Through the film “Bendito Machine III”, the creator (Jossie Malis) expresses own vision of the relationship between the technology and society, and to me her perspective appears to be that of strong technological determinism, that is to say that in this short movie emergence of new technology is presented as the sole condition determining social organisation and development of the little community featured in the film. I would also suggest that there are noticeable features supporting the concerns of technological non-neutrality, technological imperative, technological animism and technoevolutionism.
What is the film suggesting are the ecological and social implications of an obsession or fixation on technology?
The film demonstrates non-neutrality of the technology, which from the creator’s point of view has destructive effect on particular persons and society in general. The threatening perspectives of such an effect are expressed throughout the film, both by the plot of the “story” and the choice of para-linguistic features.
To start with, the film is introduced by a picture of a person failing to escape a destiny of being gobbled up by an oversized huge head – that is as to let the audience know that they are about to watch a horror film with fatal ending for a human being, which the movie proves to deliver. The background is that of aggressive red colour, probably used to either give a warning of a danger or to even to symbolise an emergency as a disaster is fast approaching. The sky over the “technology mountain” is threatening, and never-changing heavy clouds over the village add to the feeling of unhappy present and dark future.
An obsession with technology leads the little community to certain changes in their social organisations, which hardly appear to make the people happy for long time and, moreover, make many of them hurt and scared, including those people, who brought the technology on and those who worshipped it devotedly. For instance, we can see that more and more people get fixated on technology (a growing number of people gathering around the technology altar; technology reaching beyond its altar and engaging with people every-day life, like men watching football); children get “led by” technology in their games and cannot escape it; women get preoccupied with stereotypes spread and imposed by mass-media (they follow commonly-approved routine in order to fit in with what is recognised as appropriate and therefore popular, and those individuals who refuse to diet get kicked out). In the end, vast majority of people get horrified and then destroyed by technology.
Ecology does not benefit from people’s obsession with technology, as every new invention displaces the previous, and people dispose of still working devices by simply throwing them from the cliff. There is a constantly-growing pile of non-degradable garbage with birds trying to feed on it. I assume the author could only add to the drama by making a couple of birds choke on fine pieces…
Do the film’s characters have any choice in relation to their technologies?
People pray for technology (at least in the beginning of the film) and worship it. It is their choice to ascend it to the altar, which is embellished gracefully and contrasts with their plane huts. It is some individuals’ conscious intension to struggle up and down the mountain and perform rituals in order to pursue new and more advanced technology. To dethrone technology which they idolized and throw it off is evidently within the humans power, at least before they get destroyed by it altogether. Yet, somehow people disregard their control over the situation and allow for the technology to dominate their lives. Should we take this as some type of reference to the notion of technological imperative, suggesting that humans cannot resist using what is technically possible and therefore will inevitably do that sooner or later, regardless of consequences?
Technology is presented as autonomous or animated, i.e. with the consciousness and will of living beings, with their own purposes rather that performing technical functions assigned to them by people, and therefore it is out of human’s control and can led to unforeseen side-effects.
We can see how technology transforms on the altar with no input and to deep surprise of people. It gets of the altar, a place designated for technology by people, and moves into the village by its own will and spreads just about everywhere, leading and chasing people, changing their lives dramatically. It is interesting to see how the author interprets the influence of technology on the people, thus it is not other women who exclude the one who chooses to carry on with her ways and eats ice-cream despite the technology-enforced and commonly-accepted movement towards slimming down – it is technology that kicks the woman out brutally. Furthermore, the last piece of technology featured in the film appears on the scene all by its own – it simply falls of the sky by its own will (as if it makes own decision when the time is right for the next development), in contrast to the previous ones which were “delivered” by people. Yet, even in those cases when people “pursued” technology, they were not given any choice of pieces and had to accept the one offered by the “technology mountain”. All those points suggest that people had hardly any choice in relation to their technology from the very beginning, and even less of that, if any, by the time when technology developed extremely.
What are the characteristics of various technologies as portrayed in this film?
As far as I can observe, the film creator’s view on social development is close to that of techno-evolutionary theorists, which defines progress and development in terms of successive stages of technological development, thus 4 technological “revolutions” are drawn in the movie, leading to historical “eras” defined by each particular technology.
The first piece of technology, presented in a form of a bull with some type of speech-features, most likely stands for radio. It is not interactive and hardy intervenes in the social organisation of the little community, yet it still attracts many people and affects their values and life-style turning them into the faithful followers and sacrifices.
The second piece features audio and video facilities and can be recognised as television technology. It is more developing and spreading rapidly, entering and affecting dramatically each and every field of people’s lives.
The next piece of technology can be associated with a robot or a computer – it is grater, multifunctional (comprising the features of previous technologies and featuring a great number of other as well), it is much more interactive and can be operated by a human. Nevertheless, it is so massive that, once failing to perform, leads to unfortunate consequences, such as crushing many people.
The last piece of technology is hard to identify. It is all and nothing in one; it performs a number of different noises and motions, and their purpose and outcome are not straightforward. Does it symbolise the network which combines all the previous technological achievements? Nevertheless, it is so huge that is capable of destroying the entire society and that is exactly what it leads to.
Whatever the stage of technological development, from the least to the most advanced, each piece of technology is presented as giant (more significant and powerful) and therefore dominating tiny-sized (less valued and fragile) humans. On one side, it “enlightens” people, appearing as the only bright light in the darkness of the life of the society. On the other side, the video creator draws a picture of technology dominating people to the extent when they are treated as prisoners, and only some of humans can escape, yet just to return with another piece of technology.
The video leaves no hope for better or brighter future whatsoever! Once people have let technology into their lives and got obsessed with it, they are destined to witness technological development and domination – and get inevitably destroyed by technology.
What a sad perspective… Even though there are some points in the video which I can hardly argue (as the evidence is rather strong), yet I personally prefer to think that the author’s vision is somewhat overemphasized and that future of relationship between people and technology cannot be that extremely dystopian.
The terminology used above refers to that explored in Daniel Chandler's web essay "Technological or Media Determinism" and briefly noted down in one of my previous posts "Brief notes on Daniel Chandler's "Technological or Media Determinism" #edcmooc".
Behind the scene
Reviewing the video from a cetain theoretical perspective was an interesting experience. It's quite impressive how much one can notice once switcing attention onto the presence or absence of certain features and analysing them!
Reflecting on the result, I am not quite happy with the size and style of my analysis. I think a digital artefact (the EDC MOOC assignment) should be ways shorter and perhaps less academic. It will probably be worth trying to practice limiting my further posts to somwthing like 500 words (which would be three times shorter than this post) and attempting at adopting less formal style.
As for experiencing a range of digital tools, I would not give myself credits either. I practiced embedding YouTube videos in a number of FaceBook posts, therefore it was an easy task to embed one in this blog-post.
Anyways, I have by all means enjoyed the activity and benifited from self-reflection and identifying next steps for development. So, I believe, it is time for a well-deserved little break!