THE IMPACT OF DIGITISATION ON CREATIVE AND CULTURAL INDUSTRIES
Nick Birch 2011
“These days, altered images are ubiquitous; the fairytale world threatens to engulf our own. The illusion is more complete, too — with digital technology it’s harder to see the smoothing. Stalin would have drooled at the possibilities.”
DAVID BYRNE (Byrne, 2009)
Digitization has impacted the creative arts since its inception and has even driven most sectors to where they stand today. Digitization is the conversion of information to a digital or binary format so that it may be processed by a computing device, making it easier to access, share and preserve (Whatis, N/A). The digitization of information enriches its quality, has made it possible to store in compact forms and enables it to be shared instantly. Advertising can more easily reach the masses and digital selves borderline immortality. Advancements in technology have seen the entertainment industry thrive in spite of also causing damage to sales. Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) has ushered in a new era of deception, warping reality and even creating new ones. In filmmaking, the line between imagination and reality has all but disappeared. Advertising can at times create controversy over what is an acceptable level of illusion. Even when informed, however, our vulnerability to accepting distorted realities seems to endure.
Advertising has changed in its culture over the years, transmogrifying from informational to emotional to communicate with consumers. Informational advertising evokes a cognitive evaluation from the consumer pertaining to a factual message, whereas Emotional (or Conceptual) Advertising elicits a more sensory persuasion (Impacts of New Media on Advertising, 2008).
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People have always been sceptical of what they see and hear. The widespread ease and accessibility of reality-altering technologies has even some poor, misguided souls believing that the Apollo Moon landings have been faked (Griggs, 2009).
Previous to the 1970s consumers were exposed to informative ads that helped them make decisions by exploring the positives of products and the negatives of competitors. Post seventies, informational ads were not as effective, as consumers were becoming more aware of deception in the government due to the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, they then associated that deception with media and advertising, forcing advertisers to change tactics.
(Impacts of New Media on Advertising, 2008).
This blatant form of deception has slowly been replaced by a different kind of deception. Because ‘[t]his switch has offered the audience less cognition about products and more sensory orientated heuristics about positions and branding of companies’ (Impacts of New Media on Advertising, 2008) they have become more susceptible to a more subtle form of illusion.
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Whether the above advertised burger is a product of a savvy Food Stylist or a partly (or even completely) digital invention is uncertain. The point is that the product has been enhanced for the purpose of generating sales. What is unclear is whether this enhancement has been made for emotional/conceptual purposes, or for informative purposes. If this “illusion” has been created for emotional or conceptual purposes, then one might argue that the image is intended to give the consumer a notion, a feeling of what the product is about. In this reality, the burger is everything it could be. If the illusion is designed for informative purposes, then one might argue that even though the actual product seems vastly different to what is advertised, perhaps all that the image is offering is a clear picture of what is included on the burger, or else blatantly generating false advertising about what the burger for sale actually looks like. Food Stylist Dario Milano believes that ‘thefood stylist’s job is in fact to enhance, not misrepresent, products’ (Milano, 2009). These enhancements might include the use of toothpicks, cardboard and glue, although some of the original product remains. Arguably, some of the original product remains when a digital image has been Photoshopped. Both techniques enhance a product, though it is difficult to distinguish a clear interpretation of the extent to which reality can be warped before a product is misrepresented. Even without digital enhancement, Images of food products and people can both benefit from the right studio lighting and a little make-up. These kinds of enhancements do not seem to create the same controversy as Photoshop.
This video shows a time-warped model photo shoot starting from scratch – the model has hair and make-up applied, is photographed and then Photoshopped, illustrating just how drastic reality can change for the purpose of advertising: