The afterlife of media

Lorcan 2 min read

I was playing with Rock Band at home the other day – well, moving my fingers anyway. I was struck by the way in which it gave renewed life to old songs. Who would have imagined, for example, that the youth of today would strum, drum and hum along to Should I stay or should I go? by The Clash?
I write this as I fly to California. I have a bad head cold and realized that I would not be able to sustain my usual practice of intense, continuous work on the plane. I thought I would settle for a less intense form of work and decided to try watching a movie on my iPod Nano, something I had not done before. I had limited time to get something, so after I could not find my first few choices on the iTunes Store I cut the search short and went with the first John Cusack movie I had not seen before.
So, I ended up on the plane watching Grosse Pointe Blank. I was interested that it was a pretty reasonable experience on the small screen. Anyway, I settle in and what do I see (just about) in the opening credits? Score by Joe Strummer (of The Clash)! And a retro-evocative 80’s soundtrack.
I then turned to the Atlantic and was interested to read an article about the future of TV in a changing media environment of online availability of content:

And here’s the final twist. As TV and the Internet converge into something generically known as broadband, the distinctions between the two will soon become nugatory from a consumer point of view. But will this resulting hybrid be more like TV, plus interactivity; or more like the Internet, plus TV? The distinction will be worth billions to whoever gets there first and organizes this mess in a fashion that’s satisfying for consumers. The networks and cable companies, therefore, will need to move quickly to find a way to package the different streams – professional and user-made, broadcast and Internet – into a huge, interactive library, all easily and pleasingly accessible on demand and portable to whatever device people are overpaying for at the moment. [Michael Hirschorn. The revolution will be televised. The Atlantic, March 2008]

There was a limited range of films on iTunes. There is an interesting selection of books available for the Kindle, but not enough to satisfy the majority of my reading needs.
I wonder how long it will be before when we read or see something, we can reach out and retrieve it. It increasingly seems like it will happen, even as we recognize the amount of work required to give large quantities of material an afterlife in our new digital environment.
Incidentally, I notice that I have a Clash album on the iPod: the songs don’t seem to come up very often in the shuffle. It turns out that the film did seem familiar: I must have half-watched it on a plane on some other trip.

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