E-learning and Digital Cultures, Week 3: Reasserting the Human #edcmooc

Week 3 of the MOOC E-Learning + Digital Cultures¬†explores the theme of “Reasserting the Human”.

In the videos I’ve seen so far in Week 3, the idea of humanity is brought to the foreground primarily by the absurd or hyper-extended context in which each story is framed.

As a metaphor for what I mean,  imagine you place a small area of light grey colour on top of a large black background. On black, the light grey will look much lighter than it actually is. In fact, people might interpreted it to be white.

That’s what these videos appear to be doing: creating a non-human, artificial or alien (spoiler alert!) tone or context, which brings out our internal concept of humanity in sharp relief. Unfortunately, they also bring out my cynicism in even sharper relief.

This somewhat shallow Toyota ad riffs on the idea of what today’s viewer would consider “CG” – a 3D representation that approaches the level of an interactive 3D video game, such as “L.A. Noire”. The message is insultingly simplistic: “Toyota is the real deal” [*snore*]

What I find more interesting is the fact that most younger viewers will totally be able to agree as to the “unrealistic” 3D graphics in this commercial. They’ve grown up in the era of HD and awesome frame rates.

I was born in 1966, and I suspect that my generation will be less likely to find as much fault with the quality of the “unrealistic” renderings. Maybe my generation would pass on the real deal Toyota, and drive our chunky, pixely KIAs or Yugos around in 3D land and still have a great time. I guess Toyota is pandering to the 25 year-old driver in this case, and I’m somewhat irrelevant.

This British Telecom ad makes the point about human contact by showing a family that interacts exclusively via text and social media. They don’t even seem to know how disconnected they truly are from each other, until BT points it out of course. Poor buggers.

This ad is basically “reach out and touch someone” all over again. (Does anyone remember that ad campaign from the 1970s?) Poor consumers. At least this commercial has a message promoting some kind of “more human” connection to it. The idea is that real-time voice comunication – the good ol’ phone system – is more human than texting or social media. I tend to agree with this sentiment, although ironically, I’d be using my social media as much as anyone, for the sheer convenience.

Most of the telecom commercials I’ve seen portray families that seem to need infinite minutes, massive data plans and constant texting. It always shows family members enjoying their digital lives, away from each other in separate rooms, not conversing or connecting or even acknowledging each other.

World Builder is a bittersweet fantasy. My initial response during the first few minutes was “Self satisfied 3D modeler plays God creating his perfect little 3D world = adolescent male power fantasy = So what?”

But as the story unfolded to it’s final conclusion, it revealed a sweet moral of self-sacrifice, a dream-wish of happiness and freedom given from someone who has freedom to someone who hasn’t any.

The idea here is that technology can be a tool to humanize and liberate, and in this video, liberation and freedom are placed in the service of love and compassion, instead of in the selfish pursuit of pleasure or power.

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