Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith) of Downton Abbey fame on the installation of a telephone:
‘Is this an instrument of communication or torture?’
This post is in response to the short film, Thursday, that was assigned to the EDC MOOC. The basic notion of the film is two people (let’s call them digital man and digital woman) going through their day as many of us do. They use coffee makers and alarm clocks. Their work life is spent on a computer. They connect on their ubiquitous smartphones. The film also follows a mockingbird and her nest that have adapted to this world of high rises and urban digital life.
My impression is that the people are not unhappy. The world is not devoid of nature. Digital man and digital woman even embark on a date via elevator to outer space with the bird tagging along.
The first instinct of many is to see all the ways the people in the film are disconnected or connected only via technology. This leads to questions about “authentic” connections vs. digital ones. Or, how has technology disrupted a way of life? Are we less reflective? Less communicative? Less connected? Even as technology connects us in more and more ways?
This brings me to Lady Grantham circa 1915. Bemoaning the next new thing that, in her view, destroys life as we know it. Utopia vs. dystopia has always been the debate about technology.
With each new technology from electricity to the steam engine to telephones and onward, hasn’t there always been this conversation about what will be lost in society? I imagine conversations about the loss of letter writing occurred once telephones became common now we’re concerned about tweets and texts taking over the written word. I imagine the first telephones were also considered intrusive by many or isolating (you didn’t have to walk down to the neighbors). Then, we all got air conditioning and people stopped sitting on porches.
We have as a society had to adapt to technology since the creation of pen and paper. We, as humans, are always looking for ways to connect and communicate with each other more efficiently and effectively as well as more frequently (people wouldn’t be engrossed in Facebook, twitter, etc if not for seeking connection). Connections are just taking a different form.