Sunday, April 29, 2018

What Marx can tell you about creating youtube videos

The first association that leaps to mind when someone mentions youtube is probably not Marx. In fact, he is probably not among the top five or the top fifty. Which is understandable, given that Marx is something of an 1850s guy and youtube is not very 1850s at all. The line between these things is not altogether clear.

Unless, of course, you are a David Harvey fan, and have listened to his series of youtube lectures on the man.

Those who have dabbled in creating youtube videos know that it is difficult to predict just how many viewers a video will get. There tends to be an average number, and some variations up and down for the most part. Then, seemingly for no reason, there are videos that get far more viewers than the others. Seen in context, they are the same as the other videos, except that something funneled viewers into that one video in particular. With enough sifting through the stats, it is sometimes possible to figure out what's up; if you do, then that is useful information.

Anecdotal evidence has it that it is usually the videos that took the least effort to make that wins this accidental lottery. Conversely, those videos which take hours upon hours to produce tend to remain at their usual levels of viewers - possibly slightly fewer, just out some spiteful statistical quirk. This perceived inverse relationship between effort and outcome is probably just imaginary, but it's easy to feel that it would be better if viewers flocked to the effort-intense video rather than to the throwaway two minute thingamabob. If viewers are only gonna see the one video, then it might as well be one of the good ones.

As it happens, Marx has something to say on the matter of the relation between effort and results. Specifically, he talks about socially necessary labor time. It is a very technical concept, given that you have to understand what "socially", "necessary", "labor" and "time" are defined as in order to really get the full story. The short of it is thus: if it takes you five hours to make a pair of shoes, and your competitor can crank out thousands of those same shoes in the same span of time, the market value of the pair you made does not go up because it took you a lot of time and effort. Consequently, any attempt to sell them at a price that corresponds to your time and energy invested will fall flat, given that there are other shoes sold for cheaper.

This has consequences for your career as a shoemaker, as you might imagine.

It also has consequences for all shoemakers. The competitor who put you out of the shoe business has to face the same dynamic. He can crank out shoes by the thousands, but if someone comes along who can produce tens of thousands of shoes in the same span of time, this is going to be an issue. The same dynamic that made it unfeasible to make one pair of shoes at a time, also make it unfeasible to remain someone who merely produces thousands of shoes. The sheer amount of shoes will drive down prices until it becomes an economically sound idea to either upgrade the production line or move into another line of work.

If you are tempted to say that this is why capitalism is good, seeing the immense amount of shoes it produces, Marx would agree with you.

The main point of the concept of socially necessary labor time is to decouple personal effort from market outcomes. As you can see in the example of shoemaking, the price someone is willing to pay for a pair is not based on personal factors; there is an impersonal dynamic at work beyond any one person's capacity to control. Those who want to compete in the shoe market, have to produce shoes in such a way that it makes sense in terms of price and production capacity. One pair every five hours simply will not cut it, even if you worked really hard at it.

The same goes for youtube videos, in two important ways. The first is most obvious, so let's get at it first: expending vast quantities of time and effort into producing a video does not guarantee that viewers will flock to it. There is always a risk that you are making the youtube equivalent of those five-hour shoes, and it does not reflect badly upon you if this turns out to be the case. It's in the nature of the game.

Less obvious, but equally as important, is what this tells us about those who crank out videos at an alarming rate without investing too heavily into the research or production quality departments. It is easy to become resentful and mutter about the unfairness of it all, where hard work is left unrewarded in favor of these clowns. This is not a useful state of mind, however, nor is it a useful analysis. Instead, it makes more sense to see it as an instance of socially necessary labor time: apparently, this is how many videos you have to crank out in order to remain competitive, even if these videos end up containing easily preventable errors and mistakes.

If you are tempted to say that this is why capitalism is bad, seeing the immense amount of shoddy videos it produces, Marx would anachronistically agree with you.

To reiterate: the point here is to decouple effort and market outcomes. Working hard in the sweat of your brow is not a reward in itself, nor does it guarantee that viewers will show up. Finding ways to streamline your process and make time for other things (or to do things better) is not cheating, it's just efficient. Moreover, being hard at work does not mean viewers owe you anything; being resentful that they are not appreciative enough of your efforts will not help you going forward. Conversely, if it turns out viewers really like that throwaway two minute thingamabob, then that is useful information.

Needless to say, if this goes for shoemaking and making youtube videos, then the notion of socially necessary labor time probably goes for a lot of other things as well.

Marx is sneaky like that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Musing on being less on Twitter

Over the recent months, I have found myself looking less and less at Twitter. This manifests itself in many forms, the most dramatic being that I nowadays only occasionally turn on my middle monitor, which main use is to display a never ending live-updating stream of tweets flowing like a less stylized version of the Matrix. The monitor just stands there, a black mirror in portrait mode.

The strange thing is that Janetter - my ancient twitter client that new users can not run due to long-forgotten arbitrary API limits - still runs, in preparation for the ever rarer occasions when I turn the monitor on just to see the flow of tweets again. As if closing the program would be some kind of definite gesture, irrevocable once performed.

Less strange is that I find my thinking has changed. This is to be expected - as Byung-Chul Han noted, it is difficult to focus during a noisy party. But it is also more subtle than simply having less input to process. I find that I direct myself towards different company. Even if I were to think about something that happened to be trending on Twitter right this very instant, it would be from a different starting point, with different aims.

"Company" is the key term here, I suspect. Booth uses it to muse on the fact that we spend time in someone's company when we read their words, and conversely become company as others read ours. The quality of our company, both reading and writing, in many ways shape who we are, and who we try to be. Good company inspires upwards, while bad company keeps you down.

In more Twitter-related terms, this manifests as an implicit demand to become company to those we follow and those who follow us. As we think through the issues introduced and reiterated by those in our timelines, we ever so gradually come to feel the pressure to add our own thoughts to the flow. After seeing fifteen tweets about something, it becomes almost a knee-jerk reaction to write a sixteenth. Even if we only just heard about something mere minutes ago, we feel compelled to have said something about it.

This dynamic creates a very specific and other-directed way of thinking. You build up a sensitivity to trends and keywords, and act on what you see. Others see this as well, and react to your reactions; the fact that you both see and react to the same things is an immense sense of community; it is sometimes referred to as social media validation. It is company, good or bad.

This thinking is like riding a bike, though. True, once learned, you do not forget it. But if you've not rode a bike in a while, there is a strong possibility that the muscles used to pedal things forward have become less muscular than you remember, and thus the going is slower than it used to be. You still know what to look for - the trends, the keywords, the subtweets - but it is an effort to care. An uphill effort, to combine metaphors.

Thus, on the ever rarer occasions when I power up my middle monitor, I see what is going on and how it unfolds. The impulse to contribute to the goings on and insert myself into the company, however, is not strong enough for me to do it as often and as energetically as I used to. I'm simply not in that frame of mind any more. My thoughts and words are directed elsewhere.

It is only prudent that I mention this somewhere. For future reference.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

That thesis I wrote about Patreon

I wrote a thesis about Patreon.

There are different ways of going about writing a thesis about Patreon. An intuitive approach would be an instrumental, goal-oriented investigation as to which strategies work and which do not. The findings of such an investigation could then be distilled into a simple list of do's and don'ts, which readers could implement in short order and (probably, maybe, hopefully) generate more revenue.

I did not write that kind of thesis. If you came here looking for simple, straightforward advice about how to run your Patreon page, then this wall of text is not for you. (Neither are the posts about my my other theses, for that matter, despite them all relating to each other in interesting ways.)

What I did was seemingly simple. I asked a straightforward question, and saw where it took me. The question was thus: what is Patreon, and what does being on it do to you?

As with all straightforward questions, the answer turns out to be everything but clear cut and easy to summarize. In order to answer it, we have to answer a couple of sub-questions first, just to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Seeing as this was a thesis in Rhetoric (Americans call it Composition and/or Speech; the discipline has different names depending on where you happen to be geographically), the first of these sub-questions is what we mean by "rhetoric". To summarize hundreds of years of back and forths, there are two main answers to this question. The first is the (neo-)Aristotelian answer that it is the art of finding the best possible means of convincing someone in a particular situation. In this case, rhetoric would be a set of strategies for maximizing Patreon donations, with varying degrees of excellence in execution. The other answer looks at the situation as a whole and asks what it implies for those who participate in it, and if things could be done differently. In this case, rhetoric consists of analyzing what it means to have a Patreon page, which implicit assumptions inform interactions on this page, and how these assumptions might lead to outcomes that were neither expected nor beneficial for the participants.

As you might have gleaned from the gist of things, my thesis fell firmly into the latter category. Hence the lack of simple, straightforward advice in list form.

We need to keep the different kinds of rhetoric in mind, as the difference between them tells us something about what goes on with regards to Patreon. Specifically, we shall look at the concept of "ethos" and how it plays out differently in the two paradigms.

In the (neo-)Aristotelian framework, ethos is a means of persuasion. The word "ethos" connotes everything that is related to the person doing the talking, and how these aspects of self are being used to convince the audience to do something. In this case, the "something" is donating. There are many possible means, depending on who is doing the asking for donations. For instance, various ailments or difficulties can be leveraged to generate sympathy, which creates a willingness to donate. Similarly, skills can be leveraged to show how donations go towards new projects (e.g. donate so I can afford to make a new movie or whatever). Or a common goal can be invoked, along with a more or less defined correlation between donating and achieving this goal (e.g. most fundraisers and charity drives). And so on and so forth. In short, ethos is a means to an end, and it is used as such.

In the more modern framework, "ethos" is more akin to "ethics", in that it connotes a way of being in the world. It is not as directly interested in solving the problem at hand, as it is in understanding the communicative process in a wider context. For instance, it does not see communication in terms of problems to solve (in this case, how to get people to donate), but rather as a series of interactions which generate certain expectations on future interactions. It also emphasizes the role of choice on the part of the person doing the communication - they can choose to present themselves this way or that, and they do so on the basis of available knowledge and ethical propensities. A person does not present themselves in a certain way only in order to solve a problem, but also as a way of being in the world. A Patreon page is not just an invitation to donate - it is also a declaration: this is who I am and what I do.

This might seem like a subtle difference, and it is. Thus, an example is in order, to put the two perspectives in perspective.

Let's say we have a rhetor without any particular political opinions one way or the other. One day, he (let's make it a he) stumbles upon an alt-right blog, and notices two things. First, that it gets a lot of donations. Second, that it is very formulaic and uncreative, and mostly posts the same things over and over and over again with minor variations. Based on these two observations, he decides to hack the process and start his own blog in a similar vein. Not because he agrees with the opinions expressed, but because it seems an easier way to get an income than doing more labor-intensive work. After a while, his low-effort blog gets noticed by the true believers, and the donation money starts to pour in. Seeing as it works, he puts a little more effort into it, and eventually finds himself being a part of this political ecology. Not because he believes in what he writes, but because the donation money keeps coming his way.

Seen through the (neo-)Aristotelian framework, he has solved the problem. By presenting himself as someone who holds these particular beliefs, he manages to persuade his audience to donate money. He has succeeded with what he set out to do, and his audience is happy to see him keep at it.

As you might imagine, the modern framework is less than sympathetic to this course of action. For one, he uses his powers of rhetoric to exploit those who are vulnerable to this kind of industrially produced propaganda, in a sense preying on the weak. For another, his participation in this political milieu reinforces its message and makes it a more prevalent presence in the online spaces he frequents; there is strength in numbers, and he now numbers among them. Moreover, this is not the best use of his rhetorical skills, and he could contribute better things to the world than a low-effort repetition of insincerely held opinions.

In the former case, our fictive rhetor makes good use of ethos, as he manages to present himself as a fellow extremist, thus getting his audience to donate. In the latter, he fails his ethical obligation to be a good person whose presence in the world makes a positive difference when all is said and done. He has not been good company.

If you have read this far, you might have thought that we have moved rather orthogonally with regards to what Patreon is and how being on it affects its users. But I reckon you also understand why simply asking what to do in order to make donations happen is insufficient in order to understand what is going on. It is more than merely a quest to maximize the monthly donations, and the analysis has to widen in order to take all the relevant aspects into account.

With this in mind, we can pose the question of what Patreon is. In the simplest terms possible, it is a web site that allows people to ask for money from other people. Patreon also provides an economic infrastructure for getting said donations from here to there. Anyone can create a Patreon page and ask for donations on it. Moreover, they can present themselves in whatever terms they like in order to make these donations happen. This is, in short, it.

(To be sure, there are certain limitations as to who is allowed on the site, mostly relating to contradictory US social values. In order to keep things brief, I'm going to gloss over this fact with the quickness.)

This presents us with an interesting rhetorical situation. On the one hand, Patreon users are free to define themselves however they like, applying every bit of autonomy and rhetorical prowess they can muster. On the other hand, the very act of being on Patreon is a message in and of itself. Patreon exists to facilitate donations, and anyone who has a page is asking for such donations - even if they do not write anything on their page at all. There is communication going on between the lines whether the user acknowledges it or not. At the end of the day, a Patreon page is a Patreon page.

During the course of my thesis writing, I identified three strategies (broadly defined) for writing a Patreon page. Here, I present them in falling order of popularity.

The most common strategy is to describe what happens when someone donates. This is heavily encouraged through the system of rewards and goals; if an individual donates x amount of dollars, they get a reward, and if the accumulated donations reach a certain level, some action which could not previously be performed will now be performed. In this way, the relationship between the parties involved is well defined: everyone knows what will happen, and donors can weigh their options before choosing a course of action.

Another common strategy is to not have rewards, but to frame donations as encouragements to keep whatever activity is at hand going. The donation becomes its own reward, as it were. There are still overall goals (e.g. at x amount of total donations there will be an upgrade of recording equipment) but individuals are not rewarded above and beyond knowing that the thing they enjoy can keep doing its thing.

A less common strategy is to flat out not reward donations at all, but accept them nevertheless. This might be done for tax reasons (some legislations exempt gifts from taxation, and explicitly not giving anything in return qualifies the exchange as a gift rather than a business transaction). They might also do it to avoid getting into a situation where gratitude is required (those who choose to donate even though they know they will receive nothing in return know that this is not a purchase). Or it might simply be because the user simply can't be bothered to think of something to write. There are no goals, no rewards, but the option to donate is open nevertheless.

It would seem at first glance that this last strategy is counter to the whole concept of having a donation page. But - as we saw earlier - simply having a Patreon page is a message in and of itself, and sometimes this is enough to get the point across.

All of these strategies deal with the tension between freedom and autonomy. Freedom means doing what you want to do, while autonomy means defining your own laws (or, in this case, your own goals). The tension comes into being whenever you want to do something that requires more effort than simply doing it. For instance, reading a book requires that you keep reading until you've read all you decided to read. At any point you are free to stop reading, but if you want to finish the reading, you have to make the decision to limit your range of options until it is completed. If you set a goal for yourself, you also have to discipline yourself until the goal is achieved.

The tension here is that both freedom and autonomy are limitations of each other. The defining characteristic of autonomy is that you choose your own rules and goals. Once you set upon the path of realizing the chosen course of action, however, you must limit yourself to doing the things that lead to attaining the goal. Not because someone else tells you to, but because this is what you decided to do. Whether it happens to be reading a book, finishing an education, or performing some other feat, the dynamic remains the same: once your decision has been made, you have to stick to it. Even if you at times feel like doing something else.

An example of this (to stick with the literary theme) is writing a book. The only way to finish it is to sit down and write. It might be tempting to go outside to enjoy the nice weather, or binge watch all seasons of Buffy, or go hang out with friends. At all points in time, you are free to go do these things. But if you ever want to finish that book - the goal that you, by your own volition, set for yourself - you have to set these freedoms aside and focus upon the task of writing.

Looking back on the three strategies outlined above, we can see how the tension plays out in each of them. The third strategy - that of not rewarding patrons - maximizes the amount of freedom in the relationship between parties. No reward is given, no reward is expected, and donations keep happening in so far as the donors find it in their interest to continue. The creator, for their part, can choose whichever creative direction they desire, unburdened by expectations and obligations. What you see is 100% what you get, take it or leave it.

This can be contrasted with the first strategy, that of giving specific rewards to everyone who donates a particular amount of money. Here, autonomy is maximized, is as far as the creator can choose which rewards are awarded at which levels of donation. However, over time, this might lead to the creators finding themselves spending more time than initially expected making sure that donors get their just rewards. Making a donation is, in a sense, to enter into a contract, and it is up to the creators to live up to their part of the bargain. The freedom of the present is bound by autonomy expressed in the past. (Whether this is a productive relationship between creators and donors, or an inescapable iron cage where next month's rent depends on cranking out yet another unit, is always a contextual question.)

The middle strategy is, of course, a combination of the two. A degree of freedom is maintained, but if donations reach a certain level, something will happen. This something, while it is not a reward or contract in the same way as we saw above, is still a promise, and as such brings with it the obligation to fulfill it. (If nothing else, it looks - and sounds - bad if the audio recording equipment has not been upgraded for months and months after reaching the goal.)

I should stress that there is nothing inherently wrong with aiming for either autonomy or freedom in these matters. The point of this wall of text is not to say that you should do either instead of the other. Rather, the point - the thesis, as it were - is that you ought to make an informed choice when you create a Patreon page, and write it in such a way that you can live with who you potentially become. Giving lots of rewards is labor-intensive, but it is also an efficient strategy to get those donations to happen. Conversely, you might find that your creative efforts are hampered by the amount of extra effort you have accidentally committed yourself to. It all depends on who you are and what you are about.

Seen in this light, we are rapidly approaching an answer to the question of what Patreon is and how it affects its users. Moreover, we are able to ask new and interesting questions with regards to the ethos/ethics of online donation services. Given that Patreon users are free to define themselves and what they do (and for how much money this will be done), the tension between freedom and autonomy becomes front and center. Having a Patreon page becomes not only a way of asking for money, it also becomes an act of self-definition: this is who I am and what I do.

So. Donate to my Patreon, maybe?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Avoiding the problem head on

Valentine's Day approaches, and with it, a new blog project. This one will be the tenth iteration, and thus I wanted to do something special. My usual approach is to figure out a concept and use it as a template for new ideas - Relationship Statues is an example of that. This means I do not have a great deal of verbiage at hand on day one, and ever so gradually figure out what kind of posts to write. It's discovery and exploration as much as anything. This time, however, it is different.

This time, the new blog has a definite beginning, middle and end. And - more importantly - it is frontloaded to a never before seen degree.

This has me worried.

The funny thing about being worried is that there are different kinds of worry. There is the worry that the world will end, an all-consuming paralyzing worry. Or the worry that some dangerous element in one's immediate presence will spring into action, like a tiger. Or the worry that some elaborately planned course of events will fail to occur, leaving you in an awkward position (or botching that job interview). Or the worry that some unforeseen aspect will reveal itself and cause all previous plans to become obsolete - the factory closes, the application is rejected, the price goes up instead of down. Tangible, concrete worries about very specific things.

And then, there is my worry. I worry about capitalization.

That's right. Should I spell certain words beginning with an uppercase or lowercase letter? This is something I worry about.

There are two ways to understand this worry. One is to take it at its word, and face it head on. In the grand scheme of things, there are arguments for either case, and the matter can be resolved by simply picking one course of action and sticking with it. It might raise an eyebrow, but since it is consistent, it won't be a big deal. The worry is about a concrete problem that can be solved.

The other way to understand this worry is as a symptom. What I'm really worried about is not actually the capitalization (although having it solved would be a minor step forward). It is, however, a convenient thing to be worried about - thinking about it means not having to confront other things that are also worrying, but more indirect and difficult to pin down. If it was not this, the generalized worry would find some other minute aspect to zoom in on and fuss about.

This goes not only for this project, but for everything. Sometimes, you are worried about some minor detail because you genuinely do not know if it's this way or that, and the problem will go away if a solution comes along. At other times, the problem is not the problem, and the solution is to zoom out and take stock of the larger picture.

The difficulty is telling which is which, and when. -

Sunday, January 14, 2018

It's not the end of the world, but we can see it from here

The world did not end yesterday.

This statement has two qualities. One is that it is universally true for literally every situation you will find yourself in, a precondition for situations being that yesterday led to the present. The second, and more immediately pressing quality, is that it is related to a very specific event.

If you are reading in the future, then here is the context: yesterday, an alarm went off in Hawaii, warning about an imminent ballistic strike. Which is a technical way of saying that the nukes are coming, and they are coming this way. As you might imagine, this caused quite a bit of emotional anxiety for everyone involved. The fact that the whole ordeal happened because someone pressed the wrong button (I have been given impression that this is the literal truth, rather than mere evocative language) - did not help.

In fact, very few things help when the world is about to end. That is kind of the point of the world ending.

This is a very immediate situation to find oneself in. Everything becomes irrelevant, and one singular question becomes the totality of all possible lines of thinking: what do you do? Nothing matters any more, and thus the only thing that matters is what you do. Other questions, such as "what would others think?" "would this look good on my CV?" "does this affect my credit rating?" "can I really afford it in the long run?" - are swept away, and you are left with the immediacy of choice: do or do not, do this or do that. The long term is gone, this is your moment to define yourself in terms of your own. For the duration, you are the most important thing in your reality. You decide. What do you do?

This immediacy is both terrifying and, in a perverse way, liberating. The word that most perfectly summarizes the situation is the old version of "awesome": to be struck to one's very core with awe in the presence of some overwhelming factor which quite literally is larger than anything one has ever encountered before. It is the kind of experience that leaves you mouth agape and your mind repeating: everything I knew was wrong. Nothing makes sense any more, and because of that, the multitude of considerations that permeate everyday life melts away. Nothing makes sense, and the only thing that is of any importance whatsoever is:

What do you do?

Fortunately, the news about the world ending happened to be greatly exaggerated. We are still here to talk about it, and to try to get a grip on what this all means. Most, I suspect, will see it as just another news item among many, and not think too closely about it; there are still plenty of everyday chores to be done, and the non-ending of the world means they will not do themselves. Life goes on, with ruthless indifference, and this confronts us with a single, even more pressing question:

What do we do now?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Backstage sociology

This semester, we talked a lot about Goffman's concepts of frontstage and backstage. One of the things that struck me about it is that it is, as so many other concepts, fractal. You can apply it to just about any level, and then move either upwards or downwards, finding roughly the same processes going on. The scales differ, but the process remains the same.

These words have the advantage of meaning what you think they mean. Backstage is the social space behind the stage, where the last-minute rehearsals, costume changes and informal banter takes place, while frontstage is, well, on stage. The two spaces have different social dynamics, and things that are proper in one is improper in the other, and vice versa. While the play is on, only the actors who are supposed to be on stage are on stage, and they have very defined roles to play; the show must go on. Only when they have retreated backstage can the actors let their guard down, stop acting and - quite unceremoniously - collapse into the post-performance heaps they really are.

The audience members, too, have roles to fill whilst the show is on. The fact that these roles mostly consist of sitting and watching makes them comparatively easy to play; this does not, however, take away from the fact that things get very strange very fast if audience members suddenly decide to join in on the action. Everyone present have roles to fill, and most everyone present know these roles implicitly.

A non-theatrical example is a restaurant. Out among the tables, things are quiet and posh, with hushed conversations taking place among the dining guests, a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. In the kitchen, however, the hustle and bustle is in full swing, with yelling, fast-paced motions and a stress level that is through the roof. The difference between frontstage and backstage is not subtle.

The fact that these two states of things happen in close proximity to each other means that there have to be boundaries between them. Often enough, these boundaries are subtle until you try to cross them. A restaurant guest is usually not allowed into the kitchen, and quickly escorted out should they somehow stumble into it. Shoppers are allowed to browse the store area, but any attempt to enter the back rooms will be ever so efficiently discouraged. If you do not have a keycard, you are not allowed into the office building. At concerts, only those with backstage passes are allowed into these mystical spaces.

Most spaces can be analyzed using these concepts. They are very versatile in this regard.

They are also fractal. Individuals act differently when they are frontstage (often quite literally meaning that they are not alone) than when they are backstage, and the boundaries between these states allow very few persons access. A small group (beginning at two persons) can similarly act differently when in a frontstage setting than when alone, with similar boundaries to entry. A large group (a theatre production, for instance) can project a particular image frontstage, while having very different dynamics backstage. And so on, scaling up as much as need be. (I suspect the discovery of alien life will have interesting implications in this regard.)

The only thing needed to use these concepts is an impulse to apply them to concrete situations. Upon reading this, you now have this impulse.

Have fun.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Spoiler warnings and you

There is a new Star Wars on the loose. With it comes the division of the entire human race into two categories, as radical as it is universal: those who have seen it, and those who have not seen it. The gulf between these categories is immense and absolute; there are no in-betweens.

Except, of course, in the case of spoilers.

Given that I at one point was a media studies major, spoilers are utterly irrelevant to me. There is no "right" way to consume media - there are only degrees and ways of paying attention. Knowing how something ends prior to seeing it does nothing to change the experience. Everything important lies in how the medium is being used (and sometimes abused). The narrative aspects are a part of that, but there are many other parts of equal importance, and a movie is at all times the interplay between all of its parts.

To be sure, there are movies that rely heavily on surprise endings. Good ones are described in terms of subverting expectations; bad ones in terms of deus ex machinas. If a movie does not hold water despite the surprise being foretold, it is not spoiled - it was always-already a bad movie. We do not rewatch favorite movies because they surprise us, but because they are good company. If a movie is bad company, it will be thus even if someone already told you the butler did it. The goodness and badness lies not in you having knowledge - it lies on the level of production, geometry and acting.

Very few viewers found themselves disliking the recent remake of the Orient Express because they knew how it ended. The enjoyment and/or dissatisfaction lies elsewhere.

Looking around on social media tells me that this is not a view widely held. There are people posting spoilers, people yelling at the aforementioned group for posting spoilers, and people decrying the posting of spoilers in general. It is something of a trending topic, especially in relation to the new Star Wars movie. Posting spoilers is framed akin to murdering the movie, a sin above and beyond the pale. Friendships have ended over it.

It is interesting to note this difference in perspectives on media. On the one hand, there is the view that spoilers are irrelevant. On the other, the view that spoilers are everything. Both are valid experiences of being human. The fact that both views can coexist and seldom interact with each other tells us something about this world we live in.

I do not know exactly what it tells us. But it would be nice if someone posted a spoiler of it. -