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.