EDCMOOC: Utopias and Dystopias Film Festival

I signed up some time ago to do the Coursera online course E-Learning and Digital Cultures (#edcmooc). I am going to blog some of my thoughts on the course over the next five weeks, starting with week one’s film festival about Utopias and Dystopias.

Bendito Machine III

Bendito Machine III shows quite a dystopian vision. Here human beings worship technologies that fall out of the sky and each new technology makes the previous one obsolete.

Ecological Implications

  • New technologies make older technologies obsolete leading to more throw away artifacts and creating landfill with all the flow on effects that carries with it.

Social Implications

  • Individuals are putting their obsession with technology ahead of relationships, allowing technology to set cultural expectations and agendas. [Technological determinism?]

I adore this tweet from Edel Horan:

I feel the pressure to be an early adopter of technology but there are financial and time investments relating to new technology. A new version of a popular software package often requires a new operating system which in turn requires a hardware upgrade… It can spiral very quickly.


Inbox looks at the limitations and advantages of online communications.

Limitations of Online Communications

  • Absence of verbal and body language cues that we probably take for granted in face-to-face communications.
  • It is not always apparent if the person you’re reaching out to online is actually physically and mentally there.
  • The importance of emoticons/symbols to convey emotion.

I remember when I first started talking to people online from around the world. At first I felt really silly and self-conscious about using emoticons but I quickly discovered that without them it was impossible to know if a sentence was meant earnestly or playfully or sarcastically.

Utopian or Dystopian Vision?

  • Though the couple do indeed meet despite their communication breakdown, when they are ‘face to face’ they seem awkward and uncomfortable and not sure how to relate to each other or communicate. The virtual space has created a safe play place. Has the girl missed the boy, or was she really just missing that interaction (that entertained her and kept her from boredom)?



Merriam-Webster defines agency as:

the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power

  • In Thursday human beings have essentially surrendered their agency to technology. It shapes their world and their minds. Even when the power goes off, the human workers still go through the motions — pounding on their non-working keyboards, or falling back on mobile battery-powered technologies.
  • The birds have no option but to adapt to their circumstances.

Watching Thursday I was reminded of some birds I had myself encountered. The Lyrebird is a well known mimic and I was quite startled when one day, on a walk, I overheard one that sounded like a chainsaw among other things.

New Media

NEWMEDIA from MOLI on Vimeo.

New Media is perhaps the creepiest offering from this week’s film festival. There is this constant sense of foreboding to it. This is definitely dystopia. Here it seems some human beings are using technology as tools for their own sinister motives.

Final Thought

There are many other films that depict either Utopia or Dystopia. But one of my personal favourites is WALL-e. It is an interesting example because it is a mix of Utopia and Dystopia: human beings are enjoying the benefits of technology, but they have also become fat and lazy in the process and rendered earth a waste land. (I have a feeling I might be revisiting WALL-e when we get to the Being Human section of this course.)

Those are my thoughts. Have some of your own? Please share in the comments. Feel free to leave links to your own blog entries in the comments too. Thanks!

Some other perspectives:

6 comments… add one
  • hi….thanks for your thoughts! keep going! I will return periodically

  • Hi John, in the second film I found it interesting that the two main characters in the beginning avoided interaction with others in the shop, they looked awkward then I thought, but at the end when they reconnected after corresponding ‘by red bag’, they were more vulnerable and trusting of one another.

    Thanks for your reviews, I’ll be adding your blog to my feed:).

  • Well done John.
    Thursday was a very creepy dystopian short for me. The oblivion that is depicted here is just frightening. The one moment of hope is when the bird crashes into the guy’s window and I think… well, here’s a connection.

  • The birds are clever. I’ve made some blog comments about how the people, especially the woman, look stupid which allows the viewer to create some kind of textual distance and a sense of agency. I’ll be interested to see if men and women review this short film differently.

  • Glad you’re on a new course & sounds interesting too. Now don’t laugh but while the videos intrigued, I can’t get my new iPad to view them with sound:) Also I’ve meant to watch WAll-e forever so thanks for the reminder. I’ll be back when I get over to my laptop!

  • Jimena

    Great inputs John, helped me go through my own thinking process in this assignment! Thanks for sharing them.

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