MPAA: choice and the sovereignty of consumption

The Motion Picture Association of America as released some figures from an industry-funded piece of advocacy research outling the ‘impact’ of piracy on… something (they don’t actually say what). There is little indication in the press release where they came up with these figures. It is disturbing to see these figures reported in the media without any comment about their legitimacy.

How are the ‘losses’ calculated? Do they guestimate how many movies are pirated, copied, or downloaded and then simply assume that for every copied, pirated or downloaded movie that is one less ticket sale at the cinema or one less DVD/VHS sale at the store? Is that how it works?

I think the relation between circulation and access to copyrighted IP and the alternate channels of content distribution opened up by consumers is much more complex than a simplistic profit/loss equation.

So there are not any cinema goers who will see a movie downloaded off the internet in shitty quality produced through a smuggled in-cinema camera and then decide that the movie was great, and worth taking one’s girlfriend/father/car club along to? Well that probably does happen, but I would suggest it doesn’t happen anywhere near as much as the reverse.

Someone will download some stupid shit produced in the Hollywood machine, then they write about it on their blog warning all their readers not to see the movie. This will take sale away from those represented by the MPAA. Not because of piracy per se, but, for example, because the critic-function of the cultural industry is circumvented by a thousand little blog-critics. Moral of the story? Don’t try to strengthen one of the main circuits of information and desire layed out in the previous incarnation of the cutural industry (studio-critic-audience-cinema) and do two things:

1) Stop producing shit movies. MPAA, please make this recommendation to those you represent and I can promise they will make more money. Make films that people want to actually pay money to see at the cinema. There IS a difference between shitty in-cinema camera films downloaded off the internet and the ‘cinema experience’. That is the ONLY difference that the ‘motion picture industry’ has working in its favour.

2) Simultaneous global film releases. Do they think it is smart to stagger releases so as to tweak the massive advertising campaigns for their pieces of stupidity? Here are some figures; advertising is more than one third (over $36 million on average) of movie budgets. Over $30 million to advertise shit. Release a film globally and people in countries other than the US will have no desire to see a film as soon as it becomes available using channels of distribution that do not make MPAA members any money.

They blame piracy for loss of profits? Yes, and this is the last insult. Accordig to their own figures:

Worldwide box office held steady at $23.24 billion in 2005. Although down 7.9% from 2004, the worldwide box office reflected a 46% growth over 2000.

46% growth in box office over five years? Huge losses, huge!

Speaking of shit movies, DO NOT SEE SILENT HILL, according to this review.

Van Art: Objects and Events

Vans viewed as art can be defined both as objects and events. They are certainly objects. But street art is a living art. Street vans specifically are not meant to be objects primarily for display. They are functioning vehicles. Therefore, street vans can also be viewed as events. For many devotees of vanning, it is the process of customizing that is critical. Thousands of hours are spent in modifying drive trains, tail lights, acid etching vent windows, etc. When the van is completed, it is often driven for a very short time, then a new series of modifications is begun. For the avid customizer the object is not the van but the process of creating that is critical. Van art for this type of producer is an event. For many audiences, it is also an event. Van art is perhaps most often experienced as a glimpse in the other lane of traffic, or the chance to examine details while stopped at a traffic signal, or walking through the grocery store parking lot. Therefore, in at least two senses, van art can be viewed as an event as well as an object. (111)

The straightforward assertion by Sherri Deaver that van art is an object and event is remarkable. A very useful way to start the ‘Vanning’ prelude to my Street Machine chapter!

Functioning versus display? Is this a residual binary of ‘active’ versus ‘passive’? I would rather frame it more as a general question of affects. The customizer selects and teases out the various affects, on multiple registers, that constitute a ‘custom street van’. The display functions and the function is displayed.

Deaver actually diagrams the major three determinants of a ‘custom street van’: custom (not stock), street (not strip or show), and van (truck-based vehicle rather than car or bus). Which shall be very useful for me in defining the Australian Panel Van scene as different from the US ‘large’ van or truck-based vanning scene. Australia’s Panel Vans (which occupied a similar cultural niche to the US vans) are based on commercial vehicles derived from passenger cars. The movement from commercial vehicle to leisure vehicle is otherwised shared.

I really don’t understand how I have missed this article. It did only come online in 2004, which might explain it as I did my major lit review work in 2003. Works such as Moorhouse’s on Hot Rodding (let alone the Australian stuff which doesn’t seem to make any connection to US car cultures) largely ignore these other cultural forms of enthusiast car culture in their sole focus on rodding.

Deaver, S. (1983). “Van Art: Prosaic Images.” Journal of Popular Culture 17(2): 110-122.

Article; Street Machining

EDIT: I now have a copy of the article. Thanks people! Wow, that is the most practical thing to ever happen in my whole blog career!

Can anyone out there in blogland help with access to this article:

Graeme Turner (1999) “Tabloidization, Journalism and the Possibility of Critique” International Journal of Cultural Studies, 2: 59–76

My uni (UWS) doesn’t have access, neither does USyd. If someone has access and could get me a copy I would appreciate it.

After a long time trying to figure out which ‘media studies’ tradition my magazine stuff should come under it is this ‘tabloidization’ stream. However, there are big differences between what is normally talked about as being ‘tabloidized’ (news and current affairs) and my focus (enthusiast media). The shift from being a structural component of social relations (‘fourth estate’; ideological relations) to producing striated spectacularized representations (‘machinic media’; affective relations) is the same for the modified-car culture enthusiast media over the 1980s except in much more condensed form, ie the ‘spectacle’ is not distributed ala Debord.

My example is of the trajectory of the Australian Street Machine Federation and clubs in general in relation to the enthusiast media set alongside the rise of the spectacular ‘pro-street’ style of modification and the transformations in the big-time show circuit. In retrospect the clash of these two trajectories saw four major shifts in Australian modified-car culture:

1) the eventual closure of two magazines (Supercar and Street & Custom) and the rise to dominance of one (Street Machine).

2) the loss of authority/potential for the major national Street Machining club/federation, the Australian Street Machine Federation, in relation to the magazines (the three mentioned above), and in relation to the strengthening of the other major club, the Australian Street Rod Federation. (After the split in 1973 between what became ANDRA and the ASRF, the ASRF was built on a very strong club structure and now has a very good relationship with State motoring and registration authorities and automotive engineers.)

3) the gradual decline of the adhoc national body representing the Street Machining State-based club structure, the ASMF, and correlative decline in popularity, coverage, and status of the the national car show, the Street Machine Nationals, with the rise of the Street Machine magazine-sponsored Summernats.

4) the spectacularization of Street Machining with the rise in popularity, throughout the 1980s, of the “pro-street movement”. The pro-street movement was based more around show-based image and impact than ‘streetable’ technical or engineering factors.