Below is the discussion I intend to provide for the "Director's Cut" portion of my short film Twitter Time, as discussed in my immediately previous post:
Way back in the 20th century, a sound bite was used to refer to an abbreviated form of communication that became a widespread shorthand used to communicate more quickly and efficiently in an accelerating world.
Since that ancient day, nobody really has time for lengthy sound bites anymore, instead preferring to communicate in short, 256 character Twitter feeds.
As we connect the dots from the now archaic sound bite to the much shorter Twitter feeds of today, what may we look forward to in the future when nobody has time for Twitter feeds anymore?
I describe this trend as the exponential acceleration of human experience and it closely mirrors Raymond Kurzweil's discussions of the "coming singularity" when future information flows collapse into a black hole of ever accelerating processing machines that he claims is our destiny.
How can we respond to these cultural trends? Is it our lot to simply embrace, welcome and accelerate them, or are there alternatives that may provide more comfort, humanity and, ultimately, sustainability to our lives?
Mahatma Gandhi once said that there is more to life than simply accelerating its speed.
That's what this film is about.
The theme of this film is that the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan told us before Facebook went public.
The first part of the film deals with the inherent limitations of text-based communication systems such as email, Twitter and Facebook. Communicating in such media is inherently myopic and limited, as nuances of relationship, irony and subtlety are inevitably lost in the mad rush to discuss our world through the narrow prism of no more than 256 characters for a Twitter feed.
We are bombarded with so many fragments of messages and heavily commercialized memes that this tends to shorten our attention spans and harms our capacity to remember. It has been said that the United States is the complete opposite of the Balkans because nobody remembers anything. I'm persuaded that aphorism has the ring of truth due, at least in part, to the acceleration of our existence intensified by expending ever-increasing amounts of our time immersed in a strictly alphanumeric-intensive domain. It's a zero sum game.
The various data streams in the first portion of the film are exemplars of the phenomenon of information overload that we all face in this medium.
How can we respond to this spiraling, meaningless complexity that saturates this domain?
It is the function of the second part of the film to discuss this.
The second part of the film explores other media distinct from alphanumeric, textual formats, in increasing order of richness and resonance.
The medium of still photographs is presented in the second part of the film as an initial contrast to alphanumeric text-based communication software systems discussed previously.
The photographs are generally "letterboxed" in this film, which means they are surrounded by black horizontal and vertical borders to denote that the subject of the film not only contains references to the actual contents of the photographs, but also to the medium of photography generally, which is richer in its content than a life devoted to alphanumeric text processing only. One photograph is worth a thousand words and can convey nuances of emotion, humour and relationship typically lacking in Twitter feeds from cultural icons such as Justin Bieber.
Another medium covered in the film is that of film itself. I introduced the film with numeric countdown leaders and make liberal use of pure black visual spaces to indicate that I ask the viewer to not only immerse themselves in the various moving images presented in the film but also to explore the relative merits of the medium of film and video itself. The medium is once again the message here and the communicative domain of film can show subtle emotive and perspectival shifts over time not easily obtained from solitary photographs alone.
Finally, although constrained by the diegetic space of the film, I ask the viewer to contemplate what I call direct experience, be it the love of a woman, a walk in the woods, an exercise in tree planting, gentle conversation or whatever.
I find these final examples of more direct knowing to be a wonderful antidote to the exponential acceleration of human experience most clearly amplified by a life saturated with the endless task of processing alphanumeric text messages that are often, ultimately, trivial. A response to a life lived in "Twitter Time" if you will.
I posit that tree planting is just one of a myriad of options we have to stretch out, enjoy, celebrate and learn from our beautiful lives. Planting over 100 trees has clearly made me a better person and this will be covered in my next film "100 Trees", which describes the current benefits we enjoy around the world from various tree planting programmes instituted from the 12th century England, 16th century Tokugawa, Japan, to the 19th century projects of Johnny Appleseed and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on to more recent tree planting exercises that I have been fortunate enough to participate in.
That film is described here:
Thanks for viewing the film and I look forward to any thoughts you may have.
I can be reached through the incredible, untapped potential of email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edited Fri 2 Mar 2012
by Matt Dubuque