The "evolving nature and aesthetics of creative content" covers the emergent structures and subject matter of storytelling with digital media.
In terms of interactivity, television can have a relationship with the internet that film cannot. Reality TV is obviously interactive, but I think ABC's LOST, with its fake websites that supplement the show's mysterious characters (see Charles Widmore's "Race Around the World") is the best example of the potential for the Internet to change the nature of traditional tv drama.
Deconstructing the Image
Consumer digital technologies have planted into the aesthetic psyche of younger viewers a noticeable comfort with the mainstream degradation of the image. Just look at "mockumercial" ads aimed at the under 35 demographic. Patricia Winters Lauro writes in the New York Times that
[s]traight direct-response pitches hardly ever work anymore, and increasingly agencies have turned to spoofing their own industry to attract viewers long enough to deliver a new message...Direct-response advertising as a genre is especially appealing to parody because it's "so cheesy," Mr. Jendrysik said. It is an inside joke that the public gets, he added, even the GameTap target audience of 25- to 35-year-olds, who may be too young to recall the '70s pioneers like Ronco, K-Tel or Ginsu knives.
This degraded image aesthetic was driven primarily by the need for lower cost production with the world wide expansion of cable, but it works with younger viewers because they have become consummate consumers of electronic stories. And, their aesthetic is as much about the cost of production as it is about 'deconstructing the image'.
Inversely, prime time television markets and produces its programs more like blockbusters, trying to capture mainstream audiences, fractured by multiple distribution platforms.
Theatrical audiences increasingly demand "high imaging" with 3D and CGI (an outgrowth of the gamers demand for a "heightened experience"). Mark Chiolis of Thomson Grass Valley inquires in my interview with him:
"Today there are a number of thought provoking questions that are being asked. What happens when there is a true RGB 4k (there isn't one today) sensor that rivals, if not exceeds, that of today's film stock? One of the arguments for film is that people like the "look" which includes the grain and movement through the gate. What happens when the "game-boy" generation takes over? Having grown up with "video" is this the "look" they want to see? Will they have a different set of standards to compare to?"
Some say the subject matter of today's emerging content is generally solipsistic and passive - an outgrowth perhaps of the the gaming generations relationship with the anonymous web or with media itself. But, look at the bleeding edge technology and science of virtual reality. Look at the studies of the psycho-physical effects of these media tools on users in medical and defense research. Passive is not the right word to describe this relationship.
One cannot understand this evolution in content unless they have a MySpace or Facebook page and love it. Why? There is a freedom of movement in the field of archetype and symbol that enables both artist and audience to observe without disclosure, absorb without acquisition, and create without the demand for conclusion. The repetition of archetypical representation uncovers both artist's and audience's collective mythologies, thereby revealing: The anonymous is personal.
Renowned urban planer Richard Florida notes that the fundamental social and economic changes that underpin the creative economy, demonstrate that in "virtually every aspect of life, weak ties have replaced the stronger bonds that once gave structure to society. Rather than live in one town for decades, we now move about. Instead of communities defined by close associations and deep commitments to family, friends, and organizations, we seek places where we can make friends and acquaintances easily and live quasi-anonymous lives. The decline in the strength of our ties to people and institutions is a product of the increasing number of ties we have."
How have television and new media influenced the sensibility and subject matter of creative content? I see the primary relationship the game generation is exploring, is with the media itself (I am not talking about the news media, I am talking about media itself). They are deconstructing the "sitcom" and "documentary" and even the "commercial brand".
You may consider video games passive. They don't. For them it is an exploration with identity by roleplaying. "Reality shows" are the obvious outgrowth of their propensity for role-playing, a study of the dramas of personality. As one writer I spoke with remarked, "Entertainment is always flirting with reality. It seems that things that don't aim to be thought of as real do a much better job. Verisimilitude, it's what it's all about."
Absurdity and Secular Mysticism
Is there a common thread in the subject and structures explored by newer creative content, a post-post modern sensibility? They have a desire for authenticity coupled with a disdain of "truthiness" and even traditional ideology. For dramatic content and docu-reality, they create satire. Like dissident antipoliticians from the former Czechoslovakia, who used satire and absurdity to highlight the fact that in a postmodern consumer society the "line of complicity runs through each of us," this new American generation distrusts political grandstanding and even traditional forms of organized politics. Hence, the popularity of so-called no brow satires like South Park, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show.
The playwright Heiner Mueller once remarked that the potency of theater in his native East Germany was based on the absence of other ways of getting messages across to people. "As a result," Mueller says, "Theater here has taken over the function of other media in the West," before now. While the never ending surface chatter of talking points and double speak on both the left and the right continue to erode the value of words, they also inflate the space between the lines.
In the midst of the secular mundane, their relationship between identity and media is increasingly portrayed as mystical, interactive, and "high touch". I see this exploration in movies like Adaptation and I Heart Huckabees.
Brand as Lifestyle
Take MTV's Virtual Laguna Beach as an example of the evolution of brand: how the concept has extended itself into the realm of branded communities in the digital age. Gamers (the generation under age 35 and including generations X and Y) have grown up in a world saturated by brand so that the phenomenon is now a vehicle for personal expression and identity beyond the ostensible confines of a corporate mandate (well, except their own).
Commentators like Rob Walker (see the NYT's article, "Brand Underground") elucidate well on the social phenomena. However, they tend to look at the expression as another failed modernist attempt to beat the system. Hand me the cyanide, the revolution is over and we lost!
Boomers are wired to view creativity as a choice between "selling out" or "sticking it to the man" and the quest for the great society as a dogmatic battle between the mediocrity of relativism and the virtue of absolutes. To use former bohemian terminology, today's generation does not have that hang up. "They have relatively little generational consciousness," writes David Brooks, "because this generation is for the most part not fighting to emancipate itself from the past." The suggestion is provocative considering that while "the baby boom included the largest U.S. birth cohort to date, the game generation will ultimately outdo the baby boom in size, in scope, and presumably in influence," notes John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade in their study of the game generation's influence on organizational values in business. "The total size of the game generation is already greater than the baby boom ever was," and the whole generation of gamers, "including X and Y and letters to be named later-simply approach the world differently than their predecessors."
Globalization (from the point of view of the valley)
The game generation take globalization for granted and the growing trend towards crossover cultural content from other traditions: for examplem Bollywood and Japanese Anime illustrate this point. Unlike their predecessors, these younger electronic media consumers are more likely to digest cross-cultural creative content - for example, Japanese anime - as automatically and unselfconsciously as they would their own. In fact, for this demographic, international content, is viewed as more 'original' than 'foreign'; because, as authors John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade have pointed out in their study of the effects of the game generation ethos on the culture of business, this birth cohort takes both globalization and the consumption of electronic media and socialization in all its forms as automatically as they would their own. In other words, they look at globalization from the viewpoint of the valley rather than the hill top, and they also view electronic media as an extension of themselves and their own culture - even if that interplay is couched in a verisimilitudinous role-play with their foreign counter-parts.
(But that, perhaps, is for another blog post.)