Stare into the lights my pretties – What is the impacts of addictive technology on people, society and the environment? – With Jordan BrownMartin Boeddeker interviews award-winning film-maker and activist Jordan Brown. Together they try to answer the question how can we return to the real physical world again?Download this episode now to get started!
In this episode, you’ll discover:
- What is the biggest misconception of using technology today?
- Why the concentration of power is a problem in our society?
- The myth that everything online is free (and the price we really have to pay…)
- Why Jordan does not have a smartphone (and what his friends say about it…)
- How to engage in deep work Jordan’s experience that all of us can relate to…
- The benefits of traveling without a smartphone and the “Art of Getting Lost”
- Why it’s very hard to make a living distributing open source software?
- What will we gain when we learn to deal with addictive technology?
Do you want to read what we talked about? We transcribed the whole interview for you.
Martin: [0:00] Welcome to the FindFocus podcast. Today, we’ll talk about the real Impact of addictive technology on people society and the environment. I will interview the artist, activist, musician and independent filmmaker, Jordan Brown.Hello Jordan welcome to the podcast! and thanks for being here.
Jordan: [0:19] Hello thanks for having me! it’s a pleasure.
Martin: [0:22] Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, In terms of your background education and your experience with Addictive Technology?.
Jordan:[0:32] I’m a Filmmaker from Melbourne in Australia. And my background with this project was, It’s started all away back in 2009. When I had an idea to develop a film about Google, using Google as a case study. To sort of explore issues that I thought was important in emerging. At that time, such as privacy and surveillance and this concept to one company coming to exercise would have tremendous influence so even control over the way people access and organize information. So in 2009 a couple of key things that sort of spend this on was the fact that Google was scanning a bunch of Out-of-Print books and also to scanning books in general and digitizing books for themselves and some creating this online repository of books that they were monetizing to their runs on purposes and it also merging that time was sort of Google Street view was becoming quite popular I think in Australia.
[1:50] I mean, a bunch of scandals happening at that time that emerge light up but around 2009. That was suit of the early days of Google Street View and steroids becoming out around that time maybe a few days later. Where we had the street view car of driving around neighborhoods and photographing people’s houses and uploading that on the internet. And what’s up with an opt-out system, like if you didn’t want that to happen you had to say “No” as opposed to the other way around.
[2:21] And so I guess, I would have to just explore those kinds of ideas. What does it mean to have sort one company behaving in this way? but not only that, exerting some tremendous control in the information people have experiences online. So to do a bunch of interviews, to do some creative short film around that and I’m ended up getting bolder. As you can imagine things of addiction with what sort of thing I mean it definitely wasn’t as bad as it is now, but it was something sort of emerging on the horizon people talking about, artificial intelligence and machine learning in the way to algorithms was one of emerging to mediate people’s information experiences and personalization of experience with suit of becoming a big thing around then, 2009-2010. I think in the process of doing interviews to the film I realized that I was lot of league sort of thing and I’ve learned a lot during the process of interviewing, and so I went away and had a two-year break and just read some old books and did a little research.
[3:37] And then decided to do a film many years later so branching out. Not just exploring Google, but exploring other companies as well. And not just suit companies to do in the internet but just digital technology in and of itself, computers and the origin of computing. And origins of the internet where that came from. Which has a history with the military. The first computer was developed by the military and same with the internet. The internet was a tool devised in the cold war, it is part of this for the Pentagon research lab, and so I think that interested me a lot more in and the film break out into this zoomed out that my focus became a lot more.
[4:27] I guess, I was interested in the interplay between, technology and society not just sort of the specific set of technologies, but digital technology love it self served. I think that was background of the film and how was drawn to that.
[4:41] I guess in a sad way, a lot of things have sort of taken of time from the worst even from them. And even finished in the film actually with things like the Cambridge analytica scandal. It’s just we live in a really crazy time with this techno-culture. I mean the film found me in those circumstances I guess.
Martin: [05:09] Amazing! what you do you think it’s the biggest misconception that our people have about technology and especially the addictive technology of the internet in general. How do you believe that threat us?.
Jordan: [05:27] That’s a really good question. It would be hard to say what the biggest myth is. I think there are so many in this so lightened. One of them just quickly but would be that this view this sort of techno-utopian view that digital tools liberating, and the culture that we live in now is more frail. Perhaps, you know we could have this concept that we can communicate with anyone and we have all of this information about the tips which in itself is a truth but I think it’s amaze in the sense that the other side of this, is we also have the reality that emerged and being strengthened right now, where the corporations that provide access to a communication and media communication experiences and information experiences. Have an influence and control over our lives that say the old medium models didn’t have or their service concentration and power that exists right now unprecedented it hasn’t existed before. I think the myth there is that we should have living this in this year that’s different from others, that if it’s more, the internet is level the playing field, and there is a kind of truth of this myth.
[6:51] What were missing out on there? Is looking at power, looking at who benefits from this social arrangement and we have a handful of companies now, that exert tremendous influence over allies, in a way that the old medium models didn’t order medium alliance’s between corporate and state power that haven’t existed inception. Influential form that there in today, Google’s will inclosed relationship with the government for example. The way facebook could used to manipulate elections influences people’s behavior to get them to buy things I came to that level so. We can talk about what we’re doing online is free that all of these services that we use I prayed we don’t pay any money for the money it doesn’t cost us anything but in pack paying without data, we’re paying by disclosing very intimate and personal.
[8:08] We’re revealing of ourselves in very intimate and personal way. To these companies and then that’s the price that we pay. That data everything to do online corrected digital trial. And those huge amounts of data being used to commodifying relationship for one thing. It monetize a social networks and advertising and so we become the product in the end. And the information about ourselves and the way these companies really intimately know us. I used to generate huge profit for them. So the myth that this is free is probably one that’s very pertinent. Maybe another is the word control we feel we’re in control. We have a smartphone crazy at the moment.
Martin: [9:20] What kind of measures have you take personally after this issues, how did you used technology? How do you use smartphone? Do you even have a smartphone or something that or your computer likes to protect your privacy and to be in control? Because I assume you want to be in control.
Jordan: [09:40] I think one of these things it is that is coming about. I don’t have a smartphone and I haven’t actually had a mobile phone. Probably close to 10 years now and I mean I wish there was some kind of grand story to this but it was really just a facility for me. I was traveling at the time 10 years ago to the roaming fees, I can just gonna leave my phone behind. And travel around for 4 to 5 months, something like that, and really enjoy the experience not being headed some of device, and even though it was just I had some kind of Nokia brick phone. That was quite annoying, and no it’s just felt nice to not be, to feel that you have to reply someone’s text message, and not interrupted by phone calls. I just really enjoyed the experience of not being tethered to something so when I go back to Australia I just decided to not pick it up again, and I haven’t had a phone since then. And I guess a lot has changed. Since 2007 was around the time that smartphones really started to pick up.
[11:03] It gets the sort of technological world is changed a lot. A lot of my friends started getting our phones, and so that’s an experience that’s never really had of smartphone and how to relate to that. I mean obviously, I use email I have a laptop. I’m not too tired a lot of it yet. But this something to be dealt with.
[11:45] Because email is all I have left in a sense to sew to email people on the go, that’s my last thing I have to digital world, I feel it in some ways. It’s crippled with me, in that sense, something to be, yes! then there are times where I feel I’m just sitting at my computer all day catching up on emails just, because that’s the only way I can talk to people now. And that’s a problem, so that’s not that great.
[12:17] And obviously, when I’m trying to write something, or I’m working on a script, or something that you sitting in front of a computer you’re trying not to be influence by looking something up online. I mean we go had that experience having jump on wikipedia or something “what is this? No!’’. And then you end up clicking along this sort of trial and going down some rabbit hole and you, how did I get here? you know how do I get from? This concept completely unrelated concept the new end 2 hours of gone by. We can all relate to these experiences of distraction in to varying degrees, but I think not having a phone and it helps a little but they are the other side of this is that we live in a culture where this is just pervasive, so even my personal choice to not have a phone is still, I mean it doesn’t count for much. In fact, other people find it annoying, other people find it very annoying, that they can’t reach me on Facebook for a grant to take for example, or they can’t text me, they can’t call me to tell me that they are running late too. It’s annoying for other people as well, just because of the way that these technologies have just taken over our whole lives.
Martin: [13:37] One more question. This podcast is also about teamwork. Do you think, not having a mobile phone or smartphone, even if it says people. Do you think it benefits your work for example your firm I think it was really awesome and you did it without any budget or do you think the quality of your work becomes much better because you’re not using a smartphone?.
Jordan: [14:04] I mean, maybe that’s for other people to judge but I feel better in creating the work, if that’s and in fact, there some ways in which if I had my time again and did the film again outside even removed myself from being in a city while working on the film just to have really long the unbroken length of time to explore all of these really big complex topics. In a way that requires, that date format thinking that really unbroken so that contemplatively form of thinking that you have a lot of space to sort of organized things and formed a understandings with concept. I think it’s very helpful he had not to have interruptions from a phone to do that and also to bring the sort of analysis that I brought to the film from having a really contemplated space to think about things. But I guess it really did help, it really did help, to not to have as little distractions in his little to the technological interruptions as possible and maybe even being somewhere. Where I being connected not having an internet connection. Sped up the process. I could have done price production in probably twice, half an email a times. I was that getting distracted by the internet over playing in email just example, “Hello world! I’m gonna be away for 2 months then”. If I could do that a couple times you have to pay your bills or you have to organize your work, completely unplug a shame.
Martin: [15:44] Do you think, where when you were traveling, I never could convince myself to leave my smartphone at home all, in just take a dumb phone when I was up throughout Europe, do you think that enhance your experience because, I think, today people would consider you achieve brave for doing that even though, we’re not living in any whiskey places or something?.
Jordan: [16:35] I really like that experience, I mean you get lost and you have to sought of looking for cues in your environment you’ve try to find your way. I think you come to know a place differently if your constantly taking cues from your device. Yet, only people ask for that. I mean how do you get around if you don’t have a map? It was suit of more being post to learn, a little bit of the language and maybe embarrassingly talk to someone, and I mean how quiet? Does that 7 days, you have to ask someone or talk to somebody. First, we think about cause, I just look up direction google something. I mean in a way I found it really just personally it made being someone where you’ve never been before really vivid. It was never been here before you completely lost you don’t know where you’re going. It’s Adventurous that perhaps maybe I wouldn’t have otherwise had, if I had an easy answer that came from my pocket or else.
[17:24] I don’t know if it’s brave, but I think it’s a different experience and I think I value that kind of experiences to one that is suit mediated by technology. And I think what I’m trying to do with my feelings is really make people aware that there is. That experience still exist for us, that other experience can be more rewarding and more, I want to say more real in a sense, because you’re looking up here engaging with physical reality you’re forming relationships with people you’re not suit. Having this isolated, automize internal experience through your phone. It’s almost, It is definite experience right there’s one that’s right into her and maybe I did by technology as opposed to one that’s not.
Martin: [18:21] Have you had any friends or people you met on your travels? where you share your experience? And maybe they try to do as well and share the experience with you somehow. Do you have any stories about that?.
Jordan: [18:36] I wish! I have, I’m yet to meet someone who hasn’t had a phone, I met people through touring the film that I watch. And they’ve had a really goodresponse to it. Say for example, that I always felt I’m checking facebook to much and off to seeing your film and after learning that you know all of these drivers to get me psychologically addicted and to tap into my dyper men reward system, that’s annoys me and I wanna do that last and I wanna soon are regain my life. I wanna have my time back. So I met people that have had that sort of response, so that told them I haven’t had a phone and they kind of wow!. Yet to make someone else that’s giving it up to the same extent I guess I haven’t met anyone else he hasn’t had a phone yet. For my cousin to his back in in Australia he hasn’t have a phone for awhile as well. See only people that I know which is a bit saddened I guess really, so there’s anyone out there who haven’t had a phone maybe they can email me and we can share stories that’ll be great.
Martin: [19:47] Just I said. I’d wanted to that but there’s also this, anxiety lights all the studies headphones causing anxiety even though my way less stressed but as you said, it’s almost strange that we do not even ask for the way anymore I remember when I started playing soccer and we had to drive to without google maps and then we just knew it, yeah! of course by the village boss, but not exactly where the soccer field was. So we just to ask people on the street and this does not have many more.
Jordan: [20:27] It seems that audio isn’t it seems that really weird chucky old weed these days, if you if you do that, it’s very strange.
Martin: [20:37] So what kind do you have for technology? In general, what is good use of technology? What is it bad use? What is okay? What is does not okay in your eyes?.
Jordan: [20:50] I didn’t know,. I mean that’s a really good question. I don’t know if it’s for me to answer too, I think I can answer for myself, I would like to really be using it a lot less even that I’m using it. Because I feel that, what’s behind? this is, that it is…
[21:15] I don’t know steps into the myth that I was mentioned before that we feel we’re in control is that once we’ve given out of us so much of our lives to these technologies, the technologies themselves become in charge.
[21:28] It’s not cool we’re just talking about the first thing we think about when we’re trying to get anywhere, is that we ask google so really what we’ve done is we’ve outsource memory and a special awareness. And sense of direction, I mean all of these things it’s just that in the hands of google now. And so I think back to my experience, an email and something on carrying a laptop around. I feel that I have this dream that one day I’ll be able to swim close all of those portals and just passed keep up technology entirely, and some return to this notion of true human communities.
[22:08] It seems a pipe dream but, I need the other half of this, is that what it also requires is that, I can’t do this? I can’t do this by myself? I mean I can make all the changes that I on a personal level but it’s not going to change the society and culture that gives rise and emerges from technology that interplay between technology and society. It’s the sort of grand tension that I can solve make certain choices to be interacting with technology. But I think the bigger questions exists on the societal level, I come in, do we want to live in this world of society, where there is a company google, doing the sort of things that google post and there is entities, facebook and apple doing the sorts of things that I do.
[22:57] And perhaps I think those questions or maybe be more important than and then maybe on the personal level, I can choose to go to spend a certain amount of time, but that really doesn’t stop Facebook from doing it’s facebooking. So, I think one of the things I was trying to do with the film is bring back that sort of social awareness and bring us out about individualized, itemize to the personalized experiences to think about things like community.
[23:26] Play simple thing, asking people for directions. I mean it’s not really for me a human relationship with someone, but bringing back something that’s been lost and so perhaps, I’d like to say that on a grand of socialsky really returning to community, and political organizing that’s effective to change the society and culture that we live in where we have, where we take back all of those things that we’ve been given away,
Martin: [23:57] One thing that would be like. What do you think about people who want to make a living online maybe start some kind of online business, maybe doing a firm or do it some kind of info product and they need the internet for work. What kind of technology would you recommend to them to used? if it’s not completely possible. I mean I’m selling my software and I want to build a business. I’m aware of all these issues but I still use the tool and I think it’s a huge benefit as well even though, it’s on the bigger scale.
Jordan:[24:37] I understand. In fact, there many people in my life, I mean I have many friends and my girlfriend for example and other people in my family and other artists that I’ve worked with and doesn’t out of community that I manage and organize back in Melton. And there’s so many people that I see that have run their own business. So, I have a freelance lifestyle that requires them to use technology and I talk about one of the things it I would really like to leave facebook for example, but I can’t because I need it for work or the other people that I really like to get up such and such. But I need to use it to do things or something. So, I really understand that struggle. We will have to have some kind of make a living somehow. And there’s a tension between using technologies that you may not necessarily want to use just because you have to make money to pay to leave. I guess one of the ways you could make this slightly better would be to choose certain tool’s that are alternative tool’s that supporting the direction for positive change. For example, if you don’t want to be on Facebook and you want some kind of sexual organizing their open source tools out there that you could used.
[26:04] If you can convince other people to go to join you in that effort. And that’s very admirable. That I am friends with people that work on open source software. And there’s actually website called Prison Break so prison-break.org. Which will give you a list of so doesn’t comparison that this proprietary tools on the left and then there’s our consultant it is on the right that you can choose from. I think it does everything from, process to office productivity software to email, to communications tools.Suit of platter or different facility that you use online that you can use up until tools with. So, I mean not very much encourage people to use all time to do tools, I think that’s a really good thing. I mean specialty tools that are open source and sort by builds with that intention and mindfulness. That they don’t exist to be magnetized and they don’t exist really sought of trying to do the opposite community behind them.
Martin: [26:04] I talked about this in my interview with, Steve Lamberti creator of Self-Control. A software to block a website as well and he released source as well. Because, he’s making a living someone else but, as a software creator, I feel if I would release my software for free or open-source it will be very hard to make a living out of that. Also the argument that, German language has if we are like the problem is not having, proprietary software. All the arguments that Richard Stallman the creator of Linux.
[28:05] The Linux kernel has, I think we have to find someway, some middle way to really make a living and to really create like making money to get even better software. For example, a better tools but not having this huge surveillance system around them. And especially not, this huge companies who have all the data in the world and I think it wasn’t in his book and arguments to leave social media right now. That you have these companies, their coat is better guarded than all the military code for example.
Jordan: [28:47] That’s a transition that I would support. I think it is important for us to move away from these tools that really for up corporate power and trying to do something else. But I think, to form a long time year I’d rather prefer to live in a world where we can live in a culture in our society where there isn’t a google, where there isn’t facebook and where there isn’t techno – culture that exists right now. That is the big question. I mean, how do we transition from here to there? And I made one of those ways would be to move a stoves out of it as much as possible. Its commendable thing definitely.
Martin: [29:31] So, What final sots, do you have about to have and motivate people to get started or care more about the social and environmental implications of this techno – culture?.
Jordan: [29:44] Wow! That’s a big question. How to motivate people.Martin: [29:52] Basically, what will people gain if they move out and become more aware of this issue?.
Martin: [30:07] I hope they get to gain the richness of their life. I mean, it’s kind of a core that where we were talking about before. When you can choose a different set ofexperiences. Do we want to continue on the tractor we are, where we having all of these maybe.
[30:27] Maybe I need experiences media experiences through technology so instead of leaving their own lives vicariously through the screen, or do we want to live our lives as though they’re real. And have a real life. So, I hope that something to gain I’m in the second part of it in times of the environmental for consequences is that this techno culture has a huge environment to cost and as we see right now it’s things climate change. And we can talk about huge pressing issues such as, in waste or the working conditions for people assembling an iPhones in places like china and the foxconn factory for example. Where, you know? Many people getting leukemia and other cancers from being exposed to toxic chemicals that required to put our phones together or even the Minerals mining that is required to assemble. Scream’s the Colton-Minerals that come from. In other places around there and then just environment costs there are minerals mining itself in China has completely designated the unproved environment. So, in terms of environment cost, there is really wealth to be cherish.
[31:49] To be for it, if we really care about that by aligning ourselves with these issues as posed to the technology and our values with the natural world, with the real world without real selves, as opposed to the winds and needs of capitalism and the economic system in the techno – culture. I mean, I hope that enough in and of itself would be to get people motivated. It’s if you are laugh and then laugh people that you love. The real well that your pot open. If that isn’t important to you and doesn’t motivate you to act, then I don’t know how to convince you.
Martin: [32:39] It’s such a complex topic, was so many different facets and finding the right way to deal with it. In all personal life is so so difficult and everybody has to make its own decision what’s right for him, and it’s difficult. I really like the part of your hone while you actually turn people with the camera and just from the reaction and afterwards he interviews where it says: it’s a week at of livius about the surveillance system that are around us all the time.
Jordan: [33:19] I should say that, that was me, that was this is person called Surveillance Cameraman. Which is great. I love that section of this by myself too cause that’s another myth that we can tap into. It’s a line we here all the time in response to these powerful companies having that sort surveillance apparatus is that, if I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to fear. And his work is really great because it shows that also myths it’s a lay as a policy. I mean what is the difference between, the city the complete proliferation of CCTV?. Being everywhere and not being so normalise that we don’t even notice it anymore. And someone standing in front of your face filming you really creepily. The differences that does, a presence of it and it’s not normalize. And people’s reaction to it is totally justified. It’s why you filming me? Why are you doing this? Get out of my face go away. So, I think this work is really what he does mean. It’s very shaky it’s some serious way to talk about the Surveillance Culture and just, the right quick way to show how it’s been so metabolized into.
[34:38] Interfacing with technology that we don’t even see it. As it we don’t even say that it exists many times, and even then, when we do recognize that exist it’s not a problem, that’s fine it doesn’t affect me. So, I think that’s a really dangerous minds that to soft highlighting, that’s a great movie in the film so I love it, I love it, I love his work. He’s got other stuff online to Surveillance Cameraman.
Martin: [34:05] I will link to it and the resources. And the other final shots that you would let listeners to know?
Jordan:[35:14] I mean I’m not sure because I just saying it feels this is a very big complex topic. And it’s kind of hard sometimes I feel I don’t. It’s hard to talk about these things.
[35:37] It’s so hard to take out all the complexity sometime. So, I think I got a good job so far I’m pretty well today. I feel, I mean I put this phone out online for free. It’s something that I would to see other people use as it as a tool and resource for it for some critical thinking and to reflect on just not them not there. I mean definitely the right usage of technology in their own perceptions and understanding of technology, but also the largest social scale. I think it’s very important to be thinking about an acting on right now, to see the film, be used as a tool for the activism and to change and just for as a resource in that sense.
Martin: [36:25] How can people find out more about you? And where can they find out or check you out, check out your phone?.
Jordan: [36:31] I have a website it’s called jore.cc. And you can watch the film online there for free, or if you search for it, using the search engine of your choice, you can look for stare into the “Lights My Pretties” and I’m sure you can find it online it’s on many place on the online. The internet archive being one of them, you can find it there.
Martin:[37:00] Thank you very much Jordan for the interview! and it was a pleasure to have you here on the podcast.
Jordan:[37:07] Thank you, and thank you very much for your work! What you doing, it’s great and thanks for having me on, it was a pleasure.
0:00:45 Why Jordan started to work on “Stare into the light my pretties already in 2009″0:02:27 Why digging deeper lead to taking a break from the project0:04:00 Why everything started during the Cold War0:05:30 What is the biggest misconception of using technology? 0:06:55 What we are missing is “the concentration of power”0:07:45 Why it’s the myth that everything online is free0:08:15 The price we pay0:09:10 The measures Jordan took to protect himself from technology 0:09:44 Why Jordan does not have a smartphone (even when traveling)0:11:35 Why email is still a problem for Jordan0:12:30 What happens when Jordan tries to sit down for work that we can all relate to0:13:15 Why his friends are annoyed because Jordan is hard to reach0:13:38 How does not having a smart impact the quality of his work. 0:15:00 Without internet and email his post production time would be half0:15:45 What’s Jordan’s experience traveling without a smart phone0:16:35 How to get around without a map0:17:04 The adventure of getting lost 0:17:30 What Jordan tries to accomplish with his film0:18:20 Are there more people like you?0:18:50 Astonishing reaction’s to Jordan’s film0:19:50 Social anxiety and finding your way to a soccer field0:20:35 What kind of technology is “okay to use”0:21:00 Why Jordan would like to use technology even less0:21:50 Jordan’s pipe dream 0:22:22 The questions we have to ask about society 0:23:50 How to make a living online and what kind of technology should you use then?0:25:00 The tools you can use0:26:00 Jordan’s recommendation prison-break.org 0:27:40 Why it’s very hard to make a living distributing open source software0:29:40 What will we gain when we learn to deal with technology0:30:49 The environmental impact of technology00:33:00 The best part of Jordan’s film00:35:00 Final thoughts on this big and complex topic
About Jordan Brown
Jordan Brown is an activist, artist, musician, and award-winning film-maker whose work focuses on the interface between the dominant culture and the real impact on people, society and the environment. The social and environmental implications of the pervasive technoculture is a current focus of Jordan’s work—specifically, research and development for a film project taking a critical view of today’s culture of screens, the ‘society of the spectacle,’ and the widespread fascination with simulacra facilitated by technology while the real world burns.
You can help Jore to tour this film around the globe, to get it in front of audiences, to ask important questions about the world we find ourselves in where the average adult spends the majority of their waking hours in front of some sort of screen or device and support his fundraising campaign here.
References from the show
Prism Break – Software Recommendations Interview with the creator of Self-Control app for Mac
Thanks for Tuning In!
Thanks so much for being with us this week.
Do you have some feedback you’d like to share? Please leave a note in the comments section below!
If you enjoyed this episode , please share it with your friends by using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the show in your favorite app here to get automatic episode updates for “The FindFocus Podcast!”
And, finally, please take a minute to leave us an honest review.
It really me, help to improve the show and I make it a point to read every single one of the reviews we get.
Please leave a review right now in the comments.
Thanks for listening!