Modern streaming services allow you to watch absolutely everything — from news to movies and the latest TV series. You can do this from any device, whether it is a smartphone, tablet, computer, or game console, and at any time. You just need to buy a subscription to the service. Those who have their streaming platforms and simultaneously shoot their content, as a rule, lead in this market; the most prominent case is Netflix. Content creation has become the business of streaming services.
While the content evolved, it started constituting everything from Fincher’s film, a cute dog video, a glamourous commercial, or an episode of a TV series. On the one hand, streaming services have benefited some filmmakers. On the other hand, they created a situation in which everything presented to the viewer is on the same level, which disrupts the unique and diverse experience different audiences demand. This paper will analyze and summarize the main points and insights about the current change in human behaviors due to the impact of streaming services based on articles written by Neta Alexander and Wheeler Dixon.
In the chapter On Demand, Wheeler Dixon (2013) assesses the impact of streaming services on our lives and the filming industry that will be influenced by fast-emerging online video platforms. One of the significant insights is the perspective of marginalization of the great movies that Netflix or Hulu does not display. Classic movies or those that are not that popular will not be included on platforms.
The situation is predicted to result in the disappearance of the massive part of the filming sphere that has driven the creation of unique and original stories. Netflix or Amazon already decide for us what we will be watching next, suggesting recent and popular movies and books. Alarmingly, the majority of these stories might not contribute to film history and are a product of the masses that deteriorate the development of filming as an art. Moreover, the physical reality of books and DVDs will cease as well, as suggested by Dixon (2013).
The filmmaker and scholar Dixon highlight that the streaming service became the dominant technology that threatened the existence of hardware people use to watch films, including Blu-ray of 3D utilized in cinemas. Business people understand the trend, aiming to move investments on the bright side of the industry. The issue raised by the scholar is the right of those online companies to do whatever they want with the content they provide and people as happened with Orwell’s 1984 that was deleted from all devices of users who purchased it (Dixon, 2013). It means that while such companies as Amazon or Apple aggressively acquire and produce content, they can delete it without the will of the owner, causing customers’ frustration and dissatisfaction and lacking a sense of ownership.
There are many more things that provoke anxiety in users, as stated in Rage against the Machine: Buffering, Noise, and Perpetual Anxiety in the Age of Connected Viewing article by Assistant Professor of Film and Media Neta Alexander (2017). The professor suggests that the process of synchronizing the two flows, namely the stream of images with the stream of our perceptual consciousness, is complex. Thus, when the stream of images is disrupted, we immediately understand that we are thrown away from the flow. This disruption, or as Alexander (2017) calls it, “buffering,” results in spectatorial anxieties and the appearance of new forms of viewing, which are marginalized by viewers’ memory and industry experts (p. 4).
The assistant professor associates buffering and sonic noise that cause perpetual anxiety with the utopian premises of the technological era that imply the instant interaction and “predictive personalization”, which should provide users with a seamless experience (Alexander, 2017, p. 3). Instead, the viewer is in the position of the necessity to balance continuously the pleasure coming from the opportunity to watch the new movie with the pain that arises due to recognition of the shortcomings of supposed-to-be seamless interaction and indefinite time of buffering. The situation of balancing on edge is also evoked by the “abstraction and dematerialization” that the user waits for from the streaming service that contradicts the materialization of all areas of streaming videos, including financial, technological, perceptual, and others (Alexander, 2017, p. 4).
It is also highlighted that buffering process is more than a technological one. Instead, it becomes an existential one because the moment when the video breaks down throws viewers out of their unity with the movie and demands to get back to real-life matters. Alexander (2017) states that Americans are becoming impatient and obsessed with the requirement to wait for online information to load, leading to the vast consequences for an attention economy or economy of access created by digital conglomerates. Our time and eyes become commodified by the streaming services that change architecture, habits, and relationships based on the requirement to be always connected to a router. While we refer to neurotic, anxious movements of clicking the mouse to avoid buffering and asserting our control over machines, they redirect our rage towards ourselves or people around us.
As our world becomes more interconnected, words, images, work, and leisure activities evolve to be almost interchangeable thanks to online services. When we watch new series on Hulu, Alexander (2017) states, we want to be viewed as “cultural citizens,” who, nevertheless, combine consumerism and citizenship and perfect products for future usage (p. 21). Media companies, social networks, and governmental agencies collect essential data about our preferences, behaviors, and tendencies and sell that data to advertisers and brands that want us to spend more on their goods. Besides, people pay a monthly subscription fee to Netflix, Amazon, and Apple; usually, such fees apply to multiple online services a person utilizes monthly.
Watching Netflix evolves as a form of efficient laziness because it has a mix of pleasant experiences from media consumption and the fear of missing out (FOMO) that is emerging as a common type of anxiety for users (Alexander, 2017). The cunning buffering process might bring a viewer such a demanded break from work who must watch all the series at the weekend. By doing so, a user can exchange opinions with colleagues and friends on the new episodes and fulfill the requirement to be cultural citizens that can easily socialize in different groups.
Wheeler Dixon sees the same trend regarding the new type of online consumerism when people watch series and forget them immediately after because popular films are bland and predigested. Universal audience acceptance of streaming services and TV channels going to websites is a present rather than future time, which might also enhance the personalized experience. Dixon (2013) argues that for the majority of viewers, several favorite TV channels are enough; however, they still pay for 100 channels, which should cease towards the personalized subscriptions for specific channels streaming online.
Streaming, nonetheless, is supposed by analysts to allow niche films that are of lower quality but still unique, which are not going to be economically profitable, to appear on the websites such as Netflix. This appearance should be partially supported by the marginal movies with big stars full of digital technologies used. Moreover, other technologies, such as lightning experience, lenses, cameras, and trucks used by famous past and current directors, might transfer to digital, leaving small space for cinematographers to produce new forms of films. Dixon (2013) highlights that still, there is a threat to non-standard music, movies, and books that might not be presented online or have enough commercial value due to legal reasons. Therefore, industry leaders should challenge the status quo of streaming services to make them diverse and inclusive.
To conclude, one can state that the emerging digital technologies and streaming services will be dominant in the filming and other industries and provide users with various new series, podcasts, and concerts to consume online. At the same time, these technological advancements already bring us perpetual anxieties, impatience, and rage that we must deal with. Streaming platforms began to replace visits to cinemas in the same way that Amazon replaced regular stores and brought issues explicitly associated with on-demand services, such as anxiety of a viewer who waits for a film to be continued due to buffering, disrupted expectations due to impossibility to use instant access to movies, and much more. Now it is time for experts in the filming industry and viewers to think critically about the recent changes and raise a word if they disagree.
Alexander, Neta. “Rage Against The Machine: Buffering, Noise, And Perpetual Anxiety In The Age Of Connected Viewing”. Cinema Journal, vol 56, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1-24. Project Muse. Web.
Dixon, Wheeler Winston. On Demand in Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access. University Press Of Kentucky, 2013.