The Great Flicktubeo

Between Schumacher and von Clausewitz

By Rick Jelliffe
February 23, 2010

Indulge me a fit of archetyping and epigrammatic pomposity. As far as technology goes, I see us in a continual dialectic between artists and soldiers: between Fritz. "Small is Beautiful" Schumacher and Carl von Clausewitz. I tend to see corporations in this light, too: their value with regard to technology is at best that of the stem to the petals. (I think this underlies most of my positions on standards, patents and FOSS, for example.)

Today, catching up on the videos, it struck me again how YouTube/Vimeo/Flickr kind of hosting website embodied this: the corporate distribution mechanism and the extra-corporate content. The cliche has long been that artistic types create because they are internally compelled to. I'd say that this also effects one's taste in music/performance as a consumer too: there is an element of compulsion, of resonance with personality in what we latch onto when we browse.

There is so much focus on Social Computing but it strikes me that much of what goes on with YouTube/Vimeo/Flickr content is not personal but very impersonal, in the same way that a private diary is actually very impersonal (man being a social animal): someone documents or declares to the world at large "I did this" or "I liked this". The same goes with much blogging and twittering. The content posted on the Flicktubeos are not MacGuffins designed to merely provoke conversation, and where they are (such as attempts at viral marketing) we feel cheated or that the social contract has somehow not been honoured: the conversation and comments afterwards are the pleasant fallout from the bomb, not the bomb itself. The content is there to fill the universe, to make the external reflect our internal life more: it is a form of cave decoration.

I am thinking these things trying to figure out why my two most engaging media experiences this month have been performers with strong but unknown backstories:

  • Miss Denise Hewitt plays the Theme from Clockwork Orange which thrusts us deep into a real life and absolutely drips with theatre. (It is made even richer by her subsequent triumphant rework of the same Purcell piece, though congnoscenti will miss her signature hair flick.)
  • William Onyeabor's Atomic Bomb which similarly draws you into his world by the end, where the sheer length of the song is at such odds with the lyrics that midstream we have to shift the meaning from crowing to wooing, from strength to weakness.

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