World of Tomorrow: Humanity in the Outernet Project Narrative

Link- World of Tomorrow: Humanity in the Outernet by Betsy Connor, Austin Rogers, & Tannis Weaver

Project Narrative

Our Scalar project’s narrative sought to explore three main topics based around the short film World of Tomorrow: first, the archive; second, the humanity in the digital world; third, the role that education plays in the digital era. We hope that our audience will gain an understanding of the complexities that exist within the discussion of the archive and how we save information. We also aimed to explain the distance that can exist between humanity and technology. Finally, we wanted to stress the importance of teaching students how to be responsible digital citizens.

Deciding on a topic was the biggest struggle we had in our process. We started out thinking of topics, and we thought we wanted to focus on something in the education realm. But the more we started to hash out what the original project idea was, the more we realized it wasn’t really right for the website. More than that, though, it wasn’t something that we found to be incredibly exciting. We wanted to go outside of education and talk about something that exists outside of the classroom. We all shared a love for this short film that seemed more relevant and important than ever after we learned about the archive and all of the other complicated areas of the digital age.

There were a few different areas of our studies that led us to decide on this topic. We all really enjoyed the idea of the archive. Particularly the idea of the power/knowledge dimension, and the question of what should be archived. Tannis and Betsy are currently in an educational technology class, and that has raised some questions about what it is we should be teaching teachers to teach in classrooms today. There was a unit on digital citizenship, but we aren’t sure if it effectively taught what really needs to be taught in terms of digital responsibility. We were also intrigued by the question of what it means to study “digital humanities.”

The focus to the overall vision of the project for Austin was to look at the archival work in the Digital Humanities realm as well within the film World of Tomorrow. Archival work is already a hot button issue within the world of digital humanities. Who decides where the information goes? What constitutes an archive? One could definitely argue that social media is a form of archive. The film puts what an archive is into question. The other question is about how information is stored, moved, and accessed? Sometimes it is an open access like the idea of the Outernet, but there are still paywalls present in the film as well as in reality. We also question who gets access, or who chooses who can have the information. Are personal archives are still considered an archives? Austin’s other focus was on the Director Don Hertzfeldt. He clearly is exploring problems within our world. His style may be simplistic to any other audience, but throughout most of his films there is a message about the uncertainties in our world. What is our world coming to if we enter a digital space? Do we lose the humanity?

Which leads to the next section, which questions the humanity in digital spaces. Tannis’ section focuses on the theme of humanity in the digital spaces in World of Tomorrow. The section explores the loss of humanity in the technology of the future world that Hertzfeldt created. The main argument is that the film serves as a warning for how our society could become if we do not make preserving humanity a priority. Tannis sought to raise some questions about how humanity might look in the future. By examining Emily III evolution of humanity, we can look at the way our evolution in the digital spaces can lead to a loss of humanity.

In the final section, Betsy decided that the overall argument of our project should incorporate education in some way since we are education majors. If we were going to criticize something, we should be able to propose a solution to make it better. The solution given is educating citizens in a way that accounts for the ethical, social, cognitive, and emotional dimensions of the human experience. Through teaching students to be responsible digital citizens, we will teach them how to be better people.

Methods, Techniques, and Process

Our group mostly used Google Drive to organize the project, and Betsy helped set up different sections for all the group members. The sections were used so that we could keep track of what pages have been used but also so we could find all the media in one place. If a certain link didn’t work for one group member, then we would put it in a “relevant links” section and, hopefully, another group member would be able to use it. By using the Google Drive platform, we could not only keep track of our own work, but we could also keep track of the work of group members. This is helpful so that the project would stay consistent. We also watched the film World of Tomorrow about a million times. That may be an exaggeration but between the three of us, we collectively watched the film about a hundred times. While watching the film, we would look for quotes for all our title pages, screenshots for all the annotations, and for “textual” evidence to support our narrative.

We mostly communicated and collaborated about the project in class, over messengers, and using Google Drive. Meeting in person helped a lot and most of the project formed itself because we could collaboratively talk aloud about the project. Meeting together definitely helped the group function stronger and created a better group dynamic. Within our group, we broke the project into three parts, and each group member became an expert in that section. This was not the original intent of the project, but it’s what worked the best for what each person wanted to contribute.

Though the group feels pretty confidently in their Scalar Project, there is always room for improvement. Something we wanted to analyze more closely was using the Voyant tool on the script. Voyant is an online tool that analyzes a piece of text and finds the trends within. By using this tool, we wanted to see what words were repeated frequently and make meaning of the text of actual film; however, we were not able to get a copy of the script. We also wish we could have had more film clips or even audio from the film in order to add more of a multimedia approach. The screenshots still work greate and serve their purpose, and we definitely did not want to step on the toes of copyright.

Some of the questions that helped us move forward in our project are: what are the implications of digitizing everything? How do we keep humanity in the study of digital places? Data extraction: does digitizing our experience remove the humanity of those experiences? Why do we want to digitize our experiences, research, etc.? We really wanted to focus on humanity, and what it means to be human in an increasingly digital space. This could be through archives, finding humanity, or teaching humanity about the digital and our role within these digital space.

Research & Project Reasoning

Researching for the Scalar project was different than we are used to. While all of us have worked with Omeka projects in the past, Scalar lends itself to slightly more interactive media items. Instead of researching databases and library books to help with the project, we had to change where we looked for sources. We focused more on finding media that could be more interactive. Scalar made it so that we could engage more directly with the readers and make the narrative/argument they read more interactive. In a way, we were able to control the way they experienced our argument, but they also have the freedom to move around and not read our project in a linear fashion. This aspect of the project is pretty cool because essays usually go in one particular order.

At the beginning of the project, we had a really difficult time deciding on what we wanted our project to be about. We started thinking that it would go in a more education direction, but we decided that we wanted to do something that would be completely different. Once we decided to write about World of Tomorrow, we were overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. We had a hard time figuring out what a “page” would like and how we would structure or argument. Once we were able to watch the movie again, we were able to break down the topic of the project into a more manageable way.

If we could change the way that we approached the project, we wish that we would have realized sooner that each page would serve as a mini-essay that would build on the argument as a whole. If we had been able to start thinking of the pages in that way sooner, we would have been able to get started on the big argument a lot sooner. We also would start exploring options about the project sooner to be able to have more options available as back up plans.

This Scalar project really taught us some valuable skills as far as approaching this type of projects. But beyond that, we learned that are capable of teaching ourselves how to work within a new format. We can now think of arguments in less linear ways and have a platform that we can use if we need it. We also would love to include Scalar in our secondary classrooms. Scalar provides a format that helps think of arguments in such a different way. If our classrooms have the technology, it could be really cool to expose them to a different way to make an argument.

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