Thoughts on Film

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by clayne, Jan 31, 2009.

  1. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Don't worry, this isn't "I'm going digital" - far from it.

    Tonight while surfing wikipedia about arcane photographic and cinematic topics like bleach bypass, 35mm cine formats, re-cans, and short ends (I never knew black tape was reserved for exposed film), it got me thinking how the use of film, or more appropriately analog technology as a whole, indirectly affects society and community.

    It's been known for a bit that movie attendance is on the decline, with the movie industry having various reasons as to it's cause. I just recently looked around for articles on this, and came across a 2007 MPAA study (consider the source) lightly echoing at the chipping away of attendance in various age groups (although this study seems to have some spin on it) - in addition to a myriad of other articles that are all retrievable via google.

    It's well known that the use of modern technology like digital capture allows easy redistribution, duplication (legal in this context), and delivery to the consumer. Communication network providers have been gearing up for this for a while - increasing their aggregate bandwidth limits and generally preparing for the "new media" of this and future generations to fill the pipes. This concept of shifting audiences, or at least delivery to the same audience, has been documented, predicted, and currently observed.

    The lack of movie attendance isn't really the direct point - it's how newer technologies like digital affect this in a deeper sociological way. Every new technology has an effect somehow, but some affect accessibility and exposure so broadly that what once was is now a new thing entirely. Remember those Friday or Saturday movie nights we are, or were, familiar with growing up? Even the most anti-social of us probably have a few memories of this. Remember going to the museum or gallery and seeing photographic prints or art directly in front of you, or even something as simple as a concert, complete with others taking in the same experience? What did those mean to us? Did you meet anyone or value the shared experience of taking part in something the rest of your community, or maybe a new one being formed right then, might have also enjoyed?

    Before, these types of activities weren't relegated to a specific place just out of option - it was required due to inherent limitations in the technology available to us. There was no video game system to provide your home arcade, no HD DVD player with multi-channel surround sound to form your personal theater, and no software to organize your digital photo collection into a neat compartmentalized arrangement of images for easy viewing and sorting. We can do all that now - and people have been doing it in droves.

    With the advent and daily assimilation of digital technologies that can deliver directly to a person with no tactile or physical requirement, do you think our familiar channels of interpersonal communication and community are affected by the lack of shared, tangible, contact? Are we quickly moving towards a society with much less interpersonal contact and shared experience as the accepted standard?
     
  2. SilverGlow

    SilverGlow Member

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    I think the connection of film and interpersonal communication, and the lack thereof in the new digital century is non-existent. The reason society is lacking "tactile", "physical", and "interpersonal communication and community" has little to do with film, digital, and any particular media. There are other reasons that have more profound effects, like the internet, satellite TV, home DVD movies, cell phone chat/texting, internet chat, and email. The break down of the family, increase in out of wed births, divorce are perhaps other reasons. In other words, film has nothing to do with it. Film gets idealized, romanticised too much, and to the point that some forget that the prime directive is the picture, and not the medium. The medium, be it film or digital, for some is too much a distraction away from the pictures.
     
  3. OP
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    clayne

    clayne Member

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    SilverGlow: "Film" wasn't to be taken literally. It was more allegory for how the continual move away from analog technologies and the ease of "modern" affects a common everyday gathering of people and community. That's what I was examining.

    Out of wed births? What does that have to do with anything here?
     
  4. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I'm in my early 50's, so consider that when you consider this post.

    I have memories of three types of experiences with my parents and my brother, in respect to seeing movies.

    I have clear memories of going to drive-in movie theatres with the family - big car, little kids, reasonable expense.

    I have a very clear memory of waiting with about 10,000 other kids and parents to see Mary Poppins in a big 3000 seat theatre, and getting turned away.

    And I have lots of memories of home movies, including some with sound!

    I even have some memories of my dad bringing home a 16mm projector from work, and showing a couple of National Film Board movies.

    I think if my parents could have rented movies and shown them as easily and cheaply as we could in the 80s, 90s and now, as a family we would have done that a whole lot more.

    The technological changes are very important, but so also are a whole lot of economic and societal changes.

    A recent set of posts on APUG sent me on a bit of a trip down memory lane. I did a whole bunch of photography when I was a University student in the 1970s, working on the student newspaper there - the Ubyssey. Just recently, the library digitized the 90 or so years of that newspaper's publication, and posted it on the web. I am thus able to search on my name, and review just about every one of my photos published therein (as well as every other mention of my name during the 3+ years I was there).

    What really strikes me about that (somewhat self-indulgent) experience though is the other societal and economic information revealed in the newspaper - particularly the ads!

    There are a lot of ads for records, stereo equipment, and concert tickets. $3.99 was a very common price for a featured record. Dynaco A25 speakers were $69.99, and concert tickets ranged between $3.50 to $7.50 for artists ranging between Joan Baez and Pete Seeger to Rostropovich.

    In short, there have been a lot of changes, and they are incredibly interrelated!

    Matt
     
  5. ntenny

    ntenny Subscriber

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    I'm not sure that the analog/digital technological split is particularly important here; perhaps it's more about the inconvenient/convenient split, and at the moment we live in an era when a lot of the most convenient technologies are newly digital. But (analog) records caused a similarly dramatic movement away from live music; instead of going to see a concert, you could sit in the parlour and listen to a record, which was socially isolating in much the same way that you described wrt "movie nights".

    It's clear, IMHO, that the drastic increase in convenience of casual "snapshot" photography, via digital capture *and* *distribution*---it's not just about digital cameras, but also the ability to scan and distribute what we've shot on film---changes the place of the photograph in society. I don't know if in the end it will be more or less socially isolating, though. There's something very democratising about easy duplication and retransmission---the fact that we can all see each other's photos with no particular effort.

    A teenage acquaintance of mine took a photo with her phone that I thought was a complete gem; it was intended just as a cute snapshot of one of our horses, but she got it from a striking low angle, with a clump of out-of-focus flowers in the foreground that were just *so* compositionally "right". I tried to duplicate the effect with some very high-grade 1950s technology, but I couldn't get the same sense of balance and "right"ness. If I'd taken that photo, I would have run out and made multiple copies in separate safe places and I'd still be talking about it today; but while she was proud of it and sent copies to the phones of a couple of other people, she didn't think of it as an Artistic Achievement, didn't take it particularly seriously, and I suspect no longer even has the image preserved. I don't quite know what to make of that; should I be excited that technology has brought us to a place where people can create powerful images without having to be part of a clan of artistic high priests, or should I be appalled that images are so devalued that an eye-popping photo doesn't actually make people's eyes pop?

    That whole digression sounds irrelevant to your subject, but I think it isn't. What I'm getting at is that it may be a mistake to look at the effects of technological changes in this kind of "local" way---what happens to individual images, what specific activities are lost in the change. Something pretty large is going on here in terms of how people relate to artistic objects and the act of creating them, and maybe the sociological fallout of that change can't be understood without getting to grips with just what the big change *is*.

    To go back to music, with the advent of recordings, the concert lost some of its special social status, but in exchange, we got the smaller-scale social experience of sitting in your friend's basement rec room, possibly smoking something you didn't want the friend's parents to smell, and saying "You have just *got* to hear this album I bought!"---and it might be a fair trade. Is there something similar coming down the line for photography, possibly having to do with the ability to send pictures between mobile phones? I don't know, but it'll probably be interesting to find out.

    -NT
     
  6. SilverGlow

    SilverGlow Member

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    The break down of the family, the community. Alianation. Tattering of the social fabric.
     
  7. Steve Indvik

    Steve Indvik Subscriber

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    "With the advent and daily assimilation of digital technologies that can deliver directly to a person with no tactile or physical requirement, do you think our familiar channels of interpersonal communication and community are affected by the lack of shared, tangible, contact? Are we quickly moving towards a society with much less interpersonal contact and shared experience as the accepted standard?"

    Clayne, I think you are fishing for something that does not exist. Sure, I used to go to movies frequently as a kid. We used to mail paper family pictures back and forth in the mail. And seldom does a month go by without a visit to our excellent museum here in Minneapolis. None of these produced significant amouts of interpersonal contact and shared experience. Only once can I remember breaking out into a discussion with a stranger doing any of this.
    However, with today's ditital technolgies, we can share our thoughts with everyone from complete strangers (like here on APUG, etc.) to family members in other continents. I have posted my pictures (on another site) and gotten lots of comments from complete strangers. I've even had very interesting discussions with complete strangers on esoteric topics like the value of all the CDS's loose in the world and what that means. Millions of others surely have similar experiences.

    Yes, I would much, much rather look at a fine print hanging on a wall than one reproduced on a monitor. But, for "interpersonal contact", digital technology is a huge blessing and absolutely transformative.

    Steve
     
  8. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Perhaps even more relevantly, the unwed births things is an indirect result of changing technology. It was only in the 20th century that satisfactory methods of birth control were invented. In this case as well, an emerging technology had the result of removing previous limits and barriers that formed a limiting framework that shaped how people interacted with each other. The removal of a limiting framework can be liberating, or it can be enslaving and devaluing. Some people will perceive it one way, some the other.

    And here you have it....the old technologies have requirements. Limitations, unavoidably. The new technologies can usually still have the same aspects as the old technology....I can still write letters on parchment with a fountain pen...but it is no longer a requirement.

    The interesting thing about technology is it usually, theoretically, only increases options available. But in reality, in practice, it tends to absorb some options due to human nature. For example, just because the CD/mp3 is invented, doesn't mean vinyl records suddenly instantly become a bad technology. They had been used for decades and indeed they do provide excellent listening with some limitations. You can listen to vinyl records today and they will sound exactly the same as they did in the 70s, or better. The invention of the CD didn't make them a bad technology all of a sudden. Yet, society is quick to embrace new technology and eventually the old technology becomes unsupported.

    And some people remember the limitations and what those limitations meant, and pine for the old limiting technology. Even though they can still have it, somehow, the presence of the new technology changes the cultural landscape. Perhaps in the far future, civilization will grow out of embracing technology for its own sake. But in the 00s, not accepting that new and more liberating/devaluing technologies are inherently better tends to make you look like a Luddite or at best, a hopeless old romantic.
     
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