This week, new media thinkers flock to Berlin for the transmediale festival (plug: Jennifer Chan) to talk about technology. We can’t go, but we can still mine the website for gems, namely the online video program.
“Videodrones,” curated by Vera Tollmann and Oliver Lerone Schultz, previews where video’s headed, mostly through newscasts and Youtube ads. As recent video developments tend toward either social mobilizing (interoccupy.net) or not (augmented reality), it’s no surprise that the show depicts two very different futures.
First, there’s the corporate vision, which looks a lot like Idiocracy. Each of the ads in the show optimistically promises a total integration with the screen: augmented reality car windows, whale-length HD TVs, and holographic actors (“soon to make their way into our homes”). The lamest application is an ad for Google glasses, which, among other things, use a pop-up icon to inform you that it’s cloudy, while you are looking at actual clouds.
The ads contrast with news stories about the major political changes (both good and bad) that video surveillance creates all the time in the real world. One European Parliament news report documents how infrared video has significantly reduced the number of Turkish migrants escaping to Greece’s shores. The nighttime footage itself is haunting, and it makes national borders feel like prison walls. On the other hand, the curators leave us with a real-world example of how citizen journalism uses surveillance to liberate people from state control. The kickstarter video for Moriseen’s Independent Media Collective shows how they’ve been archiving surveillance videos of the Arab Spring, holding workshops, and reporting news to the area. It’s, compellingly, one of the few videos made by actual people.
But perhaps most worth considering are the clips that you’re likely to write off, because they reflect attitudes that are already fully embedded in our culture. In “Surveillance Camera Man,” the filmmaker approaches people in public places where they’re already being watched, such as a pharmacy, a Starbucks, a drive-through. People go nuts. (“But you were in a pharmacy!”) Most tellingly banal, though, may be the Thai ad for “second screen,” a smartphone and tablet app which allows you to interact with the TV (checking in to shows, following on Twitter, etc). Livetweeting becomes “social TV.” The product is presented as a TMZ-style news feature, but even that’s pretty stale.
Watch them all online at transmediale.de.