If we could find more time in our hectic lives to try to look back in time and put our current state into perspective, we would possibly be able to more adequately appreciate those qualitative changes that happened in our everyday life due to the enormous leap that humankind has made within scientific and technological realms. Probably the most potent source of such changes is computer technology that was arguably the most important technical development in the 20th century. In fact, computer technologies in their different manifestations have formed the backbone of modern societies, so there even emerged a corresponding term for contemporary culture – cyberculture, which can be defined as the culture based on the broad utilization of computers for communication, business, and entertainment. However, it would be naive to suppose that such a rapid shift to cyberculture is a smooth process. As critics of cyberculture such as Kenneth Gergen argue, technology may be transforming traditional conceptions of the human self. It is done through the saturation of our life by a multitude of media representations of reality, which, by the postmodern worldviews, open up possibilities of an unlimited set of rules followed in our lives. Such an apparent freedom of choice undermines the validity of traditional concepts of reason, authority, progress, etc. Instead, as Sherry Turkle observes, computers substitute our familiar reference points in life and become the objects around which humans begin to build their models of reality. And such a shift to ‘cyber-reinforced’ reality holds a lot of seductive promises, for example, can be seen from “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” written by John Barlow. In his declaration, Barlow proclaims cyberspace to be the new home of mind, in which oppression and tyranny are absent. In this regard, for the cyberculture, the cyberspace becomes almost an embodiment of Utopian dreams, free from prejudice, and open for self-expression.
Personally, I undoubtedly feel the power of the promise of cyberculture and agree that computer technologies influence our perception of the world in both direct and invisible ways. However, I believe that yet powerful influences of cyberculture may be. Real life is stronger, and, ironically, it was the circumstances of our worldly being that had instigated us into escape into the cyber world. Thus, it could turn out that the real key to our happiness and self-fulfillment lies in our real world as well.
Since its inception more than a century ago, cinematography has grown to be widely recognized worldwide as one of the most potent and influential vehicles of artistic transmission of cultural and symbolic messages. However, with passing time the art of film is obtaining another crucial function, namely that of preservation of various aspects of the culture of different ages, including issues of race, gender, and class, which has turned film as such into a kind of time machine. It can be perfectly illustrated by the famous movie “The Birth of a Nation” of D. W. Griffith. What makes this film that premiered in 1915 special today is its record of controversial views on the acute racial problems that emerged during and after the Civil War and which were also urgent in the days of the film`s production. “The Birth of a Nation” gives such an interpretation of emancipation and the role of the Ku Klux Klan that the controversy has accompanied the film since its release. With proposals to censor or even totally outlaw it, while even nowadays this film is used in the process of recruitment for membership in the Ku Klux Klan, which itself had been significantly growing during the years immediately after the film`s release. Debates about “The Birth of a Nation” resurfaced in 1993 when the film was to be inserted into the National Film Registry, and when in 1998 it was inserted into the list of “Top 100 American Films”.
The mentioned facts suggest that the social implications of the film as an essential element of popular culture are significant. In contrast to, for example, literature which allows a reader’s imagination to participate and selectively filter its content. The genre of film is a much more robust representation of the topic it covers because, once created, the atmosphere and ideology of a movie are unchangeable. So it a kind of freezes its message and its attitude to issues of race, gender, and class in its original form, which, as we could see from the instance of “The Birth of a Nation,” can be provoking. In this regard, it is interesting to compare the preserving quality of film with television, which is fleeting by its nature because to achieve permanency the content of TV has to be always recreated. Television as a form of media is still evolving, and the way it represents issues of race, gender, and class is changing as well, often by preferences of the audience. It implies that despite its enormous role within modern favorite culture television is hardly a reliable engine of social change because it preferably follows then leads.
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