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From BIG DATA to Small Cinema? Challenges & Opportunities of Cinema in New Media

October 30, 2018 | By

With the expanse of digital technologies and internet there is a lot of data for every individual – be it taste, behavioral pattern or even social sentiment. This ‘big’ data is harnessed by companies as customer targeting has reached a new aggression. Cinema not only gets changed continuously with respect to the format and projection technologies but the bigger question is with so much information about the audience preferences whether cinema is actually becoming ‘small’.

Click the video below to watch the video essay

In today’s media studies the one overwhelming, over-encompassing area is New Media and how it may affect our approach towards cinema and any art form for that matter.

Personally for me I find the subject of New Media extremely fascinating and equally difficult primarily because it is something that is happening right now, at this very moment. It is always LIVE and hence dynamic. It is probably far easier to observe any ‘happened’ (not ‘happening’) phenomena from a retrospective distance so that we can dissociate us from it and judge it rationally. Nonetheless I will try to focus on 2 aspects of New Media or its effects and see how it, if at all, affects cinema.

My proposition focuses on India primarily because from technology and telecom penetration perspective, India is at the crossroads from being an ‘emerging’ market to an ‘emerged’ one. The rate of increase of mobile internet subscription is extremely fast with 1.1 billion subscribers of wireless telephony as on 31 July 2018. The boom of mobile telephony and the internet ensured that the giant nation is slowly but surely getting addicted to the small screen.

Does this mean that the traditional cinema’s technical characteristics need to change? Will the aspect ratio needs to be altered for better viewing on a mobile screen? Does that also mean that certain scenes may be rendered ‘ineffective’ within the small contours of a smartphone and will dictate the script-writing process?

At the same time due to this increased association with the mobile which is the most dynamic private accessory that one can think of today, social networking sites, e-marketing sites, content viewing on the mobile and the likes are on a spree. This generates huge information about the subscribers, their behavioral patterns, something which is termed as ‘Big’ Data. With the knowledge of audience preferences and the historical parameters of success for a film a day may not be distant when there will be ready-made recipes for a successful film in any genre. Will creativity be compromised? Will the director’s ability to experiment and take risks be further limited by the burden to make his/her film a Box-office hit?

Will this also make the future of cinema limited and the future cinema ‘small’?

A slightly different version of this presentation was delivered at a Symposium at Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), Kolkata on 24 July 2018. The title of the symposium was “Cinema in the age of New Media: Challenges & Opportunities.”

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Creative Writing

Whether you are new or veteran, you are important. Please contribute with your articles on cinema, we are looking forward for an association. Send your writings to amitava@silhouette-magazine.com

Amitava Nag is an independent film critic based in Kolkata and editor of Silhouette. His most recent book on cinema is Beyond Apu: 20 Favourite film roles of Soumitra Chatterjee published by Harper Collins India. He also writes poetry and short fiction in Bengali and English – observing life in a platter.
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