3 Stars – Thought-provoking
Demonstrating Marshal McLuhan’s observation that “The medium is the message”, digital storyteller Andy Yardy uses the technology of the iPhone and jet planes to tell his story of our new technologically united world. Updating the Jules Vernes 1873 novel describing a journey in 80 days around the world, Yardy makes his journey in 80 hours starting in New York, flying to Dubai, then back to Amsterdam to catch a flight to Beijing and return home again. His journey to circumnavigate our world is filled not only with engaging digital imagery, but also personal observations of his own experiences in this new digital world. Part blog and part social commentary, Yardy’s adventure gives us a unique perspective of our ever-smaller world.
His journey is experienced on several levels. The first is his overall theme of the digital world, recorded on digital equipment most can afford, that has brought our global village together. The fact that anyone can experience any place in the virtual world, not only from space but also from street level, is deceiving. The people we see in such digital form are not in fact there for human interaction. This is seen clearly when Yardy joins a young couple in Dubai he has met online. Giving us their own experiences of their city in a way that changes our perspective of the humans living in Dubai, Sereen Fadul makes the observation that not only are the wages of the poor who make the city operate unjust but even for the privileged residents it is “a city we all love but we can never call home.” It is just this observation that Yardy notes is a microcosm of the new world in which we live. Are we entering and now living in a world “we all love but will never be home”? And what is it that defines “home”?
This observation is seen in historical form when Yardy arrives in Beijing. Recognizing that the history of this ancient culture is now moving into a modern technological state, we watch as the young adults are absorbed by their smart phones just as they are in the more recently created nations and cities as seen in Dubai. Noting the ever-watching eye of the communist state, and meeting two young men willing to show their iPhones but not their faces, we realize that whatever the government, regardless of the level of freedom it allows its citizens, the world is connected through a technology that didn’t exist only a few decades ago. The reality of this is the message and the medium of Around the World in 80 Hours.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
- If you were to circumnavigate the world, what places and people would you film? What would be your overarching theme?
- As Yardy noted in the city of Dubai, the relationship of religion to the new global community is uncertain. Do you believe technology is strengthening our global community in a way that will include our religious beliefs? Why do you answer as you do?
- In only 140 years, an average person went from needing 80 days to 80 hours to go around the world using available public transportation. However, most of us do not ride in an airplane for 50 some hours in order to do so, we simply travel in virtual reality. What benefits and limitations do you see to traveling virtually?