Digital Culture –| 2008

electronic art, technology and culture

The Otaku Way – Picnic with Miyazaki’s most popular daughter!

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Wow, has it been a week already?

Technological Determinism in Media Art was an interesting, but hard, reading for me. I have to go back and read the section of McLuhan and McLuhanism 5 times before I kind of get it (Is it about McLuhan’s theory “the medium is the message” in which subsequently got warped with some cold war political agenda?) This goes together with McLuhan’s Key concept which explains more about his famous theory.

Futuristic Flu, or The Revenge of the Future was a much easier read. Every text mentioned in this paper should be the all-time classic of the Sci-Fi genre, especially the one coming up next: Roadside Picnic. The analogy of flu is a brilliant one. It brings along many associations that really help illustrate the message in this paper. I won’t repeat what’s in there but one thing that I take away from it is that the paper acknowledges the East’s cyperpunk culture, and I really need to catch up. I really have no info on the genre apart from some cartoon I saw, which is not much.

I really have to catch some Asian cyberpunk pieces and do some comparison, maybe from Tetsuo?

Anyway, for anyone who are about to read Roadside Picnic, since it’s short enough I strongly suggest reading everything. The most sensational part would be what Petra prescribes, but you really need to see the first chapter, and the last – especially that ending! (Yeah, Golden Ball that grant wishes… )

Which brings me to yet another recommendation and this time I really mean it. Roadside Picnic raised interesting questions the impact of technologically-advanced artefacts on the society. In Hayao Miyazaki’s manga version of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the technologically-advanced artefacts did not come from the future, but from the past. The animated movie version only covers the first few books, and is considered a little bit naïve in comparison to the manga. Miyazaki took 13 years to complete seven volumes of now regarded as one of the most influential graphic novel of all time, both artistically and intellectually.

I’m sure by now everybody should be familiar with what happened in the film. The civilisation of the world was once wiped out by the Seven Days of Fire, now believed to be nature’s countermeasure to man’s pollution. It was many centuries ago but the repercussion does not end. The forest still gave out poisonous miasma and the sea becomes the sea of corruption while its denizen mutated. With the technological knowledge lost through the age, the population turns back to agricultural era and salvage what remains of the wonder of technology. Iron hull from the spaceship was scavenged and turned into swords and shield – truly “bashing a nail with a microscope”.

Birth rate decline while a war between the two factions is going on. The story continues on with the struggle in the war, and humanity’s foolishness in rushing the coming of the Daikaisho, the climax of the poisonous forest. Why has the forest turn poisonous, and what’s inside the forest?

After her gruesome adventure, Nausicaa is involved with the excavation of the God Warrior, the ultimate biological weapon of the old, the symbol of nihilism. This sentient being answered many questions regarding humanity, but posted even more. With the existence of The Crypt, the monolithic construct containing past humanity’s technological knowledge, is revealed to be the true cause of the war, the race is on. Would humanity left it alone as “the devil’s play thing”? Not even The Garden of Eden, truly a refuge to the weak mortal but a prison for Nausicaa can stand uninvolved. And the final realisation… what will happen after the Daikaisho, when the air is clean and nature is free. Where will humanity go?

Nausicaa is, perhaps, more pessimistic than Roadside Picnic since it not only depicted the culture responds to such stimuli, it downright horrified it. Unlike the Visitor’s “trash” which (mis)direct humanity’s path onto a new road, every single technological advancements that was retrieved in Nausicaa was put towards the annihilation of nature and mankind. It highlights a very dangerous human trait that we should avoid.

Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind is a MUST read. It is available now under the “Editor’s Choice” branding from VIZ, (which is excellent by the way. Every title on that brand deserved a go.)

By the way, don’t forget to pick up Snow Crash at the Uni’s book shop. Took me ages to find it but they’re located under English Literacy and nowhere near DESC section.

Till next time!

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Written by masterpete

August 19, 2008 at 3:12 am

Posted in 1, week 1–3

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