One of the films we watched for Week 2 of the MOOC was this one, Charlie 13. I can’t figure out how to embed the video here, the html they provided doesn’t seem to be working. Though we watched several short videos that presented the future of technology (namely advertisements by Corning and Microsoft envisioning their future products), this to me embodied specifically the fight or flight frame of mind that technology debates seem to circle.
Having not watched the other episodes in this series, this about page might be as helpful to you as it was to me. But watch the film first, before reading.
What struck me about this film was the concept of always knowing/always being known. When I think about the role that technology plays today in terms of empowering objects and sort of feeding us massive amounts of information, I think about the hunger to know, and its echo, often in opposition – to be known.
I think about the posts I see on Facebook about their privacy policies, and the urgency with which users seem to yell “REPOST THIS AND CHANGE YOUR SETTINGS, THEY CAN SEE ALL OF YOUR INFORMATION!” Of course they can. And I think what people don’t realize is the role that they play in sharing that information – why is there an expectation of privacy within a social network that is populated by status updates about what kind of sandwich someone ate before they took a nap and then came on to post about it?
I wonder what role the desire to be validated plays in this; the film touched on that briefly when the officer mentioned that the boy would be safe, that this connected life was the better way. I wondered what they thought they were kept safe from, and how this fear of….something, unnamed, seemed to penetrate the structure of society. By having this chip, this identification in your fingertip, you would be safe. You would be part of something bigger. What is this “bigger” thing?
I think too about the role of the body; the chip is implanted into the finger. Identification is housed beneath the skin. And yet our bodies dance this line of private and public as well; the body is displayed, thanks to technology and mass media, in very public and often very raunchy ways…and yet the body is also a private, sacred space. What happens when technology becomes internalized, literally and physically? What happens when pacemakers and metal rods are placed in our bodies in order to sustain life? We call this medical innovation, but these devices are not attached to a tracking device, a bank account, or a drivers license. Does including the body in displays of identification, ie: having your drivers license or passport built into your thumb, create a more or less personal society? The interactions in the film seemed very personal, especially between the mother and the officer, but the film also shared the utter lack of freedom – depending on how you define freedom, I suppose – when each person is visible to the world. The mother talks to her son about this the night before he gets the implant; she says “The whole world is watching you now. You have to step in line like everyone else.” Here we see accountability framed as powerful; the film reverberates with this idea that opting into the system is key to a better life.
I wonder what they fear; what was before? What are they running from? What was this chip implant meant to fix?
As we move into Week 3, the MOOC raises the question of how technology may or may not be a threat to what it means to be human:
One response to the apparent threat to ‘the human’ posed by contemporary theory and technological change is to try to focus on what it is that is most valuable, most precious, most essential about ‘being human’, and to use that idea as a way of re-grounding our practice, our ethics, our politics and our world-view. In this week we will look at various examples which take this broad stance.
I’m looking forward to what this shift brings.