The Cultural Netolution
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By Charles Moffat - 2006.

For decades we have become accustomed to getting things for free. We can hear music on the radio, for free. We can watch shows and movies on television for free. We can even see famous works of art in our local library for free.

Granted, hearing music live will always be superior. Watching live drama on a Shakespearean stage or watching a Hollywood blockbuster on the bigscreen is infinitely better than television. Works of art look so much better in person, whether they be above your couch or sofa, or whether they be in a famous institutional art gallery.

But BUYING music, movies and art is still a rarity for people. Yes, we went throught the 1980s and bought many a VHS tape and during the 1990s we converted to DVDs, but statistics show that people with VCRs bought more blank tapes than off-the-shelf movies. Why? Because they could tape it off television for free and fast-forward through the ads.

The same goes with music. During the 1980s the tape cassette caused a scandal when Sony introduced cassette recorders so that people could copy their favourite songs and share them with friends. In the 1990s the same phenomenon began with CDs and eventually DVDs too.

Buying artwork has always been cheaper to buy a poster. With the advent of the internet now you can download the artwork and print out your own small-resolution copy to be tacked onto your fridge with magnets. With a high-quality industrial printer (which costs a pretty penny) you can even print out full size posters.

So why is the music and movie industry so upset about people download music and movies? Its not like people haven't been getting illegal copies beforehand. Illegal copies are available on the street. I can walk out my door, walk 20 minutes down the street and get a copy of Mission Impossible 3 from a street vendor. It won't even be that great of a copy. There probably will be some guy's head in the way during most of the movie.

Other copies make their way to North America from overseas where the movie has already been released. I remember being in South Korea years ago and seeing the latest Harry Potter movie on ripped DVD six months before it was released in theatres back home in Canada. Incidentally South Korea also has the fastest internet service in the world and has the highest per-capita of homes with internet access.

Indeed very few people in South Korea ever buy legal versions of movies. Instead they get high-quality downloads, either free or through a paid online service.

Years from now North America will be doing the same thing. Television will be almost totally obsolete.

Why bother when we can download all our favourite tv shows (either free or for a small fee), burn them to DVD and watch them whenever we want.

And here's the other trick: I don't buy a DVD until after I've seen the movie. Why should I buy a movie that I've never seen that might turn out to be crap?

I also don't bother to go to the movie theatre unless I REALLY, REALLY want to see a specific movie.

We have the technology for people to be paying for movies/tv shows online and downloading them, but we just aren't using it. For several reasons:

#1. A lot of downloaders are children/teenagers who don't have a credit card. #2. Adults who are downloading either don't trust the internet with their credit card or don't want to pay for it. #3. Why pay for something you could watch for free on television? (And copy on to a VHS or DVD-R.) #4. We are used to getting these things for free anyway off television and radio.

I confess I download old tv shows. Sadly I can't find these tv shows on television reruns and they are not available on DVD. My only solution is to download them online.

The biggest changes however is in text. Namely books, magazines and newspaper articles. Beforehand people rarely bothered to photocopy books. It just wasn't worth the time and effort usually. Now people can download their favourite books, print them out or read them online (or read them on a small portable PDA). People don't seem to be worried as much about this new phenomenon, likely because buying a book costs anywhere from $5 to $30 depending on the size and whether its an hardcover.

But once again reading books is another thing we can regularly get for free: Thanks to libraries.

I will be surprised if we are still printing out new books in 2020. A small portable PDA with a wi-fi link to an internet library seems like a much more logical route. If we are printing new books (for traditionals who refuse to buy a PDA) they will likely be much more expensive. I estimate anywhere from $15 to $50, and most of them will be ordered online. Traditional bookstores will slowly disappear.

Lastly I think we will see books that are ranked by popularity online, possibly websites where people can download "a page for a penny" and the whole book for $3. In this way we will be able to separate the cream from the milk and determine which authors are spectacularly good and which ones are just wannabes.

As a filmmaker myself I believe in the future of free movies and tv shows. I intend to create an entire tv show series that can be downloaded online for free. It will likely be low-budget and star mostly university students, but it is something I intend to do more as a hobby and as an art piece instead of a way to make money. In that way I will put my work above the low standards of "reality tv" and the other trash currently available on the idiot-tube.

Video-games and software piracy is also rampant, but higher standard for such games and also "free verions" are out there. The video-game business is more profitable than the movie business, and for one key reason: Video games are highly addictive. Movies and tv shows are not addictive. Although we still want more, more, more there simply isn't more to give because it takes a lot of time to produce and make a movie whereas a video-game, being interactive, can be played again and again with different results each time.

Mark my words, the internet will drastically alter and shift the world towards a more artistic and higher standard of entertainment.

The internet has been called a "cultural evolution" but I am coining a new phrase: "The Cutural Netolution". Why? Because the internet is itself evolving. In the beginning it was just text, then text and images. Then the internet became "Napster-ized", Napster being the catalyst for mp3 music downloaders and eventually movie/tv show downloaders, sparking the eventual demise of normal television. Cable television, given time, will eventually be a matter of "What do you want to watch now?" and there will be no set time or date of a particular show. There will simply be a release date and an option to download (quite likely for a fee).

Long live the Cultural Netolution!