Week 1: Looking to the past – A Recap

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Week 1: Looking to the past – A Recap

Like many other fellow students I too felt overwhelmed by ‘information overload’ – there’s so much to watch and read and learn! Still most of us can find the time and energy to sort the data and find the most suitable material for one’s needs. As week 2 goes on, I chose to do this sort of ‘recap’ of week 1 to help myself see what I acknowledged.

The Films:

“Bendito  Machine III” – http://youtu.be/xiXOigfDb0U

Worshipping of technology. We might know of many friends and family – or even ourselves – whom do this. Many do not accept this fact – people like to remain ‘individualistic’ and ‘in full control’ when faced with such statements. This worshipping is (arguably) best seen with the brand Apple. South Park mocked it in the HUMANCENiPAD episode and so did The Simpsons on Mypods and Broomsticks. The life cycle of their products – not unlike many other big brands – is now less than a year before the next big, shiny thing full of bells and whistles comes along, replacing the obsolete for the next months until the next ‘innovative product’ hits the market.

In this movie, tech starts as something fairly simple. Then the new one comes with more features. It helps us, entertains us, harmless. But then something else happens in the story – sometimes the technology turns on us, the worshippers. This can be related to many things: privacy concerns, mindless consumerism, zombification or apathy, the powers media can have to shape data and information, the dependence and also how fallible it is. Lastly, it crushes us because many fail to realize that we want these things, but most of us don’t actually need it. Yet we worship them still.

One other issue pointed is the damage caused to the environment. Tech items are evolving at such a rapid pace that they are now a big part of modern societies’s waste. Plus, rare earth materials are needed to assemble many technological devices we use every day in the modernized world – in the long run this can be catastrophic. A more down to earth approach to this issue could be fairly simple: how many people do you know that have a drawer or a box full of old electronics? This personal graveyards shows how these items were once hip and are now forgotten, how easily they were replaced and how the same thing will happen to the very computer, tablet or cellphone you are now reading this on.

Will this worshipping stop? Likely not. However, more and more people are disconnecting at will and going ‘back to basics’ – for various reasons – so this could be a sign that there’s a will to change.

“Inbox” – http://youtu.be/75wNgCo-BQM

In a world where everyone is ‘just a click away’, trying to find meaningful relationships through all the ‘noise’ can be a daunting task. The pretty girl is not different from many other pretty girls we might know: every boy is after her, she has many so called ‘friends’ (both in the online and offline world) and deep down she just might feel lonely and a need to really connect with someone. The boy is geeky, lonely and craves the same. This isn’t something unheard of but it is real and it happens a lot. Also, there’s a funny take on what Facebook is for and what the nature of online friendships is on this video.

The aid of technology comes from easing the burden of face to face encounters. The tech here is a magical bag which can even represent an older Internet (like IRC) or the lack of anonymity [and mystery] one has in today’s web. The magical aspect can also be the feeling of how magical and lucky one might feel when finally meets someone true among all the avatars and fakeness of the online life.

When the boy damages the bag the physical connection is broken. Nowadays the Internet being down can lead to immense stress and feelings of loneliness – like being cut off from the world; stranded on a personal deserted island. It’s like people forgot how things were before all this came to be.

Luckily for the protagonists, things turn out well, so all in all I’d say this movie is utopian. The hope of finding love (or a true relationship) even amidst the tech saturated world and its issues is indubitably utopian in nature.

“Thursday” – http://youtu.be/HQ1z0Zzqg5U

A world that revolves around tech – built and maintained by it and for it. Coordinated, repetitive, dull. When an anomaly happens we feel powerless and stressed. This anomaly, however, can be caused by a critter from the natural world we so sadly forget about. This reminded me of an accident that happened in Portugal in the year 2000 when a stork hit some powerlines and left half the country dark for a couple of hours.

Another thing is that we also forget about ourselves and restrict our pleasure and time to contemplate [life], as seen in the trip to the space view site. When a last anomaly occurs in the story, i.e., the bird hitting the window, I think it might resonate with the Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth eighth stage ‘The Ordeal’ where the hero faces death and changes. The man peering deep into the bird’s eyes and then the sudden ‘resurrection’ of the animal, leaves the man wondering. What did he think about? Life? Death? Just plain confusion? And what happens next? Unknown, for the agency is really on the natural world side – [the circle of] life always finds a way.

«New Media» – http://vimeo.com/moli/newmedia

The most atmospheric of the suggested videos. Like the first short, this deals with the advancement of technology. This gloomy video shows humans in a state of ‘trance’ by the machines they once built. Mankind has gone down the path of letting the machines take over, much like The Matrix – the machines even look like the Sentinels from that trilogy. The worshipping has gone too far, to the point of stripping out the humanity from people. It’s as dystopian as can be.

Other Stories

There are many other books and movies that deal with the subject of utopias and dystopias. One I’d suggest looking at would be the last season (Season 5) of the TV show “Fringe”. They even changed the opening credits to a very dark, dystopian one – as you can see here. This fifth season shows a totalitarian world in the not so distant future, where beings from the future take over. These are evolved, genetically modified men, helped by technology and are no match for the ordinary man. Above all the things they restricted of forbid is the most chilling one – they lost their humanity, they can’t empathize or feel anything. That’s what’s most dangerous about them. And that’s a very grim vision of the human race that makes us think about our condition and the way we sometimes treat each other.

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