How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy (t3knomanser) wrote,
How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy

The Death of Mass Culture

A long time ago, media producers made up a larger portion of society than they do now. Before media production began to involve "studios" and "publishing houses", media producers could be just about anyone, making just about anything. There was _less_ media per capita, mind you. Audiences were smaller- a crowd at a tavern listening to an old coot regaling them with things that had happened before they were born. A group of friends setting up with instruments, and playing traditional songs for hours.

It is not my intent to romantasize this period. It is illustritave- an era before copyright, before mass media.

See, the next thing that happened was that media got powerful. There were movies. Recorded music, that could be enjoyed without the creators present. Radio. Television. These tools were powerful- but at the same time, that power had a cost. A financial cost. A technical cost. You had to have a bankroll to make a movie, and you had to have the skill know how to pull it off.

All in all, more effort went into creating media. The media produced was thicker, denser, carrying more ips. There was an investment into the media. The people making the investment wanted to protect it. Hence copyright, and its children, like DRM.

The phase of high-input media creation was fairly brief- roughly the span of the twentieth century. And it is being brought to a close by digital technology.

The first, and most talked about impact of digital technology is piracy- illegal distribution of media. Media producers, creating high-input media are fearing that such methods of distribution will lead to a decreased return on their investment. So they create rules, regulations, "Broadcast Flags" to protect their media. DRM again. They want to secure their high-input investment.

Regardless of their success there, the age of high-input media is ending. First, the only way this high-input media is made economical is through mass-distribution. The millions spent designing, recording, promoting, and distributing a new film, CD or book is returned through large audiences. You can get a copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark in hundreds of countries and languages.

Digital technology might be creating a new distribution chain (and distribution is where money is made), but that's not the real threat to mass media. The real threat is in production.

Apple sells software that promises to turn your computer into a recording studio, adding itself to a long list of self recording software. Video editting software practically grows on trees. Self-publishing software is a part of almost every O/S distrubution. We are reaching a point when anyone can make media, distribute it, and profit. Advertising is less important- people will advertise for you. How many times have we linked our blogs to amusing flash sites, or home made movies? Things like the "Happy Tree Friends" go from internet fad to selling merch in Hot Topic. "Red versus Blue", a comedy filmed entirely using the game Halo has released a DVD into the mass market, and is planning another. How about "Homestarrunner"?

We are entering an age of low-input media- re-entering it really. Anyone can go and produce something, and _someone_ will view it. Most of these producers are amatuers- doing it from a love of the media. And most of these people are leaving their works littered about the public domain, or distributed under liscense schemes like Creative Commons.

Because the media is low-input, the needed return is not as large. The target audience shrinks, and suddenly, niche media flourishes. Instead of dropping money for the DVD of the third season of "Friends", people are more willing to spend that money on "RvB" or "Happy Tree Friends". Mass media gives way to participatory media. Instead of a handful of genres released from major compaines, a plethora of new genres, and genre bending. In these early days, comedies and parodies flourish, but tributes are growing, and we're seeing the first forays into artful (but not high art) productions.

The low-bandwith mass media culture is schisming. The number of media channels is increasing, and diversifying the media- which has the effect of diversifying cultures.

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