Programming the Intermission: A Procedural History of Cinema and Computation
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Programming the Intermission: A Procedural History of Cinema and Computation

  • Author(s): Mendonca, Karl
  • Advisor(s): Sack, Warren
  • et al.

The cinema intermission (or samosa break, in Bombay vernacular) has long been phased out in many parts of the world, but remains a pervasive ritual for audiences in India. This dissertation focuses on a transnational history of the intermission and its role as a multi-sided platform through a procedural investigation of Blaze Advertising, a private network that held a near-monopoly on the distribution of interstitial advertisements in cinemas across India for almost three decades. In 1979 or thereabouts, the proprietors of Blaze Advertising used an IBM 7044 to program the distribution schedules, putting the company at an anachronistic intersection of the history of computation and cinema. Using the combined approach of infrastructure studies and platform studies to analyze this moment, this thesis advances three key arguments: Firstly, the logic of distribution underpinning the Blaze network and its subsequent transformation into a courier service shares several tendencies with contemporary forms of platform capitalism, re-inscribing an older, colonial legacy of exploitation into a technological infrastructure. Secondly, a hidden function of computation and software is their role in displacing the locus of responsibility from institutional contexts to their own algorithmic construction. Lastly, the economic engine driving the platform economy is articulated in the language of commerce as a stream of discourse that is parallel to academic concerns. This should be acknowledged to find the ways to decolonize not just the language of commerce, but also its processes and sites of production.

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