Monday, September 26, 2011

Movie “Connected”: Autoblogography about love, death & technology

Movie “Connected”: Autoblogography about love, death & technology

 I participated in a Marshall McLuhan Centenary Symposium Fordham University’s Mcnally Auditorium on September 25. There was a preview screening of “Connected” (to be released in October, 2011), a new film by Tiffany Shlain, an American filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards, and a panel discussion among media professionals followed after watching the movie.

I took my daughter, Holly, who just turned 17 years old to the symposium. It’s because I thought it would be a great opportunity for her to think about how media have changed the way we lead our daily lives. Before going there, I explained about some famous aphorisms, “The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village” and “The medium is the message.” by Marshall McLuhan. She seemed to understand that the medium has more impact than the substance of what is said, shown or written.

It was so funny that Mr. McLuhan, a metaphysician of the media, personally expressed the view that “we are fools to use radio and television in the modern world.” He added: “Only madmen would use radio and TV if they know the consequences.” In the entire movie, Tiffany, the narrator kept saying, “The more connected, the greater consequences would come.” by exemplifying World War I & II. His famous quote was proved and still holds good even after more than 40 years have passed. Tiffany even declared 21st century is the era of “Interdependence” not “Independence”. (It was ironical for me to reflect that I was so impressed by how American people weighed the value of “Independence” in their relationship and career when I first came to America. I had to experience cultural shock based on individualistic culture because I grew up totally under the environment of collectivistic society (high definition, high context) and got used to being dependent on each other. )

The movie, Connected started from Tiffany’s personal memoir about her father, Leonard Shlain, once her super hero, surgeon and author died of brain cancer and elaborately wove her delivery of second child while talking about the development of technology and media has changed the way of connection and reorganize the way of communication between people, societies, and countries. The movie was partly a portrait of her life and our times of 21st century through the introduction of new medium such as emails, internet chatting, facebook, and twitter via smart phones beyond the limitation of time and space. In addition, all the graphics and images of being connected through new media were expressed amazingly in the movie. Had it included various storytelling episodes regarding the development of media in addition to her own memory of her father, it would have more gotten into the public, though.
Actually, I had a personal experience of being into facebook for about 8 months. I found myself addicted to the smart phone in order to check all the updated posts and respond to them. It was just like teenagers’ addictive properties toward personal electronic carriers such as MP3, I-pad, I-pot, I-phone and so on. I used to blame Holly for being distracted by unnecessary things while doing her homework. For example, when she is doing her homework, she’s texting her friends, checking her face book, surfing web-sites, or chatting through MSN service via her cellular phone. I’ve found that she looks irritated when she forgets to carry her blackberry.

However, my case went farther than hers. I did facebook even while sleeping. (I mean my obsession with facebook was excessive for a while.)  I’ve realized that this kind of obsessive compulsive behavior attached to mobile carriers can be easily found regardless of generation once bitten by the bug of SNS. It has been a month since I blocked my facebook wall posting. Being connected with people beyond the barriers of time and space was awesome, but it also hindered my life and my relationship here just at present. It’s ironical to find out that connecting with people in the virtual activities and communication may isolate or disconnect people who I have relationship with in real life. At the end of the movie, Tiffany also asked to herself, “Is connecting widely blocking connecting deeply?” It reminded me of Web 2.0 Suicide Machine” that allows users to permanently delete their accounts from social networking sites such as Facebook Myspace, Twitter and LinkedIn. “When you make 5,000 fake virtual friends, you’ll lose your true 50 friends!” is its catchy phrase.

Actually, I was looking forward to some analysis or reflection about some side effect of new media in terms of being connected in the movie, but only it shows the phenomenon about being connected in the image of global village that McLuhan predicted about a half century ago and doesn’t go in depth while touching her personal stories regarding technology, She wanted to talk more about love through the experience of her father’s death and her child’s birth interwoven with the development of technology.

Therefore, in the academic point of view, the movie just scratched the surface of the issue, “Being connected through the internet,” and in the view point of public interest, the movie was not really attractive due to lack of dramatic stories related. In other words, to the scholars, it seems to be rather superficial, and to the public it sounds to be less fun. However, Holly simply replied to me, “Wow… It was so fun!~” when I asked directly, “How was it?”

During the panel discussion, it was exciting to listen to some panelists who stated their controversial views about the movie and the situation that new media caused. Also, we had active discussion between the audience and the panelists. Most of all, I was happy that the panelists and the audience applauded Holly when she spoke about her opinion that “the more connected may bring about the more controlled. “ It was definitely a good education for her to get a food for thought about the environment that media and technology have influence on. Actually she got a chance to think about that “media do matter!”

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