Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

Question (perhaps meanderingly so)

To put it bluntly, Vannevar Bush’s ‘memex’ is our phone, our computer, the internet, our hyperlinks and hashtags and chains. Again bluntly, it is our current lives. That’s not difficult to interpret. What is difficult to interpret is the idea that such devices and tools are placeholders for knowledge, and not simply information. Bush writes of how, “Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems.” And yet, our personal (and I stress here personal) devices have been, for the most part, selfishly appropriated, not for knowledge, not even for information, but, it seems, for memory. And not even collective memory, but individual memory. These are MY songs, MY notes, MY photographs, MY ideas. They may be shared and deposited and transmitted, sent through the web or through text or through email, ‘cited’ on Facebook or forwarded, but they are, in my mind, always assumed to be mine.

In thinking through this rather pessimistic formulation, my question is, have we developed our current commercial technology as tools with which to better ourselves and our world? If VR will never be an empathy machine, is it simply entertainment? If the internet isn’t globally democratized and cannot be used or accessed by everyone, has it’s mission as a global information and knowledge exchange tool failed? And if there are 263 selfies on my phone but not a single article about the experience of another suffering or achieving or persevering, if I never use it to learn, what is the point of this machine, more powerful than anything possible in Bush’s time, and why is it in my pocket? Have these devices simply fallen into obsolescence when it comes to knowledge? Where, in all our technology, is ‘knowledge’ that can be applied not simply as experience, or for experience, but as applicable and implementable towards understanding, empathy, and change?

Finally, how do we reconcile our various technological forms into one ‘knowledge stream’? Or, can we?

Wed, November 8 2017 » Future Cinema