Saturday, November 22, 2008

Participatory Culture(s)

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is a gigantic website that holds all information pertaining to movies, TV shows, actors, directors and anyone else who might even be related to someone who works in entertainment. I, myself, love movies, and when I discovered IMDb about four years ago, I also discovered the message boards, found on every person, movie, TV shows, etc page. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours discussing, arguing, debating, sharing, and agreeing with fans and trolls alike about movies and movie people. Although this academic blog is my first foray into the world of blogging, I suppose my time at IMDb can be seen as something of a spring board into my newest venture of blogging. Goodness knows I’ve spent enough effort on it.

It’s interesting to look at something like the IMDb message boards from McLuhan’s point of view of “the global village”. He saw a shift from the print culture to a more encompassing culture – the internet. The combination of two cool mediums, the internet and film/television (based on where you see it; it could even be a computer), heightens our sensory participation with the world. [1] No longer are we watching the movies alone taking in all the messages and storing them within ourselves. Likewise with the internet; we don’t simply go over to IMDb, read up on the newest James Bond film and mull over it silently in our rooms alone. We take these potentially all encompassing mediums and connect with others who may share or completely contrast our ideas and opinions on the films, etc. we love. The combinations of these media extensions amplify our senses tenfold.

Through sites such as IMDb, which enable message boards to the general public, there is a liberalizing process that takes over. It brings the art that has been so elevated for so long, in Walter Benjamin`s words, from the firm grasp of the bourgeois into the hands of the proletariat. [2] Here, individuals such as me can vent about everything from the casting problems in this film and the plot discrepancies in another. It democratizes the medium of film which, before the advent the internet and specifically sites like IMDb, was held accountable only to “movie critics” (who often times work for newspapers or networks which are connected to the production companies that produce the films and thus can’t really criticize even if they wanted... media hegemonies strike independent thought yet again).

Participating in this online subculture of movie geekdom definitely give me some pride and satisfies me. When I see a movie I absolutely loathed I can go on and vent my anger alongside others in my same situations and when I see a film I completely adore I can go on and fight off the people who dare insult my precious. In a strange way, I feel more connected with my films sometimes when I can go on and see what other people are saying about them as well, particularly when it’s a small movie I think I’m the only person who’s ever heard of it. I like the connection to my movies. I like the connection to my World Wide Web.

[1] Playboy, "The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan." Playboy Magazine March 1969. 10 Nov 2008 . <>.

[2] Walter, Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"

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