THE SITUATION….THE GAP
Technology is advancing at lightning speed. Faster all the time, it is spreading into all areas of our lives. Equipment that once was obsolete two years ago is now obsolete within 6 months. Technological tools are getting smaller and more affordable to the entire world. Businesses and governments are trying to find their economic equilibrium as consumers purchase goods laterally, from one another through the Internet, often avoiding traditional consumer shopping or payment of sales tax.
Humanity is reeling from the physical effects of technology as well. Normal human development does not happen at lightning speed; it is a timed and sequenced process that requires human interaction, behavioral learning, and real experiences, if we are to learn the full spectrum of emotion and mature into healthy and happy adults. In times past, the way we lived our lives incorporated human interaction. Technology has now changed the way we live. Pushed too rapidly, human development becomes distorted or retarded, and emotional maturity goes awry.
While we continue to crave new and faster technology, as physical beings, we also feel the physical effects of getting what we want. We are becoming isolated and narrow in focus, perpetuating a narrow, superficial, and isolated existence. Human beings were not meant to live in this way. The human spirit needs to be nourished and replenished with work, play, friendship and love. At the core of us, we are emotionally and physically interactive beings. When we lose our ability and the opportunity for emotional connectedness, we are in danger of becoming as inanimate as the technology we so greatly desire.
Our electronic media culture bombards the current world with mass reproduction and reproducibility that can fool the human eye. Reality can become distorted; what’s real and what’s not real? The word, simulacrum means an unreal or superficial likeness, a copy without the original. Photographs, TV, video games, advertising, special effects, and computers are part of our electronic media, offering images so realistically created or altered, they can appear real, even when they are not. This inability to differentiate the real from the not real causes us to question our reality and we begin to mistrust our own perceptions. We begin to believe that nothing is real. This leads to feelings of apathy, hopelessness, and, ultimately, anarchy. If nothing is real, then nothing really matters. We become as robotic as our technological inventions, and just as cold and unfeeling. This is death to a human spirit that requires the warmth of human connection, touch and trust as its foundation. And, the human spirit will not go quietly into the night; it will not vanish without a fight. It will find some other way to express itself, too often in the sensual world of substance abuse and addiction.
A basic knowledge of human development is needed to understand the fundamental nature of the gap that has been created by our technological advancements. Our experiences from birth to age five set in place the neurological foundations upon which future learning depends: self-awareness, self-regulation, communication skills, personal relationships and the ability to learn from cause and effect. When one of these core developmental processes is not successfully navigated, it alters the ability to learn, evolve and mature. As human beings, we respond to and grow from being held, talked to, read to, listening to music, and played with, and pleasurable physical experiences with others. Without these foundations we regress, into human beings with no self-awareness, no self-control, unable to communicate our ideas, needs or desires to others, difficulty making or keeping relationships. And, not aware of what is wrong, we are unable to learn from our mistakes.
This is especially troubling in a wired world of information overload, and becoming more so as technology expands and speeds up its domain. When technology is offered to children too early, during human developmental years, it creates a problem. It may offer an intellectual exchange, but not the nuances of a human exchange. When technology is used as a surrogate caregiver, it creates emptiness within the human spirit.
The word simulation means the process of pretending, an imitation or representation of behavior, of one system through the use of another system. The military, law enforcement and businesses use the technology of virtual reality as a training tool, to train for the real thing. The technology of virtual reality may provide a partial learning experience, an intellectual experience but not a human encounter. It is an incomplete experience that lacks the full inclusion of the five senses, the very senses through which we experience being human. When we become aware and feel a full sensory experience, integrated through a shared physical encounter, it becomes functional, developing a human skill that we can use in future interactions.
As modern technology requires our cognitive self to speed up, the rest of our nervous system lags behind. This ultimately becomes a bridge too far and we create a split within ourselves, pitting technical being against human being: a brain without a body, intellect without emotion.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Technology can enhance the human world, but technology can also enhance the human being. What is needed are new ways to integrate technology with basic human needs and use that technology in the service of human development.
It is through the human developmental stage of pretend play and using The MovieMaking Process, that a creative alliance and innovative solution can be found between the world of human needs and the age of technology.
The MovieMaking Process is a simultaneous learning and teaching tool that incorporates human development with the best of today’s digital technology. Brain, body, awareness and emotions, merge through a shared and meaningful experience with others. This shared and meaningful experience with others is something human beings are hard-wired to need. Without it, there is an emptiness within that needs and desires to be filled. This desire will not go away until it is filled. Digital cameras and editing technology become the tools we use to create. Real life presentations expand this experience on a local level, and the Internet becomes the wormhole we slip through to share what we create on a worldwide scale.
The MovieMaking Process was developed to retrace fundamental early childhood developmental stages, address alternative learning styles, as well as visual perceptual differences, and teach new, behavioral skills quickly through the power of neuroplasticity-the brain’s ability to be re-wired. It does this through the tools of technology, self- awareness and play.
In the MovieMaking Process acting is used as a source of age-appropriate play. Pretend play is one of the developmental stages of early childhood, but the ability to play is needed throughout life; it is a human need. Play leaves the essence of reality intact; it is based on an actual physical experience that is shared with others. While simulacrum threatens to blur the difference between the real and not real, and simulation offers an imitation of an experience, pretend play incorporates mind and body through a shared sensory experience that teaches the subtleties of human actions and reactions-basic essentials of our humanness. It offers an experience to learn from and build upon. There are three distinct elements to The MovieMaking Process.
Clay and Art-Based Lessons: Initial clay and art lessons take the theme the movie will address and breaks it down into three to four core words, which are abstract concepts, focusing on the definition of these words required for total comprehension. These art based lessons teach from the perspective of an overview: the ability to see the larger picture and the relationships of parts to the whole. It entails using art, and physically creating these words and their definitions. By doing so, it is possible for almost everyone to conceptualize the meaning of abstract words, regardless of age or learning ability. Developmentally, this process takes advantage of the natural order of learning which must incorporate an interactive personal experience with another, that combines visual-spatial activities and involves touching, feeling or exploring objects. Simply put, these lessons can teach abstract concepts to concrete learners.
The theme of the movie may be any issue that needs to be addressed, or subject that needs to be learned, yet it must also have a functional goal, a link that addresses how can I use this information to make my current life better? Whatever the theme may be, it is within the shared experience of those participating and it is the experience that reconnects brain, body and awareness through active participation. It begins the filling of the emptiness.
Filming of the Movie: The filming of the movie provides the framework in which to plug in another early developmental stage in an age-appropriate way. Participants do not use dialogue; they use gestures and expressions to convey a message. This is one of the earliest human developmental needs, initially learned from the gestures and expressions of parents or primary caregivers. The reading of subtle body language is the foundation for learning the limits and boundaries of behavior.
Filming uses only one camera and one director/filmmaker. It is the participants who must develop certain human skills in order for the movie to flow with continuity and look more like a movie than simply action being recorded. Participants learn to freeze while the camera is moved and the lens refocused to show another perspective. Learning how to freeze for the camera teaches the basics of self-control. Participants must learn and use self-awareness to regulate themselves from the inside out. The need for self-control is obvious: without it, when human behavior becomes uncontrollable, a danger to others or ourselves, we eventually need to be controlled by others. Teaching self-control through the use of freeze, within the context of play, bypasses resistance to behavioral change.
The filming of the movie is often done in out of sequence parts, so the magic of editing technology now comes into play. The edited version of the movie creates something far more wonderful than anything the participants could have imagined. They see themselves larger than life, acting in a different way. Narration is added that contains the message the movie is intended to convey. More sophisticated language can be used within the narration, for it is added to the solid foundation of visual metaphors, and a real life remembered experience.
The final, magical touch, to The MovieMaking Process is the musical score that runs through the movie. Music is vibration and the combination of musical tones has always been able to inspire and move the human spirit. In listening, we are emotionally moved, and through that process we become more than what we are. The whole movie experience is now part of us: in our mind, our emotions, our body, and our spirit; aware, alive, and enhanced.
Several Presentations: Presentations of the finished movie are mandatory, using the latest in neuroscience research the power of paying attention in a positive and pro-active way. As participants present their creation to others, talking about their experience, what and how they created it, it is possible to bring a larger group into the experience and once again share a meaningful interaction, simply in a different way. As digital technology continues to expand and movie theatres acquire the universal ability to show digital movies, everyday people and community groups can become stars in their own lives. They can see themselves, literally, larger than life and learning from themselves, over and over.
By aligning with technology, using The MovieMaking Process as a learning and teaching tool; human development, through pretend play, can claim authority over simulation and simulacrum, overruling them with a meaningful, shared experience. At its core, The MovieMaking Process is differentiation, simply taking an issue as it is: learning to do it differently with a productive and positive ending and gaining the awareness to perceive the differences.
As digital cameras get smaller, they offer the ability for use with very young children, within classrooms, therapeutic learning environments and community groups, without being obtrusive. As they evolve in quality, they offer more clarity, more lighting corrections and more internal movement possibilities, getting closer and closer to the look of 35mm film. As digital cameras and editing equipment become more economical, they allow for their use by families, public education, community groups, faith-based groups, service agencies, even underdeveloped and economically disadvantaged countries.
As all-purpose, home entertainment devices permeate mainstream living-rooms, the neighborhood Premiere is only a step away. The Internet, with its variable and expanding forms of distribution, allows for global presentations of local creative projects, entertaining and educating at the same time. Ideas are community property and free access to information is meant to be a matter of principle. Instead of being isolated by the use of technology, technology can be used to reconnect humanity as communities engaged in creative and pro-active use of the media arts to address human needs and social issues.
The MovieMaking Process is an independent educational initiative. It was developed on the solid foundation of human development and alternative learning styles, while tapping into the positive power of the neurosciences through the media arts. It was developed as a way to use technology for the advancement of humanity. Training is offered in workshops for teachers, families and community activists.
This process has been used successfully with children and adults who have complex learning difficulties or exhibit atypical behavior, in education, mental health, probation and corrections. It’s also been used with entire communities to address global issues on a grassroots level. It allows for the creative and diplomatic progress of technology and humanity, incorporating the developmental needs of human beings and the very best that technology has to offer, each urging the other to continually evolve and challenge one another toward excellence. Its potential uses are unlimited, allowing humanity and technology to co-evolve, creatively bringing out the best in one another. In 2008. it was nominated to SAMHSA’s Midwest Science To Service Academy as one of the Midwest’s most promising prevention programs.
Linda Flanders is a former San Francisco police detective specializing in child abuse. She is a certified Feldenkrais Practitioner (C), prevention program designer and educational video producer. Taproot, Inc. N1872 670th St. Bay City, WI 54723, (715) 222-0920. Website is under construction.