Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Video Word Made Flesh

Videodrome - David Cronenberg (1983)

In his essay "Bodies Without Organs: Cyborg Cinema of the 1980s," Hassan Melehy draws on Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus for definitions of individuals as "molecular" and "molar":

"A "molar" conception of individuals is that they are whole, complete beings with a set of mainly fixed attributes, whereas a "molecular" conception characterizes human beings as incomplete, made up of fragments that come from various sources, constantly undergoing transformation both within themselves and in relation to their enviornments, as not strictly placed in oppositional categories such as male/female, black/white, Western/non-Western, and even human/animal."1

In the essay, Melehy uses the molecular conception of individuals to characterize protagonist Max Renn's transformation in Videodrome from human to cyborg. Renn is the manager of a public-access cable station that features sex and violence. In the process of trying to find the newest in shock programming, Renn runs across a signal for a show called Videodrome which piques his interest with its realistic depictions of sexual torture. Renn tries to make contact with the show's creator, Brian O'Blivion, and receives the video we see in the Youtube scene above. Here, Renn gets a taste of transformation; exposure to the Videodrome signal causes a tumor in the brain of the viewer that results in hallucinations of melding with technology; the scenes of torture are merely the visceral means by which the signal cuts into the mind. In the horrific Youtube scene, Renn hallucinates coupling with a living TV screen which hosts the image of his lover, Nicki Brand, who had previously tried to make contact with Videodrome and who we assume had already underwent the transformation.

Melehy describes Renn's transformation as molecular in that it is the result of what director David Cronenberg calls a "creative cancer."2 The brain tumor caused by the signal destabilizes the host's mind and body so as to make drastic transformation possible: a melding of body and technology. Melehy says, "This freely acting organ... will allow hallucination, or, as it turns out to be the case, the production of simulacra such that the hold of instituted reality ceases to be viable, reveals itself to be the ruse of an imposing and exclusive simulacrum."3 The simulacrum gives Renn a new sexual encounter which does not rely on traditional sexual configurations and organs. Here we see the breakdown of molar conceptions of the individual.

Philip Hefner in Technology and Human Becoming also relies on a molecular understanding of individuals in his description of a cyborg:

"We have painted a picture of ourselves as creatures who integrate in themselves the nature from which we have emerged and the technology that has transformed nature. We have seen that technology is not, most importantly, outside us, but within us, shaping who we are and how we live our lives. Cyborg is a relatively recent term that expresses the dimension of techno-nature within human nature."4

Hefner sees technology as the medium for new selves and new identities. What would he say about Renn's transformation? Is the cyborg body Renn acquires in the course of the film what Hefner has in mind when he alludes to technology being an expression of the divine self-transcendence available to humanity? Surely, Videodrome offers a perverse take on Hefner's philosophy.

For example, Videodrome would seem to pervert Hefner's idea of the cyborg being made in the image of God. The cyborg that Renn becomes is a violent tool of the forces who control Videodrome. Renn loses his personhood, his freedom, and his imaginative ability. What is godly about the cyborg in Hefner's view is the potential for imaginative remakings of ourselves. Hefner says, "Classically, God is also the One who speaks the word of possibility to the creation and sustains its drive toward that possibility... When we participate in this drive for new possibilities, we participate also in God. This is the dimension of holiness in technology."5 There is certainly a drive towards new possibilities in Videodrome; a new creation is made with Renn acquiring this new flesh. However, is every possibility God's word of possibility? Is Renn's enslaved cyborg created in the image of God?

One could certainly argue that the violent nature of the Videodrome cyborg is due to its vulnerability to reprogramming and the destructive whims of those who would wish to take advantage of Renn's vulnerability. Thus, it is not the technology that is at fault but the sinful nature of the persons who misuse it. This interpretation becomes viable when we learn that the creator of Videodrome, O'Blivion, did not intend the signal to enslave those who encountered it. O'Blivion had control over Videodrome wrestled from him by his business partners who had other, crueler plans for it. O'Blivion, as we see in the Youtube clip above, was simply a naive philosopher/idealist who had notions, like Hefner does, about new technologies (in this case, video) allowing for a positive transformation of the self.

Aside from the gruesome acts that Renn commits under the control of others, the question remains: can we see the Videodrome cyborg transformation as a positive transformation of the self, such as to be in the image of God? To be honest, watching the film, I have a hard time separating O'Blivion's ideal of the cyborg from the violent actions of Renn's cyborg. I also have a hard time separating the end-point transformation from the means of the signal using a sexual torture program to more effectively implant the tumor. It is hard for me to see a potential positive manifestation of the Videodrome cyborg. I cannot imagine how this particular form of cyborg, with its lack of autonomy and its perverse means of becoming, could be said to be created in the image of God.

However, the film presents many ambiguities with respect to what the possibilities of this cyborg are. Cronenberg's own definition of the tumor as a creative cancer has both positive and very negative connotations. Can one harness this cancer as a Videodrome cyborg to channel its creative "growth"? The film ends with Renn's hallucinations convincing him to commit suicide to fully become the new flesh. A black screen comes abruptly with the gunshot ringing out, leading some interpreters of the film to surmise that whatever comes next for Renn, Cronenberg is implying that we are unable to imagine it yet: "We’re too early in the video revolution to know where that concept will end up."6 In having to leave behind his cyborg body, the new flesh seems to be divorced even further from what we know to constitute the human organism as we imagine God created it. If one were to say that this new flesh, whatever it is, allows for us to be created in the image of God, one would have to have a progressive imagination for accommodating human-perpetuated evolution into a reading of the Genesis 1 text.

Then, also, an extension of the imago dei question is that of the "video word made flesh." Traditionally, the Word made flesh refers to Jesus as Logos of John's Gospel. Through him, the Word/Logos, all things were made in the beginning of creation (John 1:3). Also, the addition of Word made flesh comes into play in the fourteenth verse: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Jesus as Logos is God becoming flesh in the human person of Jesus. This is a profound affirmation of humanity as being made in the image of God. If the human Jesus can reflect the glory of God then might it also be possible for other humans to reflect God's glory as well? At the very least we know in the Word made flesh that beyond the act of creating creation, God continues to work in and with creation.

What do we make, then, of the film's use of the title "video word made flesh"? The film introduces the idea when O'Blivion's daughter Bianca gives the title to Renn and enlists him to destroy those who have enslaved him. This titling seems to be another reprogramming of Renn, who is at the whim of those who know how to use him. Bianca, representing her late father's interests, wants to exact revenge on her father's murderers by using Renn. Bianca's use of the biblical title gives her a powerful symbolic propaganda by which to redirect Renn's attentions. "Death to Videodrome" is the mission Bianca gives to Renn as a proper vocation for the "video word made flesh." There is some confusion, however, in the mission slogan in that Bianca is not actually having Renn destroy Videodrome, the ideology behind Videodrome or the technological apparatuses by which Videodrome is made or submitted. Rather, Bianca wants Renn to assassinate those misusing Videodrome. Wrapped up in all of this violence and ideology, it is hard to see how this particular word made flesh would reflect God's glory (the Christian God anyway). In fact, one would be hard-pressed to discern a god of Videodrome. Whose glory does Renn mediate? Is O'Blivion the god figure? Is Videodrome itself? Do Bianca (and Cronenberg by extension) misappropriate the title as we understand it?

This word made flesh, imagined in the film, is of course very different from the Biblical symbol. It is hard to compare the Biblical story to the Videodrome mythology, but since Cronenberg appropriates a biblical title, he's asking for some attempt at parallels between the two "words." The titling of Renn's cyborg hails him a savior of sorts. Just as the Word made flesh in the person of Jesus brings the divine Gospel Word to the world, Renn, reprogrammed as the video word made flesh, represents the potentially salvific philosophy of Videodrome's creator, O'Blivion. One can draw parallels between the content of the "words" as well. Both offer a message of death to an old life and the possibility of a new, connected life. They offer connection to a deeper something. And then, both Jesus and Renn embody their messages in their lives. Jesus lives a life that prefigures the Kingdom of God in his subverting of social norms and relationships, welcoming the outsider and challenging the insider. Renn goes to every length to achieve mystical union with the new life, the new flesh, and destroys everything that stands in his way representing his old life, even his own cyborg body. One can only go so far in drawing these parallels. Renn is not much of a savior. Who does he save, other than himself?

Renn does, however, present a model of sorts for spirituality within the Videodrome framework. This spirituality is very much connected to and driven by the becoming of molecular individuals. Philip Hefner also sees spirituality in this way. He says, "Since we are cyborgs, technology is also the place where, like Jacob, we wrestle with the God who comes to engage us."7 Technological restlessness may be key to both spiritualities, but I can't imagine that Hefner's cyborg would look similar to the Videodrome cyborg. The process of becoming is too dependent on violence and oppression to be desirable. There is a sense of perversion, horror, captivity, and loneliness that pervades the becoming so as to isolate the cyborg. It is hard to see how such a becoming would allow the freedom for the human imagination to work. And there is no room in the Videodrome framework for the Christian Gospel to challenge the new life to be other-oriented, communal, and loving. No, Videodrome has its own gospel, and from what I can make out of it from the film, it is a poor substitute.

But this is an obvious point to make. Videodrome is, after all, a horror film and a satire. Perhaps it is more appropriate to ponder which gospel modern society takes as its truth. There are some eerie parallels between reality TV and the online world of Second Life and O'Blivion's statement that "the television screen is the retina of the mind's eye; therefore the television screen is part of the visible structure of the brain; therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it; therefore, television is reality and reality is less than television." Can the Christian Gospel accommodate this other gospel?

1Hassan Melehy, "Bodies Without Organs: Cyborg Cinema of the 1980s," in Gregg Rickmann, ed. The Science Fiction Film Reader (New York, NY: Limelight Editions, 2004), pp. 332-333. Definitions given in footnote 8.
2Chris Rodley, Cronenberg on Cronenberg (London: Faber and Faber, 1992), p. 80.
3Melehy, p. 327.
4Philip Hefner, Technology and Human Becoming (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 74.
5Ibid., pp. 83-84.
6Travis Mackenzie, "Videodrome: Home Invasion," Reverse Shot, no. 19.
7Hefner, p. 88.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Framing David, Part 2

I wanted to listen more closely to a couple of different scenes that struck a chord with me while watching A.I. (directed by Steven Spielberg in 2001). One scene uses a circular framing visual motif that Ben Sampson touched upon in part 2 of his visual essay (noted in my last post). The second part of his essay shows the scene at the 1:04 minute mark. In the other scene, a different sort of visual motif is used, and I wanted to touch upon that as well. I pair these scenes together because they offer reflective, transitional moments in the narrative. Both feature a framing of David and a camera movement away from David. In light of V.F. Perkins' contribution to the last post, I also wanted to note how the details of these scenes might simultaneously complicate and clarify the film's viewpoint (as well as the viewer's viewpoint).

Scene 1 - 52:09 minutes into the movie

David's "mother" Monica takes David for a drive in the country. It is a ruse for her to take David to a remote spot in the woods to abandon him. David pleads with her to not leave him, and that he'll be "real" for her if she were to give him a chance. Monica, mind made up but still very upset, drives away and we see David fading into the woods in the car's rearview mirror.

I cannot isolate this visual motif and camera movement from the narrative, nor from other technical aspects such as the audio. All of the technical aspects work together with the narrative to form the filmic world we as viewers take in, and we cannot ignore them. The scene is a transition in the narrative from David's struggles at home to David's journey through the world to find the Blue Fairy who, he hopes, will turn him into a "real boy." It also operates as a sort of emotional climax to what has come before: Monica is abandoning him and he will be left to fend for himself in a cruel world. The visual focuses on David's devastated face briefly before it is shrouded in darkness and we're left only with David's receding figure. However, David's face remains etched in our memory as the climax comes with the swell of pianos and strings in John William's score. The shaking camera reflects the chaotic swirl of feelings that Spielberg invites us to share with David and Monica.

There is, on the other hand, an ethereal, meditative mood to the imagery that is mirrored in the otherworldly hum of the car that plays throughout. The staging of the receding figure, bathed in both shadow and an oddly bright moonlight, seen in the sideview mirror of the car, has a distancing effect that adds to this other mood. It is easy to notice a layering of visuals, audio, and emotions. This tension between the emotional climax and self-conscious, reflective aspect of the scene pull the viewer in different directions. There is simultaneously a desire to feel taken up in the emotional wash of the scene and to reflect deeply on the matters at hand.

Let's allow ourselves to give in to the latter desire. One of the central questions of this film is the question of "What does it mean to be human?" It is especially apparent in the framing of David that this question is at the forefront in the film. Poised at a moment of loss and devastation, the framing invites us to consider the humanity of the film's characters as well as our own humanity. One could argue that David's humanity is reflected in his face. Whereas at other moments in the film when David reacts unnaturally to a given situation (such as his odd laughing at the dinner table), here David vividly portrays feelings with which we can identify - feelings of inadequacy, rejection, etc. As David clearly feels these human feelings as we see them in his expression, does that make him human? Does it make Monica inhuman that she commits one of the most unnatural acts in abandoning her child?

Once the camera moves further away from David, we see his shadowy figure engulfed in the mist and moonlight of the forest. His figure appears as that of a lost little boy. The scene reminds us that in many ways, visually and otherwise, we cannot tell David apart from flesh-and-blood boys. Such is the case for the Flesh Fair stage manager later in the film who must use a x-ray device to see that David is NOT flesh and blood. The stage manager cannot rely on his interactions with David to tell him apart. Likewise, the Flesh Fair crowd, even after being told that David is a mecha, cannot tell David apart either. The figure of a little boy calling for help compels strong feelings of identification and compassion to consume even the cruelest of crowds. Through this figuring of David, we grow closer connected to his character, which further complicates our thoughts on his humanity.

Then there's the matter of the sideview mirror through which we, the viewers, are connected to David. The mirror throws the question of David's humanity back at us. What makes US more human than David? We can identify with David's situation and feelings. However, we are also disconnected from David in the fact that we are moving away from David with the car and with Monica. We are looking through the car's sideview mirror as Monica would look through it. We feel averse to Monica's decision but it's also possible that we remember in this moment that David is not human. David's presence in Monica's home-life was greatly disruptive for her family. Looking through the mirror in this way, we can identify somewhat with Monica to consider David's humanity in a more skeptical light. David is not biologically human. He has been programmed to act in the way that he does.

Even if we move in this direction however briefly, perhaps the emotional nature of the scene will call us back to compassion for David. Regardless of the question of David's full humanity, does he not deserve our compassion in this situation? David feels pain. David has been mistreated. David is an innocent. David is capable of love. These statements also demand our attention and ask us to consider how we should relate to our technologies, especially when the technology and the human seem to converge to some extent. The framing of David in this scene both complicates and clarifies our viewpoint of David as we consider the question of what it means to be human. This, it seems, is what the film intends.

Scene 2 - 44:45 minutes into the movie

David's "brother" Martin and his friends play a cruel trick on David to see if he reacts to pain at Martin's birthday pool party. David, panicking, grabs a hold of Martin, asks Martin to protect him, and the two fall into the pool. His defense mechanism stronger than his awareness of Martin's need for air, David has to be pried apart from Martin by adults. Martin returns to the surface to be resuscitated while David, not needing air, is left alone at the bottom of the pool, wondering at the consequences of his actions. The camera assumes David's point of view underneath the water before cutting to a receding overhead shot of David, his image shimmering as he still lies motionless at the bottom of the pool.

This scene works in a similar way to the one described above in that it allows a moment of reflection following an emotionally violent scene. Like the first highlighted scene, it also uses techniques for both the viewer's identification with and disconnection from David. The beginning of the scene has us looking through David's eyes up to the surface of the pool where the adults attend to Martin. We can understand, to some extent, the alienation David must feel as someone who doesn't fit in. We worry with David: did David just blow his last chance with Monica and the family? However, the scene then cuts to an above shot looking down at the figure of David below the water. The score sets a curious, slightly ominous mood with its tense strings, menacing brass, and otherworldly piano. For a brief moment, we are separated from David's plight to consider this odd character who does not need air and lies inert at the bottom of a pool. What is moving, however, is the surface of the water, and David's figure appears distorted and inhuman as a result.

This distortional framing portrays a different visual motif than the ones Sampson talks about. In this scene, and in others - such as at 15:18 where we see David through a paneled glass door - Spielberg plays with the image of David using light and an amenable surface. In the second scene, we see many Davids in the refractive surface of the water. As the camera moves, the play of the light on the water is different, and thus, David's image is constantly changing to reflect this. The distortion occurs in that different parts of David's body (head and chest, for example) appear to be disproportionate to the rest of his body from one moment to the next. The distortion is off-putting, but in this distancing effect, also invites our further consideration.

I see this visual motif as important in three ways. First, it foreshadows at times and mirrors at other times David's inner conflict with his make-up. David's vocation is to love Monica and his greatest desire to be loved back. He comes to the conclusion that if Monica is to love him, he needs to be a real boy. Cast out into the world where robots are second-class citizens, and hunted down for humiliation and destruction in the Flesh Fairs, David sees time and again that to be mecha is to be unwanted. David does, however, hold onto the fact that he is a special mecha, one-of-a-kind as he is told by many who encounter him. Still, David concludes that turning into a real boy is the only chance he has for his mother to love him. The distorted and at times fragmented image of David as a visual motif reflects David's turmoil over this matter.

Second, the motif accompanies the different perspectives that others in the film world have of David. David is many things to many people. David is a threat to Martin, a friend and companion to Gigolo Joe and Teddy, an object to be manipulated for people's entertainment to the Lord Johnson-Johnson, a creation of much pride to Professor Hobby, etc. The ever-changing image employed by the distortional motif exemplifies the variety of images of David that other characters have.

Third, and somewhat similar to the second, the motif allows us to consider our own struggles with how to define David. Who is David? Does David change over the course of the film? Is David human? What actions, feelings, identities, and motivations reflect humanity or inhumanity in David? How should the others relate to David?

Picking up on visual patterns that become motifs, such as the ones Sampson points out or the distortional motif, is helpful in our contemplation of what the film is speaking (or showing) to us. I hope I have shown that to some extent, the details surrounding these motifs both clarify and complicate the viewpoint of the film. V.F. Perkins would argue that the most successful films are able to accomplish this through a coherent organization of these details. Coherence, however, does not mean that the details blot out complexity or ambiguity. A.I. fits the bill in this regard, and certainly allows for a deep engagement with the theological questions of this study.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Framing David, Part 1

"Throughout the film, faces become superimposed on top of one another, different characters repeat similar actions, and even the film narrative circles around on itself. In addition, specific characters are repeatedly framed through oval structures or reflected against rounded surfaces. These repetitions of shot choice and composition suggest multiple readings and underlying themes, including an interconnection between humans and machines that spans both desire and destiny.


"All of these motifs throughout A.I. suggest possible readings and interpretations, but the theme of interconnectivity appears most dominant. The superimposing of faces on top of David not only connects him visually to other individuals, but eventually leads to a connection with robot evolution. The repeated images involving mechas and humans not only connect them by behavior, but also by common destiny. Indeed, the circular narrative suggests that while mechas ultimately replace humans, they do not necessarily improve upon them. Both species seem obsessed with the things they lack and both look to the other for modes of fulfillment, represented chiefly in the film by the figure of David. Yet even he is trapped by personal desires, unable to consider anything outside of obtaining Monica’s love, even in the face of total human extinction. The film’s circular framing mimics his circular logic, which in turn mimics the circular logic of everyone else in the film. All sentient creatures, the film argues, become interconnected through chronic dissatisfaction and single-minded self-interest, forced to share a common fate intended for all intelligences, artificial or not."

- Ben Sampson, "Intelligence Doubled: A Visual Study of A.I. Artificial Intelligence"


Ben Sampson's visual essay (and the original essay he wrote, linked directly above) are helpful for us here because they exemplify the epistemological method I tried to lay out for this independent study. Paying attention to visual motifs as Sampson does with A.I.- to the doubling and circular framing techniques used by director Steven Spielberg, for example - Sampson allows the film to speak its peculiar language. This is a language that, like all films, communicates through use of space. Thus, V.F. Perkins says about filmic space in general, "With action, decor, and image in coherent relationship, space itself becomes charged with meaning."1 The visual motifs of A.I. are obvious examples of Spielberg investing the film's space with meaning. Sampson notices the various instances of the motifs in the film, and by asking questions of the relationship between the instances, also notices their connection to broader thematic material.

In the process, Sampson stumbles upon, as Perkins says, "an organization of details whose relationships simultaneously complicate and clarify the movie's viewpoint."2 Perkins states that the outcome of the film viewer's listening to the film is "a way of seeing; the direct registration and embodiment, in a 'secondary world,' of a point of view."3 In coming into contact with, listening to, and even embodying the film's worldview, Sampson opens himself up to the truths the film has to speak about such matters that concern this independent study: "What does it mean to be human?" and "How shall we relate to our technology?"

My next post will take Sampson's cue and look to examples of some visual motifs to do my own work with the film concerning these questions (while keeping Sampson's contributions in mind).

1V.F. Perkins, Film as Film: Understanding and Judging Movies (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1972), p. 94.
2Ibid., p. 119.
3Ibid., pp. 119-120.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Approaches to Technology

Ode to Things - Pablo Neruda

I have a crazy,
crazy love of things.
I like pliers,
and scissors.
I love
and bowls –
not to speak, of course,
of hats.

I love all things,
not just the grandest,
also the infinite-
small –
and flower vases.

Oh yes,
the planet
is sublime!
It’s full of
through tobacco smoke,
and keys
and salt shakers –
I mean,
that is made
by the hand of man, every little thing:
shapely shoes,
and fabric,
and each new
bloodless birth
of gold,
carpenter’s nails,
clocks, compasses,
coins, and the so-soft
softness of chairs.

Mankind has
oh so many
Built them of wool
and of wood,
of glass and
of rope:
ships, and stairways.

I love
not because they are
or sweet-smelling
but because,
I don’t know,
this ocean is yours,
and mine:
these buttons
and wheels
and little
fans upon
whose feathers
love has scattered
its blossoms,
glasses, knives and
scissors –
all bear
the trace
of someone’s fingers
on their handle or surface,
the trace of a distant hand
in the depths of forgetfulness.

I pause in houses,
streets and
touching things,
identifying objects
that I secretly covet:
this one because it rings,
that one because
it’s as soft
as the softness of a woman’s hip,
that one there for its deep-sea color,
and that one for its velvet feel.

O irrevocable
of things:
no one can say
that I loved
or the plants of the jungle and the field,
that I loved
those things that leap and climb, desire, and survive.
It’s not true:
many things conspired
to tell me the whole story.
Not only did they touch me,
or my hand touched them:
they were
so close
that they were a part
of my being,
they were so alive with me
that they lived half my life
and will die half my death.


The next two units in the independent study are an engagement with questions concerning humanity and technology. The question "What does it mean to be human in a technologically-driven age?" is an important one for us now more than ever with our reliance on computers. However, humanity has always relied on its creations, its tools for example, to achieve what would not be possible otherwise. A variety of thinkers have dealt with the question of technology, including the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. In the above poem, Neruda suggests that humanity is intimately intertwined with the things that humanity has made. He seems to emphasize things that are hand-made and made out of organic materials - cloth, glass, and wood for example. Although I wonder whether Neruda would have the same love for factory-made "things," his approach is one example of thinking that says that, to some extent, technology is essential to understanding modern human being and becoming.

There are other approaches to technology, however.

Barry Lyndon - Stanley Kubrick (1975)

Anecdote of the Jar by Wallace Stevens.

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.


As Philip Hefner sees it, Stevens' poem represents the other pole in approaches to technology: extreme skepticism. The jar is out of place in nature (as is the coin in the still from Barry Lyndon). Hefner interprets the poem:

"As a symbol of humans - of us - in our process of becoming, the jar says something about our spirituality. In fact, it places us before a fork in the road, a choice that will determine how our spiritual journey proceeds. If we affirm technology, which the jar symbolizes, then we believe that our spiritual task, our religious calling, is to dominate and manipulate the natural world around us. The poet interprets this as perversity; he believes that our spiritual calling is to destroy the technology and support nature."1

In Neruda's poem, certain kinds of technology are internal to understanding what it means to be human. In Stevens' poem, technology is an external and potentially harmful thing. Hefner lays out a process of becoming reconciled with our technologized world and self from a beginning approach of feeling alienated. The end point is embracing the techno-self. Thus, Hefner acknowledges a variety of moderate approaches to technology as well, though these are intermediate stages in the movement towards reconciliation. My response to Hefner is that a healthy dose of skepticism towards technology can be helpful in discovering what it means to be human. Although I think it's naive to think that we are called to destroy technology as a way of getting back to nature, I am convinced that there is something essentially human that can be found in unplugging and escaping into the wilderness for periods of time.

I am concerned when Hefner says, "Many of us are now so intimately connected to our computers that our creativity - whether it is writing or graphic art, or interpersonal communication, mathematical modeling, or other research procedures - is integrated with the machine, and the computer scarcely qualifies as an entity that exists "outside" our spirits."2. I am scared of the idea that creativity is somehow dependent upon computers. Certainly different technologies are helpful in expressing human creativity; that does not mean that we equate creativity with those technologies. A certain amount of caution is helpful so that we CAN once in a while separate ourselves from our machines.

Therefore, I understand by the phrasing of the question, "How should we relate to our technologies?" that I am taking a side on the issue. I am in a sense suggesting that our technologies are indeed somewhat external to what it means to be human, even as I admit that they are extremely helpful tools for accomplishing what humans want to accomplish. I agree with Hefner that technology is essential to modern and future human becomings. However, it is not the only factor. Hopefully, humans do not lose their yearning for wilderness adventure, face-to-face human interaction, and other unplugged experiences.

I would guess that some of the sci-fi films I watch in the course of this study will also express a level of ambiguity towards technology. This is not a black and white issue. It is, rather, an integral discussion that is and will be on-going for humanity.

1Philip Hefner, Technology and Human Becoming (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 7.
2Ibid., pp. 21-22.