Ambient Intel is a blog about the ever sublime man/machine interface with the world, with an eye on how connectivity technologies change media and the political climate. It’s also a blog about me (Amanda Cole), my cats, my roommate, and cast and crew from my science fiction Web Series, “Strand.”
Fueled by learning about ever growing technologies at the tech/media convention, Digital Hollywood in 2010, I was inspired to write a sci-fi movie, Strand, then web-series of the same name, about how connectivity technology is reaching a near biological level. At Digital Hollywood, I learned how impulse readings off human nerve endings could set off cell phone commands and was blown away by how fast our technology is moving. So inspired, I set off to write a future fictive bio-technology screenplay, complete with political ramifications and aftermath- in an umbrella story of one scientist, responsible for creating this technology, and his family. I imagined technology that not only allowed us to connect on a metaphysical level with how we interact with our environment and machines, but how the government would recoil against this kind of blissful control and freedom in the hands of the masses.
I got three episodes in, and ten thousand dollars in the hole when, imagine my surprise- the SOPA/PIPA bills were on the table in congress, supposedly to stop online piracy for IP theft. No original content creator likes the idea of being ripped off, and most of us who have been in this game long enough, have seen some facsimile of that problem, but what was at stake seemed ridiculously fascistic and weirdly possible. A ban on online freedom, controlled by designated corporations? A terrifying proposition for any free thinker. And who was to choose those corporations if not those self-same corporations, doubtlessly, buying their bill into congress? Too high a price! And thank G*d for the internet’s allowing public voice in the form of internet petitions, which put a stop to SOPA/PIPA bills in the eleventh hour, the very thing these corporations and politicians are most terrified of- a rallying informed public. Also, what could have been a supremely dark time for creators, as the internet has provided a gatekeeper-free environment for us, especially filmmakers (a complete turnaround from yesterday’s successes in the form of Hollywood pitches, agents, festival-only circuits and prestigious writing labs!), web platforms have opened up a new flood of showing and content sharing, where the toss up is- get paid for a screenplay vs. free distribution. And then there is the problem of a tidal wave of terrible content, and the difficult search for the good stuff! I myself am a digital media artist in WGA East’s Digital Caucus, and rely on internet freedom, but was really blocked before its license. And most valuably, the internet has given me the play space of being able to create imperfectly for a while, and learn my craft.
This is an age where information is free, corporations can’t hide from a mass tweet-leak, an FB share, a HuffPo article, where sharing is the name of the game. In an age of sharing and knowing, this hive minded mentality is bound to come across some major political hiccoughs from those who don’t want to adapt to the constant scrutinizing eye of social media. Knowledge is in the hands of the masses!
I know very little about how one would fix online piracy, to cure the blight of Original Content maker poverty, how this will be addressed, or how we IP creators will ever come to terms entirely with this content-sharing world we now live in. But the rent we pay on our own work, it turns out, appears to be the Utopian payoff of internet freedom and total self-imagining with endless possibilities. The very opposite of what may have been if the SOPA/PIPA bills had come to pass, and more like the life my characters are wrought with in the dystopian content of Stand. We must become ever ingenious how we make sharing work for our daily bread.