Filmmaker speaks on technology and society

    Godfrey Reggio, an award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of the Institute for Regional Education in Santa Fe, N.M., gave a lecture on the relationship between technology and society on May 5 in Price Center Ballroom. Reggio’s talk and visit to UCSD was a part of the second Convocation Week this year, an event sponsored in part by Sixth College and the Council of Provosts. Convocation Week is campuswide, but sponsored by a particular college to promote its educational philosophy through speakers and other events.

    Reggio’s internationally acclaimed, non-narrative Qatsi film trilogy was shown at Price Center Theater from May 3 to May 5. The films presented a critical look at the connections among humans, culture and technology.

    Reggio began his lecture, themed “The New Terra Firma: The Technological Environment,” by warning the audience that his words might be shocking.

    “The problems that I’m going to talk about make the terrorism of Osama bin Laden, of Saddam Hussein, George Bush, Bill Clinton — whatever characters you want to pull out — these people will look like Boy Scouts compared to the terror that I wish to talk about tonight,” Reggio said.

    Reggio argued that the development of the “new terra firma,” or the technological world, was the most important event in the last 5,000 years of history. The process by which technology has homogenized the world community, he said, has mostly gone unnoticed.

    “More and more the planet looks like one place,” Reggio said. “If something happens in San Diego of importance, it affects the entire planet … we no longer live in local communities. We live in this globalized, homogenized world. The unity of that world is through … technological homogenization.”

    According to Reggio, this global homogenization has led humans to embrace technology as a new form of religion, without critically examining its consequences on culture and mentality.

    “The miracles of old, of Jesus or Mohammed, or whatever your religious deities are, are like small events compared to the miracles of the computer, or new technology,” he said.

    Reggio also claimed that the price humans paid for technological development was an immersion in virtual reality and a disconnection from the diverse, natural world.

    “Technology — while promising well-being, comfort, happiness [and] affluence — means power, control, conformity, uniformity,” he said.

    Reggio concluded his lecture by encouraging his audience to look critically at the effects of technology and to be open to alternative lifestyles.

    “In order to be hopeful about the life we live, I’m suggesting to you that you be hopeless,” Reggio said. “Be hopeless about this order in order to be hopeful to create the world in which you wish to live. What I’m suggesting is that we seek the darkness from the blinding light of technology.”

    A majority of the students who attended the lecture were from Sixth College’s culture, art and technology classes.

    “I thought it was fascinating how he argued that technology has taken over our lives to the point that we don’t realize its effect on us, which was really apparent to me in his films,” said Sixth College freshman Katie Hall.

    Sixth College administrators and professors also attended the lecture.

    “The talk that he gave … was an important talk,” said Linda Strauss, Sixth College core curriculum coordinator. “It was passionate, it was deeply humane, it was thoughtful and well-considered. The argument that he’s offering, I think, is a difficult one, and I think that the students are going to be really challenged by it, and that’s what I want to see.”

    Other events for the Convocation Week included screenings of other Reggio films, an exhibit of projects from C.A.T. students and an outdoor festival of student films from Sixth College and the visual arts department. Students also had a chance to participate in several panel discussions with Reggio.

    “Reggio’s visit to UCSD has been a very exciting and significant event,” said Gerald Doppelt, a philosophy professor who teaches one of the classes in the C.A.T. sequence. “He is an important filmmaker, and his lecture and presence here has been very stimulating and educational.”

    Sixth College Provost Gabriele Wienhausen felt that the week’s events went well.

    “I think [the week] was very successful, and it was successful because of … Godfrey Reggio,” Wienhausen said. “He is [not only an] incredible, intellectual person, but somebody who can communicate and convey and connect to all of us … many students really were inspired by him.”

    Reggio said he also felt inspired by his engagements with UCSD students throughout the week.

    “I was encouraged by the … soulful interest in some of these things that I was trying to talk about,” Reggio said. “I realize that they fly in the face of what they’re being taught, but I think it’s important to hear, without being overtly dismissive, other points of view.”

    Convocation Week is a campuswide event put on by a specific college, in which a nonacademic speaker is invited to visit the campus and provide a lecture for the general public. Other activities throughout the week are designed to engage students intellectually and to communicate the general educational philosophy of the particular college.

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