Block 1, Week 1: E-Learning and Digital Cultures | #edcmooc | THURSDAY

In sociology and philosophy, agency is the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity), to act in a world. The short film, Thursday, depicts two people and a bird family with hugely varying ways of acting and interacting with the world.

The mother bird is shown flying free in the beginning of the film and throughout the film as well. The term “flying free” is an apt one to summarize the birds’ agency with the natural world. On one hand, the birds do have to interact with technology and the modern world; For example, the mother bird is shown flying away from the street sweeping machine while trying to forage for food in the street. The birds, in their own ways, also interact with technology and use it to their advantage, like when the mother bird is shown grabbing a network cable to help reinforce her nest.

There are two people in the film, a man and a woman, who are also shown interacting with the world. They are depicted as anything but free. Technology seems to rule their lives. The woman is shown walking to work through a park (where the mama bird is also shown) and paying absolutely no attention to nature at all. Instead, she is glued to her cell phone. The everyday world of the people, in fact, is shown as very modern and ordered in a grid-like fashion. The patterns in their house are grids; the streets, traffic, office building and their cubicles at work are all shown as grids. I think that these grids also represent the bland efficiency and order of technology. The network outage caused by the mama bird grabbing the network cable brings their work to a complete stop. People are shown bumbling around, not sure what to do. After work, the couple is shown paying for “amazing views” to be had by riding in a great elevator (i.e., another technology). The birds get these views for nothing, because they can fly free, whereas the couple seem to have tethered themselves willingly to technology.

In conclusion, the birds clearly have the most agency in the world depicted in the short film, Thursday. They can live with technology and still fly free. While the couple may have certain gains from using technology, they are also imprisoned by technology to a certain degree without even realizing it and I think that is the main message presented here.

This blog is temporarily getting re-purposed.  I will be posting my responses as part of the coursework for a Coursera MOOC out of the University of Edinburgh, E-Learning and Digital Cultures.


Block 1, Week 1: E-Learning and Digital Cultures | #edcmooc | INBOX

This blog is temporarily getting re-purposed.  I will be posting my responses as part of the coursework for a Coursera MOOC out of the University of Edinburgh, E-Learning and Digital Cultures

I really loved this quirky movie!

We are presented with a young woman who is clearly standoffish based upon the initial social “interactions” that we see in the clothing store.  Afterward, we can see that she is sought-after by two different men, as we see their instant messages to her. The young man in the glasses, Karthi, is shy, based upon his embarrassment regarding his purchase in the clothing store.  It is doubtful that the two would have met under more typical circumstances; the young woman likely wouldn’t have given him the time of day and Karthi would have been too shy to approach her.  The red bags, of course, represent mediated communication like instant messaging or texting.  In this story, the red bags offer Karthi a chance to show off his sense of humor and cleverness.  It allows him to get beyond his initially shy nature.  The mystery of the red bags piques the curiousity of the young woman enough to continue communicating with Karthi without her usual defenses.  These portions of the movie are utopian in that a “perfect” means of communicating is created between two people via the red bags.  Later  in the video, a breakdown of this perfect, yet fragile communication is demonstrated when Karthi’s red bag rips.  Their connection was tenuous, after all.   In the end, a chance face-to-face meeting occurs and the movie ends with a seemingly happy and more meaningful interaction.  This is the opposite of the first part of the movie, so perhaps this part is hinting that mediated communication is fallible. too fragile and in effect, more dystopian.  In the end, I see this story as a combination, rather than as one or the other.  It represents a speculative view of the pros and cons of mediated communication versus face-to-face communication, showing that there is room for both in modern interactions.

Block 1, Week 1: E-Learning and Digital Cultures | #edcmooc | BENDITO MACHINE III

This blog is temporarily getting re-purposed.  I will be posting my responses as part of the coursework for a Coursera MOOC out of the University of Edinburgh, E-Learning and Digital Cultures

BENDITO MACHINE III depicts a group of “villagers” who worship any new technology that comes along. They are shown, both literally and figuratively, putting new technology on a pedestal and blindly following it with no critical thought about the usefulness of it or the impact of it on their existing lives. In fact, the villagers seem to have no existing lives at all, other than mutely and dumbly watching and hearing what the technology has to “say”. This continues on until … a new technology comes along. At that point, all previous technologies are thrown into the trash heap and forgotten.

Even more disturbing, the actual message being blindly consumed by the villagers is completely nonsensical. The visual and audio snippets are an amalgamation of retro commercials, news stories and movies put together in a haphazard fashion, and as such, are incomprehensible. For example, one “message” includes components of a doll commercial, toothpaste commercial, cooking show, car commercial, cartoon, a shot of Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting, psychedelic imagery, a makeup remover commercial and a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot toy commercial. The black and white cartoonish faces interspersed within look menacing, lending an uneasy feeling to the content.

Different villagers are seen fetching the “newest” technology at random times and when that technology arrives, it is from some presumably centralized bureaucracy. However, there is no sign that the villagers have a choice or even expect to have a choice; they seem to be blindly-willing consumers of the next “big thing”.

This film has definite dystopian undertones. The villagers are de-humanized and de-democratized by technology. To them, technology is a god to be worshipped, rather than a tool to be utilized. There is an undertone of totalitarian government and cult-like behavior, as well. The villagers request new technology and it is given to them “from above” with no comment, no argument and no choice. The message is gibberish, yet it is totally and numbly accepted by the villagers without a second thought. The villagers’ society is shown headed into oblivion because the villagers are not thinking, not integrating technology into their lives. Rather, they are simply consuming it and then thoughtlessly tossing it away when the next tech gizmo arrives.