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“Nothing she does is memorable, because she does so much.”
November 24, 2011 6:30 AM   Subscribe

"The rigorous division of websites into narrow interests, the attempts of Amazon and Netflix to steer your next purchase based on what you’ve already bought, the ability of Web users to never encounter anything outside of their established political or cultural preferences, and the way technology enables advertisers to identify each potential market and direct advertising to it, all represent the triumph of cultural segregation that is the negation of democracy. It’s the reassurance of never having to face anyone different from ourselves." – Charles Taylor, The Problem with Film Criticism
posted by Rory Marinich (56 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
(credit where credit is due: I found this via Bunny Ultramod's Google+ feed.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:38 AM on November 24, 2011


The Problem with The Internet (Elephant in the Room edition).
posted by fullerine at 6:43 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mr Taylor, despair not - let me tell you about this place where people of various walks of life congregate to exchange interesting links...
posted by hat_eater at 6:43 AM on November 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


The Problem with The Internet (Elephant in the Room edition).

Perhaps this should be referred to as "The Elephant in the Tubes." Or merely as "the e-Lephant."
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:45 AM on November 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'll admit to not reading the article yet, but this is an interesting, relevant topic. We're in an era where you really do not need to associate with people who have differing viewpoints - where we essentially can find whatever echo chamber we want.

...and I think this is a pretty dangerous trend.

Ironically it echos some of what Samuel Huntington wrote about in "Clash of Civilizations" - arguing that while technology in many ways is bringing us together, that in reality we are segmenting ourselves into clannish groups.
posted by tgrundke at 6:45 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sad but true.

But, he should at least appreciate the internet for allowing him to post his reviews from the premises of the Penitentiary Institution Haaglanden, The Hague, while awaiting trial for war crimes related to his soldier-of-fortune take-over of Liberia.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:45 AM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dear Charles Taylor:
Have you ever actually been in a YouTube comment thread? HAVE YOU? I'll stick with my own, thank you very much.
-BK
posted by beaucoupkevin at 6:47 AM on November 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


Hey, that's what THEY do!
posted by hat_eater at 6:48 AM on November 24, 2011


Thanks to ABP I never have to see the advertisements either.

For vanilla-generic websearches I use Scroogle (the search bar here). It makes a big difference. Try searching for "politics" using Google's front page, then Scroogle's.
posted by clarknova at 6:50 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


It’s the reassurance of never having to face anyone different from ourselves.

Only if you spend all your time online.
posted by jonmc at 6:51 AM on November 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's not like the good old golden age when every active participant in democracy and in film criticism was able to graze at leisure among all the world's different viewpoints, absorb and comprehend them all, minting their own opinion in the forge of originality and common sense, with nary a thought for profits or readership or fame, and never ever got stuck in an echo chamber of any kind.

Pro tip: if your internet use leaves you in an intellectual rut with no fresh input and without encountering anyone different from yourseld, it's YOUR fault, not Amazon's or Netflix's.

(Fer fuck's sake, Amazon is always recommending to me books I have already bought from Amazon. Why on earth would I listen to them?!)
posted by chavenet at 6:53 AM on November 24, 2011 [20 favorites]


While there's a lot of valid and interesting stuff to this if you can look past the false dichotomy in the introduction, I do have to take issue with one specific claim:

ANYONE WHO has written film criticism for a large publication in the past twenty years has been told to assume that readers know nothing (even now when it’s easier than ever for them to look up a reference).

This really isn't the case, at least, not to any extent that merits a capitalized generalization. I've read plenty of criticism and analysis from the recent past from a variety of sources both "large" and otherwise that thankfully didn't conform to this trite, annoying limitation. Further, one could point to any number of excellent and pertinent works from the last several decades (before blogs, before the web, before even digital video) which jump the general audience and directly address those already deeply familiar with the study of cinema.

For whatever it's worth, I don't see anything wrong at all with writers who...

"don’t believe in making any overtures to readers not already novitiates in the order of cinema"

...whether they publish dead trees or just pixels. I mean, using that razor you'd have to throw out everything ever written by some of history's greatest cinema theorists (including many a fascinating manifesto by some world-changing filmmakers themselves). Since when is writing somehow bad just because it's challenging?
posted by trackofalljades at 6:54 AM on November 24, 2011


Shades of Jaron Lanier, which he namechecks.

Both despise the fact that everybody's on the Internet, and everybody's equal, at least in regards to setting up a website and putting up a review. The fact that most of them don't care about serious films should not be a surprise.

Also, both he and Jaron Lanier despair that the web has destroyed the democracy is was supposedly supposed to bring. The web doesn't bring democracy, it brings anarchy, in the standard definition. We may all do what thou wilt. And apparently many people wish to watch superhero movies and talk about them. I imagine both Taylor and Lanier standing by a horse and a stream, forever crying "WHY WON'T YOU DRINK!?"

The hard fact of democracy, which is always a crapshoot, is that for it to work we can’t shut out who or what we don’t like, who or what we have not bothered to encounter.

I'm fully willing to believe that for many things, it's what the occupy movement is all about. But for film criticism, why does he need democracy? And what's democratic about demanding my time to tell me what's important? Much like other parts of the filter bubble debate, it's paternalism, thinking that people won't be exposed to the right things unless they are thrust in front of them, regardless of their volition.

Oh and:

Reading long, detailed arguments about a difference of millimeters in the aspect ratio of a new Blu-Ray disc, the only shrinking millimeters I’m aware of are those of my open eyes narrowing.

That's not film criticism, it's more akin to consumer reports. With the increased resolution of Blu Ray, things like transfer and aspect ratio can make a terrible transfer of a movie worse than it's DVD predecessor. Reviews like that have as much to do with film criticism as blender reviews have to do with food criticism.
posted by zabuni at 6:55 AM on November 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


Let's try that again:

That all ended when the publication made it possible for readers to post directly without going through an editor. Almost immediately, I and the other writers I knew stopped hearing directly from readers. Instead, instant posting became survival of the loudest. Posturing and haranguing ruled. If the writer was female or Jewish, misogynists and anti-Semites would turn up. Why wouldn’t they? There was no editor to stop them. Bullies and bigots seized the chance to show off. And those reasonable people, the ones I and my colleagues heard from? They went nowhere near the online forums.

This, at least, rings true for me. Moderation is not only important; it's vital.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:56 AM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's hard to say how much of this is about film and how much of this is about the web in general. As to the latter, see Republic.Com and all the reactions thereto.

Introspection time, though, Rory. Do you sympathize with the argument in the article, and did you post this here because you thought users of this site would generally be receptive too?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:04 AM on November 24, 2011


Moderation is not only important; it's vital.

My mileage varies. I like a well-tended lawn as much as the next old codger on my block, but I think I've become pretty good at ignoring bullies, bigots and trolls (oh my!) and accepting their presence as common enough in the world so that while a nicely moderated site is pleasant (not unlike, say, Disneyland), it's not the world I'd like to live in full-time, much as I love Metafilter.
posted by chavenet at 7:07 AM on November 24, 2011


This essay struck me as an arts critic. I don't know that we're in an increasingly balkanized world as a result of the Web, but I know the Web has made that Balkanization more visible, and easier to maintain.

One of the advantages of the web is that it has made it easier for people to identify niche audiences and address their work to them directly. If you have a sense of who your audience is, and the size of it, you can figure out how to make work that makes its money back, and how to get that work to your audience. And this is very good for art that might have languished earlier, or may not have been made at all, as its audience was too small and scattered to matter. The downside is, though, that it becomes very easy for people to stay in their niche. And this isn't just the case with the arts, but also with politics, as an example. The problem we had with Bush -- that he stovepiped intelligence, only listening to reports that reenforced his worldview and decisions, and often that info was badly vetted? Well, that's become the norm. Conservatives and liberals get entirely different news. It's not just that the interpretations are different. The facts are different. We're literally living in parallel worlds, and the Web is reenforcing that.

So when you go to the arts, it's very easy to create an artistic environment that reenforces, coddles, entertains, and doesn't challenge. And certainly there is a place for that sort of art in the world. But an important function of art has always been to problematize things, to force people to look outside a limited perspective, to undermine or explode conventions, and to otherwise be a troublemaker. And it doesn't help that, especially in America, everybody labors under the myth that they are a rebel. Fans of heavy metal are sure they are rebelling. Fans of anime see themselves as cultural outsiders. We are sold revolution with every commodity -- a revolution in taste! A revolutionary new method of making beer!

And so we can listen to the same music, or see the same movies, or look at the same art we always look at, secure in our knowledge that we are society's true outlaws, and never be challenged beyond the challenge we are used to, which has ceased to be a challenge at all. And, as I said, I don't think this is a new phenomenon, but the Web has made it far more visible and easier to maintain.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:08 AM on November 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


A hundred years ago we rarely left the same neighbourhood and our neighbours probably had the same upbringing, religion, and culinary tastes as we did. They thought pretty much the same way. A thousand years ago it was the same. Ten thousand years ago, it was the same. These days our neighbourhood is online and we hang around with people of the same interests and intellectual style as we do. Tribalism is nothing new. Television allowed the few with TV cameras to force their viewpoints on the masses, which was a step forward in some ways, and a step back in others. These days, the ability to reach beyond our physical tribes and self-select our virtual tribes is what the net gives us. We'll always have tribes; it's in our nature. That we can make our own now is a good thing, not a bad one.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:16 AM on November 24, 2011 [21 favorites]


the triumph of cultural segregation that is the negation of democracy. It’s the reassurance of never having to face anyone different from ourselves.

Where do I even start with how many wrong things are in here?

You can meet plenty of people different than you online. Interested in machining? When you hang out with machinists, you meet both liberals and conservatives. Interested in one partisan wing of US politics? In that wing you'll meet artists, lawyers, bikers, entrepreneurs and others. Interested in crafting? You'll meet moms, kids, dads, grandmothers, teachers, etc.

But beyond that, democracy itself forces you face the different. That's exactly what democracy is. The UN works even though the people from the various member nations have very little overlap, relatively speaking. The whole point of democracy is to bring different opinions together and make something work.
posted by DU at 7:20 AM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Film writers on the Web have, time and again, led me to see (or re-see) films that I would have bypassed or dismissed. As one of the commenters above has already said, if you want to keep your head in the sand, the Web won't stop you from doing that. But if you want to find something new, the Web is the perfect place.
posted by Currer Belfry at 7:26 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really wanted to like Jaron Lanier's book. He's a smart, eloquent guy with a pretty well thought-out worldview. But You Are Not a Gadget read like a book written without an editor by someone who wanted to encompass every passing thought they had about technology. It's totally unreadable.

In some ways, I see where both of these people are coming from. The Internet has the capacity to loosen our ties to one another and make interaction much more superficial, hastening the kind of cultural segregation that Eli Pariser calls "The Filter Bubble."

But as Zabuni wrote above: Much like other parts of the filter bubble debate, it's paternalism, thinking that people won't be exposed to the right things unless they are thrust in front of them, regardless of their volition.

The Internet is neutral, and I happen to think we imbue it with our best qualities as well as our worst.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 7:27 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


the attempts of Amazon and Netflix to steer your next purchase based on what you’ve already bought

But the operative word is "attempts." Sure, Netflix would love to give you only the exact kinds of movies you already like — as long as you have a limitless appetite for them. But Netflix's suggestions aren't so finely tailored. It's likely to recommend movies you wouldn't have otherwise heard of, which may or may not be to your exact, pre-existing taste. In fact, it's in Netflix's financial interest to help you broaden their taste in movies, since this will tend to give you a longer queue of movies and a reason to extend your subscription.

As usual, he's focusing on everything about the internet that sounds dull and restrictive, and ignoring everything about it that's positive and might open doors for people. I'm unimpressed with this formulaic internet criticism.
posted by John Cohen at 7:27 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


He lost me here: Can These Films Possibly Be Any Good?” (The obvious answer is that no one knows until they’ve been screened and critics have done the work of watching and writing about them...

Ah, right, so us poor, unknowing masses need professional critics to tell us when films are good.

Good to know that even though film criticism is dying that the arrogance and elitism that critics in general practice is still alive and well...
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:28 AM on November 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Being online brings us into contact with many different people and different viewpoints, and certainly it can expand our horizons.

But it's all optional. We don't have to get along with anyone we don't want to. That's what's anti-democratic (and basically anti-social). It makes us think we can vote in people who won't compromise, because durnit if they don't like it they can just leave.
posted by ropeladder at 7:34 AM on November 24, 2011


Since I've gone online, I've never read, heard, or communicated with another person whose opinions didn't exactly match my own. The internet is magic!
posted by rain at 7:34 AM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


rain, I just wanted to say that I completely agree.
posted by defenestration at 7:39 AM on November 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


We're in an era where you really do not need to associate with people who have differing viewpoints - where we essentially can find whatever echo chamber we want.

Funny, I guess he's never thought about marginalized groups at all. LGBT folks always must meet homophobia, women always must encounter sexism, POC always must encounter racism. Online or offline.

Not only do we always have to meet "differing view points", we also have to subsume our own or receive severe backlash, regardless of factual truth, and, if we ever try to create a space where we can, agree on a few topics ("Hating people like us isn't ok"), then we get accused of some kind of reverse racism, sexism, or a gay agenda or whatever.

The internet allows more people to speak up and, unintentionally, is creating a desegregation, rather than it's opposite.

You can look at any flare up around these topics and see that, in fact, the opposite is true of the internet- a lot of people are being forced to hear voices of people they didn't know existed, ideas that they never considered, and often, the idea that (given group) has and continues to encounter different experiences than the privileged is a shock to them.

Compare this to TV, radio or newspapers and how much voice people get if they're not already part of the system. The privileged end up exposed to people they wouldn't encounter in their everyday lives (or rather, words they wouldn't encounter) and the oppressed end up able to make spaces where they can choose to encounter LESS hate than they normally would.

Of course, historically and now, there's obviously a lot of people who choose not to read or listen, but that's been a problem long before the internet.
posted by yeloson at 7:42 AM on November 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


It’s the reassurance of never having to face anyone different from ourselves.

Only if you spend
all your time online.

And even then, it's not really true.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:47 AM on November 24, 2011


I find myself drawn to sites on-line that offer perspectives that are the opposite of my own. One reason might be that I get quickly bored with people who all think about things the same way. The other is that I find it pleasurable and entertaining, like picking a scab or scratching poison ivy.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:49 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ghostery, flashblock, and ABP have changed the internet for me. I cannot recommend them enough.

Don't tell advertisers all about yourself.
posted by spitbull at 8:04 AM on November 24, 2011


I call bullshit : Conservative talk radio and Fox News are manipulate their audience far easier than freerepublic.com, dailykos.com. Any modern clothing brand has advertising people who more effectively manipulate consumers than slashdot.org, techdirt.com, etc. Need I mention the De Beers cartel? Big tobacco? Mr. Taylor isn't simply wrong, exactly the opposite holds.

There is of course a natural diversification of taste that comes from eroding the centralized distribution channels for entertainment media, but everybody loves that.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:05 AM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Related: there's an interesting letter to the editor on Roger Ebert's site: Pauline Kael lived for the thrill of the revolution. The argument here is that film criticism used to take place inside a universe where you would have to wait to see Great Movies when they either rolled into town or played on TV. Since many of the greatest movies never played on TV at all, this usually meant that film nerdery was necessarily an in-person group activity and, most importantly, group conversation.

After the VCR, things changed. You could rent whatever you wanted, more or less. You could schedule for yourself a film education worthy of USC or NYU. This didn't kill film criticism at all, but it did change the game.

Services like NetFlix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, and torrents have changed the game yet again. Now we have instant gratification, but also with a relatively limited library. The commercial streaming sites make it all too easy to resign yourself to whatever they have on-hand. Sure, you could get a disc in the mail, that feels positively medieval sometimes. It also eliminates that feeling of encountering a true rarity.

Most importantly, however, the current streaming situation now means that more great and unusual movies than I'll ever be able to sit through are just sitting there, as easily accessible to me as anything else on the internet. As silly as it sounds, that's a tough pill for me personally to swallow, especially when I don't feel like watching a Criterion-type movie when I do have the time to sit down and watch a movie.

This also does a sad thing to the state of new movies. Each new movie now adds less value to the pile, since there is already such an enormous pile of readily-accessible great movies to watch. Why take a risk on a new movie, which may be at a B/B+ level of quality, when there's older A/A+ material just sitting there? I know that it's not that simple, but the general principle still holds.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:09 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


We're in an era where you really do not need to associate with people who have differing viewpoints - where we essentially can find whatever echo chamber we want.

You obviously never lived in a small town before the internet became common. I have, and let me tell you, small communities can be living, breathing echo chambers, only in that case you can't just turn off the computer and walk away.

Or, what seanmpuckett said above.
posted by Megami at 8:54 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's actually a study somewhere that contradicts this idea (don't have time to search it, I think it's from Pew). The reason this doesn't happen in actual political debate is because you have to read your opponents' stuff to make fun of it/disagree with it.

So, Fox News links to the NY Times to say how stupid and liberal it is — thereby freeing its readers from any "echo chamber" and exposing them to other points of view. The left publications do the same. Film and the arts may become more insular if you only go on recommendations for more of the same — but there's this phenomenon called boredom that often drives people to look for novelty so even there it's not quite that simple.
posted by Maias at 8:56 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


ugh. no one give this guy a copy of "cult of the amateur", it would just end up getting fulsome

@chavenet i agree. sure, it's nice (and easy) to operate within a well c*r*t*d site, but i would argue that merely insulating one's self from ugliness does not make it go away and in fact does a disservice by concealing it. the bigot who keeps quiet for fear he'll have to evade a ban is still a bigot, just one that will never be called on it.

i guess i think there's a kind of falsity to it that aggravates me. the lawns are well tended, sure, but what is going on inside the houses?

also there is the shamefully unproblematized question of what a "troll" is, and why it's bad
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:34 AM on November 24, 2011


WHICH CHARLES TAYLOR ARE YOUUU? Internet Scholar, prescribing web-lutions (web solutions, also, web ablutions) Disambiguate thyself.
The Charles first name last name Taylor junction is getting pretty crowded. Not that there's anything wrong with that (But seriously, what a wondrously convoluted confluence of positions, and roles; Liberals, Liberal-Critiques, Dictators, Atheletes, by Charles Talyors of the world, the Gamut is Run [also seriously, does anyone know which one this is, it isn't Canadian Philosopher and Politician CT, right? Am I being obtuse? Are we living in a secret Malkovitch Taylor-ian Matrix Unrated Film Trailer?]).

It is always a great sense of twisted sadness/joy/shock (Germans, what word do I mean?) knowing that it is not common knowledge that there is a serious Scholarly Journalist of the name Alex Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has been director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government since July 1, 2000. Jones is also a lecturer at the school, occupying the Laurence M. Lombard Chair in the Press and Public Policy.

I wonder how many people give him crap, because they think he is the other one, and conversely, how much The Other Guy gets credit when a neophyte googles alex jones, and 'learns' "oh, hey, that yelly guy is a SCHOLAR!1
posted by infinite intimation at 9:35 AM on November 24, 2011


Each new movie now adds less value to the pile, since there is already such an enormous pile of readily-accessible great movies to watch. Why take a risk on a new movie, which may be at a B/B+ level of quality, when there's older A/A+ material just sitting there? I know that it's not that simple, but the general principle still holds.

I don't understand what you're saying here. It's not as if there's a movie or even quality limit in terms of movies. A new movie is just that, a new movie, it doesn't take anything away from all the movies previously made.

The article itself is pretty good, but I think a lot of people are falling prey to choosing a single sentence or paragraph, deciding it's wrong and that somehow negates the entire article.

There's a cornucopia of thoughts, tastefully laid out buffet style, in the article. Dig in.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:42 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand what you're saying here. It's not as if there's a movie or even quality limit in terms of movies. A new movie is just that, a new movie, it doesn't take anything away from all the movies previously made.

Right, but there is a limit as to what an investor will put into a new movie, if new, small movies are increasingly bad investments. If movie lovers have more of a glut of excellent, unseen choices sitting at home, then more recent not-totally-commercial movies will fall by the wayside. Put another way, for a consumer, the marginal utility of a new independent movie is much less than what it may have been in the past - why watch a new movie which you may or may not like, when there's an old one that every critic gives four stars, and it's just as easy to watch either?

It had already been getting harder and harder to turn a profit on small movies nowadays. Distributing films to theaters was getting harder and more expensive. People are buying fewer discs. Now all these new, small movies have to deal with NetFlix-induced laziness.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:54 AM on November 24, 2011


why watch a new movie which you may or may not like, when there's an old one that every critic gives four stars, and it's just as easy to watch either?

Ah, what you're saying is more like "Why make a new, non-mainstream, movie that aren't as profitable as they could have been before, when people just turn on Netflix?" If so, that's a decent point, but I've also gotten the sense that independent filmmakers have gone more to web and making shorter films. So it's not a total loss or win, but a morphing as markets and technologies change.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:01 AM on November 24, 2011


Colin Marshall on film criticism, in the context of Woody Allen's Manhattan:
Fragmentation is a word often used to describe our culture’s current direction. Some of this seems driven by the internet, and I’ve certainly enjoyed creating and consuming media for and from the micro-outlets that have resulted. But if I could press a button to destroy geekdom, on the other hand, I probably would. Something went wrong when cultural specialization took the same path as technological speculation. We can offload some walking onto engines? Great. We can offload some mental math onto calculators? Great. We can offload some cinematic literacy onto film geeks? Whoa there.

When did people forget that the idea is to become a rich (broadly speaking) human being, not an ever-finer utilitarian cog? With film left mainly to film geeks, literature left mainly to literature geeks, art left mainly to art geeks, and music left mainly to music geeks, why bother having film, literature, art, and music at all? Strip the common sphere of all that and people from different walks of life are left with thin conversational gruel indeed: Extreme Makeover Home Edition, as Adam Cadre writes. Or traffic. Or kids. Or the weather. Or Justin Bieber’s haircut.
posted by Apropos of Something at 10:23 AM on November 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


The internet exposes me to a lot more diversity than I'd encounter otherwise. That's even more true for people who live out in the sticks somewhere.
posted by Foosnark at 10:23 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've also gotten the sense that independent filmmakers have gone more to web and making shorter films
Donoma, a movie by Haitian-born director Djinn Carrénard, opened yesterday in France to good reviews. Its much-publicised budget is 150 € ($200) and it's 135 min long. It's certainly a little bit of a stunt (someone is obviously paying for the advertising, website, festival touring etc.) but one of Carrénard's goals was to show that it was possible to create the kind of movie he likes to see without financial pressure and still have the movie released in theatres (more explanations here, in French). In any case, this would have been simply impossible just a few years ago. Some ways of making movies (and of making money out of movies) may be dying but others are being born right now.
posted by elgilito at 10:40 AM on November 24, 2011


I think a lot of people are falling prey to choosing a single sentence or paragraph, deciding it's wrong and that somehow negates the entire article.

I think that's because the article is a jumbled mess, wandering between points almost too weak to address, in pursuit of a thesis that is almost surely wrong.
posted by fleacircus at 10:44 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


The article does seem like a bit of a jumbled mess, ya...

Anyway:
A superb piece of craftsmanship like Tony Scott’s blue-collar thriller Unstoppable, a movie that shows some sense of how Americans live now, can feel like a miracle.
For reals? The man who floated the Crimson Tide turd? Hard to believe. Can anybody corroborate that hyperbole for me?
posted by Chuckles at 10:50 AM on November 24, 2011


It strikes me that Netflix, especially, could really push against this sort of media fracturing by opening up the recommendation engine to optimize things other than "stuff I like." For instance, Netflix gives a prediction for my rating of a moving and the average. Why can I not search based on that difference? This would give me a list of things that Netflix thinks I would like far more (or less) than the average person, and thus likely would be find movies that are special, and not just generically good. But then I could also use this to search for "movies that most people tend to like but I probably won't," or maybe they could toss in popularity as a search variable and I could say "What are not-too-popular movies that Netflix thinks are special to me." None of these things are harder than weighted variables of numbers that Netflix knows, many of which they even tell me publicly. Why can I not search on them. Similar things could be used elsewhere, I'm sure. Writing all of this, it makes me wonder if OKCupid people need to take over recommendations in other fields.
posted by Schismatic at 10:53 AM on November 24, 2011


spitbull - I had no idea Ghostery existed. Thank you.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:18 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


No mention of cyber-balkanization, no mention of Cult of the Amateur or Andrew Keen, no mention of Cass Sunstein (who, dear god, wrote EXACTLY about cyberbalkanization and the threat to democracy in Republic 2.0) or the increasing amount of work going into introducing diversity into recommender systems.

For a guy whining about divisiveness and the "rigorous division of websites into narrow interests" he sure doesn't seem to be practicing what he preaches.
posted by formless at 11:56 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The commercial streaming sites make it all too easy to resign yourself to whatever they have on-hand. Sure, you could get a disc in the mail, that feels positively medieval sometimes.

I love the disc in the mail. Partly because it does have a much wider selection than any streaming service. But partly I think it is a psychological hack that helps me stretch my tastes a little because I have to make a "list of movies I want to watch" rather than picking "a movie I want to watch right now." The latter allows me to go, "Well, I want to watch X some time in the distant future, but right now, I'll watch Y," and never get around to watching X. But this way, I'll gladly put X on the list and then some day I open my mail and it say, "GUESS WHAT? IT'S THE FUTURE NOW!"
posted by RobotHero at 12:04 PM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, all this internet business is much worse than back in those heady salad days when our choices were so tremendously diverse. Why, I believe I watched all seventeen VHS tapes available for rent at the neighbourhood drug store. It don't get any more diverse than that!

Oh, wait, no. It does. And we're living it right now.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:04 PM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've never done any disc in the mail type service, but.. I have to agree with RobotHero in principal. I used to watch re-runs of favourite shows, or re-watch favourite movies regularly. On the other hand, choosing from a list of content sitting on my hard drive, or available from a streaming service, just makes it feel incredibly unimportant to spend the time on any given thing NOW. For example, as a re-run on broadcast TV I'd gladly watch any episode of South Park, but since I have it sitting on a hard drive, I look at the episode title and think "no, not that episode" until there is none left to choose.

I guess I just find that I'm particularly terrible at curating my own tastes.. or something.
posted by Chuckles at 1:08 PM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can anybody corroborate that hyperbole for me?

Yes, Unstoppable was surprising good, with working class heroes, themes and celebration.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:47 PM on November 24, 2011


Obligatory: EPIC 2014 (circa 2004)

2004 will be remembered as the year everything began...

2008, Google and Amazon join forces to form Googlezon...

2010, the computer writes a new news story for every user...

2014, The Evolving Personalised Information Construct...

Today, in 2014, the New York Times has gone offline. In a feeble protest to Googlezon's hegemony, it becomes a print-only newspaper, for the elite and the elderly...
posted by nickrussell at 1:58 PM on November 24, 2011


And it doesn't help that, especially in America, everybody labors under the myth that they are a rebel.

And a unique individual, one who knows better, a clique, a party of one, a hipster. A marketer's dream.
posted by y2karl at 6:50 PM on November 24, 2011


Introspection time, though, Rory. Do you sympathize with the argument in the article, and did you post this here because you thought users of this site would generally be receptive too?

I try not to predict what MetaFilter is going to say about things.

Whoever it was above that said the Internet brings out the best and the worst in people... pretty much that. But that's what makes it so invaluable for looking at who we are and how we behave. Studying the behavior of masses of people online can tell us things about how we think and act which we can subsequently adjust.

We're eager to embrace viewpoints which match ours – and we're quick to assume that a viewpoint that doesn't is simply wrong or beneath us. Not everybody, but many people, enough that it's a problem. We insist on respect for ourselves without paying it back in return – I get a whiff of that here with the people going off on film critics, the purpose of whom is to say, "there's more going on here than maybe you thought on your own" (and you can say that about almost anything and be guaranteed right; cinema particularly is a goldmine). Why call it disrespect when somebody tells us that, but then respond with vitriol in turn? It's paradoxical, though understandable, behavior, and by recognizing it we can avoid it.

I don't want to get in-depth about all the ways I think the Internet shows us behaving. Nobody wants to hear it. But I thought this article was articulate enough, right enough, and passionate enough that it struck me just the right way and made me think about all this all over again. One of the best articles I've read on the subject recently. Worth sharing here, regardless of what any individual person thinks of it – sometimes I post things to MetaFilter to see the community's response, and this time I didn't care much what the community thought. I just felt it should be read.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:21 PM on November 24, 2011


This is an oft made argument and it's always wrong. A fifteen year old kid with a smartphone in Africa today has more information at his fingertips - from all points of view - than President Clinton, never mind Aristotle or Newton. Nothing has done more to break down cultural segregation than the internet.
posted by joannemullen at 11:17 PM on November 24, 2011


A hundred years ago we rarely left the same neighbourhood and our neighbours probably had the same upbringing, religion, and culinary tastes as we did. They thought pretty much the same way.

There's some truth to this. But I think that what people are saying about the internet here is the same thing people used to say about big cities. In a big city, you can more likely find people to associate with who are very much like you. In a small town, you're more likely forced to hang out with the people who happen to be there. As G.K. Chesterton said, "We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbor."

I think we trade one kind of segregation for another. There are some things that all my neighbors will have in common and some ways in which they differ a lot. There are some things the people on my favorite internet site will all have in common and some ways in which they differ.

Which is more diverse? The people who all live in my neighborhood, but have a wide variety of education and interests or the people from around the world who read Dissent magazine? Trick question. The groups are diverse in different ways
posted by straight at 12:19 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


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