“Man is the symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal inventor of the negative (or moralized by the negative) separated from his natural condition by instruments of his own making goaded by the spirit of hierarchy (or moved by the sense of order) and rotten with perfection” Kenneth Burke, 1966.
Burke (1966) gives a definition of Man, but being human is associated with feelings and self-perceptions related to being human. From here one can ask what it means to be human in a digital culture. And what does that mean for education? Of course, these are rhetorical questions to guide analysis. But before one thinks of those questions, it is important to think of what is reality and what is truth. Reality in a digital culture takes shape through images in everyone’s mind. In Rene Magritte’s words “The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown [. . . ] An object never serves the same function as its image – or its name.” The imaginary life created out of pixels or with holograms is as real as the physical one because it is created by the mind. This may not be an absolute truth, but it may be a truth in a digital world.
Hence, how do we know the truth? Truth is an ideal state that one tends to reach, but is slippery. People rely on technological advances, judgment, and senses as well, to reach some type of truth, which rarely is absolute. Critical thinking skills are important for inferring and drawing conclusions, and these can be earned through all types of education: formal, non-formal, and informal.
The four video clips present images that make the viewer associate the notion of what it means to be human with feelings.
Film 1: Toyota GT86: the ‘real deal’ advert (1:01). In a world made of pixels, humans are alienated and lack the feeling of being alive. This is a very somber image of a physical reality where “real” is hard to find, but wait. . . can real be a desire?. . . a strong desire may produce a stimulus that runs into the brain and generates or dispatches a feeling. This is the brilliant idea of Toyota’s ad, which conveys that a material thing, a red sport car, is what makes one be alive and feel good. Depression maybe cured when one owns a Toyota car; being alive is linked to consumerism and once on this path it is hard to abandon it. Edith Piaf’s song “Non, je ne regrette rien” – “I do not regret anything” makes buying a Toyota car a sure thing.
Film 2: BT: heart to heart advert (0:40). BT.com, an Internet and phone provider, is telling consumers that their service is so good that it makes distance communication as real as face-to-face communication. The notion of “real conversation” is linked to face-to-face communication, which still ranks supreme among other types of conversations, but wait. . . technology got so much better that one may confuse the phone conversation with a face-to-face communication. Does it mean that consumers are dumb?
Film 3: World builder (9:16). A man is recreating through holographic architecture an idyllic, utopian, peaceful life in which he can see his female lover. The world that he envisions is from the past. Buildings seem to be from the nineteenth-century, a fountain with a cupid angel, trees, birds, leaves blown away gently by a breath of wind –his lover –a Juliette like woman seems to be enchanted by the world he created and the flower put there for her. Like in the Toyota add, desire plays an important role. Desire creates feelings that make one feel human and alive. If the love for a car can be compared to the love for a woman, it is just a matter of taste.
Film 4: They’re made out of meat (7:20). This film is dystopian in nature. My interpretation is as follows: in a diner called Victory, two extraterrestrials, one dressed in a suit and the other dressed in a red parade outfit with a fez, sit at a table and discuss how a sample of individuals made up of meat (whom I think are humans) were transported to a space ship. The man in suit tells the other that these individuals are not very bright; however they searched for life outside Earth for the last 100 years. He continued to say that the individuals were certainly made out of meat including their brains, because “they,” the extraterrestrials, got into these individuals’ brains and smoothed them out. The man in suit says: “I advise we erase the record and forget about the whole thing.” The other responds, “It is too cruel, but as you said who wants to meet meat.” The words “meet” and “meat” are homophones, and how they are used in this context helps create a repulsive sensation. The humans’ dream to meet out of space creatures transforms into a dystopian event in which extraterrestrials smooth humans’ brains so that they will remember only a dream. At another table there is a group of youngsters building houses of cards. The last scene takes place outside the diner; a man with a saxophone is playing a blues tune while a woman and a man are kissing. The extraterrestrials look at this scene smiling. The encounter with out of space intelligence was fatal to humans similar to the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Mankind,” from 1962. However, what it means to be human is not only the material people are made up of, which is meat, but also their feelings and love for each other.
All four films depict being human as one being able to feel and have emotions.
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