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Posted by on Oct 1, 2010

Minority Report: A Brighter Shade of Dystopian

With all the videos we have been discussing, I had forgotten about some of the other ones I had watched in the past, some that seem to have more relevance now than they did then. One such example is The Minority Report, a short story adaptation originally written by Philip K. Dick. While it is formulaic at times, and predictably dystopian in its presentation of technology, it does offer some interesting parallels and juxtapositions to some of the films we have been watching. Rather than explain the narrative solely in text, why not rely on the clip itself?

Technology=Surveillance=Customization

In this scene, technology is used nefariously as a means of monitoring the populace (indeed the whole essence of the movie is about the monitoring of thoughts to prevent crime). At the same time, it is used as a mechanism for customization. The eyes are scanned and advertisements are presented in accordance with the data found in that scan. In this video, it is just to identify the person’s name, but their are further consequences to this type of interaction. First, anonymity becomes anachronistic. People are not allowed to remain anonymous, an interesting take that could be applied to data collection in digital cultures (Facebook and Google as the antecedents of precrime?). Either way, it certainly establishes a narrative of surveillance, of being watched and manipulated if not overtly controlled. Cyberpunks/hackers become the ghosts in this machine (indeed a later scene involves hacking in illicitly to destroy the evil machine of surveillance).

Secondly, mobile and augmented reality extends surveillance, bridging the digital with the physical. Cameras are everywhere and by scanning individuals and matching advertisements with their biographical information, they provide an augmented reality which extends the physical with layers of additional context. Mobile learning often depends on this type of augmentation, but Minority Report takes it to a fairly bold conclusion. That is, devices are anachronistic. The device is us (our retina), which unlocks layers of technology embedded in every conceivable area of our physical and digital worlds. Virtual reality is promoted throughout the film with gloves being used to interface with technology. Imagine the removal of the gloves and we have the posthuman in all its augmented glory.

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