beer in my state yet.

Mark Mayerson said...

I want to say two things here. As Clay Shirky points out in his article on journalism, revolutions are when the old rules break down and new rules are not yet in place. Nobody, including the revolutionaries, knows what the end result will be. I think we are far from the end result of all this, which means that we can't clearly see where we'll end up.

The other thing is that condemning change isn't going to stop it. It's better to embrace change and try to shape it than to fight it or ignore it.

It appears to me that the TV and feature animation industries are ignoring it, and I wonder if they're going to be marginalized as a result. I read a quote from Jack Welch yesterday which said, "When the outside is changing faster than the inside, the end is near." The outside is changing rapidly and the inside of the TV and feature animation business not so much. Does that mean that an end is near?

Anonymous said...

recently i watched a talk on this same topic. it was linked on the silicon knights website.

Thad said...

I understand and agree with Mark's reasoning, but Pete's the one who has me really sold. I agree with him because I've seen friends become 'ex'-friends in real life because of something stupid one said on someone's blog or Facebook or whatever. Something about this invention makes everyone dorks and thin skinned over the stupidest things.

But Mark's right, we don't know what's going to happen, but we should try shaping it for the better.

Either way, I think I milked the Internet for most of one of its only value already though: getting *actual* copies (not just "put it on YouTube!") of old cartoons and movies. There's a few hundred of each I wouldn't have seen otherwise if I wasn't able to reach other collectors. And, you know, virtually socialize with them.

Pete Emslie said...

Shirky is talking specifically about the news media, but the same thing applies to contemporary entertainment media as well. I get where he's coming from in regard to this more democratic dissemination of breaking news (through cell phones, blogs etc.), so that no government or media outlet can control or prevent the global public from hearing the truth on matters like his example of the Chinese earthquake. Fine - I agree that is a good thing.

I made the above quote, but in light of the last few days I feel I need to revisit that and modify my opinion. Shirky was using the example of the Chinese earthquake to make his point, but we now have an even more prominent example with the post-election rioting currently going on in Iran.

Because Iran has closed its doors to all foreign journalists and clamped down on its own, all of the "news" on this issue is being broadcast in the form of amateur video caught on the cellphones of Iranian civilians on the street. On CNN the situation is looking pretty ridiculous, in that all they are doing is showing these grainy amateur cellphone clips along with quotes from various "Twitter" sites to describe what is going on. There was one video in particular, supposedly of a home invasion in progress, that was just dark night with some flashing lights accompanied by panicked screams. Frankly, one could have no idea what was going on from that video, yet the news anchor had that patented CNN look of concern on his face after it played. Absolutely ridiculous!

My problem with all of this is that CNN seems mighty pleased with itself for showing all of this amateur civilian journalism, convinced of how valid it all is in the cause of freedom and democracy. But all of this repetitive amateur footage of civilians being chased off the streets by police in riot gear is not much of a story in itself. Where is the journalistic context to explain what is going on? Where are the journalists who should be there inside Iran interviewing not only civilians, but officials within the government and the opposition? Instead CNN seems to extoll the social network "Twitter" as the next big thing in news reporting. Is this what we want - news broadcasting in the hands of amateurs instead of professional news gatherers?

Martin Juneau said...

I agree with Pete's reasonment. It's true that today peoples being less sociable and the families being much disproportioned. Myself i have a problem of social communication in real life (as well i'm enough able online but i having such problems in the past) but like everyone says here, we lived with shits and we love it, right?

I wish to sympathise with many collectors of comics, cartoons and old movies and having the actual copies like they was originally made. Not just the re-issued versions seen on TV or DVD or the bland copies find on YouTube like i do last year. But the problem like always is money.

Yeah, virtual world could be mortal in some doses but at my experience, i think find better friends online than in real life. In real life, i having often jerks and assholes who don't give you shits of what you want.