The revolution will be streamed online

  • Predicting preferences effectively


By Amna Khan


Predicting the unpredictable, that’s what this new digital world is about. Predicting our desires, needs and wants even before we know them. Even before we’re fully aware of developing any, the world wants to know us. Make money off of us. Control us. Even helping us in some ways more than others, by allowing us to find ourselves and our place in it. ‘Prediction’ and this manipulation is what drives us to create content, create anything, period. The intuition that someone somewhere wants what we have. ‘Predictive analytics’ is just another name for this intuitive feeling. Showing us results, proving to us that we matter because what we created mattered and helped in making this otherwise manipulative world just a little bit better if not for most than at least some of us.

That’s the basis upon which mass media was built – to connect, project and hopefully reject through a workable system of fair and popular demand. It’s only when local media decided to turn its back on us that internet TV was born and bloomed. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video captured our interest because they cultivated our minds – like the friend who knows more about us than we do. Despite this dystopian world that’s forecasting our desires, the biggest desire remains above all our need to be desired. There are reportedly over 33 million versions of Netflix, catering, customising, and completing us through our need to feel special. Images and trailers are fashioned with our feelings in mind. Movie actors bearing the closest resemblance to us, beam across our laptop screens to sell ourselves to us. Algorithms designed in the shape of our personalities guarantee we’re hooked and relating to whatever we see in front of us. TV ratings are just approximations but this – this is far more powerful because it is us, more than even we are ourselves.

Mightier than conventional marketing ‘predictive analytics’ is the ultimate guide to consumer insight. While we’re hung up on religion & tradition the world works more on intuition. A mathematical intuitiveness that conserves cash while ensuring results. The reason why this technology remains unused is perhaps the tendency for big data to confirm what every Pakistani producer knows already, that he is incompetent and that perhaps TikTok is more engaging than any of his TV projects. The basic purpose of predictive data is to pin-point a company towards its core demographic (they’re younger & more educated FYI) and the ‘targeting’ of that market comes from seeing what we care about and in trying to give that to us. Pakistani media is the like dial up internet in a world running on 5G. Implying that you’re not only obsolete but also that no one has the equipment to understand what you’re saying. Channels are putting pressure on people to conform and confirm their world views robbing us of untapped audiences and worthwhile artists of their livelihood. And then these very channels also complain of under-funding and subsidising adverts paid for by our taxes. Isn’t it lucky for us that the inflation rate of the country supports not only their business models but their egos as well!

Even the Prime Minister’s TV show recommendation which to no one’s surprise was not a Pakistani production clearly spells out our media’s demise. The PM’s endorsement of Diriliş Ertuğrul aka The Resurrection, a Turkish drama glorifying the pre-Ottoman time period of Muslim history

Even the Prime Minister’s TV show recommendation which to no one’s surprise was not a Pakistani production clearly spells out our media’s demise. The PM’s endorsement of Diriliş Ertuğrul aka The Resurrection, a Turkish drama glorifying the pre-Ottoman time period of Muslim history. This unpaid word of mouth publicity by the PM less than discreetly suggests our media’s incapability of creating equally rich content. Although to his credit he did advise we dub it in Urdu – you know, to salvage whatever is left of our minds. Because where this drama is made for widespread Turkish audiences, we make dramas to pander to conservative and the spiritually thick-headed in our country. As a solution I recommend reviving the glory days of Ishq-e-Memnu via Diriliş Ertuğrul – an incest free version of Game of Thrones made to cater for PG-13 rated audiences. What could be more pleasing for this nation of the pure and faithfully inbred?

Predictably that’s what it will all come down to – dubbing shows in English because we’re lazy and too birdbrained to make better ones. Did I mention we’re also the masters of taking shortcuts and free loading – believing it’s better to help generate a foreigner’s revenue stream rather than investing in our own. We’d rather just use Netflix and not take a risk. Coming up with consumable content is hard, fortunate for us that the revolution will be streamed online. The internet gives us all the fighting chance that we need. That’s what’s revealed in the PM’s latest binge watch; Diriliş Ertuğrul. Where our dramas teach us how to love a lover the PM’s recommendation teaches us how to love our country. Even our Prime Minister thinks it’s better if we learn our lessons of patriotism & morality from abroad – anywhere but here.

They say spreading Islam by example, by way of life is the responsibility of every Muslim. What better way to display this example the world over than through the cinematic lens? It is in fact our duty now more than ever before to create good content so that people understand us, empathise with us and hopefully support us. We are obsessed with preparing for the impending resurrection (doomsday) but we seem highly unconcerned when it comes to the unavoidable demands of the digital age.

As a nation we are in denial of our test to adapt with the changing times shaped by an ever-evolving digital landscape. God will surely ask us what we did to secure the livelihood of our future generations, our progeny. This Turkish show thrives in captivating a largely non-Muslim audience by universalising our values. Values centred on Sufi beliefs and inclusive notions of love. Cinematically and otherwise Pakistan too was in its prime when under Ayub these principles were promoted. Sufism connects us all by echoing the national spirit of humanity. A national spirit now measured by the viewership of a popular TV show. Turkey’s foreign ministry also reveals that Turkish soap operas are generating tens of millions of dollars in export revenues – clearly the world agrees with Turkey’s national sentiment, unlike Pakistan, which is predictably falling behind in both software and soft power. Well, I guess time will only tell what this system will do to us.


The writer is a freelance columnist.