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And The Other Stuff

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 9, 2010 by Adam Broome

On the front page of the letter we were given detailing the summer work, we were told to research two media themes: Media Forms and Storytelling. This research is to prepare us for a new module called Placing Your Media Production Into Context. I’m am unsure whether this task relates to my work on the radio shows, but out of sheer boredom I’ve decided to do this post as well.

Judging by my quick scan through the two books we were asked to buy, ‘context’ appears to be the main word that will run throughout the upcoming second year. Context seems to be the ‘thing’ that separates happy-go-lucky A-Level students from professional media producers in the industry. It seems to bridge the gap between our first and our final years. But the word ‘context’ seems to be being used very loosely at this moment in time. It could be used in many different ways.

One way my media is in context: cheap. I’m a student. I have no money. I don’t even drink that much, but I have no money. My media is cheap and cheerful, complete with a ‘reductionism’ attitude that I may pass off as my own artistic intention. The reality – I’m skint.

Thus, in that context, my media is quite low-budget. For many years, this would have been a problem. Only art-house, rich, posh, ‘horsy’-type people would buy into the media art you were creating:

“This film, which as you can see shows an apple rolling around on a table for three minutes, actually represents the isolation we each feel inside of us. It shows the confusion we experience in our lives as we struggle to find the right path. I chose an apple because it seemed so ordinary – yet it also represents the natural sin that is within us, which our society has forced us to repress.”

“Oh yes, yes! I must say, I do see it now!”

Rubiiiiiiiiishhhhhhh.

But we do have a way out nowadays. That is, the media converging on the internet. Professional mass media made by the masses is almost inevitably going to appear within the next ten years. Already we see internet TV shows that have thrived without the help of official broadcasters. It’s not a stretch to think that TV channels made solely for the internet will be appearing soon. I argued the case of TV integrating with the internet many a time last year, so I’ll move swiftly on.

This changes the context of my media, as it is perfectly possible that new talent can be showcased on various online forums. We do it with photography already, thus – make a channel whereby people sign up, and then showcase their videos, and potential employees could see portfolios of people’s work. Something tells my Youtube was originally designed to be just that – evidently something went wrong somewhere. But now we have Youtube, professional equivalents should soon be around somewhere, if they’re not already.

This brings about a lovely idea that has occurred to me over these summer holidays – Pirate Television. They did it to radio when radio waves were handed to the masses. If TV becomes at one with the internet, the resulting ‘rogue revolution’ will be inevitable. Free TV with free shows and movies – all low budget, of course. But not without purpose – either for showcasing talent, or making radical political points. Chances are such pirate channels will be broadcasting more interesting stuff than the official ones.

During the 111MC module last year, we had to think about how we would showcase our media products. The internet is the most obvious way, as detailed above. However, it also runs you head-on into the largest mass of competition. Showcasing your work online pits you up against… well, the world. Thus, old-school showcasing such as at festivals is never a bad idea either.

But we seem to have gone off ‘context’. What I mean to say is that, in the context that my media will be low-budget, distribution can only be achieved in a few ways – such as being taken on by people willing to help you and / or take a gamble on you. Being friendly and a nice person can help. Being equally ruthless can also help. But most of all, making a piece of media that is actually good is your best way in. As I remember thinking when I decided to enrol on this course: talent will out.

My problem is that I’m a bit too radical with my ideas (at least, I think so). I’m sure one such lecturer (no names) would love me to create an artefact of extreme controversy. It can go two ways – you can easily make something cheap that causes a stir (documentary or otherwise). You can get yourself noticed quickly, but you can also make a black mark on your CV before you’ve even found your feet. One person once said it was better to be infamous than not famous at all… no idea who said that, Google’s drawing a blank. But the funny thing is, I think the idea of controversy links to both media forms and storytelling.

As for actually conducting any research… well, it’s an odd thing to ask. Media Forms are all converging on the internet. Storytelling and narrative is largely open to originality and / or controversy. I did see something interesting a few days ago, however… more like a question: What is the oldest form of media?

One could argue that the term ‘media’ came around the 1920’s, along with ‘mass media’, the paparazzi and so forth. But, as we all know, newspapers have been about since the printing press of… the 1500s. Thereabouts. Somewhere. Maybe.

Newspapers are media form, and were no doubt subject to opinion leaders and mass media before the terms were actually coined. But then, I get an even more funky idea – what’s the earliest recorded example of opinion leaders or mass media? Look to religion and you have it all over the place. Can word of mouth be considered a form of media? It’s a form of mass-communication. It can be manipulated by opinion leaders (ie: people in power).

I mean, we all know Jesus Christ managed to use word-of-mouth to inspire an entire following. He did this to such an extent, he made a powerful challenge to the current opinion leader, who subsequently had him killed (arguably… I don’t ‘do’ religion, I’ll change topic). Religion goes back much further than Year Zero. Egyptians? Greeks? Did these ancient cultures use primitive forms of media to manipulate the masses? It sounds ludicrous on paper, but the idea is there – people could not always rule countries just because they followed a certain bloodline, or because everyone feared them. Broadcast an idea, religious or otherwise, via mass communication of word of mouth, and you can control and manipulate the masses.

Compare this hypothesis to the mass media of today, and you may notice not a lot has changed. We still have opinion leaders from the government, who use technology to manipulate general word-of-mouth.  I think the word I’m currently looking for is Hegemony, but still, it’s funny to think the idea has been around since the dawn of mankind. Of course, as mentioned, now that the ‘masses’ are gaining more control of the communication lines, things may change. But only to a certain degree – psychologically speaking, we as a species will always need an opinion leader to guide us and direct us. The internet will open up the communication links to the whole world. Opinion leaders will appear, probably in some way or another challenging the governments, preaching anti-NWO tales. Let us just hope it doesn’t turn nasty!