Continuing on the theme of Utopias and Dystopias for week one I watched the second of the films on popular cultures.
Inbox -Short Film
Inbox is a quirky representation of the ways in which web-based technology connects people, the limitations of those connections, and the nature of communication in a mediated world.
Film summary as I see it.
Although the film has a sound track there are no spoken words. The film is very well done as even with no vocabulary we know how the characters feel and react. It achieves this by using stereotypical characters and exaggerated body language.
The film opens in a shop with a pretty girl looking for a teddy bear. She is bored by the appreciative looks that the men in the shop give her. She buys a bear. She reaches for a red gift bag. The salesman has to detach the bag from another identical bag.
A socially awkward boy is in the same shop. He is envious of a couple and nervous when confronted by a pretty young girl. This is not the same girl. I am not sure if she has left the shop or if they are in the shop at the same time but miss each other. He is shopping for briefs and knocks the display over. He buys his briefs. Seeing the sign that tells him carrier bags are not provided he buys the second red gift bag.
Back in his home the girl is bored by messages from boys on her laptop and closes it. She lays on her bed and pulls the briefs out of her red bag. In his apartment the boy pulls the teddy out of his bag. Frustrated the girl throws the briefs back in the bag and they disappear. They appear in the boy’s bag. She then puts other things in the bag, they too disappear. He puts some things back in his bag and they appear in the girl’s bag.
They start sending messages to each other on post it notes. Sweet – she writes in pink and he writes in blue. They play cards and ‘chat’ like this for a while. Eventually they both have a lot of messages and are enjoying each others company He sends the teddy back and asks her to meet him. She says yes. In his joy he rips the magic bag.
He returns to the shop with his bag. The shop is closed so he goes to the park to reflect. The girl is there with her red bag. So they meet and
live happily ever after. stand in the park grinning at each other while the film ends.
Depending on how you interpret the relationship between the two main characters, and the ending, you might argue that this is a utopian account, or a dystopian one – what do you think, and why?
The bags in the film represent instant communication like email, chat, twitter etc. They do have the added advantage of being instant for objects as well like underpants, teddy bears, pens and lipstick.
Using the Hand and Sandywell model from the last post.
Note: I am not at all sure that I agree with these measures for Utopia and Dystopia. Using democracy to define them seems a very coloured view. As this is what we have been given for the course this is what I will use (for now at least).
Arguments for Utopian
The pair can act independently there is no control over what they send to each other through this medium. They both have equal rights in the system. Each gives the object they want to the other. They are both freed from their inhibitions as they can’t be seen. He isn’t intimidated by her beauty and so feels more confident. She knows that he can’t see her and so that it is the communication that is important.
There is no impact on global forces.
Arguments for Dystopian
The system is not accessible to everyone.
We have ownership of the hardware (paper bags) by only two individuals. We know they have ownership as we saw them buy the bags. There is no public access.
The film shows how forms of instant communication can replace face to face communication. Has the art of conversation been lost?
I don’t think it is a bad thing for this couple. I don’t think they would have met otherwise He would have been to awkward and she would have rolled her eyes the minute he glanced at her. So I am going for utopian. They may hate each other once they start to speak but they have got together on an equal footing.
Of course what one person sees as utopia another might see as dystopia.
It was interesting after thinking about this video to watch ‘The Machine is Us/ing Us
This video explores how digital text is so different from written text. In ‘Inbox’ the couple were using written communication and also sending physical objects to one another. Digital communication is not purely text either but it is restricted to sound and vision – currently.