How the view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence has evolved

Sunday Tribune - - LOCAL -

THERE’S a lot to be said for tra­di­tion, even in the anti-so­cial art of tele­vi­sion watch­ing. But with tra­di­tion in­vari­ably comes the bad, bad story of ig­no­rance, ac­cep­tance of pre-mod­ern mod­els of be­hav­iour, the un­com­fort­able loss of hu­man au­ton­omy and in­de­pen­dence.

For life­time tele­vi­sion view­ers like my­self and I guess my read­ers, the tra­di­tional way of tele­vi­sion watch­ing as­sumes that broad­cast tele­vi­sion is the only way to go. Kinda like ra­dio, but with pic­tures.

The only skill re­quired by the viewer is mas­tery of the on/off but­ton, some­times aug­mented by a par­tial un­der­stand­ing of the elec­tronic re­mote.

And so it was way back in the be­gin­ning of South African tele­vi­sion time, in which rapt white fam­i­lies in their “go-to church on Sun­day cloth­ing”, watched the static SABC TV logo some­times for hours at a time, fol­lowed by a cu­ri­ous ver­sion of the news read by peo­ple in wigs and crim­p­lene, re­gard­less of gen­der. Dstv changed all that with a “bou­quet”.

This im­plied that for a large and metas­ta­sis­ing fee, plus some hard­ware and a skot­tel on the roof, you could es­cape the SABC and get a truly fra­grant bunch of flow­ers picked from the elec­tronic gar­dens of the en­tire world, in­clud­ing Rus­sia and worse.

But be­lieve me, fel­low sin­ners, free­dom from the SABC was never free­dom in the best sense; merely an ex­ten­sion of choice.

Sadly so much of this al­leged choice was made by the ser­vice provider who thought­fully pro­vided slightly more sport channels than ones pump­ing var­i­ous ver­sions of re­tail re­li­gion.

To be fair, the re­mote be­came in­tu­itive, while the PVR fa­cil­ity al­lowed some free­dom from the straight jacket of the timetable and the mind-de­stroy­ing hor­ror of end­less re­peats.

And then one day quite re­cently, free­dom for a small fee ar­rived via the in­ter­net. This was, is and shall for­ever be Net­flix, not to men­tion its lessor im­i­ta­tors.

Tra­di­tional broad­cast­ers, state and re­tail, are de­mand­ing pro­tec­tion, us­ing the same tragic and self-de­feat­ing ar­gu­ments as the anti-uber lud­dites.

Net­flix dis­trib­utes a huge range of se­ries and one-offs, but more im­por­tantly makes or com­mis­sions a great deal of highly orig­i­nal ma­te­rial.

The qual­ity is suf­fi­ciently high to mas­sively weaken the elite Cannes Film Fes­ti­val and mar­ket, which fool­ishly and self­de­struc­tively lim­its it­self to “real” movies, as shown in a shabby cin­ema near you.

With Net­flix and its de­riv­a­tives, the con­ver­gence of film and tele­vi­sion gets closer and closer.

What’s there to love? Let me count the ways, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der. The ad­min­is­tra­tion is sim­ple in the very best sense of the word.

You get a month free to try it all out. If you get sick of it all later in life and feel the deep de­sire to re­sume your re­la­tion­ship with the TV on switch, or maybe read a book, you can stop your sub­scrip­tion there and then.

The view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is quite novel. Net­flix is quite clearly driven by a con­scious­ness that ap­proaches The Divine.

It knows so much. Like my pre­vi­ous choices.

Even my place in an episode that I’ve de­cided to in­ter­rupt or aban­don. It’s a bit spooky, I grant you, but ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is a vast im­prove­ment on or­ganic stu­pid­ity.

All this as­sumes an in­ter­net con­nec­tion of course, but one day when all schools lose their pit la­trines and pa­tients stop dy­ing in the pas­sage­ways of gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tals, this coun­try of ours will fol­low states like Finland, where free high-speed broad­band is a con­sti­tu­tional right.

A luta con­tinua! Play it again, Cyril. Just one more time.

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