This week I read A.O. Scott’s The New York Times article “The Screening of America” (23 November 2008). What Scott seemed very concerned with was the fact that we consume media differently that we ever have before, often with more distractions and in wildly different environments. His example of watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on his own laptop really summarized his overarching argument that this new way of consuming media may “mean the death, or at least the transfiguration, of cinema as we know it.” As part of this course we’ve spent some time discussing the shifts toward a multi-screen environment, in which we watch TV shows on our phones, or embrace the home theater for film viewing, and Scott seems to be taking this discussion to the next logical level.
I see a great deal of the consumption patterns that Scott is describing taking place in my own life. Though I went to a large number of movies in the theaters when I was younger, I find that I am actually spending quite a large number of film viewing hours at home. But that’s not all, I also watch trailers on my phone and laptop, and will often distractedly watch shows and films on them as well. Does this mean that cinema is dead? Or has it simply been “transfigured” as Scott suggests? That’s a bit trickier to parse out, but I do think that maybe Scott is being a bit too dramatic. Taking the film industry as an example, hasn’t the viewing experience always been changing over the course of time (he mentions 3-D as an example, but color film also changed things considerably)? Didn’t audiences in the Silent period relate differently to the medium than those in the 30s, 60s, 90s, or even today?