Such a feelgood film to watch, pretty girl, awkward guy, paths cross, a twist of fate, simple, delicious visuals, uplifting music and a happy ending. This film has many layers, and I don't believe there is much about the production and storyline that is accidental. So it's safe to say that inferences can be made about almost every aspect, with the assumption that there is an underlying message embedded.
In Inbox, the utopian ideas are very much about the nature of relationships: that communication between people is complex and that spoken language is only one means by which we can come to know another person. At the very simplest level, two people who have not met in person engage and connect through "technology" in the form of mysteriously connected red shopping carry bags through which they are able to send notes and small personal items. They grow their relationship by first exchanging personal external manifestations of their identities: the teddy (youth, immaturity, naivety), the makeup (female, sexual)), the underwear (male, mature, sexual). As time progresses, they explore each other's level of interest in short exchanges before participating in friendly, arm's length games and eventually committing to meet one on one.
Technology plays a supporting role in the very human centred interchange, and the visually appealing metaphor of the red bags and the post it notes represent the functional, spacial and temporal aspects of social media. It reminded me of those awkward early teenage relationships before sms and social media, where an intermediary was used to pass on little messages to gauge interest and facilitate that nerve racking first date. In the past, relationships were often "mediated" in written exchanges that preceded an introduction, and even this may have been orchestrated by others so that only "suitable" relationships were pursued. Letters were laced with perfume, adding another sensory layer, something depicted in the film as not necessarily always getting the desired result when the woman reacts badly to the scented objects she receives in her red bag.
In this respect, the film reminds us that in establishing relationships we feel vulnerable and those early exchanges are fraught with danger as we decide which aspects of our persona we will lay bare for another to either accept or reject. This is clearly depicted in the scenes where the man in his comfortable home environment is without clothes, his fundamental self, but puts on his glasses, as if through them he may gain insight of sorts. Into what we don't quite know at that moment. When the time comes when he realises the potential for some sort of relationship with a woman, there is a frenetic moment of dressing, creating a persona that is crafted to impress. In this representation of technology, we sense that "digital dualism", the separation of the"real and the virtual" in online identity plays no more significant a role now than it did in the past, and that contemporary technology may be intrinsically neutral in this regard.
The dystopian ideas are embodied in the plethora of images of consumerism and financial transactions. The opening scene uses the apparel store as the setting for face to face opportunities for relationship building. This scene is a powerful representation of how consumerism is intertwined with relationships, technology, identity and social interaction. The couple holding hands are shopping together. The men who work in the store are highly attuned to the presence of unaccompanied women and either make unwelcome suggestions, or in the case of our awkward hero (a customer), see his attempts at quietly observing a woman in the store come unstuck as he knocks over the whole display of underpants. Fabulous images of packaged masculinity tumbling like dominoes. And a clear statement of the shortcomings of technology free human interactions. There is a sense that relationships may be purchased, and I am not sure if there is a suggestion of arranged marriage and dowry payment given the cultural context of the film,
In that scene alone, we hear the sound of the receipt printer (above the music) and are bombarded with consumerist images of advertising, the computer, the printer (which is a repeated zoom image) and the processes of social and financial transactions enmeshed with technology. As the story unfolds, we see that the exchange of objects and messages through the "inbox" are still connected with economy as messages are written on the receipts. Finally, when the technology "fails" and the lines of communication are cut, we are presented with another powerful image of the man returning to the closed apparel store. I interpret this as meaning that technology will only be available when there is money to be made from it. No shop, no technology and dystopically, no relationship. We are left with the idea that something else, even fate, will serve us better than technology which has one fundamental purpose in being a tool of capitalism.
OK, that sounded very much like Marxist technological determinism, and that's exactly how I see it being depicted in the film.
How does this translate to online learning?
I think that if we agree with the ideas in the film, then technology itself will be neutral in the social interactions required for social constructivist or connectivist pedagogy. The film suggests that the tool is immaterial. However the warning is clear, that technology will be a driver for the most economically beneficial model, which is a gloomy vision for the future. But this I will explore more fully in another post after I have reviewed all the films for this week.