USA 15 MIN, 2019
This essay film surveys the impact of digital technology through a variety of perspectives. Beginning at the neurological level, Binary Thinking examines how changes in the brain have outcomes that play out in human behavior, and in turn, our society at large. It’s hard to say what the future has in store, but it is clear that many of the fears reflected in early science fiction literature and cinema have already taken hold of our previously analogue world. Binary Thinking’s abstract representation of our shifting world ultimately reveals that what really makes us human could be at stake.
4th year Film & Television Major, concentrating in digital media and documentary production. He has interned at Voice of America
(VOA)’s Documentary and Special Programming Department, and for Iwerks & Co., a Santa Monica based documentary production company. Working at VOA, he assisted senior producer, Beth Mendelson, with a variety of documentary programs for international broadcast. At Iwerks & Co., Peter worked under Oscar-nominated director, Leslie Iwerks, assisting on docuseries, feature length and short documentaries. In addition to freelancing as a cinematographer and photographer, he has also worked for UCLA Residential Life and Riot Games, producing and shooting video content as a Video Production Lead and Camera Operator. Peter plans to continue with a career in non-fiction filmmaking and interactive media.
Today, the Internet and smartphones provide an unprecedented daily influx of media, carrying ideas and images around the world instantaneously. It is difficult to conceptualize how much digital technology has already reshaped our world, let alone what is yet to come.
Like most people in Generation Z, I grew up using screens frequently. Even at a young age, I remember being drawn to new devices: the iPod Nano, the original Flip camera, the Wii—I found it difficult to fathom how science and engineering allowed 13 year old me to watch YouTube videos in the palm of my hand. It was that magic that gripped me from a young age, and what ultimately led me to question the role of these technologies in my own life, along with the world around me. These devices are not magic, yet no single person on earth could make a smartphone or laptop from scratch. I became fascinated with the real forces at play in our complex relationship with technology. Who is really pushing our technology forward, and most importantly, at what cost to humanity?
Today, over 77% of Americans have smartphones, allowing large corporations the opportunity to access huge amounts of personal data in order to sell personally targeted ads and improve their machine learning algorithms. This is not just a privacy issue; it is a matter of personal agency and autonomy. Fewer and fewer of our decisions are made on our own—instead we turn to our devices for answers, squashing imagination beneath our unmindful step forward in the name of «progress.» Because this topic is not limited to computer scientists and engineers, but the people who use the technology as well, it was important to me that the film covered a wide range of viewpoints, including young and old.
While Binary Thinking is critical of the way we engage with technology, it is more than worth noting that this is a screen-based project, created through the use of many advanced digital technologies. This consciously hypocritical choice to make a transmedia documentary about our use of screens raises another interesting question: can we use screens to get people off screens? It isn’t too different from the dilemma Nicholas Carr discusses in his book, The Shallows, a significant inspiration for this project. Carr contemplates his decision to write a book that speaks at length about humanity’s abandonment of books, noting the catch 22 he’s created for himself. The reflexivity of this project is also meant to question how the medium impacts the message.
Binary Thinking aims to ask more questions than it answers. It is a small slice of humanity, at a time in history where definitions of what is human have never been more blurred. In all of our efforts to create technology to serve our wishes and needs, this film hopes to shed light on what we are sacrificing for such gains. Pre- industrial human brains were not the same as post-industrial brains. A non- mechanical world became one filled with machines, forcing humans to adapt. We now cross a similar threshold— this time traversing from an analogue world to the digital future.
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