The forward looking bias

I have a blind spot in my thinking. It’s a blind spot that’s shared by many of us who are privileged in our access to education or technology. It’s a bias that skews our analysis and leaves glaring gaps in our worldview.

Malwen pointed out such a gap in my CURNBLOG piece on changes to film distribution, and I want to address that gap. But first, lets have a look at that bias.

A lesson in logic

Years ago, on the train back from my Grandma’s funeral, I got into a discussion about religion with a Baptist minister. I don’t remember his name, but he seemed like a Dave, so we’ll call him that.

It was an interesting conversation to have with a stranger, especially one who was well informed on his subject. I’d been reading Camus and Dawkins at the time and came out with a lot of well-reasoned arguments around evidence and human experience, explaining why I found the basis of so much faith unconvincing. I just couldn’t understand why people bought into it. I thought that if they just thought about it they’d realise it didn’t make sense.

Then Dave presented a point that completely blew my mind.

Most people don’t think like me.

I was a humanities graduate from a prestigious (read old-fashioned, arrogant but incredibly well staffed) university. I was a post-graduate student trained to dismantle the world through logic and reason. I had spent half my life ploughing through piles of books. I was surrounded by other people who spent their leisure time debating these issues.

The arguments I was deflating, Dave pointed out, weren’t intended for me. They were the way other people got into religion, people who didn’t approach the world the way I did. To them, those arguments made far more sense than my high-level logic. That was why so many people believed in a way that made no sense to me.

Mind. Blown.

This is your brain on logic
This is your brain on logic


So, cinema…

Skip forward 13 years, and I’ve just written what I consider an insightful peace on changes in the entertainment industry. I’m pretty proud of it. I’m getting some nice comments on the post.

Then Malwen says:

while very many people have access over the Internet to films, there are some who have no access and so are dependent on the old forms of distribution, and those, like me, who have access but with bandwidth too low to download or stream film’

And I’m right back in that train, slapping myself on the forehead for my narrow world view.

It’s not that my argument about where distribution is going is wrong. Hollywood’s most profitable audience is well-to-do westerners, and the ones with the latest toys pull the rest along with them. The changes I wrote about will happen, because the behaviour of people like me will allow certain forms of culture to prosper.

But what about everybody else?

Well, it depends how broad a picture you draw. There are plenty of people in the world with no access at all to the entertainment I’m privileged to have. They still won’t get my bright new future of online distribution, but that’s not a priority for them. Because lets not forget, while I’m watching the latest Joss Whedon film there are people starving. The world is amazing, and at the same time terrible.

For those who watch films but don’t have access to the new distribution technology, old approaches will remain. There will be cinemas. There will be DVD rental. There won’t be as many, and they’ll struggle, but they’ll survive by catering to their audiences, by giving them these same films as quickly as they can. People without suitable streaming technology will be at a disadvantage, there’s no doubting it. But they won’t be entirely abandoned.


Because there’s an ‘and’ to balance the ‘but’.

The technology that’s making all this available is speeding up the pace of change. It leads to people getting what they want sooner. It’s leading to cheaper and easier access to technology.

I’m an optimist. I really do believe that more and more people will get access to technology that lets them experience the whole sphere of human knowledge and culture. Some people are being left behind, but the human desires to know and to share, along with business’s desire to make money out of everyone, are starting to close the gap.

The internet empowers people to take the information they want. The businesses and organisations that succeed will be the ones that support that, not fight it. And so the signal gets shared.

Closing the logic gap

My article in CURNBLOG told half the story. Failing to acknowledge that was an ignorant, privileged way to tell it. But there’s hope in the other half of the story too. Because while not everything humans do is flawless, we are building a better world.


Explosion picture by Maxwell Hamilton via Flickr creative commons

Disruptive Distribution – guest post on CURNBLOG

Just a quick note to say that I’ve got a guest post up today at CURNBLOG, a blog about films. It’s another piece on the distribution of In Your Eyes, this time expanding upon the creative implications of this distribution model. If you’re interested in film or in the changing nature of creative businesses then you might want to give it a read, and maybe have a look at the other interesting film articles on CURNBLOG.

In Your Eyes – Joss Whedon and the future of distribution

I admit, I didn’t think I could admire Joss Whedon any more than I already do. Kick-ass script-writer, eloquent feminist, architect of the intricately impressive Marvel movie universe, and bearer of a stylish beard. How could he get any more awesome?

Answer: by creating a charming-looking indie genre film and releasing it straight onto the internet.

Leaping joyfully forward

We all know that the internet is undermining established cultural distribution channels. Record stores are dying in the face of iTunes and file sharing. Amazon is gutting the big chain bookstores, leaving the quirky and the unique to re-emerge from the rubble. Illegal streaming services are the bane of the film and TV industries.

Creative businesses have basically two options when faced with this.

Firstly, they can dig their heels in and get defensive. This is the approach that involves lobbying for harsher copyright prosecutions, that tries to limit internet access to stop file sharing. It’s putting a huge effort not into giving customers what they want – easier access to the products they enjoy – but into preventing it.

The other option is to go with the flow, to recognise that people don’t just file share because it’s free, they also do it because it’s easy and convenient. Give them that ease and convenience, the opportunity to watch the latest films and shows in their own home at a time that suits them and without the interruption of adverts, and most will pay for it.

In Your Eyes

This is what Joss has done, releasing his latest film, In Your Eyes, straight onto a paid streaming service at the same time as its premier yesterday. Rather than digging in his heels he’s leaping joyfully forward into the new era, setting an awesome precedent for others. Sure he still works for the big conservative studios too, but that gives him the money, trust and publicity to achieve things like this.

Plus it gives us the interconnected joy of the Marvel movie universe, so yay for that.

I haven’t had time to watch In Your Eyes yet, but you can be sure that I will, and that I’ll come back here to enthuse about it at great length. Unless it’s bad of course, but this is Joss Whedon so I can’t see that happening.

In the meantime, lets take a moment to appreciate the wonder that is the man Whedon.

Mm, beard.