Future Cinema

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

Moving in Place: The Question of Distributed Social Cinema

Documentation of Exhibit:

Event Images:


Press release for exhibit

Moving in Place: The Question of Distributed Social Cinema is an exchange between the director/producer of SPECFLIC, Adriene Jenik, and associate professor at The SIUC College of Mass Communication & Media Arts, Sarah Lewison. Artist Adriene Jenik considers herself a telecommunications media artist, whose creative works include Open_Borders Lounge, Mauve Desert: A CD-ROM Translation, and Desktop Theater. The article is part of the third book – entitled Third Person and edited by Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin – in a series put out by the MIT press that combines perspectives from artists, scholars, and media practitioners. Offering insight into how digital media maintains and constructs fictions, the book envisions narrative potential as expanded by computation vastness. The editors of Third Person, Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, describe SPECFLIC as an example of how digital media can fictionalize the audience’s own space, thus creating a new form of cinema whose vastness exceeds the space of the screen (3). Jenik describes the SPECFIC project on her website as using “cutting edge transmission and display forms to expand a critical dialogue (begun in science fiction literature and cinema) about the social effects of these very forms. Live ambient performances streamed through mobile video platforms are “mixed” and projected on public architecture to produce a new form of cinematic experience.”

In discussing SPECFIC, the article introduces several ideas that can be considered within a larger-scale discussion of technology, future cinema, and a new form of storytelling the article refers to as “distributed social cinema” (179). Fundamental to SPECFIC is the integration of audience’s mobile communication gadgets into its story; invited to give their phone numbers, audience members received text messages that integrated them within the storyworld, transforming them from spectators to participants. For both Jenik and Lewison, this represents the crux of ‘distributed social cinema’, a re-envisioning of technologies they see as alienating the individual from his or her physical environment. In SPECFIC 2.0, the Martin Luther Library is transformed into a futuristic digital archive where the InfoSphrion elicits spectator participation to enforce reading license violations. Personal mobile communication devices – typically used as a means of isolation and a kind of transportation to an imaginary elsewhere – are reconstituted as a way of socially connecting participants with each other and the site. This represents a shift from mobile technology ascertained as a window to an elsewhere. Instead, it calls for a re-evaluation of the way technology is used in future forms of cinema. Personal technological devices become equal participants in the story; thus, they longer serve to mediate between reality and the imagined elsewhere of story but, instead, serve to blur the distinction.

Another thread through the article and SPECFLIC is an examination of the changing dynamics in our relationship with technology. According to Jenik, we have developed a relationship to the technologies we create, which in turn creates an increased sense of agency and control. An example of this, articulated by Lewison, is found in the way media is becoming a substitute for memory itself. This is literally visualized in the intersection of public and private interested in this storyworld of SPECFLIC where public libraries no longer exist and books are abolished as inefficient means of disseminating information. SPECFLIC invites its audience to consider how digital media archives can be seen as a means of disconnecting people from social, public sites such as libraries, further disengaging people from their environments. By imagining a Distopian-likefuture SPECFLIC serves as an intervention piece that propose a counter-use of technology as means of recontextualizing our environment.

The notion of SPECFLIC as a “cinema of distraction” discussed by Jenik and Lewison is particularly significant in the context of future cinemas. The experience of the installation is described as analogous to bumping into someone on the street and represents the inversion of integrated attention. By incorporating communication devices that individuals use to escape their environments, Jenik is able to produce “counterattention;” Instead of enforcing a mediated total submersion into the elsewhere of the story, this new form of attention distracts spectators by offering access to competing spectacles within SPECFLIC. A politically subversive potential is envisioned by this kind of experience, where distraction is the gaps between the competing totalities of single circuits of attention and offers sites for dissent.

Mon, October 26 2009 » Futurecinema_2009, assignments, seminar summaries