mar 13

Eisner Thinks The Future Is the Past

[SXSW-influenced post #2.] You know what? Fuck Michael Eisner. As pseudo-documented on Twitter, Eisner's message at his packed SXSW conversation with Mark Cuban was that the future of online video is basically television. Seriously. That's the best he could do. And then later he rolled out this one: "I think basically what separated this country from the rest of the world was patents and copyrights." He really said that! I heard it! (It was slightly misquoted but even worse that my original Twitter quote, snagged from this Techdirt post that addresses Eisner's whack revisionist history involving Abraham Lincoln and copyright. He really said that too!) If these two separate themes have a colliding philosophy, it's this: old media hopes that the future will be the same models, methods, and commodities as the past.


I hoped you were gonna' talk about this. Being the theory nerd that I am, what I found interesting was your twitter about how Eisner felt that narrative would stay the same - i.e. that content works somehow independently of form. As you said, it seems naive that the form and nature of the internet won't have an impact on what constitutes 'narrative' or drama, comedy etc., esp. when even the aesthetics of web pages will have an effect on it...

posted by Nav at 7:00 PM on March 13, 2008

If he were here to answer to this, I suspect he would say that his overall point is that storytelling is universal -- that there are good stories and bad stories. Ignoring the essentialism of that for a moment, there's probably something about that which is true: Buffy and Shakespeare and The Wire and The Real World all use some of the basic story-telling devices. I guess. And interactive storytelling will probably continue to use some of these. I guess.

But here's the thing: it's the least interesting part! Why didn't he talk about how online video is different? How user-interaction might affect fiction? How audience affects stories? How production might work differently? How the viewer's environments might affect the stories?

Add all of these differences up, and you start to see all the ways that online media is interesting because of its potential to be different.

I have this weird feeling that the 1950 version of Eisner would describe television as being just like radio.

posted by Rex at 7:13 PM on March 13, 2008

Heh - I was just reading something on Jameson and how he thinks of narrative as an epistemological category i.e. something that's simply inherent to our understanding. But yeah, from a literary perspective, Eisner's is a very conservative, 'new critical' approach - that the author controls meaning, that the story is what it is and that the legal-economic system encourages, rather than represses or distorts, artistic expression. Carr also thinks about interactive stories in the same, dismissive way and I think it's indicative not only of 'business objections' but also very deep-rooted cultural ones about 'the artist', 'the work' etc...

posted by Nav at 10:22 PM on March 13, 2008

I hate to say it, but as a Dutchman, I agree that what separates the Hulu's, the iTunes Video stores, the Amazon's, the Pandora radio-stations, etc. from quite a few countries in Europe, and probably the world, is license-agreements.

I'm already getting used to the fact that if I read about a cool new media-service on [insert tech-site here], it won't be coming out in the Netherlands anytime soon, possibly never. Thank god, for my fellow global citizens, that torrents have no such limitation.

posted by Vincent at 4:17 AM on March 14, 2008

In the end, these corporate assclowns will probably get their way, as they have the money.

posted by Mike at 4:33 AM on March 15, 2008

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