Some Cold Hard Truth
Here’s a fact: All media works you over.
Anytime you consume media, you’re absorbing a curated, edited and massaged version of the events, where the non-essential parts are trimmed and cut out.
Even this website, despite its attempt to accurately depict car culture, is just my interpretation of reality – warped by both what I believe my audience wants to read and what I think is important.
So why am I telling you this?
Because I think that keeping this knowledge in the back of the mind is essential when consuming any media. What I mean is that anyone who produces media has a reason to do so. People don’t just spontaneously create articles, videos and photos. Understand the reason for creation and you can get a hint at what details were removed and what were retained.
For example, I believe that the universal quality and utility of the automobile give it far more influence on the culture than most people give it credit for. To highlight that influence, I focus on that link and remove the material that doesn’t directly support it.
Media Killed the Auto Show
Electronic Arts originally created Speedhunters.com to promote their Need For Speed franchise. While EA has given the site near total independence to publish about the automotive community, the original purpose remains: to attract readership.
To put it another way, if Speedhunters started producing non-exciting material that kept in all the mundane realistic and boring parts then fewer people would read, and EA would have less of a reason to keep the website around.
The problem though is that the Speedhunters have become so good at their job – finding every little gem of excitement to highlight – that in some cases, attending in person is less entertaining than experiencing it through the Speedhunters’ lens.
This is most apparent with auto shows – just check out their coverage of the Tokyo Auto Salon. Their team did a fantastic job providing beautiful photos and information that only insiders would know all while retaining an energetic and exciting voice throughout.
One Speedhunter even featured the cars in the lot outside TAS. The sheer amount of walking around in the cold he had to have done is so absurd that no normal enthusiast would have done the same. Especially when 100 yards away is the Tokyo Auto Salon.
See, as a spectator my experience was only 10% of what they featured. Sure, I saw the same cars on display, but I had to fight crowds to get shots, struggle try to talk with booth staffers and herd around in the massive line between the two exhibition buildings. As a result, all that energy I felt from being around fantastic cars was totally destroyed by the effort needed to properly experience them.
As a result, why pay ¥ 4000 for the event when you can get a better idea of the whole thing (and then some) all for free?
Reality is a Shitty Storyteller
The problem is these hyper condensed highlight articles are a double-edged sword. Remember how I mentioned that all media works you over? Well with these pieces you get all the excitement, but you also give up your ability to determine your own perspective.
As stated above, the purpose of Speedhunters.com is to generate more readership, and the way they chose to do that is to focus on the excitement and energy of modified cars and the events they participate in. However, cars and people aren’t always 100% ON excitement machines.
Some people store away deep injuries in their cars, while others fall for the feeling of cruising in a gorgeous machine. For many people, cars can be a link to family, a lifelong partner, or even a living record of history.
All these things aren’t the super exciting, fun, modified world that’s portrayed by Speedhunters, but if that was your main point of engagement with the car world you totally miss out on it.
And its not just Speedhunters. Automotive media in general is of the light and exciting type. This means there's a huge part of car culture that's being ignored and avoided, which is what I aim to at least highlight a small part of.
My intention is not to insult the work that the Speedhunters do - I chose their website as an example because of their coverage of the Tokyo Auto Salon. I’m constantly in awe at their ability to highlight the right details while simultaneously taking fantastic shots in tough situations.
You can see more photos at the Native Customs Facebook page.