Monday, June 7, 2010

The Good Old Days are Gone

Interactive,  multi-media experience circa. 1973

Nice short article here in Advertising Age with observations about how media consumption patterns are going to change, quickly, with the coming generation of infants that are immersed from birth with multi-touch, interactive media tools.  The human mind is a plastic thing, malleable, and many people are predicting the demise of the type of deep thinking that we typically associate with reading and, well, reflective thinking.  Interestingly, there's a decent NY Times article here today that explores the effects of immersing the human brain in an increasingly digital environment.  It pays to remember that  generally TV and most film never induced a deep-thinking type of brain activity, so I guess the difference is the length and type of media immersion that we are experiencing.

We don't understand the long term evolutionary impacts due to changes to the format, interactivity or length of media experience.  But, I think it is safe to say that media creators need to be thinking hard about what they're doing.  The old dominant command and control structure of large media companies seems even more vulnerable as young consumers search for more personal and, well, interesting media experiences rather than the one-size-fits-many approach that is still surprisingly prevalent today.  Or, it is possible that alternatively the bulk of society will be feeding their children slightly modified interactive marketing intended to create lifelong brand loyalties from infancy, delivered through ever cheaper e-waste produced offshore.  Only time will tell the story on that.

It should be a really exciting time to be a young media creator.  Many of the constraints of the past are being thrown aside and the people who can visualize the future will be the new powers.  Media creation is more decentralized, less "heavy industry" and more nimble than it used to be.  People starting small production companies now should have relationships with developers and information architects as well as with camera people, electricians or animators.  They will also require new types of creatives.  People who understand how to create satisfying and intimate experiences for the users (note, not consumers) of their media.  Personally, I think it's good and that there will be some real pioneers in the next few years who breakthrough in reaching people in a way they've never been reached by media before.  I think it's reasonable to expect that in the not-too-distant future, the kids of today will be laughing (hopefully) at what we accepted as entertainment.

We're ready for the future here.

Will the future of media production be more "boutique-oriented"?  There will probably be an element of that start-up type culture, which will eventually grow into a more complex, mature industry.  Disruptions to the current model are just beginning and people who are waiting for things to get "better" may be disappointed.  I can't help but wonder whether the schools that are churning out "film school" graduates, particularly the 1 year or 6 month certificate-type programs, are preparing their students for careers in 1995 Hollywood.   It seems to me that the future media maker is going to have to be more and more nimble and manage their career in ways that unionized workers never had to consider.   But, if you're young and smart, you should be excited because your time is coming and our environment will be more media saturated than ever.   Those who don't adapt may be relegating themselves to a never-ending life of low paying, non-unionized freelance work, with no benefits and scrambling even for that work.  

I'd really love to hear other people's thoughts about what the future is going to bring to media creation.  People seem to be getting so distracted by things like 3D and new cameras (and learning endless workflows that seem to become obsolete in a year) that I worry they are not seeing the bigger picture.


Mookie said...

An interesting and thoughtful post, Craig, and I'm glad to see you are maintaining a sense of positivity in the face of technological and industrial change.

But -- and maybe this is the historian in me talking, the guy who likes to think about old things -- I am a bit concerned about the impact of technology on our ability to think deeply. As the NYT article points out, our brains don't seem to do that good a job at handling the massive amounts of data inputs that many new technologies presume we can. We lose focus, perform poorly at tasks and become grouchy if we don't get the immediate fix of new e-mails or FB updates or friends. We also lose the ability to think reflectively and possibly deeply -- to understand structural causes and remedies. This does not bode well for a world that is facing a large number of structural problems: overpopulation, inequitable wealth distribution, the breakdown of capitalism, etc.

I don't think that the next wave of media producers will craft experiences that are more "personal"; they'll craft experiences that can be sold as personal. We'll all still be using the same gadgets with the same apps offering the same programs; how an individual mixes and matches those elements will be called "personal," but I'm not sure that's a good way to look at it. It serves the goals of the mammoth corporations that will produce gadgets, apps and programs, but it doesn't help us with the deep thinking -- it is neither an example of deep thinking or something that fosters it. Of course, deep thinking leads to lower consumption levels....

Boy, I sound like a Luddite Dana Carvey ("back in the day we burned our fingers trying to keep the torches lit so we could use our magic lanterns to see images so faint that we eventually all went blind like little mole people... and we liked it!!!). I think your larger point, that the film industry and film schools might not be preparing for the kind of future that technological changes are helping to craft. What that means for quality cinema and television remains to be seen.

Craig Mieritz said...

Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response.

I had many of the same thoughts/concerns that you expressed while writing this post. In the interest of brevity, I kept the post a little more general, more to use as a starting point. I had even considered the use of quotations around "personal" experience but the voice of an ex-girlfriend/editor popped into my head telling me that I tend to overuse them. But in this case, I do believe that they are entirely justified.

I think, in the end, my remarks were aiming for a more aspirational view of future media creation, as opposed to going straight to the form it will probably assume. My experience as a fine artist has taught me that, to one degree, the consumption of nearly all art involves a bit of a lie. People who buy paintings or other fine art seem to really want to be buying a piece of the artist/charisma, their brand, their experience . Now, I need to be careful because this is territory that has been well-covered by people a lot smarter than I am.

I guess that ultimately my point is directed to the intelligent people out there who may have a narrow window of opportunity to create something new and visionary and make money outside of the heavy machinery of the corporate media structure. Ultimately, it's really exciting (and scary) that the very way we structure communication is changing in such a radical way. Yes, the dark side from the command/control insecurity-inducing-so-you buy forces will probably carry the day in the end, but that can't be everything.