Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

Us Now (a documentary)

September 3rd, 2009

A few weeks ago Josie and I watched a documentary called Us Now. Good news – if you’ve got an hour or so to spare – you can watch it too (streaming over the Internet).

Briefly: Us Now is about how new social media technologies are enabling people to share, collaborate, help each other, and make stuff happen (in ways that significantly “scale-up” from our long human history of sharing, collaborating, helping each other, and making stuff happen). The documentary begins to go in the direction of asking if we are able to organise ourselves so efficiently and effectively, and if we are able to make things happen directly (rather than having intermediaries like organisations and institutions acting on our behalf), what does this mean for the future, particularly our ideas about governing and government? Is it about time we moved towards a more deliberative style of democracy with much more direct community engagement?

The documentary fits nicely into Josie’s and my ongoing exploration of the nature and potential of “self-generating networks for knowledge building, learning, and change”, and what these might have to teach us about learning and education for the 21st century. The documentary features a few famous faces, such as Clay Shirky (author of Here comes everybody, my favourite book of 2009) and Charles Leadbeter (author of The rise of the social entrepreneur and many other think-pieces on social innovation). If you don’t want to spend a whole hour watching Us Now you can get a taste of some of Leadbeter and Shirky’s ideas in these shorter YouTube clips

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Examined Life

July 27th, 2009
(c) Rachel Bolstad, 2007

(Examine these) Footprints (c) Rachel Bolstad, 2007

A few of just saw Examined Life, a documentary screening at the NZ International Film Festival. If this happens to be coming to a theatre near you, or you can locate a copy on DVD – you should!

This documentary features 8 contemporary philosophers, each one filmed in a different environment as they cogently talk the audience through some of their ideas and theories. As the film’s official synopsis explains:

Peter Singer’s thoughts on the ethics of consumption are amplified against the backdrop of Fifth Avenue’s posh boutiques. Slavoj Zizek questions current beliefs about the environment while sifting through a garbage dump. Michael Hardt ponders the nature of revolution while surrounded by symbols of wealth and leisure. Judith Butler and a friend stroll through San Francisco’s Mission District questioning our culture’s fixation on individualism. And while driving through Manhattan, Cornel West—perhaps America’s best-known public intellectual—compares philosophy to jazz and blues, reminding us how intense and invigorating a life of the mind can be. Offering privileged moments with great thinkers from fields ranging from moral philosophy to cultural theory,  Examined Life reveals philosophy’s power to transform the way we see the world around us and imagine our place in it.

I’d love to get hold of this film on DVD, as it’s a wonderfully provocative thinking object (Let’s hope the DVD will be available to New Zealand viewers). As I was watching it I had lots of thoughts about how various ideas they discussed were so relevant to our thinking about education and learning in the 21st century.  The trouble is, there was so much to think about and I wasn’t able to take notes! All of us who saw it agreed we wanted to watch it again. We want to be able to pause the film after each philosopher’s segment to discuss their ideas.  In the meantime, I’ve done a quick foray on Google Scholar to find some of the books and articles written by the Examined Life philosophers. Some of them look a bit hard for bedtime reading, but these two are going on my “to read” list:

Appiah, Kwame Anthony (2006) Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a world of strangers. London: Penguin

Nussbaum, Martha (1997) Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

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