In Time: A Quick Analysis. TO BE CONTINUED!

Justin Timberlake (The Social Network, Friends With Benefits) and Amanda Seyfried (mamma mia, mean girls) star in this futuristic bonnie and Clyde style thriller from director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, Lord Of War) The film is set in an alternative reality where the phrase ‘time is money’ is turned into a literal meaning. Every human being ages until they reach 25, after that point everyone is given a year to live, you gain/spend further time much in the same way we earn/spend money, this creates a situation where the rich can become immortal by controlling and sacrificing the poor by constantly raising the cost of living.

The metaphor is very obvious when comparing this film to the current news climate, the film also dabbles into looking at issues of overpopulation (again quite intresting given this weeks news that there are now seven billion people alive at once.) Human obsession for looking and feeling young, Surveliance culture and the lack of free time in our busy, hectic lives.

The story sees Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) on the lower end of the economic scale of this world, each day he has could literately be his last as he has only a few hours that he constantly tops up through his regular job at a factory, but as he struggles to survive in this world he saves a centurion (a man with over 100 years of time left) by the name of  Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) from certian death from a vicious gang of minute men;criminals that steal time in the ghettos, lead by a man called Fortis (Alex Pettyfer) Whilst hiding from the minute men Henry reveals the true purpose of the clock system that it keeps the powerful immortal, there is no time shortage but because there is not enough space to hold everyone on the planet the system is orginised to keep a select few immortal while letting the rest of the world believe they have a chance at immortality.

Henry gives Will all of his time theryby committing suicide, because of the tracking of time by the timekeepers (essentially the police of this time) they discover fairly quickly that Will has the time that Henry lost and aim to charge Will for his murder.

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Derren Brown: The Gameshow Analysis.

NOTE: CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

On friday at 9pm Derren Brown presented the latest version of his series of ‘experiments’. This episode was called ‘The Gameshow’ The basic premise of this show was that Derren hosted a new gameshow called ‘Remote Control’ where Derren chose a ‘contestant’ at random and then filled his night out with a bunch of actors and people in on the show, the audience in the studio were then given a number of 50/50 choices about how the contestants night would go, the options were always 1 positive and  1 negative. Whichever the audience chose, the actors being watched would act the scenario out for the audience, the scenario’s being offered got more extreme as the evening went on (more on that later).

The experiment draws comparisons to Phillip Zimbargo’s Stanford Experiment which saw a number of students at stanford university reanact prisoner and guard scenario’s to surprising results.  The ‘officers’ ultimately subjected some of the ‘prisoners’ to torture and the subjects, all of the people involved in the experiment went against their usual standards and morals as the experiment shown signs of de-individualisation.

Derren’s experiment was to look at this idea of de-individualisation. He said that it was this, that made people turn into cyber-bullies. take part in riots or shout abuse at celebrities on shows such as Big Brother. all beacuse they are either under the guise of anonminity or because they are part of a crowd where they encouraged to go with the flow of it.

As mentioned before the show was set-up to seem as real as possible, although the contestant had no idea he was being filmed, he was not the real subject of the experiment, the audience was. As mentioned before the audience were given 50/50 choices throughout the show. they were also presented with white masks which were to ‘protect their anonyminity’ during the show. The show began with an X factor style introductory video of the contestant that he made during the audition stage of Derren’s proposed show (whatever was proposed was different to what he was actually being interviewed for) This gave the audience the opportunity to feel like they knew him. I found it interesting that they ended the video with the contestant admitting honestly that he had cheated on his girlfriend, I think this was a deliberate move so that the audience could feel like they are justified in punishing this man later on in the show.

While all this was going on, they had set up the shows producer to go into the contestants house and look through his personal belongings, again to make the audience ‘feel’ like they knew the contestant better, again the coverage here presented a fairly negative view of him, looking for anything that could get a reaction out of the crowd, e.g a little bit of mess in an otherwise tidy room.

The audience always chose the negative reaction for the contestant on the show, to begin with to be honest this was completly expected, the options on the negative side always seemed more ‘entertaining’ from an audiences point of view, but they were mostly harmless fun (although I can only say that knowing it was setup, had I been the contestant I don’t think i’d like some of the accusations thrown at me). but then it got more serious, the man ended up being told he was going to be fired from his job and ended up getting arrested for a crime he did not commit, then came the real horrible side to the gameshow experiment.

Before the final ‘ad break’ the audience were presented with two options yet again, they were to let the man off and reveal the premises of the show and award him £10,000 for his troubles OR have him kidnapped and dragged away to a secret area for further punishment. the audience voted but before the results were revealed we caught up with the producer who was searching the contestant’s bedroom, on the audiences request he ended up smashing his Television a clear indicator of where the vote was heading. unsurprisingly the audience decided on the kidnapping, making the show 100% negative in terms of the choices the audience had made.

We were then shown a scene where the contestant was left to walk home after being given a caution from the police, he begins to walk home but then we see the attempted kidnap happen, the contestant manages to run off but he is then run over by a car at full speed. The screen turns off at gasps are heard from the audience. the cameras in the studio still roll and the audience are left with the realisation of what they were a part of, their decisions led this man to get run over, his fate is unknown. they all take off their masks, many are now very reluctant to being filmed.

Derren returns and reveals the premise of the real show. He reveals that all of what was seen was true apart from the final kidnapping scene which was shot earlier in the day with a stunt double. the contestant returned home after the police caution to find a brand new television and a letter explaining what had happened to him and why.

The results of this show did not shock me in the slightest but I found it an entertaining show that made the audience (both in the studio and at home) consider their own sense of right and wrong, does it alter when in a crowd of that size? I certinanly believed it did and this show backed that up. De-individualisation can be positive as well as negative, think for example of singing along at a concert or cheering for your favourite sports team, but this shown the powerful negative effects of this mentality. A very interesting watch that is available to see on 4OD if this hasn’t spoiled too much for you.

Derren Brown: The Gameshow

People who know me fairly well will know that I am a pretty big fan of derren brown and his TV series. Tonight brings his latest part of his series ‘The Experiments’ where he will be testing some ideas similar to Phillip Zimbardo’s Stanford Experiment. Derren will play the role of a game show host and will test whether we have the capacity for evil and whether group mentality affects our morals and our sense of right and wrong. An interesting watch for me anyways but I will be watching with this module in mind tonight and will keep a pen and paper near by. A very interesting look at power and spectacle. expect an update to this post later on but for now here is a trailer.

also additional personal note, I applied for this series, maybe I should be a little glad i didn’t get accepted.

Facebook and the Panopticon

(Note work post was made in collabaration with Timothy March.)

Following from our lecture we looked at a few areas and events on which we could base our second week presentation. We decided to follow on from the subject matter discussed in the seminar groups. This was the idea of privacy and and the power of the social site facebook.

What differences contradictions can you see in the assumptions that each makes about what counts as power?

We as the user are under the assumption that we control our facebook pages,we decide on status updates ,photos,games,information ,even our own name. This can be seen in other sites such as Myspace where we had the power to personalize our own pages,that gave us the presumption of POWER it was controlled by us.

This has now been further backed by the new google social site where it gives you control of which group that you compile the participants of can only see what you put in that specific group ,not your status as a whole.

We are quite happy to live in our little bubble of self belief and hierarchy even though once we put anything on facebook ,our rights to that are lost, we don’t decide what can be done with it or where it can be used.

so we think we have power but the site and its uses and terms show that we do not and that completely contradicts the users belief of what they see as power as nothing is actually personal and under our control.

Facebook perceives power as data ,it collects ,catalogues and archives all that we do and say and sels this information on to make profit from advertisers and companies.It also sees power as size (as size does matter) the bigger and better they are in comparison to other sites the more power they have over the market and the user. But the contradiction to this is that the user still does have the power to use that site. it has to constantly update and improve the site to keep us entertained or its flow of data will stop as the user will go to a competitor meaning they will lose there perception of power. Even though they think we are working for them and providing them with power ,they are working harder to maintain that control.

What are the legitimate and illegitimate effects of power?

In terms of facebook it is still unexplored ground but it can be perceived by users as using illegitimate power. An example of that could be the fact that facebook stores information on all its users without asking permission. However it could be seen as legitimate that they advertise on the website since the service is free. This is a bit more complicated though, feeding into issues like consumerism and, at times, it could be seen as illegitimate if facebook uses the information they have on a certain user to ‘harass’ them with a certain type of ad.

What are the legitimate and illegitimate responses to power.

Legitimate responses to power are again, hard to define, because of the newness of the concept. However, there have been legitimate responses to, for example, facebook using face recognition technology without asking permission. These have been in the form of human rights and privacy campaigns done by various organisations. An illegitimate response could, for example, be the hacking of facebook by the Anonymous group. This is debatable, though, as it is an illegal action but could, possibly be justified on moral grounds.

When considering facebook we looked at social media as a form of surveillance. Facebook encourages users to be very ‘open’ on their profiles, from the moment you sign up you are asked for your real name, your age, your date of birth, birthplace, sexual orientation, religious/political beliefs and even your phone number.

Facebook tracks what it’s users do while they are on the site. they also can reveal such infomation to other users without the original users realization that they are doing so, such as what articles they have read from the guardian, what music they listen to via spotify, (it’s worth noting these features do ask for consent first time, but afterwards post automatically every time unless interfered with.) Users are also highly encouraged to post GPS data whenever they go somewhere to visit, this information is also updated in real time for facebook and the users ‘friends’ to see. This seemingly creates a situation with users where not only are their activities are being watched and analysed but also they are analysing and watching others data.

Comparisions have been made between the facebook watched/watcher idea by a number of theorists including Binoy Kampmark, a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. On his ‘giving good face’ article on Counterpunch he stated that he believed that facebook was turning into Foucaults vision of the panopticon. he states. “Facebook has ushered in a revolution, and a failed one at that. It is much like the panopticon – ‘all-seeing’, that surveillance device the English utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham pioneered in the nineteenth century for penal reform.” (Kampmark:2007)

“In 1975, Michel Foucault added his gloss to Bentham’s Panopticon Notes. For Foucault, the major effect of the Panopticon is: ‘to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.’ The prison inmate ‘is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication.’” (Kampmark: 2007) He then goes on to state that

“There are subtle differences. Members of the networks have become inspectors, just as they have become prisoners. People do ‘communicate’ with each other. It is a brilliant seduction: to give the means of surveillance to everybody in order to legitimise it. We see but we are also seen (at stages). We relinquish ourselves to others, but have the luxury of indulging in everyone else’s surrender of secrecy. (Kampmark:2007)

What kampmark states above were posted in 2007, in the tech world that may aswell be decades ago and facebook has undergone numerous redesigns and a number of features have been added and taken away that seem to further support Kampmark’s ideas. perhaps the most obvious of these is the new ‘real-time’ ticker which as mentioned before posts real time information about what facebooks users are doing at time of update such as listening to music, but it also updates information about posts which the user may wish to keep quiet from other people. for example User A can see User B’s post to User C’s wall even if user A and C are not ‘facebook friends’

There have been worries about who on a higher scale is looking through infomation that has been put up, this was brought into a public light fairly recently when Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22 and Jordan Blackshaw, 20 were sentenced to 4 years in prison for inciting public disorder. their crime? setting up a group on facebook.

Foucault was qouted as saying that visibility is a trap (Foucault: 1975 Discipline & Punish) and that ‘it is through this visibility that it is through this visibility that modern society exercises it’s controlling systems of power and knowledge. he suggests that a “carceral continuum” runs through society effecting everyones working and domestic lives. could facebook be this vision taken online?

http://www.warringtonguardian.co.uk/news/9198608.UPDATED__Facebook_riot_man_jailed_for_four_years/

http://www.michel-foucault.com/concepts/index.html

http://foucaultblog.wordpress.com/2007/08/07/facebook-is-the-new-panopticon/

http://www.counterpunch.org/2007/08/07/giving-good-face/