Visions of the Future

“Whether utopian or dystopian, these visions of the future shape our collective understanding of the relationship between science and progress and between people and technology”

P.Dourish and G.Bell

With these three readings I got to discover the importance of  communication means in doing speculation on futures. We saw a lot of exhibition pieces and performances so far, and it was refreshing to see what social studies have to say about the powerful media which movies/video clips are. I am now more convinced about the impact that such a medium could have. In fact, as opposed to niche exhibition and cultural performances, movies can go much more viral and reach a greater population. What I also appreciated is the fact that technology is the mainly addressed topic in these movies, but it sounds less important than the context. A well successful sci-fi movie on new technological scenarios will, if I got it correctly, require the director to be both a scientist and a sociologist. As Kirby points out when talking about the movie Treshold, the director has to go through three stages: first showing the necessity for a technology, then proving the normalcy of the technology and eventually show that the technical advance is indeed possible, what he calls viability. The result is a diegetic prototype which is a narration. A movie about the life of a 20-years old guy living with an artificial arm would be much more informative to the general population than reading the same story on a book or reading a scientific paper about the technology involved. Diegetic prototypes in movies make technical progress and technology understanding accessible to most, and this is quite powerful.

Here comes my concern. Both in movies about moon landing or the Microsoft “Future Vision on Productivity”, the grey-scary aspect is the equation possibility=preferability which is, in many cases, made by big power behind the scene. Technological determinism represent the only reading guide which is given to the audience: the movie does not only want to show that landing on the Moon is possible within few years, but it also makes the statement that it is what YOU want. Opposite to the movies cited in the papers, the series Black Mirror, for instance,  exploits the same diegetic prototypes to ask the audience whether the possible technologies presented would eventually be preferable.

How can the audience be critical?

To wrap it up, on the plus side movies and video-clips are a great mean to reach many people lives and are able to give an overall clear picture of the implementation of a given technology in its social context. On the negative side, we might end up believing that it is great to pay taxes and get to the Moon before the Russians do it.

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