Tuesday, January 29, 2019

MA Exercise: Digital Dementia Ideation & Hybrid Persona

Study by Microsoft Cananda in 2015 showed that usage of phones led to deterioration of human attention span from 12 secs in 2000 to 8 secs in 2013.
Another statistic by South Korean government in 2013 shared that people in the 20s,30s,40s suffering from cognitive problems increased by 37% between 2008 & 2012.

Research topic / problem: Digital Dementia
“Digital Dementia” is a term coined by German neuroscientist, Manfred Spitzer in 2012. It is a term to describe a mental condition prevailing among young people in countries with excessive usage of digital technology, how over-use of digital technology, reliance on technology and digital distraction can result in the deterioration of cognitive abilities, such as short term memory, lack of ability to concentrate, focus and to remember information.

Heavy users of phones and computers tend to over develop left side of brains, leaving right side untapped/undeveloped. Left brain can cause attention problems, memory problems, orientation, problem solving difficulty, etc. Underdevelopment of right brain leads to early on-set dementia.
More and more brain centres are set up in South Korea to help these people with cognitive problems connected to screen time usage.

But what if it's only us (born 1995 & earlier) that are affected by this digital dementia? What if the young generation are able to adapt since they grew up with technology and digital obsession? I intend to do some research on this.
Fig. 1: Illustration by John Holcroft

Reliance on technology
Constant distraction
Digital pollution
Instant gratification
Information overload
Cognitive offload
Memory crutch - outsourcing brains
Lack of sleep
Lack of internalisation
Short attention span
Bad concentration
Poor focus
Shallow relationships
Memory palace

Take two very different jobs and imagine them as one hybrid persona, how would this person design a solution for Digital Dementia? What would his/her plan of action?

Random pick in class, I got Film director & Sound effects specialist/Foley artist.
Film director oversees the creative vision and is involved with pre-production, production and post production. Sound effects specialist/Foley artist creates sound effects to enhance and accentuate scenes in post production.

On my approaches for Digital dementia,
- Who is my target audience? Parents? Students? Millennials? The new generation?
- Should I create awareness?
- Should I help improve memory of important information since we can't stop technology from evolving?

Objective: Create awareness of the harmful consequences mobile phones have on us and how technology causes digital dementia.
Technology is a double edged sword - it can help people or enslave them.

 Fig. 2: Illustration by John Holcroft

I came up with this idea for a film with no dialogue, an imaginary setting of a society that has failed to use technology effectively and allowed it to corrode their minds - leading to digital dementia.
At the start, their digital dementia was mild, they crave for instant gratification and are obsessed with their online personas. However as the film progresses, their brains become unbalanced and cognitive abilities such as forgetfulness and lack of concentration start to deterioriate due to constant digital distraction and heavy reliance on technology.

In this film, there is a emotional health bar tagged to each person, nobody else can see it except themselves. This is a covert narcissist society, people are self absorbed, have an inflated ego and care very deeply about their own idealised emotional well-being. They are addicted to bump up or maintain this health bar with technology as they are addicted and feel the most comforted when using their phones, its like a health potion. To maintain their emotional health and happiness, it means getting validation online - likes, positive comments and buying new things (materialism). Every time when they are happy, the health bar increases by 20% which triggers a sound notification, this is where the sound effects specialist comes in, using sound mnemonics and sonic branding - how certain brands tag a sound or music to allow people to recognise, e.g, Apple's ringtone.
To these people, this sound notification is euphoria or orgasm, its like ohey achievement unlocked again, which makes them want to continue chasing for this dopamine boost.

Unfortunately, health bar can also decrease, it can be caused by insecurity, getting bored of the new products they bought, lack of compliments, lack of job satisfaction - earning money for instant gratification - no career aspirations - they are unable to advance, as they can't focus, weak memory retention, lack of critical thinking because of their unbalanced brains, it could also be shallow relationships, moving on to the next friend or partner easily - dating & friend-making apps, etc.

So basically this society gets offended & upset easily and when they do, their health bar decrease and it triggers a warning sound that signifies doom, 'end of world'. They dread it and are afraid of it. To avoid this, they are always on the chase and try to sustain the health bar to get that endorphin rush. This society thinks it is not okay to be sad, they don't like to struggle or deal with unhappiness. They don't know how to build grit and are lacking in resilience.

This film is set in 2030 (Gen Z will be 14 at youngest and 34 oldest), it depicts a span of 10 years and how these people become more and more forgetful, they don't internalise information anymore, they become a society of social isolation, although they are still socialising through technology, but in reality, they are sad, walking hollow shells, digital zombies who lack of empathy - real emotions, unable to bear pain and resolve to short-term happiness. In the end, the people has forgotten how to speak and communicate with each other in real life. They use a digital tablet or mind chip to communicate.
 Fig. 3: Illustration by Petrisan

Since its a film with no dialogue, I will use sound effects to create a sense of loss, emphasising loneliness and the slow erosion of their minds and society. Also to create a sense of doom in the film and evoke a sense of pity and fear in the audience. This society may or may not know what's happening, and even if they do, they are at a point of no return and falling into an abyss - grimness - dehumanisation - in the end, what's the difference between robots and them? I was also thinking of an ending where an irreversible digital cleanse/purge may happen. What will happen to this society? How are they going to function after the internet has collapse and they have lost access to many channels? How are they going to communicate? There is no more instant messaging, no more digital communication, no more eCommerce, no more electronic banking, etc. What was life before the internet? Can this society adapt and survive?

I haven't flesh out the scenes and plan the full script yet, so certain parts may sound ill-conceived.
We did a sharing session in class last night where everyone presented their research topics. Nur told me that I should try making this into a film and see how people respond to it. I'm a bit afraid because I have little experience with artistic films and I don't know if I can pull off the cinematography or construct a good narrative structure and flow. I directed a 1-min short film last month, its a preview for one of my DIY tutorials. We shot most of the footages without a gimbal, it was a lot of fun and also quite challenging.

I'll get the script done and see if I have the capabilities to do this film to create awareness for digital dementia, I hope I can.

Case studies relating to films:
Black Mirror, 'The entire history of you'. All memories are recorded. They can revisit an old memory in front of their eyes and replay as much as they want.
Black Mirror, 'Nosedive'. Social status and ratings. People give each other ratings. You will need to hit a certain rating (eg. 4.5) to be able to purchase a luxury apartment.
Rat Race by Steve Cutts. Chasing happiness in a modern society. Depressed and over crowded society looks for quick fixes to problems and short term happiness.
Eternal sunshine of a spotless mind - People are able to erase their memories - painful memories - break ups or trying to forget someone. Joel opted for the erasure procedure to forget his girlfriend, Clementine after knowing that she had erased him from her memory. However in the process of erasing, he finds himself revisiting the memories in reverse and slowly experience happier memories with her in their relationship. In the end, he fights to preserve the memories and love for her, however despite his desperate efforts and struggles, his memories of her are ultimately erased. It was heartbreaking to watch him trying to protect the remaining memories while watching it being erased, the sense of loss and helplessness.

Case studies on silent/sound films - no/minimal dialogue, emphasise on emotions, body movement, behaviours and communicate with audience with sound effects.
The artist, 2011
All is lost, 2013
Some of my classmates mentioned Charlie Chaplin, Tom & Jerry & Mr Bean
Dion recommended Georges Méliès films

Xinni: Concept is interesting but the emotional health bar can either become longer, like when u level up your total hp becomes bigger, or its harder to fill up the emotional health bar. like last time when you do something can gain 10 hp, but if u do too much of the same thing then will gain lesser hp. so eventually have to do it more.
Chunfu: Your story concept is cool but the final product cannot be more than 8-10mins, it has to be short and need to have quite drastic (overdramatic) ending to show the consequences.
Jes: Your idea is good, when I was reading I was thinking Black mirror, I think this is an important topic to address.
Jason: Put together a crew and film it
Shane: So cool and black mirror-ish. I'm watching this old korean drama now. They insert a chip in the body and can control people's emotions based on the chip. And they can also remove memories using the chip. It's called circle: two worlds. I think must find a way to highlight the memory lost part and how it's linked to the use of technology? Like maybe can show how old people don't have this problem?
Aeon: Very relevant topic in today's context, 3 films came to my mind: In Time - your plot could be the access to screen time as the currency, in order to access the "net" people need to work and labour, in order to upkeep their online personas, since they have migrated their entire actual persona and created a virtual one, people care more about their online identity than their offline lives, Memories of the Alhambra, Survival Family. You can also look at VR - 19 Crimes's animated wine labels. 
Zen: Try adding AI and data too. When the people no longer make the effort to remember ppl's faces and names, they just use the digital tech to inform them who that person is. Even if the tech identify wrongly, they cannot be bothered. Ppl are relying more on tech to do common/boring stuff but it also leaves space in people’s brain to think of other more important stuff. But if the people dont use their spare memory to work on other important stuff, they will get digital dementia. If you want it to be dark at the end, you can do stuff like in the end people just follow what is shown by the technology. No words no nothing, just a knife on the table, you use a device to scan what is the object for, the device shows someone using it to stab themselves in a video and the person just follow and kill himself. 
Junji: Who are the characters and how are they relatable? I also have an idea where u can play with colours too, the beginning everything is lively and colourful then towards the end the colour palate starts becoming more dull to black and white, sound become more muffled. I think pulling the emotional strings would work better, like at the end the victim lost something that cannot be gotten back, like failing to recognise her son
Edmund: Emotional health bar is good, akin to playing game. The ways to improve the health bar is very bias towards digital tech. How about those who prefers yoga or does reading? I suppose it improves their bar too. Then again since your topic is on digital dementia may not have a point to state those non digital stuff. 
Weijun: The whole concept feels more feasible using animation. “20% increase in health bar” I think that should be non-uniformity in increments. Some actions can have greater effects than other actions. Will need good focus on technology being the root of problem, not just social media. Like highlighting other apps as well that affected our lifestyle. Ending - feels like it should end back to the very first form of communication(“technology”), sign language.
Elizabeth: Don't need digital purge, short-circuit the HP bar. Epidemic enough for them already.

Other questions to look at:
How to stall instant gratification - what causes? what should I focus on? daily activities?
How to make people think again?
How to prevent digital dementia?
How to avoid becoming robots, technology (digital) zombies and airheads?
How to prevent people from becoming stupid because of technology?
How to push for cognitive training - improve user’s memory, problem-solving capability, attention span, and thinking.
How to keep ourselves mentally agile - memory formation & critical thinking?

Previous post on digital dementia: https://acesresearchlog.blogspot.com/2019/01/ma-research-digital-dementia.html

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