The short film/advertisement ”A Day Made of Glass 2” is without question a look into a Utopian future as the viewer follows a single ordinary day in the life of a teenage girl.
Immediately there is a question of metaphor in the title itself. ”A day made of glass” has an untold number of connotations. First, glass can either be extremely durable (as advertised in the video) but it can also be fragile. The future itself, as presented in the video, would be in a delicate state, or flux, of durability and destruction.
Now what do I mean by that? Considering the video focuses on education and health care, the future possibilities inside this ”world of glass” and technology could only be afforded by the wealthy. Exclude the poverty stricken and the uneducated to be able to share in this Utopian world of computers and information. Instead of walls made of iron and steel (as in the once infamous Berlin Wall) the future will be constructed out of ”walls of glass”; borders between countries and ethnic races will be a division of the past. The new boundaries, these walls of computerized glass, will consist between the wealthy (i.e., the elite) and the poor (i.e., the non-elite).
Given the fact that these children in the video are being raised to be dependent on computers and technology, a fragile imbalance is established with people depending primarily on external sources of information (e.g., Google has established itself in modern day as the leader in this area of search platforms) and these same people will rarely rely on internal sources of information, such as memory. The more people become dependent on outside sources of information the more they draw closer to their own destruction. The teens in the video are walking through the forest when they come upon a set of tracks. Immediately the teens have no survival skills and depend on the computer to inform them of the kind of animal that made these tracks in the ground. If this had been a dangerous predator, and it was still lurking about, these teens would have been defenseless and instantly killed. Dark Ages Part Deux, here we come, the undercurrents of the video seem to want to say.
What I also noticed in the video was that education primarily focused on the Sciences. I begin to wonder where would the Arts be ranked among the future learners in this world of glass? In American higher education the Humanities and Arts are already seeing a dramatic decline in these areas of learning, and a simultaneous rise in student interests in the fields of technology and science.
The last metaphor I would like to discuss is that of the teddy bear presented at the beginning of the video. When the teen wakes, she leaves this childhood plaything behind and begins organizing her day. The teen is exhibiting a maturity beyond her years. She is able to perform functions like an adult. She awakes on her own. She makes choices. In effect, she is an autonomous individual, relying only on herself. I believe, as an educator myself, that this is certainly the ideal for which we strive for our teens, but it is not in any way the standard.
Again, this video is a mere vision into a perfected world, but even perfection, as we will see in the following videos, may have its flaws.
The second video, presented by Intel as ”Project Bridge”, but also titled ”Bridging Our Future” is another example of mature teens performing autonomous activities. This is the goal of every teacher, and again the viewer watches a class focused on the Sciences. Here, however, the class is focused on engineering a bridge.
What stands out for me in this particular video is the amount of focus on job skills. The teacher teaches architecture, design, engineering and assigns the class to construct models, perform interviews with experts via video chat, and to perform simulations. In the last hundred years American high schools have started to push many courses out of its required curriculum and into higher education. Why teach these subjects for free to the poor when the wealthy can pay for them in college? Many subjects that were once mandatory for graduation (e.g., Latin, Calculus, etc. – subjects teaching more complex skills that develop higher brain functions) are now electives or taken as dual college credit. How then will the future change directions and have high school students actually performing university/job tasks? A grand dream, but a dream nonetheless.
Another issue I found is the teacher’s ability to micromanage the class through computerized monitoring of a student’s progress on class assignments and quizzes. Depending on the individual, or student in this case, close monitoring could be counterproductive and harmful to the teen’s psychology. Granted, this video does display an educator’s dream of mature students who have become autonomous and in-charge of their own education, but one wonders how certain types of students would handle the psychological pressures of close monitoring and heightened focus on adult skills and competition. Progress should be the aim. Presentation of ideas should be a focus in a non-competitive environment. A circulation of ideas, much like this MOOC, is vital for the next-generation of educators and students.
”A Digital Tomorrow”, the third film in this short series, is a more practical representation of a future integrating technology into everyday life. The first two short films focus on the grand dream which will likely be shared by the elites and the well-off. This video, however, is a closer presentation of what the future, in say the next ten years, will be like for the common man and woman.
In the beginning, the video shows an empty house without a family, unlike the first two videos which focus on technology bringing families and groups of people closer. A young woman lies on her bed between dark colors and light colors. On the dark side her head/mind lies on her bed watching either a film or a television show through dark sunshades. One can begin to see the dark represents the disadvantages of this futuristic world and the light represents the advantages. The young woman is watching television alone. At the advent of the radio, this new device was used for group interaction and entertainment, much the same to the modern television and cinema. However this future device is for the solitary individual and not the group. Here the connection to the empty house can be made. The young woman goes to meet a male companion at the Cafe de Leche and instead of listening to him she puts on her TV sunshades and watches her show. Interestingly enough, the young man is talking to her about short stories he wants to get published. Another intersect between the Arts and the Sciences. This video, unlike the others, details the disadvantages the future will have. The electronic instruments (e.g., the car window that allows the woman to unlock the car door, the electronic closet she must bump with her hand to correct, etc.) are constantly malfunctioning, much like the social interactions that are basically non-existent.
The last film, ”Sight”, was a provocative but creepy peak into a future where people are able to control and manipulate one another at a much more sophisticated level than ever before in human history.
In the beginning of the short film, much like the film ”A Digital Tomorrow”, a man is alone in an apartment that to a naked eye has Spartan decor. The man is lying on his stomach with arms spread on a black rug and looks as if he is pretending to fly. He appears to be wearing Computerized Contact Lenses (CCLs) and is playing ”Sky Hero” a free falling/flying Virtual Video Game (VVG).
We then follow him to the kitchen where the CCLs act as electronic guides and even keep score of his daily activities, which in this case includes chopping a cucumber. Now for some who are into video games and point achievement this would be highly interesting and would instantly turn a mundane life into a VVG. Yet again, life becomes a solitary fixture for the individual and more about the Self than about Community.
He then sits and eats lunch where through the CCLs he is able to sit in an empty and bare apartment and watch television and select his attire for an upcoming date in a virtual world. To the naked eye, the man is sitting and staring off into space in a barren apartment. This is an image of a madman. But is it? What is insanity? Does it mean someone who is isolated and entrenched by the mind to saturation, no longer caring for proper behavior in relation to communal activities? The voice on the virtual TV says, ”Live with no boundaries” and such can be a promise and a warning for the future.
We then follow the man to an empty restaurant where he plays another VVG while waiting for his date. The young woman finally comes and with the help of the Wingman application the man is given constant updates and advice on his ongoing date. Through the use of the CCLs he is even able to simultaneously stay connected to social networking applications where he makes synchronous comments about the ongoing date. The man is able to fact check his date to her online profile. He is able to simultaneously order from the electronic menu and also later pay using the CCL platform. He is fully integrated to his electronic surroundings and environment, but he is somewhat cutoff to the natural world around him.
What I noticed was something remarkable about the future. Ethnicities will no longer be a division among the human race. Instead there will emerge a futuristic divide, much like the one I mentioned earlier where the wealthy elite and the poor are divided with glass walls of technology. The future, if fully realized from this video’s vision, will create a new cultural divide among even the elite or those who have access to such technological capabilities.
The Techno-Culture, a culture derived by and shaped from technology integrated into social behaviors, will create the ”Floaties” and the ”Groundedcons”. The Floaties is a term to describe people, represented by the man in the video, who float in a virtual world of constant video games, dating applications, synchronous social networking, and other infinite possibilities with the internet connected through CCLs. Groundedcons are those people grounded in the real world despite technological advancements. Notice the suffix ”cons”. I apply the negative suffix because I believe Groundedcons will be viewed by Floaties, the dominant and accepted cultural norm, as negative and anti-progress. The woman in the video would be a Groundedcon.
During the date the woman tells the man that her CCLs malfunctioned while she was out running and she became lost. The man replies that such ”crashes” did not happen; well, not since the latest ”patch” was published. He then informs her that he works for the tech-company that produces cush computerized codes and software for the CCLs. She then questions him on the morality of such software and mentions ”manipulation” and other forms of control.
And that is where technology through the last century has often been debated. How much control will people have over the technology? How much control will people have over each other though technology? And how much control will the controls have?
Some of these answers come at the end of the video. The man invites the young woman back to his place for a nightcap. She accepts. After all, he is a charming man who knows what she is thinking.
Back at his place, through inter-connected CCLs the man is able to transplant his desired environment for his apartment into the young woman’s own CCLs. He basically is able to control what she sees and how she sees it. What he wants her to see she sees it.
Regardless, the young woman is impressed with the virtual look of the apartment. They sit on the couch and talk. Then she sees over on the virtual wall the list of applications the man has saved. The offensive Wingman application is a form of manipulation to the young woman and she storms off the couch yelling about manipulation and blatant systems of controls.
But the man hacks the young woman’s computer and CCLs, and at this point these might not even be CCLs, but permanent implants or a computerized device connected to the brain and nervous system. Still, there is some form of biological connection presented in this video and the man is able to break into the young woman’s computer files (i.e., her brain linked to the Net) and stop her from leaving. She is, in effect, has become his virtual slave.
If this is the case, that technological advancements are able to be integrated to the human body and the brain, a firestorm of possible threats, like the man at the end of the video, are warning signals of things to come. If these are in fact detachable CCLs, humanity has the option of disconnecting. Either way, these possibilities are both highly stimulating and troublesome.
One question these videos raise is how much control through technology do we want in our lives?
I leave this question for you to answer.
Film: A Digital Tomorrow
- Techno-Culture and the Future of Education (cgfewston.me)
- #edcmooc Week 2: Looking to the Future (htnsl.wordpress.com)
- TeenLife Media Encourages Teens in Pursuit of a STEM Education (prweb.com)
- Glass & Bridge : utopian or a dystopian? #edcmooc (smoocdotme.wordpress.com)
- Why We Shouldn’t Celebrate Udacity’s “Pivot” (hackeducation.com)
- Some states move to save cursive in the classroom (fresnobee.com)
- Some states move to save cursive in the classroom (news.yahoo.com)
- Travel improves educational attainment & future success (wysetc.org)
- Earn College Credits Online While in High School (brighthub.com)
- Integrating Teaching and Technology (bwatwood.edublogs.org)
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), and a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU. He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; A Time to Forget in East Berlin; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can also follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 375,000+ followers