Inanimate Alice and our Reliance on Technology

I just finished playing/watching/reading the short work “Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China” by Kate Pullinger and Babel.  The work was an eight-minute glimpse into a young girl’s life in Northern China.  Despite its brevity, the work is surprisingly intense.  The girl’s father is missing and the family is unsettled.  The reader can pick up from other context clues that there may be some other issues, possibly social, that weigh on the family but since the narrator is a young child, she may not be completely aware of them.  The use of technology is prevalent in the culture that the young girl is describing.

The description of the work that the ELit blog directed me to said the following:

“Inanimate Alice depicts the life of a young girl growing up in the early years of the 21st century through her blog and episodic multimedia adventures that span her life from childhood through to her twenties. It has been created to help draw attention to the issue of electro-sensitivity and the potentially harmful pollution resulting from wireless communications.”

This gave me an idea for what themes to watch out for while experiencing the work of interactive fiction.  The opening of the game has a lot of static-sounding noises and other electronic beeps and tones that our everyday technological devices emit. They are loud and off-putting at first.  As the work progresses oriental-sounding music starts playing at the same time as the static.  The soundtrack is very important in this work.  At first, the static is so overpowering that it made me want to turn the sound off.  But as the music started to play, the sounds became intertwined.  The mixing of the electronic sounds with the native-sounding music gave a sense of the technology becoming part of the culture.

We are dependent on our technology nowadays.  We’re always on our laptops, phones, cameras or mp3 players.  As a matter of fact, technology has come so far that those can all be found on one device.  The main character is also dependent on an electronic device, her “player.”  She takes pictures, plays games and tries to contact her missing father with it.  It gives her a sense of comfort and when her mother asks her to turn it off, she becomes upset and is reluctant to do so.

Screenshot from the game depicts the young girl's "player."

The father, who was lost, was found in a “dead-zone.”  A dead-zone is something we all fear, a place with no signal for our cell phones.  With no contact to the outside world, we feel helpless.  It makes us wonder how people got by before the days of the world wide web.  This reliance on our electronic devices has grown deeper and deeper the more advanced the devices get.  Just watch any movie from before the new millennium, in how many of those movies could the whole problem be avoided if one of the characters had cell phone?  A lot.  Technology is rapidly changing and we are becoming more dependent on our devices daily.

The description of the game that I quoted mentions the dangers of pollution due to wireless technology.  I think this isn’t exclusively referring to an environmental pollution but also a pollution of our minds and our social and communication skills.

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