Friday, November 7, 2014

Technological Determinism and 4 short films #edcmooc

Here are my impressions of each of the 4 short films in relation to the questions posed by the course tutors and then in relation to Chandler's article. 

I apologise for the over simplifications that follow.

I really enjoyed the 4 short films. I found the article by Chandler tough going, through no fault of Chandler, but it's been a few years since I've read an academic piece of this nature. However, perseverance paid off and I found it very informative:

Film 1 Bendito Machine III

Film 2 Inbox
Film 3 Thursday
Film 4 New Media

The article: Chandler, D. (2002). Technological determinism. Web essay, Media and Communications Studies, University of Aberystwyth 

Bendito Machine III

The film suggests that technology/media has a great effect on society, all the people were obsessed with the technology to the point of worship. It also affected their behaviour, everyone doing exercises in time with the technology.  As the images got more violent so did at least one member of the group, going of to get the "TV with guns". The members of the group had no choice of media, only the one who fetched the updated technology each time. There was no interaction with the media, until the very end, when the final technology fell from the sky, a computer/the Internet, with the sound of the dial up modem suggesting a chance for interaction and connectivity, unfortunately everyone was dead.

My view of this film after reading Chandler's article is that it is certainly reductionist, the implication of the film is that it is technology at the heart of what is happening. The radio, television, computer are implied, but they all come from the same place and all look similar. There is also a sense that the development of the technology is inevitable, which implies there is a technological imperative, every time the chap wanders off you know he will come back with something bigger and better, not necessarily better for the group, but better in the sense that it is more advanced. This is also showing that the evolution of technology is progress.

Chandler divides technological determinism into strong and weak.  Strong technological determinism is when the technology is the sole cause or a necessary cause of change. While weak technological determinism is when technology is viewed as an enabling factor. This film has a strong technological determination perspective, but an obviously dystopian one. The technology is seen as the sole reason for change, but it's not a change for the better.


On the whole I felt this film had a utopian perspective, after all they wouldn't have met, were it not for the technology, and there is the implication that they will be happy together in the future. I found this film interesting because for me it showed stages of adoption of a new technology. Stages I'm calling, through lack of any research, experimentation, self consciousness, lack of inhibition, reliance, behavioural change. When the female lead starts putting objects in the bag, she throws in whatever is to hand (experimentation), when the female lead tells the male her name, she becomes real and he quickly gets dressed (self consciousness). Then later they are both more comfortable with the technology, at one point the male double checks a message he has written, shrugs his shoulders, and chucks it in. Then when the bag rips and they can no longer communicate, both are distressed (reliance). Finally, when they meet face to face for the first time, the continue to communicate with messages on the post it notes (behavioural change). I'm not suggesting that they continued through out their relationship to communicate in the same manner, but I thought it significant.

After reading Chandler's article, I find it difficult to link what he states as technological determinism with the film. Except the overall principle that technology causes change in society, and this is only due to the fact that the couple continue to communicate by notes after they first meet (tenuous I admit).  However, (I'm guessing the article was written in the late 90s by looking at the references), it did make me wonder how Chandler would have defined technical determinism more recently with the advent of social networking and instant messaging.


I believe that this film is trying to tell us that we are too reliant on technology. When the technology fails, the humans are of no use.  They are part of one large functioning, or non functioning machine. The main loss in this film is man's connection with nature, the wife walks through the tiny park tapping on her phone ignoring the nature around her. The only brief connection is when the baby bird hits the apartment window and the husband watches on as the bird picks itself up unaided and flies away. There is an irony in that some of the technology copies nature, the alarm clock, the machine that allows them to fly. Another loss is the sense of achievement, the couple are taken to their flying machine by a lift, which takes forever and bores them.  While the baby bird struggles day and night to learn to fly and succeeds (unaided). To me it is quite clear the the birds have agency in this film, they use the technology for their needs, wire for the nest, a satellite dish to build the nest on, they are not slaves to the technology.  This is also highlighted by the fact that throughout the film the human characters never speak, just the occasional grunt, while you can constantly here the technological drone, with the bird song loud over the top.

In relation to technological determinism, there is a strong element of reification, technology as a single whole thing, highlighted by its wholesale failure when the wire is removed.  It is also mechanistic, with machines representing technology, the aforementioned mechanical drone throughout gives this impression. Also, the sense that the humans have just given up and plod on through their tech laden lives implies that the development of technology is unstoppable, highlighting a technological imperative.

New Media

We were asked by the tutors to compare this film to the first film "Bendito Machine III". Initially the only similarity I could see was the lack of choice as to what they were viewing, listening to. In film 1, they watch whatever is shown, there is no element of choice and in "New Media" the only human character sits passively listening to whatever is being pushed to him by the aliens (for want of a better word), while the remote lies redundant on the floor. A difference between the films is Film 1 shows the process of technological development, while Film 4 shows the result. I briefly got excited when I realised that the human character in New Media was listening to the sound track of 12 Angry Men, but couldn't work out what message was being conveyed with regard to technology.

After reading Chandler's article I was able to see a great number of connections between it and New Media. This was also aided by visiting New Media creator's website, Moli studio. Where they summarise the film as "We've been invaded again...This time it's our own fault... we've created New Media". The film is both mechanistic and reductionist, technology is reduced to one thing the machines, everything else is in ruin. The technology is a monster created by man, it does as it wishes and is in control, so technology is autonomous. The film shows a technological imperative, man is certainly not in control of the technology and can't stop it. This film has a strong technological determination perspective, and like Bendito Machine III a very dystopian one.

Overall, I can't imagine that technological determinism is spouted as a solely dystopian theory, but it is quite apparent from the majority of the films above, plus the fact that to my knowledge no one was able to mention a single technology driven utopian film, that the media interprets technological determinism as a thing to be avoided. 

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