Impact of New Information:
Multimedia and Networks
IS 246, Winter 2001
Focus Group: Technology and
The War of the Worlds (1953)
- Humankind's best technology is not it's savior--biology and
nature led to the ultimate demise of the invading Martian force.
- Humankind's technology and the ability of human scientists
to deal with the invasion is hampered by the breakdown of communication technology.
- Scientists realize that biological warfare technology may
be the way to overcome the Martians.
- Coming shortly after the end of WW II, at its most basic,
the movie examines the futility of war and draws parallels between Nazi Germany,
their superior technology and the invading Martian forces.
- This movie didn't strike us as being about technology itself,
but more as a metaphor for Wells' political and social concerns with colonialism
Blade Runner (1982)
Themes and Observations:
Examining Ridley Scott's portrayal of the future in Blade Runner
points to some interesting ideas about technology and society that we often
accept without question. Some of our observations:
- Harrison Ford had something that looked pretty much like
a regular gun.
- People in the city of Los Angeles are inundated by a barrage
of advertising--on walls, sides of buildings, on airships, etc.
- The concept of "high stakes testing" that we see
more and more in schools is extended into the future by the test given to
people to determine whether or not they are replecants--those who fail are
- The traffic problems in LA appear to have been solved by
flying cars and restricted access to the streets (I did notice that Harrison
Ford didn't have to deal with traffic like on the 405!)
- Computer input is largely voice controlled rather than by
keyboard or mouse, however, they used cathode ray tubes very similar to what
were in use in the 80's, instead of developing some other kind of interface.
If they were making this movie today, would they perhaps
use flat screens and touchpads?
The Future of Society:
- The movie has a 40's film noir feel set in the future--bleak
and rather hopeless. Technology may progress but we are stuck with the same
- Technology has backfired creating dangerous robot-like creations
- The earth is so polluted everybody who can is leaving for
colonies on other planets/celestial locations.
- Presumes the predominance of large corporations.
- The movie makes the assumption that 2019 is going to be very
different than the 1980's as far as technology and the population of Los Angeles.
- Los Angeles appears ecologically ravaged with a New York-like
skyline, but the country side is still green.
- The society has evolved into one where one character who
is a "genetic designer" suffers such isolation that he makes "friends"
- The advances in technology haven't solved the problems of
- Naturally derived things are often seen as more valuable
than manufactured ones. "Real snakes" are much more valuable than
the manufactured ones.
- Policemen have special access to "classified files"
that most others don't.
Aspects of the Future with Roots in the Past:
- The guys with the power are still all white males.
- Sean Young's replecant character wants to run away to freedom
in the north.
- The lower level scientific technologists that Harrison Ford's
character approaches for help with his physical evidence are all Asian. (The
book on which Blade Runner was based on was originally set in San Francisco,
which, it was envisioned would have become an essentially Asian city.)
- Although they have the ability to genetically engineer all
of these replecants to, apparently, any specification, the "pleasure
models" (Sean Young) are beautiful while the worker models are portrayed
as less conventionally attractive by our "present day" standards.
- The Tyrell Corporation headquarters is a gigantic mesa pyramid
- The evil technology creator is killed by his own creation.
Also of note is that the technology creator is evil and ego-driven, a genius
with no regard for humanity. In general the Blade Runner culture is alienated
and dehumanized, continuing those trends already present in our society.
- The movie has product placements for "Atari" and
for "Pan Am," two companies that were big when the movie came out,
but are now long gone...
- The vision of the future is very bleak. Increased technology
is not going to make life better, it's going to be much, much
- The main theme that I saw the film maker commenting about
was: What is it that makes us human? In the past we seemed to have thought
of ourselves as different from other animals because of our "superior"
intelligence. It seems that as there are growing studies about primate behavior,
etc. that there is a slow ongoing evolution that seems to be rethinking what
makes us "human". The replecants have superior physical abilities
(except that they die off) but are of
equal intellect, yet they aren't seen as human...