Spent an hour and a half this afternoon watching the documentary Synthetic Pleasures (1996) by Iara Lee as part of my research and also to get some discussion questions for Monday’s lecture on being or becoming human in Western technoculture. Couldn’t get hold of a copy in NZ so ordered it in from overseas post-haste.
IMDB’s plot summary says
Conceived as an electronic road movie, this documentary investigates cutting edge technologies and their influence on our culture as we approach the 21st century. It takes off from the idea that mankind’s effort to tap the power of Nature has been so successful that a new world is suddenly emerging, an artificial reality. Virtual Reality, digital and biotechnology, plastic surgery and mood-altering drugs promise seemingly unlimited powers to our bodies, and our selves. This film presents the implications of having access to such power as we all scramble to inhabit our latest science fictions.
That’s a fairly good summary. In places the movie drags a little and 8-9 years on it’s looking a little dated but there’s some really interesting material in there for discussion. What it means to be human, on the place/role of the body (consumer/consumed), on dreams of immortality and freedom from the flesh, as well as the bizarreness of people in general.
An example of this “artificial reality” is Ocean Dome, “Paradise within a paradise”.
If you get a chance to see it you will probably know if it’s your “cup of tea” after about 10 minutes. Also, some audiences may be a little squeemish/shocked by the plastic surgery and cybersex sections but it didn’t seem too different than contemporary TV after 8:30pm.
Personally, I enjoyed Errol Morris’ Fast, Cheap & Out of Control more, the style of which hasn’t dated so much.