Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Scorsese 

As recently as fifteen years ago, the term “content” was heard only when people were discussing the cinema on a serious level, and it was contrasted with and measured against “form.” Then, gradually, it was used more and more by the people who took over media companies, most of whom knew nothing about the history of the art form, or even cared enough to think that they should. “Content” became a business term for all moving images: a David Lean movie, a cat video, a Super Bowl commercial, a superhero sequel, a series episode. It was linked, of course, not to the theatrical experience but to home viewing, on the streaming platforms that have come to overtake the moviegoing experience, just as Amazon overtook physical stores. On the one hand, this has been good for filmmakers, myself included. On the other hand, it has created a situation in which everything is presented to the viewer on a level playing field, which sounds democratic but isn’t. If further viewing is “suggested” by algorithms based on what you’ve already seen, and the suggestions are based only on subject matter or genre, then what does that do to the art of cinema?

Curating isn’t undemocratic or “elitist,” a term that is now used so often that it’s become meaningless. It’s an act of generosity—you’re sharing what you love and what has inspired you. (The best streaming platforms, such as the Criterion Channel and MUBI and traditional outlets such as TCM, are based on curating—they’re actually curated.) Algorithms, by definition, are based on calculations that treat the viewer as a consumer and nothing else.

Form and Content again. Paul Schrader now has a tag.

There's a lot to argue in Scorsese's piece. Fellini was a touchstone for me for a few years as an ex-teenager, but that's it. It's not the point here. 

Algorithms for news and entertainment are both threats to democracy. The personalization of everything is the privatization of everything. It's the end of public life and "public reason". Everything becomes utilitarian with the market as the only prior, the utopia of corporate geeks. Technocratic liberals don't get the point. They don't know what they're defending.

Perfect timing: Facebook blocks news in Australia over government's payment rules.
The announcement immediately becomes the most significant and severe split between Facebook and a foreign government over growing calls for big tech to pay publishers.
The piece as written is wrong. The ban applies everywhere. It's not limited to Australian users of FB. 
It'll be interesting to find out what Klonick and Hasen and other opponents of free, and "cheap" speech have to say.

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