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Internet Content: Devaluing our Culture

by Archives October 14, 2008

If video killed the radio star, the Internet has made the video star gravely ill. And it may never recover.
YouTube and other online video sites are having a disastrous impact on television and movies. But not in the way you think.
TV ratings and movie ticket sales are far for slumping and Hollywood is still making billions. The real loser here is the video medium as a whole.
Online video is the TV dinner dilemma of our time. Swanson surely never intended to have a long-term impact on the way people had supper. All the company wanted was to offer men a delicious meal when their wives couldn’t cook (hey, it was the 50s).
Over the years, the aluminium trays have become plastic and microwaveable and have spawned frozen pizza pockets, pies and poutine. And our eating habits have never looked back.
The same goes for online video. It was created to fill a void – to complement the content that was already online, or on the tube or the big screen. News sites uploaded video of eye-catching stories that text and still photos could not fully convey. Hollywood studios made movie trailers available for web surfers to tell their friends “hey, check this out.”
But at one point in the past decade, someone had the bright idea of breaking down barriers and putting full TV shows and movies online. Whether legal or not, it’s a bad idea.
Suddenly, we find ourselves surfing to sites like alluc.org and surfthechannel.org which offer free access to just about every TV show and movie imaginable. Great? Not really.
The problem lies in the fact that we end up consuming all this video on a tiny, pixelated screen with sound quality that is similar to that of two tin cans and some string. It’s far removed from the way the productions were meant to be seen and heard.
Sure, the web is great in making video accessible. Never before has it been so easy to watch the latest Johnny Depp flick or last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy. But with this one step ahead for accessibility, we’re taking three steps back in the quality of the cinema as a craft.
The battle over copyrighted material online is never ending. While consumers want free content, producers want control over content. And rightly so: creators of great art should be compensated for their hard work. But while consumers try to navigate between affordability and ripping off directors, they’re missing the greater, more far reaching problem here.
Uploading the shows and movies is like taking delicious creations from Montreal’s best chefs and freezing them. After a reheat, the final product is mediocre at best.
The chefs would speak out against the movement, saying it does not do justice to their haute cuisine. Yet I hear no producer decrying the online degradation of their chefs d’oeuvre.
The spread of online content threatens to ruin our collective ability to appreciate culture as more than watered-down soup-du-jour.

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