Monday, August 22, 2005

An aside on the power of technology-based media as a social tool

I recently ran across a few articles (links to follow) on a documentary, "Born into Brothels," by Ross Kauffman and Zana Birski. Intrigued by the concept of following the lives of red-light district children who are given simple 35mm point-and-shoot cameras, I decided to rent this film. I wanted to point on an interesting facet of this film -- that is its illustration of media and technology as a social binder and empowering device.

I have always felt that art (be it film, music, paintings, poetry, photography, etc.) is an important keystone in any society. Through art, people have a connection to either the history of the culture or people, common threads and characteristics experienced by people, and a method to share information not easily said through everyday communication. This last point especially is why it takes a special "artist" to convey the messages with fidelity and emotion.

The film delves into how the lives of children of prostitutes are transformed with a simple camera. Consider the advent of the Internet and the ease of delivering media. Simply put the low cost delivery channel -- the Internet -- allows even the most detached and remote people accessible. Who knows where the next Picasso, J.K. Rowling or da Vinci is -- perhaps its one of these children shown in the film, such as Kochi or Avijit. In either case, I find that the power of technology based media will help these artists find their voices and audiences that care. Its true that with this ease will come lesser skilled artists, but that is a small price to pay as compared to gains of those invisible to or unwanted by society suddenly having voices and being heard.

At Trax In Space, the company I begin in 1993 to deliver music through the Internet directly from musicians to their fans, the effect of publishing MP3s online had a similar consequence. Many musicians like myself who did not have access to labels, promoters and products suddenly had an affordable method to push our message to those who would listen. Out of the tens of thousands of musicians, who used Trax In Space as their primary method to sell and distribute their music, several truly gifted artists were able to get their "big break." The normal distribution curve might suggest that with tens of thousands it would be expected for a few to outshine the others, but what is not suggested that if it were not for Trax In Space and the use of the Internet (and MP3) as a delivery mechanism, these artists would never even have had a chance. Hence from the remotest and direst of places like the red-light district in Calcutta to the drum and guitar filled garage of suburban youths, the technology driving media today is an incredibly powerful social tool.

A few articles on the film, the last link being the official film site:

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