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 every day, 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.
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 surface, 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 were 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 cybersex!) 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 online 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 the 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’ Teo’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 amount of time this afternoon trying to figure out why his PlayStation will not allow him to have online access. (If I can talk to people online 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 technical 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 online. The incredible garden that he has created in sunny California provides the perfect medium to connect online 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 the film difficult to wrap my head around. My husband graciously 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 consider 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, wherein 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 the 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 through 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!