I’m participating in #EDCMOOC through Coursera as a sort of side endeavour to my main studies and work. The purpose of this is to get a feel for the University of Edinburgh’s Masters in Digital Education, as it is a potential future direction for me, particularly with its online, part-time mode of study (meaning I can continue working – yay!).
The first two weeks of study are about Utopias and Dystopias, and how people have portrayed online learning in these two ways. Week 1 looks at past views on online learning and how it affects society.
I’ll take a look at each section of resources in turn: portrayals in popular culture/media, ideas and interpretations, and finally perspectives on education. As there’s a lot to say about the videos, I’ll write a separate post for the readings!
Film 1: Bendito Machine III
This video by Zumbakamera takes a dystopian view of technology, depicting a village that effectively worships one kind of technology until another member finds a new and ‘better’ one to replace it. The new technology and its founder become the idol and the high priest, while the displaced technology is discarded in a pile of other old technologies. There are two interesting things about this video that I’d like to comment on.
The first is that it shows different technologies having different power relationships with the people. The radio bull is static and unmoving, and it doesn’t seem sinister. On the other hand, the TV is far more controlling, kicking a women who isn’t exercising with the rest of the group (a form of fat-shaming, ‘you should be suffering like the others to be skinny’?) and chasing/scaring children. It spreads fear and control through depicting war scenes until the people wear gas masks. The people have no control over what is shown. Finally, the computer/Internet seems to represent knowledge and powerful words (weapons come from the mouth). It is controlled by whoever sits atop it, so finally people have some power. But again, the people worship it (relinquishing control). Also, who’s to say whoever is onboard will use it for the benefit of society?
My second comment is on the portrayal of the junk pile of technology lying at the bottom of the cliff. This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We have mountains of rubbish, holding plastic, metal and other materials, a lot of it being old phones, TVs, refrigerators, etc. People are so quick to discard their old (working) technology for the latest thing. I’d like to think I’m fairly good, despite loving gadgets – I don’t jump up and get the latest thing (particularly because I’m not rich), and I try to recycle old electronics when they break. However, I’m not perfect, and this video did make me feel a bit guilty!
Film 2: Inbox
From the title of the film, you can quickly make the connection between the bags and email/SMS/other digital communication tools. I actually really liked this video by Curio Films and thought it was rather sweet. I think the deeper message here is that it shows ‘technology’ as being able to connect people who may have not previously been able to connect. The context of India is particularly striking, as men are portrayed as leering and creepy to women. The female character seems put off by the men around her, while the male characters seems awkward and doesn’t know how to interact with women. The red box gives each the power to interact with each other in small bites and without the pressure of in-person interaction (and judgments of person). However, it does show that these connections are frail and can be broken by a fault in the ‘technology’ (e.g. the internet goes down, your phone breaks, etc.).
All-in-all, I would say this video is primarily utopian in nature, as technology brought the two characters together.
Film 3: Thursday
I have to say, watching this Future Shorts video made me feel very, very uncomfortable. The way humans have brushed aside nature both in terms of physical space and lighting is scary. The birds struggle to survive in the cityscape that’s been created with few green spaces. This is all too real in so many cities, though there are efforts in parts of the world to increase green spaces. For example, the Mayor of London has a Big Green Fund to improve London’s green spaces. However, this takeover of nature generally makes me uncomfortable, hence why I live on the outskirts of Oxford (balancing my career and my need to live somewhere that isn’t too industrial).
Also, on a side note, this is also shows how our society is so enamored and controlled by mundane routine and technology, that we have nothing to do when it breaks! Definitely a dystopian video.
Film 4: New Media
Ok, so creepiest of the lot. Probably also the most dystopian I think. People are brainwashed by machines while the world around them decays. I can’t really think what else to say other than, ‘Get outside people!’
So, I’m done with the videos now.
I’ll just throw in a few sentences about the TV show ‘Almost Human’, which lasted one season and was set in a future where technology could no longer be regulated. Each episode showed a potential future scenario (like a smart house turning on its owners), and it really made you think about the speed at which technology is progressing and evolving. It’s a shame the show ended so early on, though I’m not entirely surprised. While posing some very interesting philosophical and ethical questions, there was something a bit off with the pacing of each episode…
Anyway, tune in to my next post to read about the rest of the resources!