I have been thinking a lot about Marshall McLuhan’s legacy recently and I couldn’t help but wonder what he would think about our new forms of communication and the way in which they impact the message being received. Especially in the dating realm when people are just starting to get to know each other and make first impressions. I had also recently removed a few people from my Facebook page and received a bit of criticism for it, prompting me to think about the real world implications of “deleting” someone. Forgive me, but I still remember so fondly those days when people called each other and spoke. Why does our Facebook status determine our real world status? When did that happen? Honestly, viewing my Facebook page still gives me cognitive overload and the fewer friends I have the better! Seriously though, Facebook is still an experimentation for me and for many relationships out there that started outside of it.
I recently had a chance to view the movie, Vamps starring the lovely Krysten Ritter and Alicia Sylverstone and was pleased to hear some new media references worth noting as they are excellent examples of McLuhan’s media theory: “the medium is the message”. Before you chastise me for watching a movie about “sparkly” vampires, keep in mind that it was intended only to be light viewing, in the background….as I work on my design projects. But it caught my attention when I found myself identifying with Alicia Sylverstones character, Goody.
The movie is about an older vamp (Goody) becoming close friends with a younger, more modern vamp (Krysten Ritter/Stacy). As Goody learns to navigate her new surroundings, she is forced to use new technologies like computers, cell phones, ipads, etc. As a matter of fact, there is an iPad mini product placement in this movie and I’m not even sure Apple released it at the time the movie was made. Why is this important to me? Well the iPad Mini is the embodiment of what we want in a cell phone and a computer. It’s pretty damn cool because it’s shaping what our kids will be using in the future. Will it be large or small…? I could go off on another tangent about how our communication devices are imagined and sold to us by creative minds, like the writers of this movie…but maybe another time. Anyhow, as a user interface designer, I find myself laughing at these lines in the movie because they are so… true today.
Stacy: “Nobody talks. Do you want him to think I’m 40?”
This has been true for me personally since 2004. I caught on late to texting because I didn’t have a text enabled phone until 2008. Imagine all the missed text messages I must have received during that time!
Stacy: “He’s not answering my texts, my tweets, my emails, my voicemail, my Facebook messages.”
What’s the method you use to get a hold of your mother? your sibling? your child? Chances are, they are not all the same. Maybe for grandma you call and for your son, you text. Boy, we are really living in a funny transitionary time. The point is, when else in history have we had so many different ways to get a hold of someone? What does this mean? – all the technology in the world doesn’t matter, if someone wants to avoid you, they’ll avoid you just the same as in all of history.
Danny: “But the government can enter your home anytime they want cuz of the Patriot Act.
See what’s going down now is that all your cell phones and your iphones and all the computers are helping them find you. So I urge you not to use ANY of your electronic devices.”
“How will we do anything? How do we even stay in touch with each other?”
“I used to write things down.”
“Oh yeah like a date book.”
“But I need my computer to tell me sunrise and sunset.”
This is when the movie started to turn from something light and comical to something containing an important message about our privacy today (or lack there of). Plus, I’ve been wondering what to do with my old date books which I used to draw and scribble in all the time. Trash or archive for my future media museum? Where do all the lonely datebooks go?
“Alright, forget cell phones, forget iPhones, forget powerbooks, forget iPads. Now I can do everything I want with my iPad mini.”
“That looks just like your phone.”
“But it doesn’t make calls.”
“I got my tweets, I got my email, I got my friends, I got my alerts…”
“So as the day progresses you can read thousands of unsolicited messages, advertisements and the mindless brain vomit of acquaintances? Uggh….it’s so annoying. You have to keep learning to use new crap that doesn’t actually do anything better than the old crap which is incompatible with the new crap all so that you could have blogs and watch fake teenagers and real housewives and it’s all happening too fast. I’m tired. I’m just sick and tired of it all!”
“It’s okay, we don’t have to get the iPad minis.”
This is when Goody has a little breakdown and probably the 2nd best scene of the film for me because it rings so true. But it’s also Darwinistic. As human beings evolve over time, we have been using our brains more and more and adapting to learning faster and faster. These new forms of communication are simply the new tools. It can be frustrating, but the reality is, either you learn or get left behind, or “left out of the loop” or not invited to that Facebook rave.
After watching this movie, I WILL read & understand the Patriot Act, donate to the EFF and finally sell my old Motorola Droid Pro cell phone on Craigslist. But I am still wondering, what would McLuhan think about all this? Warm or cold mediums? Perhaps this is the start of my new screenplay for: “McLuhan, Vampire Resurrected.”