Back in the days, around about Portland, we used to have a little event called Internet Movie Night. This event is fairly self-explanatory: a group of people got together, took a laptop, and played some videos off of it through a projector on a big screen TV while a group of (mostly young) people looked on and laughed. These events were loosely affiliated with Gracie's, but then, a lot of Portland's cultural life in this decade was loosely affiliated with Gracie's. I was at two of these events: one at The Know, and another at Liberty Hall. Probably around thirty people were in attendance each time. I don't remember too many of the videos, but I do remember a few: the German forklift safety training video, an animation that someone did to Coltrane's Giant Steps, and of course, my first exposure to the wonder that is Strindberg and Helium.
My description of this might leave the reader thinking "So What?", and that is actually the response I was looking for. The people reading this right after I write this will think this is so, if someone ends up reading this in five or ten years, they will think this entire idea is even less impressive. And the reason for that, is that in early 2005, a company called youtube was founded. It caught on fairly quickly, (as you might be aware), and at this point, internet movies, especially the short, absurd and irreverent kind are probably as much a part of most young people's lives as listening to the radio, or drinking soda and eating snack food. The idea that watching short internet movies would be a significant reason for people to get together already seems quaint, because internet movies are now just something to watch in the morning while your coffee is brewing. But at one time, they did have some significance. It already seems like an exaggeration to me, but three or four years ago, communally enjoying something that was not available in the mass culture seemed to be a bonding experience, like going to a secret mass in a communist country. Quite a big charge to put on the scattered images and words put together by stoned college kids.
In the modern world, access to information is the mark of status in both the dominant and counter-culture. What is significant about having an event like Internet Movie Night as a shared experience of having access to uncommon knowledge or culture, is that nothing that we watched was terribly significant intrinsically. It was not like watching Strindberg and Helium gave us access to some type of understanding that the common, television-watching masses lacked. It was, in a way, scarcity for its own sake: a mark of how information is monopolized by the dominant culture (through the form of copyright and patent, for example), and how even the counter-culture must preserve its elite status through manufacturing scarcity (in the way of having access to information that most people aren't experiencing). This paragraph, however, is more speculative, but hopefully can be better understood in the future, when the economy of scarcity and information is better understood.