PressPausePlay and the changing landscape of art & media industries

Just tonight I read these two blog posts, which passionately put forward two opposing points of view about the current problematic situation of monetizing intellectual property (IP) and piracy of it, caused by rapid development of technological circumvention, and, in Demonbaby’s view, the stratifying business practices of major recording labels.

When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide.
Letter to Emily White at NPR All SongsĀ Considered.

Both have valid points, and both go to great lengths to rationalize their position. These brought up the memory of a recent documentary I had the pleasure of viewing (now on Vimeo) called PressPausePlay, made by the same people who were behind the Academy nominated documentary Om Natten.

Tonight, I suppose, after going through all five stages of grieving my position within the changing landscape of the media industry, I came to the realization that all of the quibbles, the fights over the IP rights, exploitation of them that has been complicated by the ontological difficulties presented by the Internet, and the massive changes in the production and distribution of media, point toward one important trend.

In the last two decades, we, as a society of consumers turned creators, turned co-creators and re-creators (with the rise of social media and the easy proliferation of remix culture) of media products, have had and are continuing to experience a fundamental shift in the way we interact with culture.

Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter defined this process in 1942 as creative destruction. Most vividly experienced during the industrial revolution, it refers to the obsolescence of either means of production or whole industries due to technological advances.

Creative destruction has traditionally related to analogous advancement and subsequent obsolescence. The invention of one machine that was directly more efficient than its predecessor. Its function and parameters were limited (as well as its physical footprint). Generally, its operators would either reskill, drift into niche industry sectors emphasising nostalgia, or fall out of the industry altogether, however, there was generally a continuity as to the kind of skills involved, physical labour made more efficient by machinery was generally less physical labour etc.

However, the explosion in mediums has created an environment of information saturation and virtualization, and for the first time in history, has created a situation where the mysticism of monopolies in knowledge requiring specializations (i.e. think about real estate agents versus the now common, accessible and relatively easy to understand real estate and valuation web sites), no longer matters – whatever you need to know can be found in some form or another in books, television or interactive media. Combine that with virtualization (think DAW’s. These did not exist less than a decade ago) and the “end of history” efficiency in mechanized manufacturing, which has democratized knowledge and means of production, and we find ourselves in our contemporary position. A position of saturated creative markets that creates a noise that is impossible to rise out of, the acceptance of mediocrity with historical forgetfulness (which is no longer vetted by closely guarded covens/industries), and, a higher barrier to economic success, which leads to the devaluing and, hence, disincentivising the participation within these industries (typically associated with the manufacture of cultural capital).

How you view this is up to personal opinion. It is a time when you have open to you the possibilities to create whatever artistic artefact you wish, easily. It is a time when you have nigh unlimited methods to express your own individuality. But it is also a time where everyone is also doing the same, and success, which requires scarcity, is, itself, scarce.

So, the question is: while you can show the world who you are intimately, and like never before… Does anyone really care anymore? Or is everyone as self-obsessed as you are?

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