Browse //
Craig Baldwin - Dystopian Outcomes of Media Revolutions Past
San Francisco, April 2007 
HDV Version (1.44 GB)Ogg Version (22.3 MB)Subtitles
(you need a BitTorrent Client to download the Videos)
Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike

Baldwin was sceptical at the proposition that the current upheaval in the media industry, sparked by digitalization, could lead to a more heterogeneous and decentralized media environment. His doubts are born from experience of previous technological changes, such as home video. His view is that these innovations are quickly absorbed by the media conglomerates and he argues that power is in fact being consolidated rather than broken up. His view is quite dystopian but provides an important counter to technological messianism. For him, critical agency is the necessary key to change, which tools can't provide.

Play from beginning
00:00:00 Interview with Craig Baldwin
00:00:05 I'm very sceptical of these new media revolutions
00:00:07 just so you know...
00:00:09 The video revolution came out and very quickly
00:00:12 that was turned into America's home video,
00:00:15 everything was shot by people who were in their homes,
00:00:19 same thing happened with youtube,
00:00:21 twenty years ago when a video camera came into people's hands,
00:00:25 and what they shot is basically...
00:00:26 their cat getting drunk, you know what I mean,
00:00:30 and that's fine
00:00:32 but how many billions of cats getting drunk do you want to see
00:00:37 so, that's for me, a cartoon version of the absurdity
00:00:44 I'm not asking for there to be an avantgarde group of people
00:00:48 who will lead the viewers,
00:00:50 but I'm just saying people should step up to the challenge of youtube
00:00:55 and not just me brush my teeth, brush my cat's teeth, whatever...
00:01:00 and so what?
00:01:01 Anyway this is an issue about utopia and dystopia,
00:01:04 it is a central issue,
00:01:08 I don't want to say I'm utopian or I'm dystopian, that's silly,
00:01:12 the onus is not on some technological...
00:01:14 there's been a million technological developments that failed
00:01:19 all of which could have produced some kind of change in society.
00:01:25 Look at radio, you have internet radio, sure,
00:01:28 you have micro-broadcasters, sure, but in the same period of time
00:01:32 the 80s and the 90s, you have massive consolidation here in the US with Clear Channel
00:01:36 in the same period of time.
00:01:38 So you might say...
00:01:40 well the group of people listening to 'alternative' rock or whatever
00:01:44 grew from 3% to 7%
00:01:46 in the same period of time all the people who listen to the jazz stations
00:01:51 jazz - good example - jazz
00:01:53 classical, you know, that 60% of the people,
00:02:01 now they have to listen to
00:02:04 stations that are run by the same corporation.
00:02:05 In other words, half as many providers,
00:02:08 and all their playlists are already set by some committee.
00:02:12 So, yeah, sure, we had cable access
00:02:15 we had UHF don't you know...
00:02:17 We had FM radio, it's all in Specters, another film I made...
00:02:21 What I mean is, this theory has already been shredded
00:02:26 since the sixties, it didn't really...
00:02:29 all these utopian promises were not delivered.
00:02:36 they all ended up in more consolidation, more power.
00:02:42 I don't want to be part of the rush of people
00:02:45 saying that just because we have this or that platform
00:02:51 you know, the ugly past is behind us
00:02:54 because many of the people who control these new avenues of distribution
00:03:00 are in fact corporations, very rich,
00:03:04 they're larger than the television from the generation before
00:03:10 well, they compete now with the television companies
00:03:14 Yeah, you can watch my movies, or your movies for that matter,
00:03:19 anywhere in the world but...
00:03:20 you can also watch anything from Hollywood, just so you know
00:03:23 Yeah, through BitTorrent or Youtube or whatever
00:03:27 digitally you can move a file to China or whatever
00:03:33 but way more bad things are going out than good things
00:03:38 yeah it's like the faucet is turned on more there's more flow,
00:03:43 again, there's no argument there,
00:03:46 but just because you have more flow I don't think it's necessarily a good thing.
00:03:49 It does open up space for other kinds of things
00:03:52 that didn't make it into the flow,
00:03:54 but they're totally diluted, if you ask me,
00:03:57 totally diffused with all the other stuff
00:04:01 there's more commercial messaging, more war,
00:04:05 there's more misogyny.
00:04:08 Don't you see, I'm not a utopian
00:04:10 I'm realistic
00:04:12 Just because we have other means of making movies and distributing movies
00:04:19 it doesn't mean
00:04:22 that the basic conditions of life on the planet
00:04:25 for most human beings will change.
00:04:27 I think it's a good thing for those people who do have access to computers,
00:04:30 who are certainly a minority of people on the planet
00:04:33 and those people who choose to take
00:04:36 access to older work, archives
00:04:41 that's also a very small minority.
00:04:43 And by the way, with copyright, which we haven't really gotten around to
00:04:46 at the same time that there's the proliferation of
00:04:49 platforms for media production, exhibition and distribution
00:04:53 really, in terms of the law
00:04:56 it's clearly, there's no doubt about it, I challenge you...
00:05:00 to come up with any evidence to the contrary
00:05:04 that the restrictions around
00:05:07 what's proprietary material
00:05:10 has become much more narrow,
00:05:12 there's no doubt about it
00:05:14 I can name three, there's the Sonny Bono Act,
00:05:16 this is of course in the United States,
00:05:18 the Digital Millenium Copyright Act
00:05:21 all of these have really acted to
00:05:24 to restrict people to less and less material
00:05:29 which was part of our cultural legacy.
00:05:31 Of course there can be people who use it
00:05:34 despite the copyright legislation
00:05:37 which is precisely the people I keep talking about
00:05:39 the outlaws and the margins
00:05:42 who do things regardless of the wider trends.
00:05:45 This march towards the web
00:05:47 as some possible way out
00:05:51 in the guise again of this utopian...
00:05:55 exercise of free speech so...
00:05:59 I remain unconvinced of that.
00:06:04 There's exceptions, and by the way, they're all subcultural
00:06:07 they're all minorities,
00:06:10 there's not going to be some magic pill
00:06:13 BitTorrent or Youtube that's going to stop the problems
00:06:16 it has to do with human imagination
00:06:20 and critical will, that will do it.
00:06:24 it could be argued that those things make possible and enhance
00:06:29 critical agency
00:06:34 And I'm willing to give that a chance.
00:06:36 I haven't really seen any proof of it yet.
00:06:38 There's plenty of people out there who are watching
00:06:43 the worst kind of soap opera right now
00:06:46 all over the planet
00:06:48 and i can't save them you know
00:06:50 hard as I've tried! I can't save them!
00:06:53 But the thing is, it's not me versus them,
00:06:55 that's not the model anymore, those people will always be there,
00:07:00 Bu the ideas will be carried on by a smaller group of people,
00:07:04 be they activists, or be they anarchists
00:07:07 or be they artists
00:07:09 it's gotta start with an 'A', whatever!
00:07:11 So I'm looking for more of a...
00:07:17 I embrace the democracy but
00:07:19 really it has to with will,
00:07:22 it has to do with consciousness, it has to with a critical point of view
00:07:28 and the critical skills
00:07:31 aren't necessarily there just because we have platforms,
00:07:34 wider bandwidth or whatever,
00:07:36 that's what's going to make the difference for me.