Friday, December 11, 2009

Techno_Boundaries in the Global World

For the past thousand years, humans have struggled to maintain the spatial boundaries we have created between each other. These imaginary lines have been something worth killing and dying over for so long that comprehending their arbitrariness is unimaginable. What would a world look like without lines?

Some see technology and the Internet as destabilizing or eventually eliminating human-constructed, geospatial boundaries. When we can live in cyberspace without State boarders or international jurisdictions, a PhD student from UMass notes, who becomes "We the People?"

But what about the spatial boundaries that humans embed into the technologies themselves?

This clip is from an early Russian WWII film that a Professor wanted to play for her film studies course. We needed to create an elaborate work-around for her because the DVD was formatted in PAL, which won't play on American NTSC DVD players. The result of viewing the European footage in American standards eerily illustrates the disconnect between free-flowing information and man-made boundaries:

Between the grey pixels and rhythmic audio misfiring are the shadows of doomed Jews and German SS guards filmed long before the US even wanted to discuss the existence of concentration camps. Yet these stories, preserved now on DVD, are shrouded by format conversion, a new language boundary, a new spatial limit, for the digital age.

While created to protect Hollywood's marketing and international release infrastructure, is there a larger cultural significance here? That when we try to "play back" international ideas, they are horridly distorted? That we require complex hardware/software to crack international copy-protection and convert footage to the "American" way? That in doing so, we are breaking American copyright laws and exposing ourselves to litigation?

I'll get more information about these clips next week and post them here. The footage is truly shocking.

UPDATE: This footage is actually from a rare dub of "The Unvanquished" (AKA "The Unconquered," AKA "Nepokoryonnye") directed by Marc Donskoy in 1945 starring Venyamin Zuskin. I can't find too much information about it online, but apparently, according to Umass Amherst professor Olga Gershenson, it was one of the first films to explicitly illustrate the Holocaust within the Soviet Union.

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