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