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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

watch it: “The Machine Is Us/ing Us”

I spent part of Saturday and all of Sunday at the American Museum of Natural History here in NYC at the Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, which focuses on films of anthropological interest. It turns out, though, that the program that affected me the most was not a movie at all but a discussion about how the Internet is changing documentary filmmaking… though what it was really about is how the Net is changing how we communicate. From videocams in cell phones that capture unfolding disasters and give proof to human rights violations to the services (like YouTube and Google Video) through which we now share those videos and many others — not to mention the capability of more traditional filmmakers to distribute their work cheaply and easily — the Net is revolutionizing our ideas of what constitutes “a movie,” and is reemphasizing, in a way that perhaps has not been obvious since Mathew Brady’s photographs of Civil War battlefields, the power of the image.
The discussion at Mead was, for me, revitalizing and reenergizing and helped to crystallize a lot of things I’d been thinking about for quite a while. I’ve been stumbling around for some time now trying to find a way to regularly recognize the fact that everything about film is in the process of tremendous upheaval, and we’ve no idea where all these new voices and all these new ideas will take us. And while I was sitting there getting my mind blown thinking about all this stuff, I hit upon the idea to highlight a video from the Web every day, for several reasons:

• to draw attention the new power of the moving image in a global culture that’s more interconnected than ever

• to show off the cool ways inventive filmmakers are telling stories on the Web

• to point you at entertaining video that you might have missed, and might like to see.

And so, via that last point, the first FlickFilosopher.com Web Video of the Day is “The Machine Is Us/ing Us,” by Kansas State University assistant professor of cultural anthropology Michael Wesch. Wesch moderated the Mead talk, and kicked it off by showing this video, which he created earlier this year… and which went on to be one of the most popular online videos ever. I’d never even heard of it, even though I practically live online.


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