Tuesday, June 12, 2001

User generated media

OK. This is a stab at a new theory of media.

The old model is an author creating stuff. I.e.: here's the story, here's the movie, read it, watch it, from beginning, middle to end.

The new model inserts the reader/viewer into the feedback loop.


The clicker. The clicker as an editing tool. I love Kubrick, God rest his soul, but Eyes Wide Shut bores me to tears. So, when the scene drags, OK, I get the point, zippppp, I fast forward. OK, Tom Cruise is walking down the street. Let's make him walk faster. Zippp. An 159 minute movie becomes more like 112 minutes.

The clicker. The clicker as an on-demand feeding nipple. I.e.: people watch TV and zap from channel to channel the second something bores them.

Audience response. Hollywood tests its endings. So, if test screening audience thinks the original ending to Fatal Attraction is a downer, they'll slap on a new one.

Passive people meters. The Nielsen company is moving beyond survey sheets to a device tht tracks your eye movements and knows if you're in the room or not.

Video games. It's not a narrative anymore, it's a maze of choices. The "author" doesn't create a story; they build a maze for you to move around in. And you create the story. (This is one of the things that disturbs me about Star Trek. They don't watch movies anymore. They fuck around in the holodeck.)

It's not too big a leap to expect this shit to converge. It's an easy prediction to say the paradigm of broadcast TV will die. I.e.: there's no reason a show has to be available on a certain channel at a certain time. As the TV merges with the computer, we'll get our media content digitally, on demand.

As these trends and technologies converge, on-demand media will turn into user-generated media. I.e.: the box showing you Casablanca will track your eye movements, heart rate and endocrine response. Christ, you want Rick and Else to get together. Well, in your version of Casablanca, they will. Hell, if you want Bogart to look like you, he will. Nobody will see the same movie anymore. Or read the same book.

There are interesting, forking permutations and possibilities.

As an author, even the possibility disturbs me.

I don't want to create a maze.

I want to grab the reader by the scruff of the neck and drag them along the path I've set down whether they like it or not.

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