Titled The Selfish Ledger, the 9-minute film starts off with a history of Lamarckian epigenetics, which are broadly concerned with the passing on of traits acquired during an organism’s lifetime. Narrating the video, Foster acknowledges that the theory may have been discredited when it comes to genetics but says it provides a useful metaphor for user data. (The title is an homage to Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene.) The way we use our phones creates “a constantly evolving representation of who we are,” which Foster terms a “ledger,” positing that these data profiles could be built up, used to modify behaviors, and transferred from one user to another:
“User-centered design principles have dominated the world of computing for many decades, but what if we looked at things a little differently? What if the ledger could be given a volition or purpose rather than simply acting as a historical reference? What if we focused on creating a richer ledger by introducing more sources of information? What if we thought of ourselves not as the owners of this information, but as custodians, transient carriers, or caretakers?”
The so-called ledger of our device use — the data on our “actions, decisions, preferences, movement, and relationships” — is something that could conceivably be passed on to other users much as genetic information is passed on through the generations, Foster says.
One day I decided to film one of our guards, Ramesh Ji—the ji here is an honorific—who is from Madhya Pradesh. From outside, the guardroom is a confined place—a voluntary prison. As I stepped inside the room, I expected the monotony of waiting, the slow passing of moments to dull me. But I was wrong. As I listened to the Birha enactment of an oral tale in a dialect of Hindi that was playing on his mobile phone, slowly, the complex and subtle knots of his world revealed themselves to me.
As I breathed and immersed myself in the human dynamics of the oral tale, I realized the world that Ramesh Ji inhabits is an old one, passed down from the times when our ancestors lived in a cave no different than this room, in form of oral tales, oral history, folk songs, in languages that have evolved or disappeared, in a language that is losing its relevance in the global English village.
Now the way I look at Ramesh Ji or his people’s way of storytelling has changed: a man without his people’s stories is poor and deserves pity; the man who knows his people’s origins and history is always rich. I no longer think he lives in a prison—his room is a doorway to a cultured world, just as yours or mine. These stories are our roots, our common heritage on the blue and green dots of a planet. (more…)
As a writer and filmmaker, I was deeply disturbed by the death of Junaid Khan. “I Am Junaid”, our latest video is an appeal to remember and awaken the secular spirt of this great country.
Please watch and help spread this message of peace and solidarity.
Stop Lynching: Note In My Name – Appeal to PM Modi
At Not In My Name protest in New Delhi today against lynching of innocent people by criminal and extremist groups across the country, I saw this young gentleman in handcuffs, holding Tiranga—the Indian national flag—and a copy of the Indian constitution for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Please watch and share this video: he had really important things to say for our country…
हिन्दुस्तान के नाम एक नौजवान की पहला और आखिरी खत:
हे राम, तेरे हाथों मेरा नाम हराम हो गया। — भारत
It doesn’t matter whether you are living a sheltered life in a valley, or struggling to scrape a living in exile, the war always finds brutal and ingenious ways to come to your home or school. I wrote “Kohram – The Wailing” at the height of the people’s war in the Himalayan territories, before the red rebels signed a comprehensive peace accord with the ruling parties in 2005. Already in my late teens, I covered those turbulent years as a young citizen journalist and blogger, writing and reporting for my blog (now private), “Kathmandu Speaks,” national and foreign publications. Two years later, I would decide to quit journalism, and leave the city in which I grew up to become a lifelong student of arts, technology, film. Wow, it’s been quite an incredible journey!
Manokamana – Poetry on Film Series #4
Title: Report, Length: 45 seconds
Language: Nepali, Subtitles: English, Nepali
I don’t remember exactly when I wrote this short poem. “Report” is about the relationship we have as poets and artists with the country we choose to take refuge in, build a home, serve. It’s about the desire to see peace and prosperity flourish in the lands we traverse, be it our own or foreign. It’s about the collective failure of a people, a nation, which has become a Salusa Secundus of the modern world. (more…)