GES presents the documentary ‘revolution of the PRESENT’
GES is proud to present revolution of the PRESENT, a feature-length documentary by Writer/Director Marc Lafia that prompts us to us rethink our presumptions and narratives about the individual and society, the local and global, our politics and technology. It is an invitation to join the conversation and help contribute to our collective understanding. Please read the synopsis below and watch the film on our website here: http://www.global-economic-symposium.org/symposium-2014/ges-film
revolution of the PRESENT is no doubt an ambitious film, not because it wants to be for any grand reasons, but because of a sense of urgency that we have become unable to give definition to the moment we live in. As Saskia Sassen, the renowned sociologist, states at the outset of the film, ‘we live in a time of unsettlement, so much so that we are even questioning the notion of the global, which is healthy.’ One could say that our film raises more questions than it answers, but this is our goal. Asking the right questions and going back to beginnings may be the very thing we need to do to understand the present, and to move forward from it with a healthy skepticism. And so the film begins by asking what are the questions with which we should approach our present day, in our accelerating and increasingly connected network world.
From hunter-gatherers to city-dwellers
And so we go back and ask how we as people – not unlike civilizations of bees and termites, or galaxies – form and organize ourselves, how do we form a polity, a society? How do we become social? Through interviews with leading scholars across many disciplines, revolution of the PRESENT opens the conversation and asks the question that is relevant to all of us today: how do we participate in a meaningful way in the world we live? We begin with a discussion of the radical changes and shifts we have been through as a result of increased computation and communication, and the unprecedented changes ahead. Of course this will take us to our social media and network culture, but not yet – we need to spend a little time getting up to the present. We take a look back and discuss how over time humankind moves from small social groups to settling in denser and denser units. We gather in cities, we become specialized, we form hundreds of thousands of cultures and languages.These discussions are accentuated by an array of stunning visual material culled from across the globe, and set to a dynamic soundtrack, all of which gives a visual aesthetic that serves as counterpoint to the interviews.
Communication collapsing distance and contesting rule
The development of trade, and communication as a function of transportation and warfare technology, collapses distances. Empires appear and disappear. Knowledge gets compressed and transmitted, from glyphs to hieroglyphs, to alphabets, to digital code, to life code. Humans become global.
By the enlightenment, the basis of rule is contested, whereas leadership had previously been tied to the Church, sovereignty now often becomes secular. Historians Manuel Delanda and Anthony Pagden give description to the turmoil and upheaval around the advance of science and the pressing questions of what mankind shares together, what is the same and what is different. This notion becomes intensely contested over the next 300 years as we move into an increasingly plural society.
The modern suggests a universal man, while the postmodern stressed the uniqueness of each of us, each culture. Here Alex Galloway describes the concept of a new humanism, the multitude, where what we have in common is the fact that we have absolutely nothing in common.
Network culture and a shared present
With the emergence of network culture all of us live in a simultaneous present sharing knowledge, sharing ourselves. Imperialism is no longer the model of control – at least so says Michael Hardt, author of Empire. So where is control? As we move into our experts on network culture, Wendy Chung, Nishant Shah and Natalie Jeremijenko, we see how dispersed, inter-connected and complex things really are.
So that’s the first part of the film, giving the back-story of us – humanity before we get networked. All the while contesting the notion of ‘us’ and ‘we’. The world is multiple, plural and there a many many ‘we’s’ in it.
15 years into network culture as humanity comes together at the dashboard of civilization, many are acutely aware that the footprint of human kind in our modern age gives us great responsibility. Are we moving towards the promise of a cosmopolitan humanity or are we seeing the emergence of a technocratic surveillance state run by elite management and control.
What are the options of the individual in the twenty-first century?
Are things truly run by anew caste system of the powerful, with the individual, the everyman, cast to the wayside? At the midway point we are immersed in an in-depth description of the properties of networks, how different players use these properties differently, asking whether it is the structure of networks that overwhelms any possible agency of individuals, or indeed if individuals do have the possibility of agency. How can we participate today in our world and how can we create public voices with imaginable futures. Back and forth this conversation goes.
The film closes by posing another question. How we can program the world? As Michael Hardt says, ‘is that simply folly, are things just complex?’ Doug Rushkoff imploringly asks ‘do we even want to participate?’ Natalie Jeremijenko, says ‘the best thing we have is drawing on the resources of each of us and we must design structures of participation that can make that happen.’ All are valid answers.
revolution of the PRESENT is structured as an engaging dinner conversation, there is no narrator telling you what to think, it is not a film of fear of the end time or accusation, it is an invitation to sit at the table and join an in depth conversation. An invitation to see the rich images and sounds that make up a diverse and plural world.