Remember when media was made by studios, film makers were professionals and multimedia meant collage. When there were only three TV channels that gave us kids twenty minutes of Bagpuss at lunchtime, and two more hours of programming after school bookended by Play School and The Magic Roundabout. Remember when for most of the day the screen just showed a test card of a girl playing noughts and crosses with her clown?
(shakes head and mumbles whilst looking down at his feet and wondering where his slippers went to).
Nowadays there’s no end of media in your pocket, including the free to attend “university” of Youtube, with courses on paper and textile conservation, rocket science and how to disassemble the hatchback of a twenty year old VW Golf.
Thanks to GoPros and smartphones, videos and podcasts abound as the number of amateur content creators grows. You name it, it’s being cranked out in the hope of comments, subscriptions and “smashing that like button”, but also because it’s just good to create and share. In the digital world it’s pretty easy to make something for the 63.1% of the global population (5.03 billion) currently online. It’s also never been easier for individuals to promote and monetise their output. If you can gather a following there’s a chance of sponsorship and trending on a positive feedback loop.
Whilst production standards vary and “sticky” content becomes harder to pin down, it’s the algorithms that increasingly define audiences and exposure. For Youtube the threshold for becoming a “partner” (eligible to earn) is 1000 subscribers with revenue calculated on the number of views and ad clicks.
Sonita Gale’s film “Hostile” has won numerous awards and, unlike earlier exposes of UK immigration policy and treatment of the Windrush generation, seems a more potent challenge to government policy. IMO, it’s a stunning debut and shows what amateurs can achieve these days, but despite nearly 10,000 views Sonita’s Youtube Channel has just 50 subscribers so doesn’t qualify for a single Youtube dollar.
On the other hand, there’re plenty of less polished, but more amusing offerings such as ASMR Darling’s inspired parody (2.5m subscribers 875k views) and Jamie’s food reviews (64 subscribers 271 views).
Though it’s hard to say if independent content creators reaction video makers and algorithms are any more or less biased than Russian media, the BBC or Murdoch press, this great democratisation will hopefully make for a more open, personable and enlightened world. On the other hand, the tech can also be manipulated and used for foul purpose e.g. Twitter and Trump.
A survey for his California Firearm Violence Research Center released last month showed that half of Americans expect a civil war in the United States in the next few years. One in five thought political violence was justified in some circumstances. In addition, while almost everyone said it was important for the US to remain a democracy, about 40% said that having a strong leader was more important.The Guardian
It’d be comforting to have some bedrock of sensibility and fact upon which to found policy, belief, opinion, and politics, but relativism, subjectivism and base pleasures seem to be where things are just now. The genie’s out the bottle and we should be careful about what we wish for, but whatever the outcome, it’ll be more interesting than the test card, though it also served to remind us to switch off the screen.