July 07, 2006 | Graham

Big Brother convergence

Everyone seems to be talking about that “turkey slap” (what a wonderfully evocative term, and I must be getting old because I’d never heard it before) but no-one seems to be getting the point. There’s nothing really to be scandalised about, it’s just a case of convergence.
Unless of course you think that pornographers don’t have the right to make legitimate productions.
Many a glittering career has been launched on the basis of hard or soft pornographic movies or photo-shoots, or sustained on the same basis, yet we don’t criticise broadcasters for showing the non-pornographic works of these actors.
Normally the producer of the pornography and the producer of the legit material are entirely different entities, but they don’t have to be. There’s been more than the odd movie that has had to have scenes cut from it for Australian distribution but which is available in all its glory on the screen overseas, or here on DVD or on the Internet.
What’s happened in the Channel 10 case is that Ten is simultaneously producing material for two different media – broadcast and the ‘net. The “turkey slap” was narrowcast to a pay audience, like most pornography on the ‘net, but only the more wholesome material was broadcast. So the scenes deemed not fit for public consumption were effectively cut, but made available for an audience that was interested in it and qualified to see it under our laws. Not much difference here to the situation where you have the movie, and then you have the “director’s cut” or the DVD with some of the excluded scenes on it as a special feature.
This is just one aspect of convergence, an aspect to which Lawrence Lessig applies the hip term “remix culture”, and which those of us more prone to jargon call “repurposing”. We’re going to see much more of it, and unless you are going to characterise the nature of the polished product on the basis of what is excluded from it rather than what it contains, there is no way around it.
Or characterise all the work of the actor on the basis of what they do in their private lives. The other aspect of the Big Brother case is that because these actors/people are living their private lives out where we can see them, we tend to confuse reality and production. Looked at in another way, what happened on Ten is little different to what happens in the real life of Paris Hilton, for example. Paris and boyfriend shoot a home video which finds its way onto the Internet. Women’s magazines and newspapers report on this, while not showing the video. They also continue to report on all the other goings-on in Paris’s life.
Do we stigmatise all the reporting of the Paris Hilton reality show because of a hand-held video cam job, or just continue to buy the magazines? The only difference between Paris and BB is that Paris had to do her own filming rather than contracting it out to New Idea, whilst BB did the whole package.
That the government, and the media, are tying themselves in knots about this indicates that both have a long way to go before they understand that the old publishing world where everything sat in discrete boxes called broadcast, video, print, wireless and so on has disappeared. Now there is only product, bandwidth and audience, and the same material will be cut-up and polished for different audiences using whatever delivery system provides the appropriate bandwidth.
As long as no-one is breaking the criminal law, this is a situation that is to be embraced, not regulated. If it is legal to “turkey slap” a willing partner, then it’s OK to allow it to be shown, as long as the “actors” agree and the audience consents, and is legally able to consent. BB is showing us the future of media, and there is no point trying to stop it, despite the fact that to some this future is just as confronting as being “turkey slapped”.

Posted by Graham at 4:07 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Media

1 Comment

  1. The problem lies with the displaying of the ‘turkey slap’
    –it’s is certainly not legal to do that particular action in most, if not all public places, however, as you said, it is legal in your own home providing everyone consents. The issue lies with the problem that what happened is closer to the former situation.

    Comment by Michael — July 20, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

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