I know I talked about Avatar last week, but this week I want to talk about another thing the movie brought up for me. Just to put it out there I’m definitely not Avatar obsessed, but I think that the movie is worth writing about since it has relationships to new media on so many different levels.

Anyhow, one of the things that got me thinking the most about in the movie was our relationship to nature, as one of the main themes in the movies is connection to the living world, while at the same time the movie as a whole was about and encouraged us to disconnect from the real world. In general, the movie did the strange thing of celebrating something that is more organic than than the truly organic. The whole thing struck me as a little bit off, but in general, I guess that after contemplating these conflicting ideas I ended up thinking more about how I should be embracing the natural world, and in general made me worried about how new media could be increasing the gap between it and myself.

Anxieties about new media are brought up by Lister, et al. in chapter 1.5.3 of New Media: A Critical Introduction, which got me thing about this. People have always had worries about new technology. I remember reading something along the line of that when writing was introduced to ancient Greece, people were worried about its impact on oral tradition and people’s memories. In general, it seems obvious that people who enjoy the current situation are always going to be afraid of change.

In general though, new media didn’t create this gap between us and the organic world, it has been growing some time. In America, jobs on farms started to be displaced by jobs in factories over a hundred years ago. It seems like now, there is actually an emphasis being put on having greener workplaces, so in certain ways the situation might even be getting better. In Blade Runner and other science fiction movies, they portray a future with our world covered in metal with everything as having been in some way engineered by man. I believe that in many ways society is fighting against this post-modernist image of the future, and I generally don’t see it happening, but my fear is that new media does encourage us to lose touch with our natural surroundings. I think that generally, most people feel the need to get outside and to have organic things around them, however I know that I can lose touch with that need pretty easily and I think it might be that way for some other adults. When I was a kid, growing up with the internet and TV, I didn’t even see the importance of spending time outside at all, and I would say many kids today are probably the same way.

It was in my late teens I think when really started to see what may have been more obvious for others, which is the benefit of connecting with the natural world. While the excitement in the outdoors might not be as in your face as movies or video games, it is free, it is your own (in the sense you that you find it for yourself), it is awe inspiringly complex, awe inspiringly simple, and the connection is much more intense and feels better than anything I believe new media can offer. It also seems to be able to offer answers to quite a few questions if you look for them. It seems like especially since the Enlightenment, as people move away from religion, it has become more important to find a sort of spiritual fulfillment else where, and nature seems is an obvious places for this. As the type of person who gets so caught up in doing work that I can go for days with only a few hours outdoors, keeping this in mind is especially important.

Then come in nature documentaries. To me they seem to serve as a cheap nature fix. While these do help me to appreciate the outside world, and teach me things that I wouldn’t have learned from just “being outdoors” I can not help but feel a little bit strange that my I spend most of my time experiencing the outside world from my couch. I feel like new media generally encourages us to live a synthetic connection with the natural world, but to what point is it real? I know it can definitely feel real sometimes, and according to my New Media teacher, Nicola Martinez, it really does feel like we are actually there, but does it have the same spiritual benefits? For some reason, Avatar made the connection feel incredibly hollow to me.

Of course, there is a beauty and a spiritual quality in exploring the depths of our imagination and feeling the emotions that we can feel through new media and media in general. This is essentially what keeps me coming back.

The the discussion of the relationship between technology, entertainment, and the natural world is definitely not a new one, however I feel like I have not heard it talked about very muc
h recently. Anyhow, I guess I wrote this for myself as a reminder that as a new media artist, while I strive to create exciting new worlds it is also important to look at the world that is here around me.

Lister, et al. New Media: A Critical Introduction. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Martinez, Nicola. “History and Theory of New Media Week 4” Google Wave with author, quote from PhD Dissertation. Feb 16, 2010.