Friday, November 08, 2013

The Utopias and Dystopias of Digital Culture - #edcmooc

I have just started taking E-learning and Digital Cultures in Coursera. In the first week we had to watch four short movies and discuss them in term of being a utopian or dystopian view of technology. After watching a the four movies, I have decided to post my take on them answering the questions and commenting in terms of their utopian\dystopian depiction of technology. Finally we had to come up with our own utopian or dystopian story told in a movie,

Here is my take:

Bendito Machine III and  Heaven Sent Technology

While watching the movie, I kept thinking to myself about the messages it was trying to convey. One message, in my opinion, was that technology brings progress and change. If this change and progress is for the better, is another issue. As I watched these heaven sent novelties take over this little tribesmen lives and make them neglect other aspects of their existence, I could also see that it brought information and entertainment. However, as I saw old technology being dumped because of the new one, I have to agree that it suggests that this obsession with technology, so present in our world, has a great impact on the environment because it generates a compulsion for thoughtless consumption and, as a consequence, the habit of dumping the old to welcome the new. The characters in this short movie do not seem to have a choice concerning the technology they use. However, they could create something instead of waiting for it to fall from the sky. To me, they seem a bit idle and always wanting to be entertained by a technology that is alien to them. It does not seem that technology provides them with what they need, they seem to simply get used and addicted to it. The technologies portrayed in the film are generally, as I have pointed out, alien to the characters, subject to constant glitches, unpredictable, and unreliable. The view of technology is quite dystopian and it enslaves the characters.

Inbox and the Utopian Idea of Perfect Communication

This short movie shows how people can connect through web-based technology. At first, one could argue that it is a utopian account of how humans interact with and use technogy because it shows it is possible to meet people in many ways. I could even say it is neither, because I have grown to believe that the way we meet people on the web is not very much different than the way we meet people in real life. There are always limitations and insecurities as go back and forth in our minds never sure what impact we cause on others. When we first meet someone we never know if we will meet again and communication breakdowns often occur independent of medium. It is, in my opinion, a realistic account, if it is possible to say so, because to me it seems utopian the idea of communication and romance without glitches and communication breakdowns.

Thursday and The Illusion of   Gaining  Control

The film presents technology as something that many times blinds humans preventing them to see the beauties of the natural world that lie above their heads, beneath their feet, and in front of their very eyes. Technology is portrayed as a second class substitute for brighter and enhanced equivalents in nature. It suggests that the price we pay for replacing the affordances of the natural world by manmade wonders is losing contact with ourselves and with the cycles of nature. On the other hand, making such substitution we gain control of our own bodies, our emotions, and our routine. Tech gadgets are the ones who have agency in this film. However, I ask myself, is it possible to have control? Isn't it utopian to believe we can take the reins of our emotions?

New Media x Bendito Machine


In both short movies the machines have a great ecological impact. Just like in the first one, the second contains a reference to the skies thus implying a sort of helpless situation in which once characters\humanity cannot control the skies they cannot control the machines\technology.


The first difference is that Bendito Machine depicts a world that is still run by the characters, whereas New Media shows us an apocalyptical scenario in which whoever and whatever existed is a process of being destroyed, drained, or controlled. In addition to that, in Bendito Machine technology is not necessarily evil, it is asked for in a sort of prayer to the gods, while in New Media it looks more like an uninvited or invading alien force. In the first movie, technology comes into one form only and seems to be present only at one sphere of life and characters seem to have a choice, in the second movie it is ubiquitous occupying every corner of the habitat, even our bodies, and there is no choice. In the first movie technology is subject to glitches and needs constant updates while in the second it is state of the art and evolved to have a mind of its own. Finally, the ecological impact seems to be localized in one (limited to a landfill) and overspread in the second.

The Matrix and the Singularity 

As we become more dependent of technology and technology itself moves towards integration with gadgets and with our own bodies in so many ways, The Matrix is a perfect dystopian story for our times. The movie tells the story of how technology took over our bodies and minds and controlled the world. In such an apocalyptic world as the one depicted in the movie, I ask myself, if it is really a dystopic story. I really believe that this singularity is humanities future and the technology featured in The Matrix seem to protect humans from noticing the grim reality surrounding them. Thinking like that one can draw a parallel between the heroes and the family of birds in Thursday: they seem lonely and doomed to disappear as they struggle to survive. Survival of nature and of reality as we perceive is doomed in a world dominated by technology. If The Matrix world will become a reality maybe we are just starting to sleep. 

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