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Digital Spaces

Speculations on Digital Art and Viral Spaces

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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 12:18PM   |  9 comments
French New Wave Feminst legend Agnes Varda

Blog written by Dale Hudson,co-curator with Sharon Lin Tay of ‘Map Open Space’ exhibit at FLEFF 2010.

In his monthly column in an issue of Sight & Sound last summer, Nick Roddick reasserted what many critics have already made clear: “the old cinema paradigm” continues to face challenges after movie audiences, particularly in the global North, have enjoyed nearly two decades of screening media online.


Roddick notes three angles of “attack” by new media paradigms: (1) screenings are more likely individual acts involving an “iPod with earphones” than collective acts in a theater; (2) a top-selling videogame, such as Grand Theft Auto IV, is more profitable for transnational media corporations than a movie, such as Pirates of the Caribbean 2 — and, moreover, such videogames are “often narratively more sophisticated”; and (3) the film industry now faces a situation comparable to that faced by the music industry in pervious decades in the form of de-centered file-sharing that they cannot control.


Geffrey Macnab’s column in the same issue discusses web sites dedicated to streaming film (or, more precisely, streaming digital video and digitized film), including “online cinémathèques” such as The Auteurs [], which offers a selection of feature-length narratives and a place to discuss them with other cinéphiles who have paid for a subscription to the site, and UbuWeb [], which has provided open access to mostly experimental shorts since “way back” in 1996.


These columns appear in an issue [] devoted to the 50th (masculinist) anniversary of the birth of the French New Wave with the theatrical release of François Truffaut’s Les 400 Coups. (The feminist anniversary of the the birth of the French New Wave passed largely unmarked back in 2004 with the 50th anniversary of Agnès Varda’s La Pointe courte, though Varda’s film [] has been memorialized along with Truffaut’s film [] with Criterion Collection editions in the U.S.)


The special issue of Sight & Sound is careful attention not to reproduce the nostalgia that cluttered thinking a few years ago with the 50th anniversary of “1968,” which, in retrospect, might now be considered one of the last gasping breathes of eurocentrism. However, the issue does convey an uncomfortable sense of uncertainty (if not, impending crisis) that continues to spill over from journalism to academic listservs, such as a recent thread on whether “celebrity studies” had supplanted “star studies” in an era when viral videos often have more views than the combined sales across platforms for the latest blockbuster.


For anyone who has participated in FLEFF since its rebranding in 2006, questions relating to “old cinema” and new-media paradigms might be posed differently. New-media paradigms do not displace entirely or replace outright other paradigms. Instead, they offer opportunities for a remixing of conventional modes of thinking, whether to re-think philosophical constructions of knowledge or to re-gauge our expectations from media.


In anticipation of the “Map Open Space” exhibition in mid-March, Sharon and I will be posting on work from the previous exhibits (including the work of the “Map Open Space” jury), which ask us to visualize history, memory, and trauma, according to paradigms that remix “old cinema” with new media. Rather than documenting history, memory, or trauma in the manner of expository and educational films, these works engage audiences in the production of unstable meaning and unfinished events.


Until then, share insights with us about work have you screened that remixes the old cinema paradigm with new-media paradigms.



The multi-national conglomerates that run Hollywood are absolutely paralyzed with fear. On the one hand, the are embracing digitality enthusiastically, but also unthinkingly, because they see it as a way to cut production, but especially distribution costs (good-bye film prints in theatres, hello digital projecion). On the other, they see no way to control content, now that the digital genie is out of the bottle, and are restorting to gangster tactics in the courts to force internet portals to protect them, see e.g. the recent Australian internet copyright case, involvinhg iNet, the country's third largest internet providor:

Thanks for the link to this article, Chris.

Gangster tactics is a great way to describe Hollywood's effort to police copyright. It's nice to see that the Australian judge didn't cave entirely to TNC pressures to allow indirect subsidies of Hollywood with taxpayer monies.

PS I have to type "British screens" to post this comment. The AI in FLEFF blogs have a sense of humor, it seems.

It's really true how screenings are becoming more like individual acts rather than collective acts in a theater. Apart from watching movies on their ipod while they are travelling on a bus or train or wherever they are, people are more technologically savvy now and often carry their laptops around to watch movies online as and when they are free. The availability of downloads on the internet also keeps some people from spending on a ticket to the theater. I often hear people saying that if they can watch it on their own at home on the computer, there's no point to go to the theater. Now that mobile phones are internet enabled, more challenges are likely to arise as well.

I think it is maybe an age-old discussion, that being the issue of what already exists and what is yet to be created. It seems that the modernists and the premodernists were altogether excited about what is to come, about the progression of history, and the very notion of progress...

I'm only a student; I love movies, and I continue to love how people interact with cinematic space. Nevertheless, I am beginning to think that cinematic space is something that exists outside of cinema. Now I'm not suggesting a philosophical approach to cinema necessarily; I'm not suggesting that perfect cinema exists as perfect form may exist, and the filmmaker's most noble goal is to come closer and closer to creating "perfect cinema". Rather, I think I am simply suggesting a humble and exhausted willingness to depart. The cinema that was is no longer the cinema that is, and although I am excited by Avatar and fascinated by New Media projects, I am mostly beginning to accept that there are several paths, and while many will march and parade down the path of progress, I maintain that the essence of cinema is a radical one, and I am more interested in exploring the truth behind this essence than exploring outer space where we experience a departure: the thing that was is no longer the thing that is. If cinematic space exists outside of cinema I would suggest we need to explore humanity, history, science, philosophy, etc. to understand the essence of cinema.

I have to type "neilson issued"... of course, the Neilsen ratings are having trouble figuring out how count Hulu views!

Cinema was created by man, so certainly to understand it's essence one would have to explore "humanity, history, science, philosophy, etc." However, I am the person Martin speaks of: "excited about what is to come, about the progression of history, and the very notion of progress..."

Avatar cannot be duplicated on a 2D screen. Home 3D is still very expensive and requires glasses. A 3D print costs 2x on film compared to 2D, while the ratio is less on digital. Therefore, digital 3D cinema will, for the next few years, reign as the salvation of the community theater cinema.


Already in the works are incredible devices that take 3D glasses out of the equation. Displays are getting cheaper and these technologies are based on the displays we have now. In five years, the first consumer-priced no-glasses 3D screen will be in someones house. (that's a guess). That's when we should REALLY get scared. We don't have any special innovations coming our way in the traditional theater, no new excitement to lure people from their iPod3Ds or their homeCine3D systems. At that point, all we can offer at a theater is a larger screen and (tons) better sound. But is that enough??? I doubt it. What will we do next? Make 180 degree half-circle screens at a 4:1 aspect ratio in 3D (requiring, depending on the technology, between 3 and 8 projectors...)?

I am also a student. My fear is that when I graduate, my industry will be asking these questions ALONG with how to slow piracy and count Hulu views in Neilsen ratings. That is my fear, and my excitement. That I will be in the thick of it, and that my views, ideas, thoughts, will matter.

Thanks for these great comments, everyone!

For those identifying as students who want to work in film industries, take these persistence of these discussions about file sharing as a "problem" and new spectacles as a "solution" as a mandate to bring fresh approaches that keep pace with broader changes in technologies, audiences, and social practices.

I always think of "film" and "cinema" as terms of convenience that can be used to describe a wide array of media and media experiences or interactions. It's the plurality of things that are interesting.

I love it that some filmmakers are considering mobile devices when they story-board and think of sound mixing -- and that other filmmakers are thinking again of curved screens and 3D formats to lure people into theaters. I also love it that some Bollywood films receive global theatrical releases and distribution on universal-region DVDs -- and that some Nollywood films are available on the street one week and "sold out" a few weeks later.

(Doesn't Hollywood still largely do a version of what became the run-zone-clearance system, which dates to exhibition practices from the 1910s, with its release windows and DVD regional codes?)

I love it that people make mashups of their favorite films and televisions series, just as I love when people write fic based upon these "parent products." I love it that historically marginalized populations are using consumer-grade cameras and editing software to make movies that no one else would ever dream possible.

What I do not love are the tactics that some TNCs use to terrorize audiences by equating the purchase of pirated video with the theft of an automobile! There was an earlier one in which a stuntman becomes the spokesperson for Hollywood, trying to convince audiences that pirated video affects the employment for the wage-earners of "regular working families" behind the scenes while never mentioning that Hollywood has been more antiunion that ever -- shooting and outsourcing to avoid paying union wages. (Wouldn't a corporate shareholder been a more appropriate "everyman/everywoman" as spokesperson?)

What new ideas are percolating amongst (mostly) young people whose thinking hasn't been "locked down" like commercial software and "encrypted" DVDs?

It's worse than just a guilt trip, though.

Executives are developing methods that make film piracy help them, and then they use (aptly named) gangster tactics to scare us into believing it hurts. They get the best of both worlds.

Just like with music, where piracy increases recognition and sales likelihood, piracy increases commitment to a TV show, or a film franchise, or a network, etc. To assume that Hollywood is paralyzed with fear... I'm not sure. Instead, they leverage this new found commitment while reporting the act as evil. They know it won't stop, but saying that such-and-such is hurting them creates sympathy.

I'm just guessing, but that's how I'd do it if I was on the top AND particularly unscrupulous...

Very nicely put

I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this content together.

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