Connected: Tiffany Shlain Saves the World

No, seriously, she does. With her film, Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death, and Technology. Let me explain.

Webby-Awards-Founder-Tiffany-Shlain-720x340Tiffany Shlain is an internationally renowned multi-media producer/writer/director/speaker/author/innovator, and leader. Just a partial list of her accomplishments is…  intimidating. In her short life on this planet Shlain has produced ten short films two of which were screened at the Sundance Film Festival, co-founded the Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, founded The Webbie Awards, and her first feature, Connected, was screened at Sundance.

Eschewing the countless technological dystopias of science fiction literature and Hollywood films, Shlain lives joyfully on the leading edge of technology and media. That life is no more apparent than in her production of and presence in Connected.

The film asks several questions. The first, near the beginning, is a core question.  After introducing the phenomenon of technology creating mass connections between peoples of the world – more than two billion online so far – she follows with an environmental example of how the loss of honey bees could lead quickly to mass starvation. Shlain asks, “So, if one change in our over-connected world can have such far-reaching consequences, how do we use the power of all these connections to turn things around?”

The answer lies in human evolution, history, bi-lateral brain functioning, gender, art, politics, the internet, and, especially, in the meanings of the word ‘interdependence.’

Via a well-sequenced cornucopia of concepts and a practically nonstop montage of images, Shlain surmises that the usage of the internet stimulates, in a balanced fashion, both sides of the user’s brain – by virtue of the web’s integration of text and image. “If this rewiring of the brain,” she states, “is happening on an individual level, on each person who uses the web, imagine the cumulative effect of a da Vinci-type brain synthesis (a left/right hemispheres functional integration) on a global scale….

“We’re at the beginning of a participatory revolution where people’s ideas are free to interact, reproduce, and cross-pollinate instantaneously – creating new, hybrid ideas that combine perspectives from all over the world, connecting ideas, data, and cultures from millions of brains into a global thinking structure with infinite possibilities, where each text, hyperlink, or tweet is like a neural synapse firing out to everyone you’re connected to….  The internet is rewiring our brains to think interdependently, changing the way we connect to the world online and off.”

Throughout the film Shlain is building, supporting, and clarifying her vision of a positive human evolution, a vision of a world saved.

Reflecting Shlain’s brilliance, Connected is a multi-layered film, and one of those layers is a ‘making-of’ the film. It is in this layer that we learn about Shlain’s father, Leonard Shlain, a surgeon and best-selling author. His thinking and beingness are foundational to the film. He was to be a co-writer of this film, but was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer early in production. The genius of his mind, the wondrousness of his fatherhood, and the pain of his passing are woven throughout. Like the most powerful of Joni Mitchell’s songs, daughter Shlain deftly, movingly weaves a narrative of the personal and deeply intimate with that of the impersonal and universal. Connected touches the heart as deeply as it provokes the mind.

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