CinÉireann Issue 8 - Page 28

In theory, the world is more connected than it has been at any other point in history.

Frigyes Karinthy speculated early in the twentieth century that any human being could be connected to any other human being by no more than six degrees of separation, a theory borne out by the later work of Stanley Milgram. However, by the twenty-first century, Facebook seemed to have cut that number down to three-and-a-half.

The internet has put a wealth of information and resources at our fingertips. It has also opened up a new world of possibilities for commerce and trade. Almost every commodity known to humankind can be tracked down on Amazon, and what few items remain out of the conglomerate's reach may not remain so for long. Despite a current reactionary trend towards protectionism by countries like the United States or the United Kingdoms, the world truly feels like a global market place.

So why is it so hard to watch films?

One of the big innovations of modern cinema is the idea of digital copies and the existence of the cloud, the possibility that a person may be able to maintain a virtual library of titles to which they would maintain access anywhere that had a solid internet connection. Your phone or you laptop becomes a portable film-mobile, capable of streaming directly to a nearby screen in the highest possible definition.

There are obvious limitations to this approach. There are justifiable concerns about ownership, with critics (reasonably) observing that a person never actually owns their digital copy of a film. They are instead renting it for life. This has obvious implications with regards to use and privacy, but also makes it impossible to engage in the age-old cinematic practice of lending and gifting beloved movies to friends and colleagues. Of course, the intellectual property mechanics were always ambiguous and complex when it came to the ownership of physical copies, there is no denying that the shift to digital represents a fundamental change in the sharing and spreading of film culture.

Similarly, there are those who are reluctant to transition for (justifiable) aesthetic reasons. A streaming copy of a movie will simply never look as beautiful as an equivalent quality copy playing off a piece of physical media. More than that, it is hard to begrudge those individuals who simply like the feel and the texture of physical media.

Film is such a subjective and creative medium that people

The unbearable toughness of streaming

Words: Darren Mooney

28 CinÉireann / June 2018