A sad day at school for kissing

During break time, between classes, I like to play interesting videos, mostly with visual content, to get students focused on topics that may come up in one of my classes. Here is the one from this week.

A videographer for WREN Studios paid 20 models to kiss another model on film. Beautiful to look at. Then VICE, a documentary company, did the same thing with normal people. Here is another one, much longer, using people from New York.

Normally, I only show one video between classes. In my Digital Media¬†class, however, this has developed into a good chunk of a lesson on differences between YouTube and TV. I play the first video, and as two questions: 1)What video is this? and 2) How does it make you feel? They jot down notes, some key words, collect their thoughts and then discuss. Question one is intended to devolve into a critical thinking activity, when students want to know what kind of video this is. Who made it? Why did they make it? Who is the intended audience. Today, I had to explain that this first video was a viral video, an immediately very popular video last year. It was billed as a video from a creation agency, and featured 20 strangers kissing. Turns out, though, that the “strangers” are all actors. Wren is a women’s clothing company. This viral video was just a new kind of commercial.

The student reaction was slight discomfort, and in a few cases more than that, when two of the 10 “couples” kissing were gay. Vice Studios, makers of those new style documentaries, did another version, this time with real people, not actors. The same two questions elicited very different answers. One student pointed out that the second video above, by Vice, had more realistic camera work, showing off the reality of the “couples” kissing. But most felt even more uncomfortable, as there were unusual mixes, with a very tall guy and a short woman, mixed races, and people that did not look at all like actors. And some gay people as well. The sentiment I got from the class was that these people were not “normal”.

The third linked video is another about kissing, and I used it to contrast with the first two, in that it was filmed in New York, instead of London, where the second one was filmed. (Not sure where the first one was filmed.) The people recruited for this third were an even more unusual assemblage, but all came as volunteers through word of mouth to help the director with her project.

There was a lot more talking in the third video, and students picked up on the commentary, mostly light banter. Again the same two questions. Why would a director in New York with a Korean name make a video of people kissing. And ask her boyfriend to stand in for one missing volunteer.

Asked whether this kind of video would appear on TV, there was a resounding “no!”, followed by a couple students saying “especially not here in Japan.” We went through some of the reasons why this would only work on YouTube. At the end of class, I asked students to wrap up their thoughts about all three videos in a short post to our online discussion area. And two of these (done off the bat) made me sad.

“I prefer the first video. because, all of them are actors or actress. So, they kissed naturally.”

And the other…”The first video was better than the others. I laughed at first, but gradually ¬†it made me disgusted to watch.”

Intolerance pops up in places I would not have thought. This will be an interesting semester.

Review: Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed

OR Book Going RougeJust finished one of the most important books of this year. I had heard about Douglas Rushkoff”s book, and read some of his articles. I realized he was a real thinker, but not the extent until reading this book.

I had heard that this book was about how coding is a necessary skill in this day and age, and the reasons behind it. I was completely unprepared for the content.

There are ten chapters in this book, and not one single line of code. The tenth and least compelling of the chapters is the title of the book.

The tenth argues that learning programming changes the way you view the world, and changes the way the world interacts with you.

The other nine chapters are all examples of this concept. He looks at how digital technology have changed our perception and activities in the dimensions of time, place, choice, complexity, scale, identity, social, facts, and openness.

I cannot recommend this more highly. It is a 152-page book that turns a programmer’s lens on the digital world itself, with surprising results and insights. I highlighted more of this book than the last 3 combined, and one of those was 700 pages. And yes, there are suggestions at the end for places to start learning to code.

I plan to use excerpts of this in my IT Seminar class. I may even base a whole semester on the ideas included. I have also just downloaded his new book Present Shock.