My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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“Film and the Audience of Tomorrow”

As promised, i’ve uploaded the crib from my talk at Cannes for your enjoyment (and critique). It’s about film, DRM, remix, MySpace, youth, fandom, film consumption, and other good things.

“Film and the Audience of Tomorrow”

Enjoy!

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7 comments to “Film and the Audience of Tomorrow”

  • Brian O' Hanlon

    Just some updates on what i’m doing at moment.

    I am reading the nextd.org piece on horst rittel at the moment Danah. Just wondering if you have studied rittel ever?

    I would find rittel’s ideas invaluable, especially to go with a reading about post modern thinking and philosophy as written down in a book like Lefebvre’s production of space.

    Thom Mayne’s talk at ted.com is worth having a good listen to aswell.

    Brian.

  • Brian O' Hanlon

    Actually, I listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s TED talk on spagetti sauce a while ago, and it reminds me a lot in ways of the Horst Rittel paper. The post modern acceptance of diversity of tastes rather than aiming for the one universal pepsi, or ragu sauce.

    B.

  • Brian O' Hanlon

    What you are saying in the talk, about the change of film to a digital basis, reminds me a lot of the TED talk by chris anderson, where he talks about the 2% of hybrid cars on the roads today, with their electric engines, and how that changes the whole way we can think about cars. I was in Dublin yesterday morning, and someone was driving an ancient 1920s automobile through the city centre, which looked more like a little buggie to tie on the back of a horse – that was the posture of the occupants of the vehicle – but without the horse, in that the engine was doing the ‘horsepower’.

    Bear in mind too, that when cars first appeared, they used them in the same way horses and buggies where employed. I.e. The well to do folks went to town in their horse and buggie, with their driver, and the driver and horse and buggie ‘parked’ in a stable in the centre of town, while the good lady or fellow master went to do their business in town. So when cars first appeared, they built exactly the same kinds of ‘stables’ for well-to-do people to park their cars and their drivers in, as had happened in the days of the horse. It was only later they realised, the car didn’t require this stable building in town, and that is really when our parking difficulty in towns started, when people just abandoned their cars on the side of the streets. Something the European city was never designed to handle as such.

    I am reminded a lot too, from your Cannes talk, of what Chris Anderson I think said about Van Gogh and oil paints, or Hitchcock and movies. What if there was a Van Gogh or a Hitchcock born before those media were even invented. Bear in mind that oil paints in zinc tubes, that technology and the impressionist art in France at the turn of the century are intimately related. Because the painters were suddenly made mobile with their zinc tubes of paint, they were suddenly exposed to the whole element of light, as it affected how they went about painting, in a way they had never thought about being lodged in their carefully lit ‘atelier’ spaces.

    Pay careful attention to what Kevin Kelly had to say in his TED talk too Danah, about technology never quite dying out. About the 60,000 different species of technology in the typical household. It is coming to the stage where we need to understand how various systems can interact, and how we can carve out functional, habitable spaces between all of these various systems. Thom Mayne, in his TED talk, speaks of the intersection of various systems a lot. That is kind of my view of the virtual space at the moment. I spoke a little about my vision to the guys at cooperation commons google group:

    Cooperation Commons

    Again, Lefebvre deals with this post modern notion of the different points of view. Which is phrased by Rittel in his paper somewhat the same. I have been taking a vague interest in adaptive path, through steven johnson’s connection with them. I noticed this blog entry by one of the designers there:

    Dan Saffer

    Dan is thinking about Rittel and related issues in that blog entry. We are going to have to understand and deal with complexity more and more, as time goes on.

    B.

  • Brian O' Hanlon

    BTW, I should include just a tail end to all of the above, for your own benefit Danah. IT Conversations have an interview with Bob Glushko and AnnaLee Saxenian, who are head of a new initiative at Stanford to think about the area of services and how we provide them in the future. It is a faculty very similar to dschool in many ways, in that you have the cross pollination of different professions. It was while reading Adaptive Path’s, Dan Saffer’s blog entry there again, I recalled that Horst Rittel’s Dilemma paper was largely an attack on this notion of ‘professions’.

    In a similar way, Glusko and Saxenian are also tackling that. I could really relate to William McDonough on cradle to cradle design, where he spoke of ‘humility’ and ‘architect’ not having been used in the same context, since the fountainhead movie. I struggled a great deal inside the silo of the architectural profession myself for a long while. I like Glushko a lot, and his notion about the information architect, or Rickard Saul Wurman, the TED conference founder who also drives at this notion of information architecture. I can see where they are coming from.

    I think that David Kelley’s point in his TED talk about moving away from flat 2 dimensional model renderings of designs, to where he employs a number of low budget film crews to explain how people interact with the design is interesting. He likens it to how some architects show people in their drawings, as opposed to not showing people. Herman Hertzberger who I wrote about a while back, was one of the greatest contributors to the architectural debate in this way. I echos my point above about the 1920s ancient automobile, where the people in the auto, looking like there is a horse drawing the vehicle, even though the horse is not present. The horse is still there in its absense. Thom Mayne manages to squeeze the absent present, present absent idea into his fast track talk on his projects too. The example that Kelley’s shows in his TED talk of the store for OMA architects, and the dressing room etc, is kind of an early prototype of what I think Glushko and Saxenian will produce from their school in the near future.

    I have been talking to Howard Rheingold about it, but I think there is a real need at the moment for a proper convergence to occur between architects of virtual and physical worlds. Thom Mayne has being suggesting this aswell for quite some time now. How Architecture could break more into research and development. It would seem to me, that cinema and movie making will form part of that design process, if what David Kelley says is correct. What do you think Danah? I guess what I am talking about is interface to the virtual world, through the physical world, and the blurring of that gap.

    B.

  • Brian – Saxenian and Glushko’s new initiative is at Berkeley in the School of Information (not Stanford)

  • Brian O' Hanlon

    The following is a bit long Danah,
    so maybe you might want to post it in a new post or something as a response to your cannes piece which I finished reading last night. As usual, It was an excellent speech congratulations. It made me think about stuff I hadn’t think about since art class.

    B.

  • Brian O' Hanlon

    French Impressionism, Mobility and MySpace.

    In his TED conference talk, Chris Anderson asks the question are people being born today before the technology and means of expression suited to them even exists? What if there were Van Goghs or Hitchcocks born in times before oil paints or movie making were invented? Let me tell you something about oil paints in zinc tubes. That technology is what allowed the impressionist artists in France to become mobile. The painter’s ease of movement suddenly allowed the outdoor phenomenon of light to find its way onto the canvas. You couldn’t paint outside and not consider the properties of light. Think of Renoir’s paint of the frog pond, and of Monet who pained exactly the same scene on the same day.

    Cezanne was another character who enjoyed a vast rolling landscape to pursue his painting hobby. Typically Cezanne would cast away a canvas that wasn’t working out, into a nearby bush or tree. Only to come back hiking in the same direction 12 months later and finish the canvas he had thrown away! Gaugin travelled to the south sea islands to conduct his painting. Gaugin would have all sorts of adventures there. But more importantly, he would bring back the influence of native art to Europe because of those little zinc paint tubes. Van Gogh spent much of his like suffering from depression and living in various parts of Europe as an itinerant. None of it could have been possible in an earlier age, without the portability of little zinc paint tubes. Using a medium as fast and portable as pastel on paper, Henri Toulouse Lautrec could transport himself into the Follie Berger each night. There he would illustrate for us, the social scene of 19th century Paris.

    What I am talking about, is the opposite to the immobility of the teenagers in their bedroom causing them to decorate their bedroom walls in virtual space. We can study the twentieth century in the same vein of mobility and media expression. Combat photography was evident as early as the Spanish civil war, the landing in Normandy and in later wars such as Korea. But think of David Bailey and fashion photography in the 1960s. David could go to New York for a weekend shoot and make cover of Vogue magazine using the tiny 35mm negative. But he never told his bosses, because the perception was that large format was only good enough for Vogue. The only trouble with large format, was it restricted photographers to their studios.

    We know of the Vietnam war, the first war to appear on television. But I really want to talk about another event. The kidnapping of Katie Hirst by urban terrorists in San Francisco. Katie and her kidnappers were hiding on campus at Stanford. Eventually a group of the urban terrorist group were surrouded in a house. The police at this time were not used to live television cameras. Within no time there were camera crews standing in the middle of the battle. There is footage of a smartly dressed young lady reporter standing inches away from the corner of a building where live rounds are bouncing. The mobile phone is in her hand, as she talks to her editor who urges her to get even closer to the action! As the shoot out unfolds and the police men struggle to restrain reporters who don’t understand they cannot stand in front of bullets, the live footage of this event went across the whole country.

    I don’t think Howard Rheingold’s book on smart mobs really attempted to trace the concept of mobility back far enough. The Katie Hirst shoot out was a beginning of what I would term a ‘smart mob’. It was also the beginning of a new invention called Live television. Like the French Impressionist painters with their zinc tubes of paint, Live television arrived with a similar kind of bang. It was shocking to folk who considered TV to be a stable kind of media, building on the notion of theatre and stages as such. Just as in the nineteenth century when the great photographers captured portraits of native indians who were completely unaware of the lense, in the Katie Hirst debacle we see cops with assault rifles who are not too savy to the lense either.

    Since then, the camera crews and reporting of live events has become more sophisticated. The policemen are very careful to maintain a perimeter around the scene. The people who are surrounded often use the cameras to their own advantage. Today people worry about the authenticity of what is being presented to them on the tube. People worry if the information has been doctored to emphasise some particular point. Some people worry if a plane ever hit the world trade centre on 9/11. These are the people who suspect their toaster of plotting against them. They actually believe their TV set is an evil device put there by a government in order to control their minds. Rather like big tobacco put a cigarette in their fingers, and damned the consequences.

    I wonder if we will see a series of court cases against big ‘television’, like the ones we saw against big tobacco? We cannot see into the messed up contents of peoples’ brains in the same way a damaged lung organ can be photographed and mounted as evidence in a court trial. But they will get around that I have no doubt, using psychologists or whatever. What is really happening with 9/11 and You Tube, is that information is arriving on peoples’ desktops in a way they cannot cope with. I am proposing we find a way to present information, and make it legible to people. Danah, it might help you to think about the scale of television and audiences using Peter F. Drucker’s point about the demise of the large department store. I am reading Drucker’s 2002 book, Managing in a New Society. How the department store retailer ended up knowing more and more about less and less. I wonder how much traditional television really knows about it audience today.

    To restrict the interface to the LCD monitor on your laptop is not good enough anymore. The debate needs to be broadened, if my goal of presenting information more effectively is to be achieved. I am watching the Matrix movie series a bit of late. There are some wonderful scenes in those movies, which illustrate what I am talking about. In terms of peoples’ efforts to fight against an assault of information and dis-information. I like Richard Dawkins analogy of how bats can use sound to negotiate space. They might see sound waves in shades of green and red in the way we can see colour. Richard thinks our brain has found it useful to construct the perception of the hardness of a rock. Because it reminds us that our fingers will not penetrate it. But if we lived in a world where our hands could penetrate rock, we would not have evolved that perception of hardness. Are computers change our perception of information at some deep level, equivalent to us sticking our fingers through rocks? Are they changing our perception of the hardness or softness of information?

    Richard Saul Wurman is interested in the health care system. But he talks about the danger of revealing too much information to people too quickly. Through the wonders of modern technology, people can now learn a lot more about their own bodies. But sometimes the trauma of knowing is too much for people to deal with. Just because we have more and more detailed, accurate information about ourselves and our environment, doesn’t we will attain any higher level of understanding. I am trying to build my thinking on John Thackara’s notion of design and the displaying of information in a way that makes it visible to citizens. But make the information visible in a way that people feel comfortable with. There is some large, centralised and monolithic about television, because it builds upon older paradigms of information transmission, some of which go back centuries. Danah, you should think about the medieval cathedral, which operated very much as a dashboard for the city in its day. The sculptors worked to create story boards which animated the great exterior of these urban landmark projects. Terence Riley of the MOMA in New York does a great lecture on this.

    I listened to the Irish sculptor Michael Warren recently at a talk. Michael described the modern day sculpture department in our national art college. Absolutely no chisels, or pieces of stone. Not even plywood and nails. No, just miles and miles of wires and screens! Today it seems the sculptors are more interested in virtual rather than physical. But although cathedrals are know longer being built, we still use this way to transmit information. In his TED talk, David Kelley talks about making the mechanism’s of water purification, visible to the city’s dwellers in London. Certainly, clean water is something that approaches religious significance for todays inhabitants of cities. Access to clean water has been declared a human right by the UN.

    Doug englebart’s always compared the act of driving a car, on a busy highway to the skill people should acquire in order to navigate information in a computer. I was in Dublin yesterday morning, and someone was driving an ancient 1920s automobile through the city centre. It looked distinctly like a horse drawn buggie from the nineteenth century. That was the posture of the occupants in the vehicle. To my eyes it looked like a horse buggie, but there was no horse. Just a little engine driving the thing forward. How much of the same problem exists in the way we ‘harness’ computers today?

    It should be noted that when cars first appeared, they used them in the same way horses and buggies where employed. That is the only model people had to think about travel and moving about. Before the car, folks went to town in their horse and buggie, with their driver, and the driver and horse and buggie ‘parked’ in a stable in the centre of town, while the good lady or fellow master went to do their business in the town. When cars first appeared, they built exactly the same kinds of ‘stables’ for well-to-do people to park their cars! Maybe in fifty years time, we will look at My Space like those early stables built for cars.

    When Danah talks about social networking sites being used for advertising and commerce I am reminded of a point made by Peter F. Drucker about railways. In Europe, railways were never used for to haul freight. In Europe we were used to thinking of ships at sea to carry freight. It was off loaded at the dock and transported to its destination by horse. Even the last great railways that the British built in Asia were only designed to carry passengers. It wasn’t until railways in America were built was the full potential of the iron horse realised. Trains being used to carry goods and extending the reach of commerce deep into the new world.

    So commerce, mobility and representation have all been intertwined with one another down through history. This is not new. What is a bit new, is Danah’s own observation that immobility is driving
    the latest forms of media expression. When we consider the nineteenth and twentieth century were all about mobility and visual capturing methodology, I guess it is not surprising to find we are now returning back to slowness and immobility of respresentation. That movie by Denzil Washington, the Bone Collector was an early clue of where this new technology was taking us. I would like to end with a reference to Warren Bennis’s old book on leaders. We have the technology today to study our leaders in greater detail than ever before. I was wondering Danah if you would consider reading Bennis’s book, and let me know what you think of it? Given you have spent such an amount of your research time on kids, and their leadership structures? I am very interested in how new media lead more mature people to view their leaders.

    Brian O’ Hanlon.
    04.06.07

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