It Feels Like Someone Else...
It’s not so much that anyone is abandoning long form media- They’re not. It’s just that now the range of shapes and sizes is becoming less and less limited. What this means for the purveyor is that there is less standardization of the media unit; i.e. the feature film, the TV episode, the commercial.
A 10 second TikTok video might have with it a 1 second ad caption, or a marginal graphic. The scramble for attention is taking all kinds of turns in the street market of online media. Whereas before the delivery venue used to dictate the dimensions of the project, the current situation is that any length will do, long form is resurrected with podcasts like Joe Rogan’s which might last three hours, or brief viral TikTok or Instagram reels that make their splash in a few seconds.
Then there is the twitch factor. The “Interactivity” of high frequency media engages the endorphin mechanism through the swipe and tap, in which the sensation of the fingerplay engages the corporeal response as the neuron system trains itself to avoid boredom by endlessly swiping in pursuit of the new. This finger hunting becomes the activity itself. Any sense of focus which one may start out with is eventually derailed by advertising, or even media that is simply more viral than that of the initiating choice. This often ends up the equivalent of an ambulance chase for the elusive click-high; ever more transitory due to our neurology being desensitized by the sheer volume of daily immersion.
What this leads to is the fragmentation of desire, motivation, and intention. The listlessness of today’s youth must involve some relationship to the speed of information that bombards us with choices of every kind.
Fiction therefore needs to find new lodgings in this turbulent sea. The new environment is great creatively, since any form can enter the pipleline and find an audience. But not so great for compensation, since for the creative, the establishment of price and value has to do with consistency, repeatability, and a consensus on the level of value at a higher scale than the haphazard new market can accommodate.
Some sort of stabilization of the media unit is required before the work can achieve a fair valuation. So many movie theatres, so many tickets sold, so much profit, so much in royalties paid out. As weighed against another theatre, another ticket, another royalty statement. But now we have media streaming and judged for monetization by the second, with only crude algorithms that are increasingly opaque determining the value and price for creative work.
As AI nibbles around the edges of creative activity, we again are faced with the ongoing, everblooming question of our age: Is there art without an artist? Music without a musician? Poetry without a poet?
The “Meaning” ascribed to the arts has value because we are able to identify the person who is doing the meaning. What we have been increasingly and unconsciously experiencing is a facsimile of meaning created all or in part by machine. Our natural impulse to engage often comes up empty, like a dog that sniffs the butt of a stuffed animal, only to look at us with a puzzled tilt of the head, at the hollow trick of mimicry.
It’s this supercharged chase for the short cut that is the demise of everything. As we race to maximize our time, we lose the time that makes life valuable.
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a different kind of movie