Monday, October 3, 2011

Culture shock

For many thousands of years, culture and information were transported and inseminated by way of word of mouth. Then the written word gave that a boost and eventually the printed word. With the advent of film, photographic and later, cinemagraphic information was passed along and it became the new literary form.

But what is next?

Aaron Koblin, in his TED piece, "Artfully visualizing our humanity" thinks this will be the "interface".

A commonality across the world is important, having something to relate to, some way to relate, to one another. We are all basically far more similar than different. But ways to breech that quickly is important. It's part of what concerned me about home schooling and the breakdown of traditional educational schema. It is both good and bad.

From the point of my being in High School and before that, literature was the big equalizer, the one thing that culture and cultures were using to standardize interpersonal and intercultural communications. For many decades, even hundreds of years, to get a college degree one had to study the "classics". People asked why. Mostly college students who were being bored to death. But what this gave us was a common thread.

I noticed it myself with my children, when they would tell me they had to read something like "Lord of the Flies", or "Brave New World", or "1984". We then had a common element we could discuss, learn from  and better get to know one another on an intellectual level.

I've heard this mentioned in the sports arena, too. One thing you can have in common with someone on the East coast, if you are from the West coast, was to discuss sports. Religion or politics can be somewhat too invigorating and lead too quickly to disputes and in social intercourse, especially in the business realm, you want to avoid dissociation and alienation. You want to find a common thread or better, bond.

On the other hand, Religion and politics tend to be too important to people as they tend to be too serious and too focused on your life. Sports however, is an entertainment. Surely some take it too seriously, but for the most part, you can agree to disagree and have a humorous discussion about it. At least, most adults can.

With the advent of moving films, people have not had a need to read so much for entertainment, or for education.
Auteur Swedish Film Director Ingmar Bergman
Cinema, the field of moving pictures, of story told through filmic techniques, of transliteration of text into "movies", moves us beyond mere words into something far more complex. If a "picture is worth a thousand words", the complexity is immediately obvious. Cinema can be taught much like the structure of literature can be taught, only with even more complexity (in the case of a well crafted film by an auteur director).

Angles of camera direction, movement of the lens, lighting and so on, can all lend an orientation of individual, information and philosophy. This does not mean that literature is no longer necessary, as it is dense in another way entirely and will always be necessary in a certain way. But as someone once put it, Cinema is the new literature.

So what is this talk about "interface"?

In the 1960s, Canadian Media Messiah (he didn't like that term) Marshall McLuhan, as you may know coined the expressions, "the Medium is the Massage" and "the global village".

"The main concept of McLuhan's argument (later elaborated upon in The Medium is the Massage) is that new technologies (like alphabets, printing presses, and even speech itself) exert a gravitational effect on cognition, which in turn affects social organization: print technology changes our perceptual habits ("visual homogenizing of experience"), which in turn affects social interactions ("fosters a mentality that gradually resists all but a... specialist outlook")." - Wikipedia

Aaron Koblin now contends that rather than the medium, "The Interface is the Message."

Text Messaging dynamics
Aaron took interfaces on Google and gave the internet public access to submit and create various elements for playback. In his closing interface, they took a song from the band Arcade Fire and you entered your address where you were and the ensuing music video would incorporate visual elements of your local area giving you a very specific experience that goes beyond literature or cinema.

My son has been saying for some years how movies are old technology and video games are leading the way to a new environment. He is now a software tester on video games (gee, didn't see that one coming). But his point was relevant. Rather than going to a theater and watching a movie, or watching one at home, you will be able to not only have a movie tailored to your specifically, but you will be able to guide the direction that the film goes, so that in the end, you will have an experience specifically designed to give you the kind of pleasure you want at that time. And then the next time you watch the "movie", it will be slightly, or entirely, different.

This enriches your environment exponentially.

I played this kind of video game years ago. Back then they were crude and not a great experience, but I could see that it had potential. However, much as I feel about "realty TV" (and I prefer "actuality TV that is totally not scripted unlike shows like Jersey Shore, or Big Brother, etc.), I do prefer scripted shows. But then, I am a writer and I like to see writer's getting paid. But not only that, a scripted show means it should have more depth and thought put into it. It can have echoic textures and meanings you do not get in interactive works.

Live type dynamic entertainment is experiential and motivated by randomness or your desires, teaching you less in some areas and yes, more in others. I suppose it depends upon what you are going into it for. But I don't see Casablanca having had the same impact on individuals or culture, if it had been interactive.

So perhaps there will just always be a place for scripted entertainment. The "Interface" may be the new wave of primary entertainment.

Still, it detracts exponentially from the original concept of everyone knowing the "classics" and having a common "language" in at least some areas. We are getting further and further away from commonality and while diversity is good, when you consider how it can lead to intolerance, it is concerning. If we can learn to be tolerant and celebrate diversity, then we may have something interesting going on here. Perhaps first we will need to bring a large chunk of Humanity up into the 20th, oh screw it, the 21st Century. Yes, I'm thinking of the Middle East, shoot me, am I wrong?

Still, these "new classics" may simply be discussed in a new way. You might discuss the experience of the interactive movie with a title, and everyone will have seen a different thing, but then will possibly be excited by having had a similar experience at some point, or how different your experience was from another's.

This may not mean we have lost that common bond, it will however mean that it is drastically altered in its form and the bond will come from the overall experience. Meaning that culturally we could be moving into a more visceral form of bonding, than knowledge based one. Rather than discussing the exact same elements and how you perceived them different, you may be discussing very different elements and how you perceived them somehow in very much the same way.

It is hard to tell but I've seen many things over these changing times where completely new and different things have lead into a very similar type of social intercourse. What will conversations be like if you listen in at a street side cafe?

The Medium may be the Massage, and the Massage may be the message, and that may very well now become, The Interface.

Only time will tell.

It is rushing up to let us know.

No comments:

Post a Comment