It is really bizarre being down under for the first time. I almost forgot about Rosh Hashanah as here it's the beginning of Spring and not Fall, as usual. Aside from that, it was a lazy weekend of Netflix and stuff. That's where this is coming from. Also, don't worry: it's not like all of a sudden I'll start writing every two days. I most likely will go dormant for the next six months.
15.1 the "author vs. patron" debate
The Italian Film Festival in Venice awarded director Alfonso Cuarón a Golden Lion for his film Roma. The Italian guild of theatre owners and film distributors (yes, there is one) went berserk because the film is distributed on Netflix. This issue is not new: it came out in April 2018, when the Cannes Film Festival basically flipped the bird at Netflix, first rejecting films that weren't distributed in theatres, then accepting them only as Out Of Competition. As someone in some article (can't track it down, sorry) wrote: it was hard to sympathise with both sides. While the Festival's position is a bit out of time - after all, the money injected by players like HBO, Netflix or Amazon created so many opportunities in the video entertainment arena - Netflix's operation might raise some concerns. Mainly that there is an inherent risk with the above platforms: the platform brand can drown the director name - and cinema is a director's industry. How many directors can you name off the content provided by those three players? What Cannes wants to do is to protect the authors vs. the distributors, protect the "brand" of the creators vs. those of the patrons. Which is difficult in this algorithm-defined branch of reality.
15.2 the consensus transaction
This is a mechanism we are all very used to: Social Networks propose us content based on what we previously liked. In Netflix terms this means: since I watched all of Narcos, I now get pushed Narcos: Mexico, El Chapo, Pablo Escobar, Drug Lords, Cocaine Coast and others I won't mention (because you got the gist). Now, does the fact that I liked the former show mean that I want to become an expert over more than 200 hours of television? And Netflix doesn't have the social network aspect (yet), so I just get recommendations based on what I watched, not on what my peers watched. On LinkedIn, the content that floats to the top is the one that people in our network consistently like. Which is a dangerous transaction in a business built on ideas: I don't want an echo-chamber, I want different opinions, I don't want to agree: agreeing doesn't stimulate thinking as much as disagreeing does. I want to see movies I might not like. I want my entertainment landscape to be like neighborhoods such as Brunswick in Melbourne, Mong Kok in Hong Kong, Astoria in Queens, NY. Not perfect but with a defined identity. Personally I don't want everything to turn into a sanitized _____ (fill here the blanks with a gentrified metropolitan area of choice) with the usual brands dominating the landscape. But do we really think this is a process that would benefit culture?
15.3 the gentrification of culture
Wider access to publication and distribution is not a bad thing. But it should not mean homogenization, which is the ultimate danger in this "visibility by consensus" universe. Otherwise, to continue on the real estate analogy, Netflix, Amazon and all the content distributors risks ending up like those big commercial avenues - think Singapore's Orchard Road - where just big, global brands can afford rent. And in return, they turn the space into a non-place people just stroll through distractedly. Which, for a content platform that lives on engagement, is not a very compelling value proposition.