Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Consuming Media

No this isn't a post on Jeremy Wells. Rather, it's once again, sort of, about the copyright bill passed by parliament. I've been ranting and raving about it for a little while.
A friend asked why we don't just make our own media. And it occurs to me, we've been doing this for years.

Back in the good old days I'd get together with friends around a table. We'd eat, but more importantly, we'd play out scenarios. Not in a "get up and act it out" sort of a way, but more in a "what if" sort of way. Much like watching the comedians on 7 days. We teach our kids to do the same sort of thing. It doesn't always lead to mental images of fat Elvis in a spandex jump suit scoffing down deep fried peanut butter burgers.... but it could.
For some strange reason, we grow up, we get involved with work and at some point consuming media becomes this really expensive antisocial sort of activity where you're sitting together in a cinema in the dark not talking to each other.
Personally I don't find myself going to the cinema a lot these days. That's mainly to do with the fact that I find more value in the coffee/dinner before/after the movie with friends. Otherwise, I can wait for the DVD. And given that people simply don't have time any more (I love it when people say they don't have time. They've got just as much time as they've ever had. It's just that they chose to make time for certain things and not so much for others), it's hard finding someone to go to the movies with.
Just last year a friend and I would have a couple of drinks and then sit there thinking about t-shirt ideas. I always liked the idea of something crude but subtle. So something that could be mistaken for just a really cool design until it was given a little bit of context.
After that it was the passing around of multiple bits of paper. Everyone would write a bit of a story and it'd be strung together. It was sort of a literary kind of theatre sports as bits would be taken out of context or bad puns suddenly turned into the funniest joke ever. You would never take the resulting "story" and base a play around it as it was always about the process rather than the end result.
Remembering that laughter is a very social thing. The way we laugh in private is usually quite different to how we laugh individually. I don't enjoy some comedies on my own. The more silly ones. They're very much a social thing to me. The question then becomes, are we really enjoying the media we are consuming? If laughter is social, but sitting down and watching a movie together isn't so much, then have we, in some way, gotten this all wrong?
In which case, is the power that we've essentially given rights holders misplaced?
How many of us want to be a little more creative? What if, instead of consuming media, we did, as that friend suggested, and made our own? I'm not talking about making great pieces of art and sharing it with the world - though the technology's there. What I'm talking about is doing something for yourself, or for friends. Writing something. Taking the time to pick up a pencil and draw something. How about making some music? Can't play an instrument? How about learning? Or singing? This is hardly a new concept.
"Be Kind, Rewind" is a film about this sort of thing. A couple of video store attendants erasing a bunch of video tapes (every tape in the store) and, in order to avoid being found out, replace them with movies they shoot themselves. At the end of the movie they're being closed down due to infringing copyright. The interesting thing though - their last film, they make it themselves. It's a kind of mockumentary which the whole neighbourhood gets involved in.

It's a feel good movie. You leave it thinking about how nice it is that a whole community made something. What is really interesting though is that none of us seem to take what's probably a really good lesson from it. The creation, rather than the consumption, of media is so much more valuable. Perhaps not in monetary terms, but think about the social aspect of it. And hell, when you're working on something, the sense of accomplishment.

With that in mind, I decided to have a play and came up with this - not yet complete. I know it's not fantastic but there is a certain sense of accomplishment to it. I've chucked in the original image (below). The funny bit though - I'm quite likely infringing copyright. It's a derivative work. Bummer.
Let this blatant copyright infringement to be a commentary on the ridiculous powers we've given them.

Oh - and just a little special thanks to Zarek who got me thinking about perhaps doing something kind of arty again.

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