i was sitting in the industry consultation session held by Telefilm Canada, a federal corporation tasked with, among other things, dispensing cash to the country’s audiovisual industry, including teevee, film, and interactive content producers. Telefilm is restructuring its fund and calling it the Canadian Media Fund (CMF). One side of the fund gives money to teevee producers who put their content on at least one other platform (the Internatz, mobile devices, VR goggles – whatever). Telefilm has cooked up the detestable term “Experimental” to describe the side of the fund that is not teevee-dependent, which may include video games. Thankfully, enough industry folks urged them that “Experimental” was a terrible term and it’s being changed.
What’s in a name? Ask Moira Fenkleheimer.
So while i sat in the session, which was quite full of mostly teevee industry folks (and a small but extremely vocal and TERRIBLY worried-looking group of documentary filmmakers), i heard the word “digital” thrown around to describe what we do here at Untold Entertainment. The suggestion came up more than once that the “Experimental” stream, the one that was not concerned with teevee, be renamed the “Digital” stream. “Balls to that”, i say. Here’s why:
You Crazy Kids With Your “Rock n’ Roll” and Your “Hyperlinks”
The consultation really got me thinking about nomenclature. i see the term “digital” being thrown around all the time to describe what we do. The people using this term are mostly my parents’ age – baby boomers who have evolved from calling the computer mouse a “whatsit”, and are in positions of power at various places. These folks comprise the Old Guard of the entertainment industry. They’ve wrapped their minds around all this “new media” stuff to the point where they’ve siezed upon a catch-all term for any kind of content that wasn’t around when they were watching Howdy Doody on their 6-inch teevee screens in their costume chaps: digital. They must be so pleased with themselves.
Crimony. And they say the FUTURE is scary …
The Messenger is Not the Medium
The trouble with the catch-all term “digital” is that it doesn’t do a damned thing to differentiate between linear, one-way communication like radio and teevee (phone-in shows excepted), and true interactive content that you find in video games and on websites. “Digital” describes a method for delivering content – breaking the material down into discernable ones and zeroes (“digits”) and pushing those numbers through a pipe (cable, phone line, airwave) to the end user, where the numbers are translated back into pictures and sound. “Digital” is the evolution of “analog”. “Psycom” may be the evolution of “digital” for all we know – content transmitted directly to your brain. It STILL doesn’t help us describe the type of content that is reaching the end user.
It’s as if you were trying to differentiate between horses and cars, so you choose the term “commuting”. But then in many parts of the world, people start riding horses to work. Suddenly your term does nothing to differentiate the two concepts, because it described a method of consuming the thing, instead of describing the thing itself.
“Nicotine delivery system” does not differentiate between harmful cigarettes and helpful gum.
Oh No He Di’in’t
So don’t call me digital. Teevee is digital, and i deplore the comparison. Teevee is also unidirectional, dumb, and on death’s door. And that’s fair – i’m sure teevee people resented being lumped in with radio, while radio didn’t appreciate being mentioned in the same breath as … i dunno. The Pony Express? At any rate, it’s all fruit, but when we lump teevee in with interactive, we’re comparing apples to pictures of apples.
Call me “interactive”. i feel it’s the best term that differentiates linear content from the amazing things we’re doing to involve and engage our audiences. If you’re part of the old guard and you’re clinging to your burning, sinking teevee ship with a tear in your eye, and you’d like to keep calling anything that follows teevee “digital”, be my guest. i promise we won’t put any Playboxes or X-Stations in your retirement home.