Representing Networked Publics | On Noah by Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman

Screenshot from Noah.

Has anyone noticed this annoying trend in films and TV: if a plot’s conflict could be solved by a quick phone call to the police, for example, the character’s cell will either be conveniently “out of service” or (even more stupidly) the character will not even consider whipping out their phone at the crucial moment. In the heavily networked world of the modern age, these features of storytelling are jarring, to say the least.

However, in the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that screenwriters have become a lot more open to incorporating digital media and telecommunication into the show’s narrative. For example, the above screen shot is from the indie short film Noah, which takes place entirely on a teenager’s computer.  (I’ve embedded the film below, mildly NSFW.)

Without spoiling the events of the film, I can say that all of the communication is digital, with the main action taking place on Facebook. Conventional wisdom would argue that this emphasis on textual interaction would underwrite the emotionality of the film—after all, there are very few “typical” markers of emotionality (body language, prosody, etc.) that critics of new media argue are necessary aspects of communication.

However, Noah does a good job of illustrating that digital communication isn’t emotionless. We’ve adopted a method of textual interaction that does not (and, arguably, cannot) mimic IRL interaction, and have adapted to adjust to the constraints of digital media in order to express ourselves in meaningful ways.

Screenshot from Jane the Virgin.

My point, I guess, is that digital media has become a part of everyday life, with our participation in networked publics forming the backbone of modern human interaction. As Danah Boyd points out, these new networked technologies has altered the way we communicate and has impacted the social dynamics of our relationships. It would, therefore, be nice for traditional media to do a better job of accurately illustrating the role digital media plays in modern communication without also demonizing it.

In recent years, traditional media seems to have realized this. Award-winning TV shows like Jane the Virgin (pictured above) and cult favorites like Faking It (pictured below) have used clever stylistic choices to demonstrate how new media is actually used in everyday interaction.

I think we still have a bit of a way to go before the representation of new media usage in film and TV accurately reflects the way new media is used IRL, but the way networked publics are represented in the media these days has definitely improved over time.

Screenshot from Faking It.

One thought on “Representing Networked Publics | On Noah by Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman

  1. Victoria Edsell

    I love seeing the progression of technology in films! Like say Zoey 101, they had sidekicks, and razors, I am not sure why I remember only that small fact… Each time frame had a form of media which they were so about! Joey in Friends gets a pager when he is about to have a baby and so on. I enjoyed the incoperation of media in the movie Fault in Our Stars. However it is so odd to think about how this too will pass. Like in 20 years we will have something completely knew, and this will be a silly phase in the past. Only time will tell!

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