An overview of fragments, with a short description, as chosen by Marleen Stikker for the third episode of VPRO Zomergasten of 2018. The fragments are in the order of play during the broadcast.
1. Red Pill vs. Blue Pill – The Matrix (1999)
This fragment from the Matrix is about the choice between a blue pill, characterized by safety, happiness and blissful ignorance, and a red pill, which sketches a situation of freedom and reality but also a knowledge of painful truths.
The urge to look under bonnet is an important hacker motive. Wanting to know what is happening behind the scenes, to be able to influence this and expose this situation to a larger audience. Have a look what we are doing at Waag.
2. HACKS - Christine Bader (1997)
In HACKS, the Austrian multimedia artist Christine Bader examines who the computer hacker is and what moves him or her. Is the hacker a Robin Hood in cyberspace or an anarchist troublemaker? Bader speaks with Dutch, German and American communication freaks, who work on different types of network problems, such as making the internet accessible to individuals, creating a meeting place in cyber space or a state-of-the-art communication network on a 'multimedia art ship'.
3. We live in public – Ondi Timoner (1999)
When Internet pioneer Josh Harris sells his streaming TV network in 1999, he earns 95 million. He decides to use the money to carry out a social experiment, in which a hundred residents live together for three months in an adapted cellar somewhere in New York. Eating, sleeping, showering, toilet visit and sex, everything is mercilessly captured by the camera. Director Ondi Timoner was one of the residents. After this experiment ended in a failure, Harris decides to follow himself and his girlfriend in their home with cameras 24 hours a day. But this project also derailed completely.
'We live in public' is seen as a distant predecessor of Big Brother, but also a future prediction about what cyberspace would look like years later. This prediction about the internet to a large extent became reality and gives a good insight into the mechanisms of total surveillance.
4. All Watched Over By The Machines Of Loving Grace - Adam Curtis, BBC (2011)
This documentary series by Adam Curtis shows how people are colonized by the machines they have built over the years. Rather than freeing humanity, he argues that computers have perverted our perception of the world and that we do not realize that we see almost everything simplified by the eyes of computers and the impact this has on our society.
In the first episode Ayn Rand speaks. Ayn Rand is often seen as the brain behind 'objectivism'. A radical, individualistic movement, with a blind faith in technology that you see a lot in tech giants from Silicon Valley.
5. Google and the World Brain - Ben Lewis, BBC (2013)
This documentary tells the story of the most ambitious project ever conceived on the internet. In 2002, Google began scanning millions of books in an effort to create a gigantic global library with every existing book. They had an even greater goal: to create a higher form of intelligence, something that HG Wells had predicted in his essay from 1937, 'World Brain'.
But more than half of Google's scanned books had copyrights and authors around the world launched a campaign to stop Google, which peaked in a New York court in 2011.
The story is about colonisation of a public good such as knowledge. What to Father Damia Roure in the film seems to be a contribution to 'the commons', is in fact a contribution to Google and its urge for growth.
6. Aaron Swartz: The Internet’s Own Boy - Brian Knappenberger (2014)
Aaron Swartz was a 'hacktivist'. He fought for public access to public information. Schwarz has meant a lot for this 'open access' movement. He stood at the cradle of many initiatives such as Creative Commons, the RSS feed and Reddit.
7. Goodbye Lenin! by Wolfgang Becker (2003)
In 'Good Bye Lenin!' the 21-year old Alex Kerner has a special reason to cling to the GDR (former Eastern Germany). His single mother (father has defected to the west; she has been devoting her heart and soul to the party ever since) gets a heart attack when she sees Alex walking in a demonstration that will lead to the fall of the Wall. While she is in a coma, Erich Honecker resigns 'for health reasons', a start is made with the demolition of the Wall, the first free elections are held, and daughter Ariane finds a job with Burger King.
When mother recovers after eight months, a doctor warns Alex that any form of excitement can be fatal. Alex decides to create a lie for good: he recreates the former socialist sanctuary in his mother's bedroom. 'The GDR lives on - on 79 square meters.'
8. Gisela May – Mackie Messer (Mack the Knife)
Gisela May (Wetzlar, May 31, 1924 - Berlin, December 2, 2016) was a German actress and singer, best known for her Brecht interpretations.
Und der Haifisch, der hat Zähne
Und die trägt er im Gesicht
Und Macheath, der hat ein Messer
Doch das Messer sieht man nicht!
9. Optical Illusions - M.C. Escher
Maurits Cornelis Escher was a Dutch artist, known for his woodcuts, wood engravings and lithographs, in which he often played with mathematical principles. His engravings often depict impossible constructions, studies of infinity and matching geometrical patterns that gradually change into completely different forms.
10. The Good place – Michael Schur (2016)
Because of a mistake, the egoistic and rude Eleanor Shellstrop ends up in the 'The Good Place' after her death. She absolutely wants to stay there and therefore decides to become a better person. During her search, she comes across all sorts of ethical dilemmas.
Technology also has these ethical dilemmas. Algorithms assume the perfect outcome when it does not exist and is always subject to a world view of what is good and bad. Technology is therefore not neutral.
The fragment is about the Trolley problem, in which the choice (of technology) is explicitly placed in humans, makes this field of tension clear. These choices are also being made at the self-driving car.
At Waag we like to get started with sensors, Arduinos and soldering devices to understand and experience the ethical and social impact of autonomous vehicles. During the hands-on workshops we hack a toy car and make it a self-driving car.
11. Interview David Bohm
David Bohm was one of the foremost theoretical physicists of his generation and a fearless challenger of scientific orthodoxy. His interests and influence reached far beyond physics and embraced biology, psychology, philosophy, religion, art and the future of society. He takes a fundamental position in our thinking: from the frame and the bias. He also highlights the need for dialogue.
"I would say that in my scientific and philosophical work, my main concern has been with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole, which is never static or complete but which is an unending process of movement and unfoldment...." (David Bohm: Wholeness and the Implicate Order).
12. The Wood Wide Web
The Wood Wide Web is an initiative of a young plant scientist named Merlin Sheldrake. Sheldrake is an expert in mycorrhizal fungi, and as such he is part of a research revolution that is changing the way we think about forests. For centuries, fungi were widely held to be harmful to plants, parasites that cause disease and dysfunction. More recently, it has become understood that certain kinds of common fungi exist in subtle symbiosis with plants, bringing about not infection but connection. These fungi send out gossamer-fine fungal tubes called hyphae, which infiltrate the soil and weave into the tips of plant roots at a cellular level.
13. Doughnut Economics - Kate Rayworth (2017)
Kate Raworth has developed a framework for the economy of the 21st century with her 'Doughnut Economics'. Is our economic behavior at the service of growth and profit or does it serve man and planet? With that question, economist Kate Raworth, a researcher at the 'Environmental Change Institute' in Oxford, set to work. Instead of rising lines and rising graphs, another ideal image emerged: our economy should function according to the model of the donut. The donut represents a new circular economy in which our economic activities grow within boundaries, in an ideal circle.
14. Ada for Mayor - Ada Colau (2018)
This documentary follows Ada Colau for a year, from her time spent organising the fight against house evictions in Barcelona until the day she is sworn in as mayor. The intimate chronicle - with Colau's own video diary - and exclusive access to the inner workings of a new civic platform reveals an extraordinary journey in which two main themes are united: a historical victory illustrative of the political changes taking place in southern Europe, and the inner struggle of someone who is afraid of what she has so often questioned.
What Ada Colau also shows is that political change from the citizens' movement that has an eye for the commons will be based in the cities. Based on these principles, the City of Barcelona, Amsterdam and Waag among others work together on solutions that provide citizens with more control over their own personal data online via technology. See how DECODE can contribute even more to more authority for citizens.
15. May the Horse Live within Me - Marion Laval-Jeantet & Benoît Mangin (2011)
The performance 'May the Horse Live within Me' is an attempt at bioart and extreme body art in which an animal foreign body, in this case a horse, is hybridized to the human body by an injection of horse blood. Far from a fatal burglary, such as that of the mythological hero Midas (who would have committed suicide by drinking bull's blood), the idea is to conduct real therapeutic research, whereby the blood of the horse is made compatible and has a positive effect.
This blood brotherhood ceremony raises a debate about barriers between species and the presumed priority of people over animals when it comes to the riches of the earth. A behavioral researcher, a horse and the two artists participated in the one-hour performance in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 22 February 2011. Prior to the implementation, a ten-day lead-in time was required for Marion and the horse to get used to each other.
16. OMG there’s a channel – Simone Giertz
Simone Giertz, better known as 'the Queen of shitty robots', manages to reach millions of people via her YouTube channel with her 'maker-mindset'. Her robots cut vegetables, cut hair or wake you up in the morning, and rarely work as they should. But that's exactly what it's all about.
As she herself says: "The true beauty of making useless things is this recognition that you do not always know what the best answer is, it puts that voice in your head that tells you that you know exactly how the world works, maybe a toothbrush helmet is not the answer, but at least you ask the question."
What did not make it to the show?
Interested which fragments from the longlist did to make it to the broadcast? Here is the list (pdf) with links, as a bonus.