Death to cOnTeNt—Somethings

Multiple rants on this stupid term.

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💡Something I learned

Everything is cOnTeNt

I am quite behind the backlash against the term “Content”. Years ago, Mike Rugnetta made a video for the youtube channel PBS Idea Channel, about the insidious nature of this term. In it he mentioned how cOnTeNt is this all encompassing term for ‘web-based media’ but is not applied to traditional media like news, film, TV, etc.

Little did he know, the term would encompass everything and more. Now everything is content. Weather a painting by Van Gogh, a metal fanzine from the 80s, the works of Doestyevsky, Tony Scott’s Beverly Hills Cop II and this post you are reading right now. We don’t read, watch or listen. We consume. We are empty vessels, to be shoveled-in with cOnTeNt so we may be filled an satiated.

Besides equating all art and communication as just one thing, it is also destroying their commercial value. Time is money, and if a 2-minute clip is the same as 2-hour feature movie, then why bother watching the latter? It’s all content.

📕Something to read

  • Marshall Macluhan: Originally the term content, when used regarding media, was to contrast it with ‘form’. Marshall Macluhan is famous for the term The Medium is the Message. The form itself transforms the content. A novel read is not the same as when it is heard. The act of reading and the act of narration changes it.
  • The Medium is the Wrong Message: I use Macluhan’s theories to suggest why voice notes are terrible. I’d like to say it is better than it sounds. It isn’t. I wrote, edited, and posted it in a single day. And it shows.

📺 Something to watch

Patrick H. Willems dives into the same topic, but with a more self-deprecating humor and better research. Like all of his videos, it has a special cinematic flair.

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🗣Some Quotes and Notes

Backseat Drivers

Crime Writer Ed Brubaker, in his own rant on the term, points out the origin of the term.

Note: the original post is mobile unfriendly. I have reposted it on rentry. Read the original here

Well, I’m not a content creator and I don’t make IP. I write stories, I create characters, with Sean and Marcos I make comics and graphic novels. I also write movies and television shows. None of those things needed to be grouped together under another word. And I find it really strange to see regular people adopting slang only the douche-iest industry folk actually use. “We need more content for our platform! Content is king!” “We hear so and so are looking for more IP, you should get a meeting. IP is hot now!” “We really value content creators here at Shitty Corp!” I guess it’s part of the whole backseat driving, Monday-morning-quarterbacking thing that social media has made even worse. Everyone wants to seem like an insider.

But when I hear any artform being referred to as ‘content’ I want to puke. Reducing it down to that makes it seem like something made in a factory, and that makes it have less value. Just like subscription sites for music trained a generation of people that records had no monetary value. (Snoop Dogg talks about this all the time now, and he’s right). We’re in the midst of a long cycle of big entertainment corps trying to rebuild the studio system at the expense of artists and workers, and words mean things. A great movie needs people to make it. Content can likely be made by a machine.

— Ed Brubaker, My favorite content creator is Vincent Van Gogh…

Mean Streets

One of the greatest living filmmakers writes a tribute on of the greats of the form. This passage was relevant both in context and in relation to my personal preference. Therefore, I have reproduced it for you. Do read the whole piece.

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.

— Martin Scorcese, Il Maestro(Possible paywall, reply for access)

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Mudassir Chapra

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