"…broadening the base…"

"What we have in common is not knowledge about which we agree but a shared world about which we will always disagree." David Weinberger

Edcmooc: #2 “A slice of technology with a dollop of utopia on the side!”

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I am a filmaholic! I look for connections. I consider how interactions between the protagonist and antagonist mirror the events of life.  A well crafted line lingers like a rich cup of coffee.  Naturally, my reactions to the four short video clips for this week’s topic, “Utopias and Dystopias:  looking into the past” is to make connections to what I already know.  This is no different from what I would do with my students; build upon what they know to build upon the learner’s schema. The teacher in me never dies simply transitions from one setting to another.

The first film, Bendito Machine III,  reminds me of the scene in the movie,

“The Gods Must Be Crazy,”where the people in the Kalahari Desert encounter technology for the first time in the shape of a Coke bottle. The finder of the Coke bottle brought it to the members of his tribe and wondered why the gods had sent it to him.  They played and explored with it discovering a new use for it everyday, as it could be a real labor-saving device.  A thing that people never knew that they needed before caused negative behaviors to surface among the members of the community.

In my last teaching position, I taught both Language Arts and World Geography to eighth grade students.  We’ve done such a fine job, in America,  instilling a sense of social and racial justice that my students would react with outrage over the portrayal of the characters.  While I think that it’s of cultural interest to note that both films use native groups of people, my students would be horrified at the exaggerated heads of the characters  who seem to refer to people of Sub-Saharan Africa.  These cartoon characters, in their minds, would be no different from the Jim Crow character from the 19th century!  It would take an entire class period of  heated discussion to unfold the elements of economic greed and the dystopian undertones of  the “We’re Not Worthy” prostration of the natives.

See...you're offended, too! stopracismucsd.wordpress.com

See…you’re offended, too!
stopracismucsd.wordpress.com

The creators of the Bendito  film clip superimpose something evil over something good displayed on the television screen.  Television provides a standard  of living encased in evil. Exercising leads to obsessive displays of pageantry. A boy with an automatic rifle surfaces, while a nice man sings about a Swiss Cream Sandwich.   The wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz disrupts the native’s opportunity to enjoy a soccer game. Subliminal messages surface in many forms.  The negative aspects of technology create a patina of darkness over societies obsession with technology.

The Bendito community obsesses, or fixates, on objects in similar ways  to those in today’s society. How often do people find express dissatisfaction with  the things in their lives?  A child plays with a toy, enjoys an electronic game for months until he recognizes that a newer, flashier and more expensive model is introduced.  Like the pit of useless idols thrown away, we cart our belongings down to the basement for the next yard sale. Every time I open my refrigerator, I want to raise my fist and say, “Die, will you?  Die,”  for I have already selected a model to replace it.  We could move the old one into the basement and use it for the excessive overflow of goods purchased at Sam’s Club.  There’s a quilting shop in town that I intentionally avoid as there’s an oh, so sweet, new Bernina machine that I would love to have.  I could sell my Elena on Ebay if only I had $12,999 for this computer activated model.  PLEASE Santa Baby…hurry down my chimney ANYTIME!

We await the newest form of technology that will covet and occupy our consumer need for objects, many of which are technology activated!   While the characters in the Bendito film has no choice in what the gods give to them, in the United States, our options are endless.  With unlimited purchasing power, we are able to find technology that accommodates every demand.  My son came home from school after winter break and  announced that the top Christmas gifts among seventh graders were 1. Beats  2.  I Pad Minis and 3.  I Phones while removing the headphones from his neck and placing his new electronic device on the table.  As Meatloaf would say, “Two out of three ain’t bad!”

The second film, Short activated knowledge for which I wished that there was no schema, the AOL Chatroom.  Where was Howard Rheingold and his lecture on “Crap Detection 101″ when I needed it?  Hurrumph, maybe he draws upon experience?  Nah….but one never knows.

I recall how easily one could become sucked into this vortex, where lies and deception permeated so many conversations.  A Google search to discover the digital footprint of the writer didn’t exist in 1996. (and I won’t even touch the concept of cyber sex!)  In  Nora Ephron movie, “You’ve Got Mail,” conversations transpire through months of electronic exchange.  Characters interact with a contemporary form of technology, whereby allowing movie viewers to vicariously explore the complexities of an on-line persona with  little evidence that the person on the other end has honestly represented himself.

The “meet cute” between the male and female characters in Inbox signal to the viewer that something is about to happen. I found this clip charming.  It made me a bit nostalgic for time when exchanges between people required time and patience.  My best friends and I use to send notes to each other via our mothers who met once a week for choir practice.  A telephone call was a “toll” call that would cost my parents extra money and might be overheard by someone on the party line.  (Boy, does this date me!)  The equality between both characters was evidenced by the fact that they had the same gift bag, pens, markers and sticky notes.  Interestingly enough, the male character, like Tom Hank’s character, Joe Fox, holds the key that binds the relationship just as the male character holds his trump card, the stuffed animal.  Corney and sappy, yes, but perhaps a slice of nostalgia camouflaged as utopia!  In the end, we are left to believe that the boy and girl’s “meet cute” blossoms into a sweet romance.

What I find so interesting is that the viewing of this segment occurs at the same time that Tuiasosopo tells Dr. Phil why he ‘killed’ Te’o’s fake girlfriend.  Okay, just to place all the cards on the table, I don’t watch daytime soaps or self-help programs.  My mentor is a licensed counselor who found it professionally interesting.  I thought that it was rather timely.  (It’s ok, you can cough up a choke now!)  How does something like this happen, I wonder, in this time of openness?  Hum…maybe assumption that the young are digitally savvy walks together with the myth that the young are natural digital natives? In what way does technology provide the bed in which deception is cultivated? As the older folks would say, things like this just didn’t happen in my day. I’m inclined to believe that they’re right.

Let’s not kid ourselves.  Technology is wonderful until it doesn’t work. My husband and son spent a considerable about of time this afternoon trying to figure out why his PlayStation will not allow him to have on-line access.  (If I can talk to people on-line that I don’t know, why can’t he?) After they exhausted every four letter word, a call was placed to customer service.  The opportunity to hear a warm, live voice after the first several rings is certainly a slice of utopia that one can only dream about.  Somewhere in any given city in the world, a young person clad in loud, Bermuda shorts sits in a large cubical similar to the one in the third clip, Thursday. (Please note that this is a stereotype meant as sarcasm, not as a microaggression.) English is probably his second language.  He stimulates his brain with an I Pod of contemporary tunes and a refreshing can of Jolt . There are 500 people just like him answering calls about a myriad of technology problems. With technology, comes automation and lack of personal contact and service.  Perhaps it’s a slice of the technological determinism created as a result of technological growth?

Yesterday was the  first time that I have posted a comment on YouTube where I used my real profile.  I noticed that several people referenced #edcmooc, which intrigued me.   

Me:  How very real all of this feels when the power goes out for extended periods of time and suddenly, we are no longer able to function without all of the technology that consumes our daily lives. How fortunate we are that there is a green movement that is experiencing a resurgence as we remind ourselves to unplug and reconnect with the natural world!

Howard Rheingold admits to spending a considerable amount of his time on-line.  The incredible garden that he has created in sunny California provides the perfect medium to connect on-line when in-line with the natural world. I’d like to believe that he embraces the best of both worlds, thus setting a standard for those who desire to keep a foot in both worlds, technology and nature!

I’m probably one of the few individuals in my PLN group, the Fraingers, who had not watched The Matrix prior to signing up for this course.  I took the plunge and watch all three episodes in January.  It was something that I really avoided as I find this genre of film difficult to wrap my head around.  My husband gracious agreed to watch them with me, as he owned the films and was quite familiar with the plot line.  I interrupted our viewing numerous times as I tried to sort out the protagonist and antagonist.  I pushed myself to considered where the elements of conflict occurred, man vs. man, man vs. the environment, man vs. himself and why were there so many Mr.Smith characters? After numerous pauses, my husband remarked, “You really don’t have much of a fantasy life, do you?”  My fantasy life revolves around my gardening , where in a utopian world  the concept that if I plant it, they won’t eat it lives to bring me hours of joy.  I nodded off several times during each film, which fueled my husband’s irritation with my less than imaginative mind.

The music and dark screen paint a rather ominous tone for the clip, New Media.  Objects, which I assume are machines, but resemble octopi, move stealthily though the sky while man, engrossed in technology and the details of his day, is oblivious to the  doom that awaits him.  When I was a girl, learning about the end-of-the world, the book of Revelations, the dark horse and the apocalypse was in vogue during the 1970′s.  It did not enthrall me, but rather terrified me.  I found The Matrix to be rather dystopic, a world full of as much violence as any other Die Hard, Die Harder or Die Even Harder. (Yes, we have all of them, and no, I won’t watch any of them!)

This entire scenario in When Harry Met Sally, written by Nora Ephron, pretty much sums up my attitude toward technology and my reaction to the video clips for the first week of discussion about Utopias and Dystopias.

Sally:  I’d like the chef salad please with the oil and vinegar on the side and the apple pie a la mode.

Waitress:  chef and apple a la mode.

Sally:  But I’d like the pie heated and I don’t want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla, if you have it.  If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real.  If it’s out of a can then nothing.

Waitress: Not even the pie?

Sally:  No, just the pie, but then not heated.

Harry:  On the side is a very big thing with you.

Sally:  I like it how I like it.

As unattractive as it is to reveal this about myself, I like technology just how I like it, with little discussion or revelation about how it could impact my life negatively.  I like it with a dollop of utopia on the side!

Harry first encounter with "on the side."www.goodfoodstories.com

Harry’s first encounter with “on the side.”
http://www.goodfoodstories.com

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8 thoughts on “Edcmooc: #2 “A slice of technology with a dollop of utopia on the side!”

  1. Amazing, I will be coming back to read more! The level of depth in your writing is astounding, and your breadth of knowledge and knack for making multiple connections is inspiring.

  2. Hi, Laurie,

    I love the comparison between “Bendito Machine III” and “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” and your analysis of how your eight-grade students would have reacted to the images in the short film. It is interesting to see how one’s cultural and historical context shapes one’s understanding of race and meaning. While students in American schools may find the images offensive and racist, students in other countries may not detect similar overtones.

    I am also surprised that you did not like the “Matrix,” especially, the first in the trilogy. I first saw this movie in the theater when I was in college (and I am not a big moviegoer but rather watch good TV shows), and it had a profound effect on me (may be it was just my youth at the time influencing my perceptions). The whole concept of us living in an illusionary reality, blind and unwilling to face the real, harsh reality of us being human slaves to powerful machines, is a provocative concept that makes me feel uncomfortable and yet draws me in. I actually love Sci-Fi movies, and this is one of my favorite. “Gattaca,” “Minority Report,” “Fahrenheit 451,” Orwell’s “1984,” “A.I.,” “Blade Runner”—these are all dystopian Sci-Fi movies that I like.

    • Hi, Desi
      The content for this class has certainly been a brick wall for me. I have chosen to climb over it rather than to stare at it or move around it as I have done in the past. I am willing to extend myself and to consider this genre although it is not my favorite. An interesting book that I read years ago was Lois Lowry’s “The Giver.” She typically writes for elementary age children, however, the concepts in this book about a dystopian society was originally presented as utopian, but gradually becomes utopian. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to sameness. They have also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. There was considerable controversy over it, although the book won the Newberry Medal in 1994.

      I wonder if my attitude toward the genre would be different if I had progressed through this genre as a young person? While my son has read all of the books int he Hunger Games Series, I have not. There’s also another one by Scott Westerfeld called “The Uglies” series. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uglies so many books, so little time to read them all. A artifact surrounding utopian/dystopian literature would be interesting. One day….

  3. Hi Laurie, I’ve only just read your post here, been a very busy week, and there’s so much to think about here! I enjoyed that link to Gods must be crazy too, but it struck me too that it’s not ‘technology’ that gets thrown out the window and lands in a random new social context – it’s waste from the west, and it represents a capitalist, materialist culture – and the whole movie takes it as a metaphoric bit of detritus that another culture attempts to make meaning from, with funny and tragic outcomes. Haven’t see it for years – but enjoyed that reminder!
    All this sci fi is new to me too – don’t know when I’ll find time to get more familiar with it, beyond the mini movies..
    but it all seems a good selection of tidbits in this course, to get the mind racing in interesting directions, don’t you think? I’m really enjoying it

  4. Another enjoyable blog,thanks, Laurie. I tend to gravitate away from blogs written more academically. I read the Giver two years ago when I took a Children’s Literature course. I loved that book and understand why it received a medal. I’ve also read the Hunger Games series. I think a preference for genre is highly personal. I enjoy mysteries,science fiction,as well as historical fiction. I wouldn’t be interested in books about zombies or chain saw serial killers.

  5. Pingback: The Good, the Bad and the undecided… #edcmooc | On-Learn

  6. Pingback: die Guten, die Schlechten und die Unentschlossenen… #edcmooc | On-Learn

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