Finding some interesting comparisons and contrasts between ‘Memorize’ and ‘The Chase’. Data making and breaking the plot line. #mscedc

‘Memorize’ and ‘The Chase’ sit in different thematic categories in the Cyberculture Film Festival, but have some illuminating similarities and differences.

‘Memorize’ shows life reduced to data, specifically visual data. Crime suspects are innocent or guilty of murder on the basis of visual data retrieved from chips within them. Ironically, in the pursuit of data, much blood is shed… Very little speech or words are in the film – a bot recites advert slogans, graffiti on the walls protests ‘F*ck You’. Words are either commodified, or deviant. The latter, a reaction against a reductionist system, which seems to have arisen in (or caused?) a decaying urban environment.

The plot line hangs on three words: ‘time code deleted’. A character finally gets to speak: ‘Have a nice day’. The bland words of transaction, also of defiance. Finally the main character, gagged throughout, finally hears something through an eye piece: disembodied voice: ‘We’ve got a problem.’ The ‘we’, one presumes, is the techno-legal state policing and surveillance. A problem for the system.

‘The Chase’ also builds, like ‘Memorize’ around a chase-and-hunt sequence. It’s more playful, but storyline-wise, it’s also about obtaining data. Here, it’s an old-fashioned, low-tech envelope. But, rather than a decaying urban environment, this is seamless streaming across digital platforms. No deleted code here, but instead the narrative rejoicing in the absence of any annoying ‘spinning-wheels’ while one application switches to another. (A fantasy, if my computer is anything to go by.)

None of the individual app-sequences in ‘The Chase’ would make sense in isolation, but their linear integration ‘makes’ the story world. Immersion in it is sufficiently satisfying that the final ‘reveal’ – that it’s an Intel advert – is both narrativally satisfying and deflating. Oh, is that all it is?

Cue male disembodied voice-over: “Experience visually stunning performance like never before.” Strangely, the reveal removes some of the wonder. Unless, of course, the viewer is meant to be left with something else in mind (both films convey strongly gendered stereotypes).

Using these films as an interpretive lens for education, here are some reflections:

1. Data reduces and enables/enhances representations of reality. Aha, that last word is becoming hard to use without ‘scare marks’! If ‘Memorize’ reduces crime to cognition, cognition to sight, sight to data retrieval, then ‘The Chase’ seeks to show-case what data can do, at least in Intel’s ‘hands’. ‘Digital’ linked to ‘education’ has the same range of possible impacts, whether intended or not. May education not reduce down, a la ‘Memorize’; also, education might not (may it not??) become seamless, a la ‘The Chase’. Both films seem to fear the risk of seams, of deletions.

2. The digital realm is both an interface with non-digital cultures, and can become a culture in its own right. On the later front, ‘The Chase’ foregrounds this possibility. Initially, I was reminded of A-ha’s 1980s video for ‘Take On Me’:

The difference, though, is that A-ha worked with two binary ‘worlds’. ‘The Chase’ has multiple worlds, and one world across them, simultaneously. This highlights the multiple and flexible ways in which ‘digital’ will engage with ‘education’, and ‘education’ with ‘digital’.

Perhaps this will blur all ontologies, as Haraway (2007) suggests; perhaps life will continue to throw up ‘spinning wheels’ and deleted data. Stories, even. Education, too. We will see. And, hopefully, more than just see.



Let the tech tell the story? ‘Framed’, a 3-minute film shot on an iPhone 4S: #mscedc

‘Framed is a short film which I think sums up for me a number of vibrant threads stretching through the ‘Cybercultures’ block. Here it is:

First, I like the feedback loop of it being a film about a camera – both in terms of how it was made and, differently, in its content. The protagonist is, well, a camera. In front and behind the camera merge into one here, but aren’t the same thing. Its surreal qualities mix around for me, and will play through in my visual artifact, later in this Lifestream.

Second, unusually it’s a rural film. Many in this block have been urban, or the natural world has been a distant ‘other’ of desire (thinking ‘Memorize’), or else a disturbing other (see ‘Plurality’, elsewhere on this Lifestream). Here, in ways which verge, for me at least on the twee – and I don’t quite know what that says about my consumption of it – this is a rural rendering of Cyberculture.

Third, man and machine merge. And he is a man. This is a highly gendered film. It’s the masculinist gaze, it’s his hand which can move, via the camera, between the ‘worlds’. He can touch the woman’s hair (she’s that ‘real’ to him, through the technology), and she doesn’t seem to be aware of him. Hum, some less-than-equal gender and sexual politics playing through there. But not in a steady way: it seems she evades his gaze; she is named, he is not. But the point of view of the film remains his, more than hers.

Fourth, as people and technologies merge, in a Haraway-reminding way, there is a clever play on the word ‘property‘. Does it mean possession (the first and most likely meaning, in the context of the story), or does it verge over into a quality of the person involved?

These questions multiply and don’t easily resolve over the duration of the film. What makes the camera ‘active’ for the man in the way it is? Is it his desire, her investment in the camera, or the camera itself? And what is happening between her and the book? We as viewers can’t tell. The view-finder of the camera is limited, and frustrates certain answers. The woman remains a projection, or does she? What if her ‘side’ of the camera is (more) real?

Fifth, does the camera have memory, sentience? We’re used to digital cameras having ‘memory’, but technically the old-style camera in the film would not. It’s hardware – the software would be the film roll inside it. This film blurs hardware, software and agency: both in its storyline and its production.

A lot of themes from the ‘Cyberculture’ block reworked here. I’m looking to frame by visual artefact



Enjoyed ‘Plurality’ as a film with thought-provoking intertextualities with the course and digital cultures #mscedc

Plurality: here it is:

Set in New York City in 2023, it’s a fun, intertextually-rich film. Two years into the implementation of ‘The Grid’, “a technological marvel”, the film probes the limits of an instrumentalist view of technology. It’s not unique in that, playing on a familiar trope of state/commercial over-play of such power.

The main character is ‘Inspector Jacob Foucault’. As well as looking not dissimilar to Neo in The Matrix, what a wonderful mix of intertextual references in his name: Michel Foucault, with his interest in surveillance and power (and ‘The Grid’ is the Bentham Grid, recalling Jeremy Bentham along the way); Inspector Clouseau sounds pretty close, too; and Jacob’s meaning as ‘deceiver’ is also suggestive at the film’s end. “Send in Foucault. Have a nice day, Mr. Foucault.” The banality of everyday surveillance.

1984 is also not far from view: a poster on a wall likens the grid to ‘Big Brother’; the other main character, and the protagonist is Alana Winston; also, it’s the escape to nature, to the park (presumably Central Park) which seems to hint at relief from the Grid, which, we see, covers only 98% of NYC.

The film links to issues of human identity in this course. A reduction to DNA (with only 0.001% failure rate) removes the need for other markers such as car keys passports, debit and credit accounts, and ID cards. “The ultimate social network.” Ouch! (The film’s chase scene also looks very much within an entertainment mode, resembling the BBC’s Spooks, or Channel 4’s Hunted. Given the Orwellian over-lay, this sense of ‘fun’ is quite unsettling.) You can’t do anything in NYC without the grid (who are they??) knowing who you are, and where you are. The film asks is the right to privacy is effectively dead in NYC. The gird is labeled a funeral for crime – and for what else besides? Seamless security, wherein one sacrifices a little bit of privacy(!) for personal safety. In various contexts, education faces these same questions and challenges, such as in my own context.

The depiction of the technology ranges from the futuristic to the everyday (Minority Report-style computing mixes with contemporary CCTV domes). This has the unsettling effect of blurring future with present, and raising questions about when, exactly, technology becomes too much. That, for me, is part of the film’s power in questioning instrumentalist reductions of technology, whether in education or elsewhere.

The claims for technology conflict, too. “You can’t beat the grid”. But can you? 98%? 0.001%? At least the hint of a dialectic of control remains for maverick human agents. Despite surveillance including brain-monitoring during interrogation. Despite the technology-mediated assertion to Winston that she doesn’t exist, questioning whether she is “supposed to be here” and telling her “you don’t belong here [in 2023].” “Box her in and shut her down” – the film explores the instrumentalist view of technology, when put to the wrong ends.

In a Terminator-style dimension, time-travel seems to be the way to try and bring down the system. The saviour comes from the future, not the past. Like the Cassandra of ancient Greece, Winston prophesies the future but is not believed: “you haven’t seen what I’ve seen… we’re here to stop the grid.”

What kind of subject is Foucault? Is he an appendage of the system, directed by it and at its will? Winston tells him “you’ve replaced freedom with an illusion of safety. But we’re not safe, Foucault. Neither are you.” It’s a word to our time and place, and to the theorists of our time and place.

Is it ironic, when Foucault says to Winston of others coming after her,  “I hope they’re better than you”? At the end, we don’t know if and how he means.  The Eagle-Eye software (good to know it already exists!) spots him from the air at Freedom Tower. An added layer of irony, Freedom Tower being the rebuilt World Trade Center. “Target locked…”

And who is the character Simmo…?
[Further: from Myles’ EDC blog, I saw this: – a game-related application of the kind of technological uses envisaged in this film. Another clever and worrying blurring of entertainment and wider life as both drawn under (and seemingly needing?) a surveillance discipline…]


Lifestream summary, week two

This week I’ve managed to keep the Lifestream going, despite personal and work commitments pressing heavily in. I’m thankful for that. Surveying the week, I distill the following currents:

1. At the start of the week, I sought to look at the wider, material world, to try and include a global perspective in my stream. This consciousness helps prevent my own thinking becoming totalising, and keeps it sensitive to my own positionality. Digital technologies also feed back into my wider life in this regard – see the final post before this one.

2. I’ve engaged with the set readings more this week, both in commenting on things I’ve encountered online, and in a longer reflection on Sian Bayne’s article. Next week, I’d like to write a similar piece on Donna Haraway’s essay, which I’ve found to be the most challenging reading I’ve encountered for a long time. As mentioned this week, I’d possibly like to work on a theology of posthumanism for my dissertation, so this might well become an ongoing feature in the Lifestream.

3. I’ve sought to tie readings and digital encounters back to education. This isn’t always easy to do, given the diverse nature of digital encounters, but I’m trying to do it, and trying not to let the educational angle limit my Lifestream too much.

4. I’ve enjoyed working with the films, and look forward to some more of that. Watching film is a refreshing change, and interchange, with reading the printed word. By training, I’m more a word person. It’s great to be stretched a little.

Thankful for the work of the Trussell Trust – great to see their grounded work explained on their website: #mscedc

On Thursday night I heard an excellent presentation about mercy, justice and compassion within Christian ministries. What helped make it a powerful act of communication was use of digital technologies, including this video of one life-story changed through the work of the Trussel Trust, who run food banks in the UK:

On one level, just another use of YouTube, but really helpful for grounding a potentially abstract topic within real, embodied lives. Technologies can be wonderfully communicative. An obvious statement, but a thankful part of this week’s lifestream.



A colleague writes vs.academic Caesars: How do they sound in other academic contexts, esp. armed with tech? #mscedc

A quick end-of-week late-addition from a blog written by a colleague and friend. I like the way Brad links the issue to our context, both as a Christian institution and a small one at that.

As my Tweet asks, I’m wondering if this vision is attractive for others on EDC, in light of our readings and explorations within digital cultures.

The article Brad refers to doesn’t mention technologies, but every Caesar needs his armies. In saying that, I’m not wanting to paint technology as negative but, as other posts last week and this week have demonstrated, technologies are far from neutral. As Bayne (2015) contends, technology not so much ‘enhances’ education as, rather, it changes it, and charges it with the energies of new possibilities – and educational managerialism is subject to similar dynamics, too.

Original article:



Liked on YouTube: A Tale Of Transhumanism

This YouTube film was made by Herr Schwindenhammer, a fellow student on EDC. I’m really appreciating his use of different modes to communicate his points, beginning with his live podcast last week.

Below, at the bottom of this post are the questions Herr Schwindenhammer asks. To answer one, I found Miller (2011: 213) helpful for distinguishing transhumanism (here linked by Miller to extropianism) from posthumanism:

“Unlike some of the other shades of posthumanism (notably ‘extropianism’ below), the notion of the cyborg keeps the body firmly in view by emphasising technology as embodied (Bell, 2001). As a result, cyborgs mark out a series of questions about the boundaries of the body.”

Transhumanism seems close to humanism, as defined by the Western secular-liberal tradition. But Knox (2015: 2) speaks of the humanist human subject as “a bounded entity, entirely separate from the outside world of objects: technologies, environments, and other ‘nonhuman’ things”. Transhumanism seems willing, even eager, to preserve the entity, but unravel the bindings.


A Tale Of Transhumanism
Where will technology lead us? Or where will we lead technology?

If you find this little film entertaining, if it makes you think or if it resonates with you, please share.

Possible study questions:
– What is Transhumanism?
– What are the differences between Transhumanism and Humanism?
– What is the role of technology?
– Who controls technology?
– How does techology influence power, fame and money and vice versa?
– Why do the characters in the film act the way they do?
via YouTube

Watching the key = ‘correctly’ (2:01 mins in). But what does it mean/look like? Cf. #mscedc

I came across this show ( via a BBC news item which looked initially promising from its headline, but was a bit of a mish-mash of ideas:

The piece adverted to the Bett Show. At initial glance, the conference looked interesting, and I wished I’d been able to go along. Looking at the introductory video, though, I was underwhelmed.

It seemed to say nothing or everything. It all hangs on that ‘correctly’ 2:01 minutes into the film. Again, thankful to Bayne (2015) from this week’s readings, for a helpful sharpening of my critical eye for such things. Perhaps the show was worth visiting, but it could have done with a sharper opening video.



Chimera of the Week, Number 2: we need a human-watchdog for AI: Why did I first type ‘watchgod’ by mistake? #mscedc

This article both resonates with last week’s postings, looking at the potential risks identified for certain technologies, especially algorithms, and also illustrates the critical insights in Bayne (2015) regarding the absence of simple ‘enhancement’ from technology.

Here, that latter point is amplified by this article’s hope that “a trusted third party body” can hold the complexities at bay and allow scrutiny and auditing to enable transparency and fairness. I’m left wondering if this is like the alleged time when King Canute sought to hold back the tide.

After all, who is the auditor of the auditor? The reflexivity reported by Hayles (1999: 8-9) looms into view:

“it confuses and entangles / the boundaries we impose on the world in order to make sense of that world. Reflexivity tends notoriously towards infinite regress.”

Also, the article amused me, in light of Haraway’s (2007) rendering of the cyborg. Would this “third party body” be human, machine or both? And it’s also a watch-dog! Chimera material, most definitely.




Chimera of the Week, Number 1: a human-pig. A ‘milestone study’, but towards where, and on what road? Also a millstone, perhaps. #mscedc

Hum, this Tweet would probably have communicated better had it contained a URL. No wonder I managed to say so much in it! The reference is to this article:

The article’s headline resonated for me, having just read this from Haraway (2007: 35):

“By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism. In short, we are cyborgs. The cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centres structuring any possibility of historical transformation.”

The under-lining is mine. I’m struck by the stepped assertions Haraway makes, from ontology to politics. I recognise she’s doing what she sets out to do, that is, “to build an ironic politic myth” (p.34). In a future posting, I want to work out a longer reflection on her essay. Here, it was the word ‘chimera’ that resonated for me. It was a word I had to look up a meaning for, and ask someone how to pronounce it. It is, it seems, a word to get used to.

In a curious use of the word ‘education’, at 2:56 minutes into the video within the above article, one of the scientists says of stem cells that “they can educated to become a heart, a liver, or a pancreas”.

This seems an extremely instrumentalist use of education. It feeds into the questions I have about such advances in my Tweet: perhaps the use of the word is incidental, but whither education, with such extensions in its linguistic usage?