Friday, February 1, 2013

On Utopias and Dystopias

The first week of the course started and I already feel that I am learning a lot. It's not that I didn't know much about the subject, it's just I feel that I am having what I thought about confirmed.

Digital culture and digital education have often been described as utopian, i.e. creating highly desirable social, cultural, educational effects; or dystopian, i.e. creating extremely negative effects for society, culture, education.
It seems to me that both these claims are extremes to a certain extent. In my opinion, although there are negative sides to digital cultures (not so sure about negative effects of digital education), the advantages still outweigh the disadvantages and we should try to use technology to our advantage. I do understand that this may become an obsession. However, this is not just true for digital technologies; it can also be applied to any non-digital aspect of life.

The films that we were assigned to watch and discuss mostly represent dystopian views. However, I do have some arguments against.

Film 1 - Bendito Machine III

There are quite a few environmental problems due to our obsession with technology. We always want the latest gadgets even when there is nothing wrong with our 'old' ones. The biggest problem with this is the issue of recycling and air pollution, but I hope that at some point in the future it will be possible to recycle or re-use all parts of devices thrown away b people. (Too optimistic? Maybe)
The social implication is the lack of interaction among people. In this film, for example, although they sit together in front of their new TV, they do not seem to communicate with each other because they are too busy watching the programs. The TV has become their God and they worship it but do not appear to care much about people being killed by broken TV, etc.
I wouldn't say members of the tribe have any choice in terms of selection of their TV set: they just get what they are given. But they could choose not to watch it, for example, and spend more time together, but they don't. So what they possibly would want to be able to choose, they cannot; but what they could choose to do, they don't seem to want to.
The characteristics of the piece of technology presented in the film seem to match the ones in our life. The device is getting bigger with each model, it is becoming more complicated to use, some unnecessary features are added (Do we really need to drive a TV?), and it also sees to become easier to break. Basically what we have today is the same: too many things that can go wrong with our tablets, phones, notebooks, etc.

Film 2 - Inbox

I wouldn't necessarily call the relationship between the film characters utopian or dystopian as I don't think it is highly desirable or extremely effective. Their relationship could be both positive and negative, depending on what happens afterwards.
The red bags are representative of Facebook chat to me which is hated by many but also loved by many others. The bag in this film shows ease of sharing, which could be a utopian account but could be a dystopian one as well. This would depend on what is being shared and how desirable that is for the recipient. In this case it is obvious that the girl really wanted something magical to happen which would change her life. And when she got what she longed for, she went for it.The meeting in the shop possibly was not part of her dream, that's why she ignored the guy first.
To conclude, I could only say that if used in the right way this could be utopian, but if abused/misused could also be dystopian.

Film 3 - Thursday

In this film the message conveyed about technology is that its work is easily disrupted by natural forces and that because of technology people have got completely separated from nature. We seem to be depicted to become helpless when technology fails us and even our free time is spent in a "technological" way. We appear to have lost the ability to interact and enjoy simple things, such as a walk in a park. I think the loss of the birds, who, in my opinion, represent nature in general, has been the greatest as they have lost their homes and the environment they were used to. I think the birds have the agency in this film as they seem to be able to act in the world regardless anything whereas people are completely helpless.

Film 4 - New Media

NEWMEDIA from MOLI on Vimeo.

This film actually reminded me of a Doctor Who Episode called The Rise of Cybermen in which people are shown to have a new digital device which is attached to their ears and enables them to download all the news from newspapers into their brains. People are controlled by this device but do not know it.
Just the same as in this film. People live completely surrounded by technology. Technology is their religion just as it is in the first film Bendito Machine III.
Quite a dystopian account, but I don't think this is likely to happen to us to the same extent as in this film. I hope that people will be able to understand that obsession is a negative state to whatever object that obsession is directed.

To follow the suit of mainly dystopian views I have found another video on Youtube: Doomsday: Lost Home

This film again expresses the dystopian view that technology has an extremely negative effects for society. It is thought that we will be defeated by technology created by us. But in my opinion this is a very far-fetched scenario of our future. I mean look at the state of the environment in this film. Environment is not as polluted now as it is shown in the film but we are already trying to develop sustainable ways of living. Are we really going to stop doing that? Are we really going to completely forget about nature? I have faith in human beings. I don't think we will. What do you think?

I understand that we are worried about our future in the world of technology, but it doesn't have to be as bad as presented in some of the films above, right? I think if we can incorporate technology into school curriculum (as I am in education, it is easier for me to refer to this field) as some universities have already done, we would be able to meet the needs of modern children and teenagers who grew up with technology and are used to it.

As Ignacio Estrada said: "If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they can learn."

Sources and Further Reading:
On Utopias and Dystopias
Technological or Media Determinism
Towards Non-Reductionist Methodology
Technology is the answer
The automation of Higher Education
Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

No comments:

Post a Comment