2 types of people seem to be responding to the film – actually, put more accurately 2 different approaches to the film seem to be apparent. This is as should be as the film is trying to do at least 2 things which could appear at odds with each other (although I don’t believe that they need to be). Firstly the film is asking questions of technical and technological limitations to the progress of mobile media devices. The limitations of boxes and screens – devices with a finite shape. There are many concept videos out there which are tackling the same issue – possible solutions include projection phones, folding and rolling LCD screens and even the sixth sense device featured on TED talks. As adventurous as all these concepts are, they are primarily technology concepts and as such are bound by ideas dependent on what is plausible according to the technology w currently have. These are great ideas but all dependent on understanding the device first.
Free Pixels is also a concept film, but it is working in technologies that are probably impossible or at least beyond what we can comprehend as plausible. It seems to me that this is very important. Attempting to realise a concept beyond the realm of what is conceivable is where divergent thinking excels, where originality could blossom or of course it could amount to no product outcome at all but this does not equal a futile process, far from it!
This means Free Pixel is doing two things – it is attempting to conceptualise a new technology but it is also risking an excessive reach of the imagination bordering on Science Fiction. Some have responded to the film with questions around the technology and the plausibility of such a device. This is an important part of the film’s point – indeed, the director comes from a software / programming / design back ground and a stretchy technology was her dream. The film is supposed to generate these sorts of technological ponderings. However, we are fairly confident that no metal or mineral exists on Earth quite capable of creating the device in the film (although K Kapoor would know more technical details than me). If this is the only level of response to Free Pixels, the film may seem daft to you or at least frivolous – this is one response emerging. This rather ‘techi’ response to the film is apparently frustrated by what has been called the anthropomorphism of the pixels at the end of the film. One viewer said he was not convinced and that he “simply didn’t see the point (or application) of imagining pixels in that way”. Well, I believe that there may be at least two reasons for imagining pixels in that way – firstly because most people would say that there is little point – that’s the point. Yes it may mean that the concept is confined to the world of Sci-Fi, but Star Trek was imagining flip phones over 40 years ago. Elements like mercury melt together and there is plenty of further scope for complex magnetics – I am not trying to suggest that ‘free pixels’ are plausible – only that it is not a waisted imagination.
Secondly, the film is a poem. Poetry is the language of imaginations – the literary form that will not be bound by grammar or ‘correct’ syntax. Poetry is the form which breaks out of the box – each word in a poem is the pixel that breaks out from the screen – empty on its own but when combined with other unconfined words forms images and smells, sounds and tastes, textures and emotions. Poetry is the art of metaphor, the micro practice with meta significance. What I have loved about this project is the way that the film itself has embodied its meaning – the frustration between belief and actuality, imagination and plausibility. When Henry Jenkins writes about collective intelligence and ‘the wisdom of crowds’ he is asking about how people function in this new media world where there is greater choice and connection, where we are a complex pluralism of talking, sharing creators, where the structures and institutions of a traditional world no longer hold us in a recognisable shape. Today’s post traditional world has a crumbling school system and models of religion and family in huge transition. The ‘screens’ and ‘boxes’ have cracked. The question of anthropomorphism is not merely about the pixels, it is a poetic device hoping to encourage us to reflect on people and our collective imagination and how that might function in a world with less explicit boundaries.
I only hope that the device we have made in the film exists metaphorically, even if we are a long way from its literal invention.
The discussion continues.