Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cultural Identity

On the one hand, indigenous and migrant cinemas point towards the significance of cultural identities, especially in settler nations like Aotearoa and Australia. On the other, it is in general cultural identity which must bear the brunt of the question as to why films from one culture are so frequentl;y difficult to export to people of another. Sadly, it appears that increasing levels of communication – in terms of both access and sheer numbers of images – enabled by the growth of internet communications and digital film equipment have not made our cultural diets more varied. On the contrary, the evidence is that self-reinforcing groups consisting of users who generate content for other users like themselves are producing homogeous but mutually discrete cells of lifestyle demographics which, while they pass for culture, more frequently act as the targets for marketers who can micro-target advertising for the in-group. While cultural identities survive beyond the communicative capitalism of the 21st century, within it, that is within the domains of digital film, they have been supplanted by IDs, the expression in a database economy of indioviduals and their groups as aggregations of data (age, postcode, gender, shopping and browsing preferences . . . ). The database economics of a fundamentally arithmetic recording of both media and audiences drives towards a mass market for hypercapitalist cultural goods, and micro-markets for specialised consumers. In such conditions, cultural identity is at once a spicy addition to the cultural mix, and a desperately needed addition of novelty from outside the self-reproducing system of a market capitalism no longer capable of generating its own invention.

From a piece submitted to the digital issue of Studies in Australasian Cinema

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