Bendito Machine III #edcmooc

Day 2

In Block 1, we are exploring how digital cultures are interpreted as being either utopian (highly desirable) or dystopian (negative). To illustrate this, four short films are referenced as course materials. The first of these, Bendito Machine III, has prompted some fascinating discussion on the course forum.

Bendito Machine III is a beautifully animated tale, which appears to draw parallels between technology and religion by echoing aspects of Exodus 32, The Golden Calf. In synopsis: while Moses is communing with God on Mount Sinai, the Israelites, believing they have been abandoned, commission Aaron to create an idol for them to worship – the Golden Calf. God becomes angry and wants to smite the Israelites, but Moses convinces him to hold his fire. Moses returns to the people with the tablets on which the ten commandments had been written, but when he sees them rejoicing over the Golden Calf, he smashes the tablets in anger and God sends down a plague upon the Israelites for their disobedience.

Take a look at the film for yourself and see what you think.

For me, Bendito Machine III has another subtext, which I find more interesting. After Moses disposes of the radio calf, the people are captivated by the television he replaces it with. At first, the images it transmits are charming. But as time passes, they become increasingly macabre. Brief, almost subliminal images of boys with toy guns are replaced by flashes of the victims of war.

Eventually, pictures provoking fear and terror dominate. The people feel helpless and afraid. They cluster around the television praying for deliverance from the doom it predicts. This brought to mind another commentary on the evils of television (or rather, the media’s manipulation of television) from Charlie Brooker’s popular Newswipe series. Brooker’s ‘Week in Bullshit’ sums up the dystopic potential of television perfectly and describes the events being expressed in Bendito Machine III far better than I ever could.

This very real phenomenon also illustrates the way that culture and technology move hand in hand. It begs the question: do we shape technology or does technology shape us? In the context of learning, the ‘Baldwin effect’ suggests that the behaviour of a species (our culture) can shape the way in which it evolves. Once controversial (Baldwin proposed his hypothesis in 1896), this theory became popular with evolutionary psychologists such as Daniel Dennett who applied the Baldwin effect to the search for a means by which social learning can achieve rapid evolution of brain, language and mind, so perhaps emerging technology and digital cultures hold the key to utopia after all.

I could write a whole thesis on this subject, so I will stop now, but this is definitely a theme I want to return to later.


6 thoughts on “Bendito Machine III #edcmooc

  1. I enjoyed this film very much. It really depicts the way people look at technology. There is always awe at the beginning, the belief that there is nothing like the new gadget, everybody adores and worships it and thinks that we cannot live without it until the new cadget comes and then we feel betrayed and disappointed. What is more, we follow the trends the new gadget-gods dictate and pretend that we are happy following them, until a new invention comes along and we abandon our previous “god” and follow without thinking (I’m afraid) the new god. The big question then is posed. Are we just a pack of followers or thinking people?

    • I like that – ‘Gadget Gods’. Very fitting. I think Apple comes across as kind of omnipotent. It tells us ‘little people’ what we want and we merrily comply, buying each new release as it comes out.

  2. The first film of Benito, I can say:
    If you observe the humanity History, in my opinion, it happen the same with the appearance when a new tech, understanding about that, not only the equipments buy also the skills for procedures , some algorithms, etc.
    The film’s characters show that the most people adore the new tech , from the simple palanca to the internet, without taking into account the consequences of that.
    From the alienation of TV till wars and bombs, or authomatic answers machines, which at the end depersonalized the subjectivity of the users.

    • That’s very interesting. To me, I felt that, aside from the main protagonists, the people were quite passive. They didn’t ask for the new technologies, but obediently accepted their arrival and the subsequent removal of the earlier machines.

      I also picked up on the depersonalising effect. They seemed pretty indifferent when the machines killed their neighbours, didn’t they?

  3. I appreciate your move to problematise determinist positions by asking “do we shape technology or does technology shape us?” – this seems to offer up the possibility that the answer is ‘both’ and ‘it depends’, and (as we’ll see in later weeks of the course) probably also starts to challenge the categories of ‘we’ (human) and ‘it’ (technology). Which I guess that Bendito does, too, in a way – the obvious malevolence of that television on legs…

  4. Hmmm. I can’t help feeling I’ve seen that malevolent TV somewhere before… that’s it, Evil Edna of Willo the Wisp fame must have escaped from Doily Woods!

    On a serious note, I’m just getting my head around technological determinism. I’m working my way through Daniel Chandler’s web essay, but it’s pretty dense reading. I’m taking it one page at a time 🙂

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