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EDCmooc – Plurality

Today’s film is called Plurality.

It is an excellent film and I wanted to see the next episode.

Sharing the broad theme of surveillance with the previous film, Plurality throws some time travel into the mix and asks us to imagine a future where the population is monitored through their DNA, and resistance takes the shape of attempting to ‘jam’ the surveillance systems by inserting multiple selves into the grid (those who are familiar with the concept of the panopticon will find the name of the system, and of one main character, amusing – and there is also reference to George Orwell’s 1984 in the name of the other main character). The grid can only function if absolute visibility of the movements and identities of the city’s inhabitants is maintained, and therefore practices of hacking become the ultimate threat.

The film shows a futuristic New York. People are monitored and control their own technology through their DNA. Most of the population gets on with life and we see some of the advantages of this system, opening doors starting cars etc. Crime in the city is at an all time low as criminals are easily detected an caught. The system is used to prevent escape by blocking that person’s access.

Alana is a journalist questioning the use of surveillance. The Mayor responds by talking about the low crime rate, she says that the loss of some freedom is a low price to pay for the added security.

The second Alan is identified when she touches a rail as a ‘Plurality’ another person with the same DNA. After questioning she is taken into detention and the original is released. We discover that the second Alana has come back from the future to attempt to change the system. Apart from “……you’ve replaced freedom with the illusion of safety’ we do not know what the consequences of the system are or why returning to the past was felt necessary.

Questions

To what extent do you think Plurality’s depictions of the impact of surveillance technologies are relevant to social and educational practices today?

As I said in the last post about Charlie 13 I don’t think we are too far from that now. We are highly surveyed and we are told it is for security. The amount of surveillance is increasing daily. You could see in this film that the majority of the citizens went about their daily lives without thinking about it, as we do now. We don’t consider it. People who do consider it and fight for the freedom of privacy are considered to be social terrorists and someone how on the fringe of society. The recent ‘Occupy’ protesters for example.

We didn’t see any misuse of technology in either Charlie 13 or Plurality apart from the mild flirting with Charlies’s mother that the policeman managed because he knew she was alone. When I say misuse I mean using it for a purpose other than recognised by the society at large as acceptable.  In each case the society have accepted to be surveilled in order to feel safe. The balance between freedom and safety  is a difficult one and the data collected open to abuse if not controlled.

Which society (Charlie’s or Alana’s) would you rather find yourself in, and why?

This is a difficult question to answer as we don’t know what the alternatives to being in the surveyed societies are. Charlie has the alternative of living outside the fence.

For Alana there are two alternatives to consider. We are told at the beginning of the film that the high level of security is only in New York. So presumably there are people living outside New York like the rest of the world. There is freedom of movement so those alternatives may be a lot more acceptable. We also have two Alana’s the present day and the one from the future. All we know about the future world is that they are sending people back to change the situation in New York. We don’t know why or what the future society is like.

It would be better I think to live in Alana’s future world or the current one and if unbearable move from New York. The world both inside an outside the fence look pretty bleak in Charlie’s world. In Alana’s world the people of New York seem to get on with their day to day lives happily and don’t even notice the observation.

Additional

Those who are interested in some of the educational implications of this line of exploration might want to check out Cory Doctorow’s novel Little Brother (free to read online or download).

I hope to come back to this later when I have more time to read.

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