Thursday, February 07, 2013

You can't stop the signal

Not that I've ever watched Serenity (and people who know me have told me I should), but apparently there is a line often used 'You can’t stop the signal'. This seems to be a big theme in the videos from this weeks EDCMOOC resources. Let's have a think about some themes that are being suggested


Technology is already ubiquitous. You only have to step onto public transport in Australia to see iPods, iPhones, smart phones and MP3 players in use, also tablets (iPads and others) as well as older school hand held game consoles. Australians (and I suspect English and Americans) love technology. I spend the day in front of a PC, use the cloud (Google Drive), and ponder and pontificate on technology.

In A day made of glass 2, technology is everywhere, from opening our eyes to closing them. I admit often the first and last thing I do is check my email on my iPhone (something maybe I should change). What this movie projects is that the technology is even more tightly integrated and incredibly easy to use. I'm typing now on a keyboard, but it almost seemed in the movie that text had a much lesser role. In an image rich culture this is not surprising, but we lose the written word at great cost to issues like fact, truth, value and so on. Some have suggested that the loss of handwriting skills is also a great loss (when did you last send a letter in the post?).

One of my concerns in the movie was the field trip. While the ability to share the experience with family is seen as a bonding experience, as was the girl doing her homework - does this come at the loss of verbal skills and storytelling 'mum you should have seen it ...'. It's also interesting (and I'm thinking Google glasses too) that the field trip was a natural location but technologically mediated, as if one becomes incapable of experiencing even the outdoors without a veneer if not a whole thick layer of technology. Guide books are replaced with etools and imaginations with animations.

This mediation in Productivity future vision took the form of glasses allowing translation and guidance, no doubt useful but also illustrating an Accidental tourist view of travel - as if you hadn't left your home with all the tech support. Efficient yes, and it also makes borders disappear with well run online meetings. This highlights the tendency of technology in many ways to warp time and space, but leaves me with lingering doubts about the flattening of the world - the goal of market capitalism I guess. The idea of a virtual busker is kind of contrary to the point of busking, which is not just a financial transaction. Maybe this movie is dystopic in that it makes us all part of an economy rather than a society.

In Sight, the ubiquity of technology becomes invasive and cynical. If Productivity future vision is about making money (Mammon) then Sight is about Aphrodite: getting laid. While many technologies enforce a kind of societal ADHD, Sight is about technology mediated Autism; that lack of ability to pick up on social cues properly, or at least to manipulate them cynically for sex. Mammon and Aphrodite are two great Western idols.

The technology is invasive, becoming part of our bodies so that unlike A day made of glass 2 where technology can be put down (and put to good use when it is picked up), we are Borg. Our technology is there all of the time. This is no more clearer than in Charlie 13, a not untypical (pardon the double negative) theme of invasive tracking devices (think Demolition Man with Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone, itself a spin on Brave New World). With security cameras, smart travel cards and voluntary identification like checking in with Facebook, we are part of the way there.

So do we use technology or do we use ourselves by using it that way, and will we end up with others using us (hang on, online advertising) with our technology. The choice is ours.

Sight from Sight Systems on Vimeo.

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