EDCMOOC starts today! I've finally got round to sitting down and getting to grips with the material, and this is my interpretation of the "film festival" - four very good short films that give different views of Dystopias and Utopias of technology. Below I'm going to try and answer the questions posed...
This is based on my initial thoughts - I'll come to the "Ideas and Interpretations" later, and perhaps revisit some of the videos.
Bendito Machine III
What is this film suggesting are the ecological and social implications of an obsession or fixation on technology?
The film shows an exaggerated version of our fetishisation of technology, taken to religious levels. It shows that technology is bestowed upon us from up high, sometimes with us understanding very little about it. The main part of the video is taken up with television, showing us its history as a terrible "God", plactating, educating, but pumping propaganda, with an unseen agent setting the agenda. Television, and the images it displays, are both loved and feared by its worshippers, who spend so much time bowing before it that they become unthinking conduits for the message, living their lives through it. When one tribesman breaks away from the herd he does not snap out of the spell - he summons a new "God", in this case the Internet.
Do the film’s characters have any choice in relation to their technologies?
They do not seem to. They summon a "God", and are bestowed with a strange and surreal piece of technology which both baffles, amazes and terrifies them, breaking their spell of the old technology, that instant goes from being worshipped, to literally thrown on the scrapheap.
What are the characteristics of various technologies as portrayed in this film?
As I've already touched on, television fills many social needs. It placates, it educates, it informs, it terrifies. It is both loved and hates, but watched incessantly and intently by the tribesmen, becoming the cornerstone of their lives. That is until the Internet arrives, at first a more delicate contraption, quickly replaced by an all-conquering behemoth of a machine...
I enjoyed this video - it really showed our obsession with new technologies, and our instant dismissal of the old, but I did feel the metaphors were possibly a little heavy-handed. And if it needs saying - it certainly shows a dystopian view of technology!
Depending on how you interpret the relationship between the two main characters, and the ending, you might argue that this is a utopian account, or a dystopian one - what do you think, and why?
This film shows the surreality that ensues from the idea of an Internet-style relationship happening outside the digital world, via two magic, linked bags. It shows many of the things we take for granted on the Internet - such flirting through short written messages and playing games with strangers - and shows the oddness of this happening in a different setting.
It really is open to interpretation - it shows that even shy people can find each other via online communication, and the Internet has created an environment where people, who may never have met in the "real world", can make relationships with one another. Social networks can bring people together that would never have found each other in the pre-digital age. But there's also a darker side - when the male protagonist's magic bag rips, and its powers are lost, it shows a warning against the over-reliance on technology. This may be something as mundane as a power cut or machine failure, but perhaps even the fact that technology is not in everyone's hands. The film's setting in India is perhaps even telling in itself - in a country where the gulf between rich and poor is so huge, not everyone can have a "magic bag".
The very end is also not necessarily a happy ending - this is no happy ever after, leap into the arms passion. Once in the real world the relationship is stilted and awkward, with none of the flirtations of before. Perhaps it shows that, in many instances, the digital relationship is often shallow will not be instantly upgraded to a real-world one.
So Utopian or Dystopian? I'd say it doesn't swing in either direction enough to say definitively, instead it shows that technology, and online relationships, can be a mixed blessing. (I was tempted to say "mixed bag". But I didn't!).
What message is the film presenting about technology?
The film is showing that although humans create technology, they are also shaped by it. People are obsessed by technology in the film, find nature irritating, and spend their entire lives glued to screens. When the blackbird shorts out the power, people are tetchy and twitchy without a screen to watch.
When the couple ascend to view the world from space, the world below looks like a circuit board, consisting of people. Humans have become a giant machine, part of technology themselves. It's probably no coincidence that we see green writing on a screen a few times, indicative of The Matrix.
What losses and gains are described?
People have lost their connection with nature - while walking through a rare green space in the city, the female protagonist cannot take her eyes off her smartphone, and the male protagonist is irritated by sunlight as it obscures his view of his screen. There are some gains though - technology allows communication between the couple, allowing them to locate each other on a busy street, and allows them to go on a date to the edge of space. However these benefits are short-lived before they are "brought back to Earth".
Who or what has ‘agency’ in this film?
Largely the human characters are seen as parts of a giant electronic circuit, part of the machine itself. If there is any agency I'd say it is nature itself, represented mainly by the blackbird, although even it is starting to mimic machinery in its song. However in its sabotage of the power to make its nest it brings the series of events into place - the female character breaks away from her day to text the male, arranging a real-world meet and a date in the space lift - where they very briefly "rise above" the humdrum of technology, a metaphor for the need for real human interaction, which (we presume) culminates in a night of love-making, before the drudgery continues.
Clearly a dystopian view of the future but with a glimmer of hope - nature will always be there, even if we don't always notice it.
NEWMEDIA from MOLI on Vimeo.
A very short film!
There are definite visual echoes of “Bendito Machine III” here - what similarities and differences can you identify between the two films?
While "Bendito Machine III" showed the technology as god-like and worshipped, here it seems the machines are invaders, destroying the world as hostile aliens while subduing the populace with media, distracting them with images. This is a similar central metaphor to "Bendito Machine III", but it shows the media as more actively destructive, and uses the machines to represent all, rather than a specific, medium.
There are many utopian and dystopian stories about technology told in popular films from Metropolis to the Matrix.
Now there's a question! One for another blog post, methinks...