The fourth in the series of short films for week 1 is ‘New Media’ by Julian Cooke and Sebastain Dias. This slick film uses advanced CGI techniques to portray a disturbing vision of a future dominated by machines.
This dystopic film shows a formerly beautiful city falling into dereliction. Vast Gigeresque machines patrol the sky while thick, black cables criss cross deserted streets, penetrating buildings via broken shutters and shattered windows. At the end of one, tentacle-like cable, we see a man; awake, but with eyes devoid of emotion.
The bleak imagery of ‘New Media’ is reminiscent of sci fi films in which artificial intelligence has won the battle for supremacy over the earth (War Games, Terminator, The Matrix…). But another interpretation might be that our growing addiction to new media has led us to become so detached from our fellow beings that physical interaction is no longer required; the technology fulfils our every desire, so that little else matters.
It could even be a vision of the means by which mankind finally achieves the utopic dream of a world without war. By relinquishing all control to the machines, peace reigns at last. But at what cost?
For all of its futuristic imagery, New Media reminds me of Plato’s allegory of the cave. This draws the analogy of prisoners shackled in a cave watching shadows projected on the wall by the flickering light of a fire. Devoid of any other stimulation, the prisoners interpret the images they see and this becomes their version of reality. Though infinitely more sophisticated, the world as experienced through digital media can only ever be a mere shadow of experience felt at first hand.
Moreover, through the allegory of the cave, Plato tells us that sensation is constrained not only by our senses, but also by the fixed patterns of thought imposed by our minds. The philosopher’s role is to see beyond these constraints to enlightenment.
This short animation of Plato’s Cave explains the philosophy perfectly. It gives no reference to new technology, and yet its relevance to the issues expressed in all of this week’s films is striking. The allegory of Plato’s cave resonates with Bendito Machine III, Inbox, Thursday and New Media. Leading me to conclude that, while web based technologies can cross the divides of time and space, they can also act as the cave that imprisons us and limits our ability to interpret the world freely.