"In Limbo", Antoine Viviani, 2015. All rights reserved.
I have an acquaintance, who became a friend, then asked to be my Facebook friend too. Quite reasonable you might think. But on this occasion, I declined the offer to conduct our blossoming relationship amidst Zuckerberg’s watchtowers. Some things are too precious to submit to this unknown algorithmic construct whose shady judgements chew over our info keeping their findings for themselves and their clients.
What might become of relationships, events, habits, and thoughts which are digitised for processing by the system? Presently, this data is used to commodify us and our friends, to spy on people exhibiting suspect behaviour, and used in various ways to serve other people's objectives. It is for our imaginations to further consider how it might be used in future.
And with these considerations in mind, I choose, in a haphazard fashion, which relationships to play out on Facebook; what to give over to the digital unknown. That unknown promises to put the fragments of my life and soul that I do give it to work in so many ways, with the lively software of today and of tomorrow. I cannot fully trust it, and am compelled to keep some thoughts and actions outside of it, as if protected by the under-connected stasis of my own unwebbed brain and the few remaining untracked paths to others.
Until now, the foregoing thoughts of the last paragraph had also been the preserve of my meat-space mind… now, the machine knows my misgivings a little more. I hope it will forgive me.
In Limbo glides us through the Internet as perceived from its insides, from the perspective of the evolving, possibly unstoppable consciousness coming to life within. It hints, quite plausibly, that a thing so complex as the Internet, with so many thinking, sensing, changing, intelligent parts, could have, or will have, its own inner life. What that life looks and feels like, what it thinks, is presented to us as a streaming, conscious, first person narrator, encountering a million strands of memory that we have left strewn across the net’s databanks.
The film dizzies us with a stark bombardment of facts and forecasts on the Internet’s present and future for a truly disquieting trip. Yet it treats this weighty, often menacing subject with mystery, dreamtime rotoscoping, an air of agnosticism and the sublime. What being/s might emerge within the unravelling crevices of the Internet are conjured and somewhat unpacked through oblique graphic rendering, sensuous webcam tapestry, poetry and other shards; it invites, or goads, the viewer to confront the metaphysical, psychological, political and other possibilities of the expanded reality growing out of the Internet.
Interviews with prophets and pioneers of the web enchant us with talk of the grand ways in which our accumulated data will be whipped up, with ever more of the world being sucked up and digitised, for financial profit, to train artificial intelligence, and to bring on other mystopian triumphs. “Information is the ultimate value” intones visionary Ray Kurzweil. The inevitability of our passage towards this new version of humanity is upheld by spokespeople for firms “making new model humans” and “seeking to digitise absolutely everything”.
We need works like this, which spark the imagination whilst outlining the entrepreneurialism eagerly shaping our shared existence. They assist us in the very difficult process of feeling the future, albeit speculatively, to help us appreciate the texture and gravity of these decisions.
It all shifts so fast that we are unable to act as human fundamentals are warped in the transition to that age. Our headlong dash into this new world, of one over-arching and mighty Internet, is unaccompanied by the sort of collective quest that it sorely requires. In Limbo does this in majesty and grace.
In Limbo is screening at the Open City Documentary Festival, 23 June 2016.