Picture it. I'm sitting at my
computer trying to figure out something obscure about
verifying transmission of DTMF digits and something
obscure about the English language at the same time, like
does validate digits mean the same thing as verify digits
and if so why and so on... and my cellphone rings. This
is odd since Ned is in Brazil trying to find himself
again and he's really the only one who calls me on my
cell when I'm at work. I look at it and realize it's a
text message. I read the message, which only says u,
ascertain that it's not from anybody I know, and delete
it. A half second later, another text message arrives.
Again it says u and I don't know the sender so I delete
it. This happens again and then again for a total of 4
times. My cubicle neighbor asks "Is that you?"
unironically. For some reason this reminds me of
article by Bill Marx on WBUR's web
site about online movie
reviews somehow leading to replacing live theater with
cellphone movies so we start taking pictures and talking
about making movies with our phones. At least tiny movies
would be more interesting and possibly less enigmatic
than that single character text message, u.
Anyway, I couldn't quite follow the
logic of how getting most of our movie reviews online
would lead to viewing most of our movies on cellphones
let alone how that would lead to "culture that fits on a
screen". A cellphone screen. Teeny tiny culture. Leaving
aside the problem that I don't know what culture is --
this has been a problem for me since sometime in 1995 or
'96 when I read The Future Does Not Compute, in
which Steve Talbott says, among other things, that the
Internet is corrosive of culture -- what kind of culture
(whatever it is) fits on a cellphone screen? Music videos
for sure. And movies made with cellphones, which are all
the rage now with contests for cellphone filmmakers
sprouting up all over the place since the first one in
Portugal. I actually think challenging film students to
make a 30 second film with their cellphones is a good way
to stimulate creativity. Check out the Ithaca
College Cellflix Festival.
The winning film is kinda cool.
The meme going around seems to be
that once young people get used to seeing everything on
tiny screens that will be what they expect all the time
so anything designed for another medium is doomed. Even
live theater. Audience expectations supposedly will
shrink along with screen size. Marx even quotes David
Farr of the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in London quoting
Emma Rice (Kneehigh Theater -- also in London) as saying
that people are more "visually literate" than "aurally or
linguistically literate" nowadays. Theater without words?
Don't most of those MP3 files people are loading into
their iPods have lyrics? How will we entertain people who
not only can't read words but can't understand the
words they hear? I'm getting this image in my head
of tiny 30-second video clips of mimes gesturing to a
soundtrack by Kraftwerk or something.
I dunno. The Internet was supposed
to have made words obsolete 10 years ago yet look at how
many people blog using text rather than graphical images.
Some of the words are even polysyllablic. Some people
even blog about words -- lately I've been enjoying
Hat very much. The theater
has supposedly been dead since the middle of the 20th
century so i don't think it's the size of cellphone
screens that's killing it. Oh and books are still the
killer app for reading just in case you thought I could
get through an entry without mentioning that little meme.
If I kep at this long enough I can even work in Franklin
Pierce, I'm sure.
A couple of things people don't
seem to be mentioning about cellphone movies though are:
1) Can you hold your phone at arm's length for the
duration of a feature length film? 2) How many people can
watch the cellphone screen together? I'd much rather curl
up on the couch with Nancy and pop a DVD into the player
and watch the movie together on a TV screen than have
each of us watching separately on cellphones. And there
already is a feature length cellphone movie out there,
in South Africa so we'll
soon find out how far into viewing the film you get
before you drop the phone from fatigue or tendinitis or a
momentary attention lapse.
Combine a meme and a mime and a
text message u and when Chao-chou asks "Is the theater
really dead?" Joshu answers "Mu".