Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Planet of the apes?

Planet of the apes, is surely one of my top three movies featuring Charlton Heston.

It is a wonderful morality tale for our DOT (com) age.

Man's savagery is out-savaged by the apes.
Ape culture is to the fore.

That icon to the age of enlightenment, the Statue of Liberty herself, is found derelict on a beach by an agonising Charlton.

God! Nobody does agonising better than Charlton.

My top three Charlton Heston movies are, in no particular order:

  • Planet of the Apes (for the Statue of Liberty scene)
  • Ben Hur (for the chariot race)
  • Bowling for Columbine (for Maryline Manson).

Return to Planet of the Apes

Actually, it was Howard Rheingold who got me reminiscing about Charlton's agony.

I was watching one of my favourite hangouts from the Connected Courses Studios featuring John Udell, Howard Rheingold, and Gardner Campbell entitled "Thinking Like the Web" and there were some remarks of Howard's which caught my imagination;

"You know the irony of this issue, of people saying, 'I'm really not a technical person, why should I use the web?' is that the web was such a wonderful step that enabled people who weren't technical people to use the internet. You don't have to go through any kind of technical depths in order to move from one internet site to another, you click on a link. 

You don't have to go through some kind of command line arcana to do things on the web, there are forms for that. 

I think it is a little like saying, 'Well I don't intend to be a published author why should I learn to read and write?' We're living in a literate world, if you don't read and write, you are disempowering yourself. 

You are not necessarily going to choose a career in literature, you are participating in the power that the literate community conveys on anybody who goes through the quite a bit of trouble to learn to read and write."

I am struck by the irony of the mass of research funding which has gone into enabling humans to communicate with our cousins the apes.

Latest developments in ape-education include (no kidding) iPads!!

Despite our best efforts, and millions of dollars in research funding, literary critics are sadly disappointed at ape efforts to produce great works of art.

Complete works

Apes - 0
Shakespeare - Quite a lot.

Just think of the quality of post-renaissance literature embodied by William Shakespeare.

Thank goodness that he had  forward looking parents!

Thank goodness for Will's remix artfulness!

Learning to read and write must have been seen my some as new-fangled in those days.

School wasn't even compulsory at the time!!

Measure for measure.

Back in the lab...
(you know the one responsible for ape-mutations leading to our downfall and Charlton's agony)

Wise scientists are pessimistic that apes will ever be able to, to... ape Will's best efforts:

"Is it really feasible that a chimpanzee with a typewriter and an infinite amount of time will be able to produce the complete works of Shakespeare?"

Dumb and Dumber

So we are giving apes, iPads to undumb them.

So we are giving kids iPhones and worrying that such technology is dumbing them down.

We are arousing moral panic about:

in the same way that our elders and bettters did in the 18th century about novels .

Protect our vulnerable ladies and children.

Oh the irony!

Such trashy, morally suspect stuff as is now studied in length at school.

Moll Flanders anyone?

We complain that kids waste their time on the most sophisticated communication tools ever devised playing Candy Crush, taking Selfies, and ban them from classrooms, so that we can concentrate on studying 18th century novels and writing essays.

Do most kids know how to write essays with a pen before we teach them?
Do most kids know how to use the web and social media to learn before we teach them?
Do most kids need to learn how to learn about living in their present and their future?

It is unlikely that either apes or kids will be writing many 18th century novels now...sniff.

What the hell is the point of education?

Is it a) clicking for cheap bananas?
Is it b) clicking for freedom of expression?
Is it c) clicking away the clicker?

Declaration of independence anyone?

It is certain that our  current vision of freedom has much to do with a revolution of thinking and of communication which has its roots in the 18th century.

Maybe we are forgetting the long struggle for people's hearts and minds which enabled such freedom?

Maybe we are forgetting the connection between the introduction of new technology and new ideas, new forms of art?

Manifesto anyone?

I would suggest that digital technology does not dumb down apes any more than it dumbs us down.

I would suggest that we need to learn with our kids how to use digital technology like smartphones to communicate widely and create new forms of art.

I would suggest that our masters are no longer nationally or geographically dependent.

I would suggest that Amazon is no longer simply the brave young girl accompanying Charlton.

I would suggest that our own species and other more vulnerable species are in danger.

I would suggest that we need to learn how to use the web to participate in discussions on what constitutes Liberty in a net-age, unless of course in our DOT-age we want to become captive signing-apes in a zoo.

Thank you Howard, Gardner and John for your inspiration.


  1. Just wish we'd let apes be apes, Shakespeare be shakespeare, and kids be kids.

    I could not agree more about Peak Heston, though in Ben Hur my favorite scene was his stint as a rower.

    For a bit of irony, some of the city shots from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes where filmed at University of California, Irvine-- the place where Connected Courses web site is hosted and managed.

    I too am a hard core PoTA fan (the original 5) and cringed at the 2001 reboot attempt

    1. Yes. Charlton was a mean rower. The agony. Yes. Teacher leave the kids alone(ish). Don't get me reviving rants on remakes.