Week 3: Being Human – A Recap


Week 3: Reasserting the Human – A Recap

This is a recap for the third week of E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC.

The Films


«TOYOTA GT86: ‘The Real Deal’ TV Advert» – http://youtu.be/K6Pb_tmPKGk

An Ad that is only a minute long but it tells a lot. “Can you feel it? Can you feel the thrill of being alive? [beat] Neither can I.” constitutes the opening of the advert. It is a simple yet powerful reflection on ‘what is really real’. The male protagonist goes to a [possibly] shady part of ‘Simulation Town’ looking for something more real, with ‘no gimmicks’, where he can grasp the taste of reality. He enters a sort of pawn shop, with the ever more rare incandescent light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, plants, objects and furniture and even food(!), reminiscent of the older/realer world. He then finds the car (Toyota GT86) and replies “Now that is real!”. He drives out of the control of the simulation (roads and cars with AI and autonomy) out of the big city walls to a wasteland, to the limits of the simulation. “The thing with the real is: once you’ve experienced it, there’s no going back.” Marks the breakout into the real world, supported by a powerful soundtrack «Je ne regrette rien» (I regret nothing) by Edith Piaf. I will also add that it is a stick car that some consider to be the real driving experience as opposed to automatic gear.

The opposition between the real natural world and unreal technological path ahead is echoed in the education debates. The people raised with the old ways or fairly conservative towards tech, find it unnatural for humans to be learning and experiencing via screens, mostly. And not only screens but in a more shallow, faster way that will affect memory, attention span and shape the brain differently and thereafter shifting our perception of things which eventually leads to changes in our ‘humanity’.

«BT: Heart to Heart» – http://youtu.be/l5bkniCUAow

BT campaigns to bring people closer through their landline service. Linking it to Kolowich’s article and ‘the illusion of non-mediation’, its verifiable in the phone talk Adam and Jane have – hearing the other person’s voice brings you so much closer to him/her than countless texts or instant messages; also being ‘the closest you can get to actually being there’. The ad itself is flawed because they’re using SMS and social networks to communicate but Skype, Google Hangouts and Facebook feature both voice and video chat options which is even better. On the aspects of ‘the human’ being depicted:

Jane’s daughter is alienated by the silent communication tech brings – if his mom is acting weird nothing better than asking! – but that is his flaw as a result of technological advances, as suggested. He then asks Adam for help and out of compassion and caring he calls Jane, using BT landline. However this doesn’t really seem to be effective: “See you this weekend?” asks Adam, “Yeah, see you this weekend…” Jane replies. The call ends and Jane seems worried, wondering about something. Now if this was a call via Skype or similar, he could see her face and infer that there’s more to her weirdness and a more meaningful conversation could have been held.

The only valid point I can see to back up the use of landline and it’s ‘closeness’ is the association older people may have with the telephone, I mean the actual physical object ‘telephone’ that use to be the preferred way and the closest one could get to actually being there back in the day. The physical action of holding a telephone closed to your ear may still be connected to the memories and rituals of the past. From personal experience while studying abroad, video and audio was definitely my favorite way of being closer to home, heart to heart.

«World Builder» – http://youtu.be/VzFpg271sm8

My interpretation of this short is that it is utopian and full of hope. It depicts a world where technology helps outstanding advances in medical care, where technology serves a noble purpose and empowers creativity. About emotional manipulation by digital simulation, I believe it is no different than the ‘suspension of disbelief’ when watching a movie or reading a good science-fiction book. Like most things in life one must seek balance so that he or she becomes dependent or addicted.

But even still, the manipulation on this short is debatable. Unless that technology appeared after the woman’s trauma/coma, she could very well be aware of its existence and hence it was not much of a manipulation per se. The man/husband is worried that she finds a piece of scenery that has no texture attributed to it but is it really important? Before she is gone and the simulation is over, she looks around and sighs – is she aware of the place she’s in? It has a time limit after all… If not [entirely] aware, would her finding out be any different to a vivid dream? Could it aggravate her condition? Other ethical questions could raise, alike to those about euthanasia.

«They’re made out of meat» – http://youtu.be/IfPdhsP8XjI

Indeed a humorous take on what it is to be human. Being ‘made out of meat’ is part of being human. Unless we live in a holographic reality, this is a fact. We also need to acknowledge that our carbon-based life might not be the only one ‘out there’. The talk the characters have suggest that there are other meatless or only part meat beings in other parts of the universe. Though they find it strange that a all-meat life form is capable of thinking and dreaming, it suggests that conscience is something to be found in outer space. Perhaps that should be a more universal question, transversal to meat and meatless critters – what is conscience? Does it exist regardless of the ‘container’?


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