Technology and affect: some notes on contemporary films

Ewa Mazierska
(University of Central Lancashire)

In my paper I will look at a number of films which take issue with new communication devices and software (video cameras, e-mails, mobile phones, text messages, computer operating systems, video games), asking how they influence human ability to express affection and sustain an authentic relationship. I am also interested in how the representation of communication technologies have changed since the 1980s (the decade of video) to the current day (the time of social media and apps).  For this purpose, I will compare the 1980s films of Armenian Canadian director Atom Egoyan, who belonged then to a small group of filmmakers who examined the lives of people who were excessive users of modern technologies of communication and representation, principally video-cameras, as in Family Viewing (1987) and Calendar (1993) with the films dealing with digital technologies, such as Samotność w sieci (Loneliness in the Net, 2006), dir. Wiktor Adamek, Perfetti sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers, 2016) directed by Paolo Genovese and Her (2013), directed by Spike Jonze. I argue that these films point to a shift in human communication, from immediate, personal contact to contact which is mediated by technology and finally becomes a contact with technology itself (operating system). The tone of the films changes too – from mourning the loss of direct contact, which dominated pre-industrial societies and still can be found in less developed, peripheral countries in Egoyan’s films to accepting the status quo as inevitable or even suggesting that the shift is advantageous to human emotional well-being. The only issue is about improving technology so it responds better to human needs for affective and social life. 

Ewa Mazierska is Professor of Film Studies, at the University of Central Lancashire. She published over twenty monographs and edited collections on film and popular music. They include Contemporary Cinema and Neoliberal Ideology (Routledge, 2018), with Lars Kristensen, Poland Daily: Economy, Work, Consumption and Social Class in Polish Cinema (Berghahn, 2017), Popular Music in Eastern Europe: Breaking the Cold War Paradigm (Palgrave, 2016), Marxism and Film Activism (Berghahn, 2015), with Lars Kristensen, Relocating Popular Music (Palgrave, 2015), with Georgina Gregory, From Self- Fulfillment to Survival of the Fittest: Work in European Cinema from the 1960s to the Present (Berghahn, 2015) and European Cinema and Intertextuality: History, Memory, Politics (Palgrave, 2011). Mazierska’s work was translated into many languages, including French, Italian, German, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Estonian and Serbian. She is principal editor of a Routledge journal, Studies in Eastern European Cinema.