Category Archives: Film

Steampunk Intranet of Brazil

Over lunch I started to mull over movie depictions of the intranet. I like the idea of film as a sort collective unconsciousness.  There’s quite a few films where some sort of computer network and database is central to the narrative, but I can only think of one where an intranet is central to the narrative and that film is Terry Gilliam’s 1985 masterpiece Brazil.

Here we are presented with a wonderfully retro steampunk intranet where the central contrivance of the film – mistaking Buttle for Tuttle is caused by a misprint of the machine. Data is transferred as paper in pipes, all connecting together to create a 1940s retro sci fi dystopia. It’s a wonderful vision of where we might be without personal computers, the electronic network and SharePoint.

The downfall of the film’s hero Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is also due to the intranet, or rather to his blatant sabotaging of the system by forcing two intranet data tubes together. It’s not quite the employee feedback system most would recommend…

After a bit of Googling I’ve managed to find the very scene where this happens. Don’t try this at work kids with your intranet….;-)

nb. I wonder what the earliest film intranet is.  The best I can think of is Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis where the ruling eleite only learn of the troubles at the mill and the workers’ revolt through an internal data ticker. Anyone think of an earlier one or better examples of the  intranet on film? Or other Steampunk Intranets?

Pure Commodity Fetishism

I like this video as it combines animation, origami and commodity fetishism. Money begets money in a magical union. See Taussig’s The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America for some of the fantastic forms this takes – money mating with money in the tills to make more money. This is a central dream sequence of a movie I’ve been unworking on for umpteen years, now we have the animated version:

Warning, not quite safe for work! (It’s a Friday night and I have man-flu so no apologies)

Original removed by YouTube, to be found here however: http://www.troublemakers.tv/andreas_pohl_bontrust_geldvermehrung.html

“Released: May 2009

Avertiser: Bontrust
Agency: GRABARZ + PARTNER
Country: Germany
Category: Banking
Tags: ??????????, ???????????, ????????
Credits:
Andreas Pohl, Creative Director, Optix
When the agency came to us with the idea to show the increase of money on the international market in connection with some kind of sexual relation, we were very enthusiastic. No doubt, we had to do this!

The goal was to create a world completely made out of banknotes and explicit characters that stood for themselves. So we spent many days and nights doing a lot of research finding the right objects such as furniture, buildings, bridges, certain landscapes, clothes, etc.

This procedure was followed by style frames in 2D to evoke the right feeling, tone and look for the film while having a special origami look in the back of our minds. After we were done creating rough animatics, we could start to fine tune our characters, as well as the different scenarios of the spot. Our final task was to blend all the scenes, camera tracks and sounds together.

All characters (Lincoln, Mao and the unknown lady) were created as 3D characters in Softimage XSI. Therefore, our designing team engaged in a lot of origami studying. To get used to the technique, we spent a lot of time with uncountable folding sessions. We took dollar and pound notes and folded Origami figures until our hands bled.

Then we were able to start with the digital modeling. Each character received an individual animation rig. With this digital skeleton we defined positions, rotations as well as the movements of the particulars. ”

Source

taussig_devil

Film Studies

Over at Degenerasian, blogger Tracy sardonically remarks that she might get an A+ in porn studies. Background to this is Annanova reporting that the Mass Communications Department at Providence University in Taiwan is running a course in studying porn movies. I note this as I used to lecture on film and television studies and while pornography was beyond the pale, theories of sexuality and filmic study were de rigeur at the time.

Much of the Theory for these studies was provided by the French post-structuralist philosopher and post-Freudian analyst Jacques Lacan. My students were not much amused by Lacanian film theory, not the least because no one had thought to teach them basic Freud, so they naturally got a bit confused when ‘Jacques the Lack’ Lacan was trotted out. Lacan is not only notoriously difficult to read, it also implies to say the least a knowledge of Freud and Semiotics. We has done Semiotics via Barthes but not Sigmund, so against all the guidelines I provided a crash course in Freudian theory. Afterward, at least 2 of my students actually thanked me for it.

At another art college in the Midlands, the students did have a go at embarrassing me when they were given free reign on a presentation project. Two presentations stay in my mind. One chose a gay sadomasochistic manga cartoon as their topic with lurid drawings of blonde Aryan types being taken advantage of by Japanese warriors. Another chose Jeff Koons’ rather graphic art-house photographs of his liaison with his then wife La Cicciolina (Ilona Staller). I sat unphased throughout the presentations and marked the students on their attention to detail, use of Theory and presentation skills. I sometimes wonder if all these years on, they’re using those self-same skills in corporate-ville.

B3ta dreaming

Almost beyond belief that daydreaming should be pathologised, yet Boing Boing picks up a thread from Consciousness and Cognition of a report about a woman who cannot stop daydreaming. Her doctors can find nothing wrong with her, yet prescribe her 50 mg/day of fluvoxamine but are unable to dream up, define a DSM condition.

50-minsBoing Boing relates her experiences to the chapter in the 50 Minute Hour called “The Jet-Propelled Couch” of a scientist called John Carter who had a similar condition and thought he was the John Carter of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Mars stories:

The physicist told Lindner he was able to teleport himself to Mars and have the same kind of adventures the fictional John Carter had. The physicist kept detailed maps and records of his adventures, accumulating 10,000 pages of notes!

This was the inspiration for Gene Brewer’s novel “K-PAX” and also bears a strong resemblance to P K Dick’s “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, filmed of course as Total Recall. It also underpins Billy Liar and Walter Mitty. 

The condition described is not just found in fiction and it’s not an anomally, as Consciousness and Cognition state that:

Recently, the patient discovered a website containing a surprising number of anonymous postings on the topic of excessive or uncontrolled daydreaming. Numerous posters described patterns and tendencies that appeared remarkably consistent with the patient’s experience (including the original pacing behavior) and emphasized the stress of concealing their imaginary lives and the attendant shame, confusion, and difficulty in controlling their divided realities.

It has to be b3ta.com….

Forrester: Instant Messaging and Virtual Worlds

A recent report from Forrester on Virtual Worlds asks  “Will Unified Communications Make Virtual Worlds Relevant To Business?” and provides a hedged answer of ‘Yes, But It Won’t Be Overnight‘. The backdrop to the report is a joint venture between IBM and Forterra Systems called Babel Bridge. Babel Bridge joins IBM’s unified communications in the form of their instant messager SameTime with Forterra’s 3D immersive world, OLIVE. Here’s how Forterra describe it:

The integrated solution from IBM and Forterra takes group collaboration productivity to a new level, incorporating not only voice, video, and media, but it adds the important element of a sense of presence and digital identity. (source)

Forrester examine this new solution by comparing it to the current status of 3D worlds and point to 3 key headaches for wider adoption:

  • There are few use cases that appeal to business.
  • The experience lacks key elements to make it immersive.
  • The technology is new and prone to failure.

They then argue that only with a ‘collision’ between the Virtual World and Unified Communications will these be overcome. 3DUC will offer:

  • A collaboration hub for the enterprise.
  • An environment for spontaneous collaboration.
  • A stable platform that conforms to IT department guidelines.
  • A “personal touch” to meetings between disparate groups.

For Forterra this delivers the holy grail of internal comms:

This integration builds stronger relationships, creates more engaging, memorable experiences, and enables faster problem solving and decision making, all while eliminating the need to travel.

Wow! But on whether it will do this though,  I’m not convinced. My reasons are this, why do it in 3D? I can see a fun element of the virtual world and creating a 3D workspace, but what is really gained here, what are the real and demonstrable business benefits beyond the novelty factor of pushing an avatar round a 3D world? The only area I’ve seen it work in well is virtual worlds surrounding conference and exhibitions where it achieves for the short while the event runs quite a satisfying level of customer engagement.

In a past life I watched a lot of European Union money ploughed into virtual world working environments (I even recall 3D tractor factories in the late 1990’s), but I could never see the point. It always struck me, and this was my actual experience too, that is was much harder work to traverse an avatar across a virtual than to click for a file or folder in good old 2D. And more to the point, all of Forrester’s points above can be achieved in ‘flat’ worlds such as Cisco WebEx Connect or Microsoft’s SharePoint. If one is having to do this everyday, then quick and easy, point and click, will always beat the extra work of moving an avatar about.

No doubt the technology will move forward, but while Forrester are excited by the possibility of full UC integration with 3D, they do urge caution and point out it’s not quite there yet. A key factor appears to be ‘immersion’, which makes me further wonder what full immersion might be like. Images of Total Recall come to mind and the P K Dick short story the film was taken from, We Can Remember it for you Wholesale. If it gets that immersive then one might ask, how will we know if we’re in the environment or not?