Dieter Wieczorek
Dieter Wieczorek, essayist, film and festival critic and director of the Festival international Signes de nuit.

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties explores how people are being rewired by the all-consuming need to be in touch and online.

It is evident that we are living in times of radical change involving cultural behaviors. We are living in a growing “like, click and gaming” culture. In Stare Into The Lights My Pretties, Jordan Brown asks what the intellectual, cerebral and neurological consequences of such a culture will be.

 

New World Order

He offers an in-depth documentary about the “brave new world” which awaits us. The film opens with a reminder of the immense difference between knowledge and information. To acquire knowledge involves being able to contextualize and interpret bits of information, develop ideas and concepts, and finally create a connection between the accumulated facts and their relevance in the context of the situation in question. In reality, all these fundamental abilities are rapidly diminishing and are being replaced by the sound-bite information found on the Internet, a flat, horizontal communication line lacking depth and profoundness.

Teachers are getting more and more alarmed by the plain fact that certain brain functions will eventually cease to develop. The ability to analyze facts is no longer requested or taught.

Furthermore, access to “facts” is more and more limited and focused on the net. Search engines like Google and Yahoo, but also Facebook and other leading social sights, are offering more and more “targeted information” filtered to suit the personal interests of the consumer.

«Brown uses a lot of different perspectives to decrypt the ongoing cultural changes including technicians, political and social scientists, web engineers, philosophers and psychologists.»

The outcome is a communication bubble leading to closed mindsets and hidden from the collective awareness. Users are unaware of what the net is concealing from them. In the “screen culture”, through the convergence of technologies, corporate voices have not only amplified their power and influence, but have formed a centralized mechanism of social control. They pretend to offer freedom and democracy through an “open source”, but have in fact created a perfect, giant echo chamber. What you get is not alternative, but rather confirming arguments. Statistics show that 85 % of adults in the USA get their news from social media, 64 % from only one source.

Privacy Relinquished

Concurrently, internet users are being surveyed in a systematic manner. Every click, including private medical or sexual concerns, is saved. This is creating a data base of potential offenses and accusations through political or religious profiling, which can be retrieved and used to incriminate people depending on changing cultural and political conditions. In the bubble of information selection, human behavior is being re-shaped and new time-constricted practices established, keeping people busy and online for specific purposes while simultaneously observing their consumer patterns.

«If the information provided to humans is selective and only reinforces their pre-existing beliefs they will never be challenged to think in a different way.»

The new strategy for domination is no longer punishment, but creating dependency. The gambler syndrome is one of the most evident. Examples of Skinner’s behavior theory can be observed everywhere. Unpredictability is essential for the reinforcement of the game. The drifting “like” culture offers continuous surprises. The Internet has developed into a domestic gaming machine. “Tapping” has become a biological instinct, the first reaction in the morning, filling every break, a permanent invasion of the mind. The technology philosopher Lewis Mumford muses, “People are happy to be dominated, thinking they are in heaven…”

Gamification and nano-monitoring are the two main strategies of the micro-click culture, which measures values in clicks. Sean Parker, ex-president of Facebook, has stated that the aim of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc., was to manipulate the thought process with applications, using a social validation feedback loop to incessantly occupy the user’s time: “We understood this consciously and we did it anyway.”

We Will Become Technology

Brown uses a lot of different perspectives to decrypt the ongoing cultural changes including technicians, political and social scientists, web engineers, philosophers and psychologists. Cultural changes include those on the most personal of levels. We can observe the way in which self-representation on the Internet has changed from quirky personalized home pages in the 90s, to modeled, but strange portraits on MySpace pages, to formatted and market friendly presences on Facebook pages. We’ve gone from a short, personal and open-ended expression of ourselves to a completely market and computer friendly conformist webpage.

Screen culture is not only addictive it is obsessively and compulsively addictive. It’s a serious health problem, which is only just starting to be questioned. It may already be too late for the next generation to avoid falling into mimicry patterns.

«Jordan Brown delivers a strong straightforward study, filled with statements from a remarkable panorama of speakers and witnesses.»

Neuroscientists confirmed that the human brain will adapt to the patterns of the “click-information-perception” developed in publications like Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Richard Watson’s Future Minds or Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

Jordan Brown ends the documentary with a cynical future view, showing Katina Michael in a 2012 TEDx conference where she states, “Soon we will not be talking about the social implication of technology, but of how society has become technology.” In other words, how in the not too distant future, computers will take over our bodies. The echo chamber effect is a first step in this direction. If the information provided to humans is selective and only reinforces their pre-existing beliefs they will never be challenged to think in a different way. Moreover, you can come to the illusionary conclusion that humans and their creation is the only reality that exists. Of course, it’s hard to convince people of the validity of these ideas if their legitimacy depends on not understanding these facts, or if they are already addicted.

Technology depends on how we use it. Technology is not neutral and can only be used within the constraints of its design, on the basis of the designer’s knowledge and depending on the society in which they socialize.

For his first documentary, Jordan Brown delivers a strong, straightforward study filled with statements from a remarkable panorama of speakers and witnesses. The images illustrate the speakers’ theories, taken from event documentations, technological scenarios and archive materials. It’s a key document to discuss contemporary society, giving space to extreme thought and radical criticism (things that are getting lost in the click culture) that are sometimes polemic, but never useless.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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