CM . . . .
Volume I Number IV . . . . July 7, 1995
Omni Films, 1995. 52 minutes
Distributed by Moving Images Distribution,
606-402 West Pender St., Vancouver, BC, V6B
1T6. Voice/fax: (800) 684-3014
Grades 10 - 12 / Ages 15 - 17.
Review by Duncan Thornton
If you took my computer away, so that I had no access to
being on-line, I'd have to hunt you down and kill you. I think the number
one thing is meeting people. Being able to sit in your living room, no
make-up, dressed horribly, not having to even go out, and be able to talk
to anyone, anyone you want to, is just absolutely amazing.
It's hard to imagine that you can sit in front of a screen, and
there may be no sound, all you're doing is reading, for three to six hours,
or longer, a day, and how anyone could get any enjoyment out of that. It's
totally different from reading a book; you're actually talking to people
live . . .
-- Cheryl, a woman with over 100 close on-line friends
HI-TECH Culture is a quickly paced, magazine-style overview
of the "Digital Revolution." (Depending on your point of view, the on-line
CM you're reading is either a herald or a symptom of that revolution). The
video moves quickly and appealingly through six aspects of the Digital
Revolution that might be of special interest to young people, starting from
the most familiar and leading through to the most exotic: Games; Education;
Getting Wired; Law and Order; Virtual Reality; and Cybersex.
Along the way, HI-TECH Culture (which is also to
become a weekly series on the Discovery Channel this fall) covers a lot of
interesting ground, both high and low. The "Games" segment might seem
redundant for a high-school audience, but it looks beyond electronic games
themselves to how the industry has grown to rival Hollywood in both revenue
and production values. We hear from makers of both hi-tech shoot-em-ups and
of the dreamy and absorbing "MYST," and from two guys from JamBone Comics
who are trying to claw their way into the big-leagues with a home-made
In the "Education" segment we start with an image of a blackboard,
and an explanation by Adam, our host, of how primitive it is: ". . .
monochrome interface, one-to-many communication metaphor, and that horrible
screeching sound. . . ." Industry leaders and students from the
computer-intensive Virtual High, explain how computers can expand the
learning process, though Brian Falconer, who takes kids out to sea to learn
about nature first-hand, is on-hand to bring a contrary, low-tech viewpoint.
Still, Falconer's concerns are pretty much lost in the shuffle, and HI-TECH
Culture itself is such a resolutely "high-tech" sort of product (something
like Fashion Television: fast cuts, graphics and clips
overlaid and thrown at you, lots of sound-bites but no interviews, etc.),
you know who's going to get the last word in any argument.
So in "Getting Wired" concerns about high-tech culture spawning a
new underclass without the education or money to access the Internet are
quickly answered by introducing the Vancouver FreeNet. And in "Law and
Order," issues of high-tech policing and social control are debated by
simply cross-cutting rapidly between boosters of crime-control kiosks
(where video-clips of the recent Vancouver hockey riot are displayed so
that offenders can be identified by the public), those worried about the
social effects of the new law-enforcement technology, and clips of rioters.
Again we end with the easy answer that the crime-kiosks are "no different
than a wanted poster."
Actually, I think I agree, but I still wish that Adam, who pops up
almost randomly in the corners of the screen, like some video-game sprite,
was more like a real journalist -- that he actually interviewed people on
either side, asked them hard questions and gave them time to develop their
The "Virtual Reality," segment looks at that technology from an
artist's perspective. There's a sort of debate here too, of the "but-is-it
art?" variety, but since even its proponents agree that the technology is
still too primitive to really do what they want, it's moot. The really
fascinating part is a Virtual Reality math exhibit where you put on the
goggles and zoom along the surfaces of a möbius strip, or something like
that. I don't know if it's art, and I don't know if it teaches topology,
but it sure looks fun.
Saved for the end, of course, is "Cybersex," where theoretical
talk about the nature of acquaintance, intimacy, and romance over the
Internet is overshadowed by a sad story (told, for once, without too much
haste). A young woman tells of forming a close friendship with a man over
the 'net which gradually became (virtually) sexual. It was only then that she
discovered he had a live-in girlfriend, and even after that, it wasn't
until she sent him a picture of herself that the (virtually) adulterous
affair came to an end. Apparently her real image didn't live up to his
fantasies. A very human story from the high-tech frontier, and the video
ends, appropriately: "The new digital media offer us fabulous
opportunities to expand our realities . . . but as we've seen, they raise
the same basic human questions we've been trying to answer for centuries:
How do we teach our children? How do we form communities? What is love?"
At times HI-TECH Culture makes you desperate for a
more sceptical, even Luddite viewpoint. For that you'll have to read
Clifford Stoll's Silicon Snake Oil (using both together would
be an excellent thing for a class considering media and cultural issues).
But HI-TECH Culture delivers just what it promises: an
entertaining overview of the digital revolution. And it serves as a useful
introduction or discussion-starter for many of the issues raised by the
change we're living through.
To comment on this title or this review, send mail to email@example.com.
Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
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The Manitoba Library Association
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - JULY 7, 1995.
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