Movies on Computing + Culture
January 1, 2012 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Looking for movies for a Computing + Culture course.

I will be teaching a course on the effect of computing on culture and vice-versa. Topics will include online activism, literacy, intellectual property, security, and privacy. I watch my share of movies, but feel that either, I am missing some movies that have something to say about these topics in a non-obvious way, or there are some under-the-radar movies that I haven't watched.

Any suggestions?
posted by raheel to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Revolution OS is a documentary discussing the origins of the free and open source software movement and is pretty watchable. You get a nice cross-section of the various FOSS luminaries (Stallman, Torvalds, etc.)
posted by evisceratordeath at 4:25 PM on January 1, 2012

How are you conceptualizing 'culture'?
posted by k8t at 4:37 PM on January 1, 2012

Security wise, if you're going to look at any of the hacker intrigue stuff from the 90's and later on it might be interesting to watch the 1990 PBS Nova episode "The KGB, the Computer and Me" which along with the Clifford Stoll book The Cuckoo's Egg that it was based upon probably established many of the themes and tropes of that genre.

Though of course the seminal and defining cinematic work there is WarGames from 1983. Plus, Ferris Bueller starting the nuclear Armageddon.

A topic that I think you're leaving out which IMO is a big element in the nexus of computers and culture is the propagation of wacko fringe theory / conspiracy theories... not sure exactly what the right term for it would be but it's sort of the flip side of the democratization of information and activism. It was a firmly established use of the internet even before the web appeared. The X Files worked with that theme, I think, and I like how it's been treated in the 21st century reincarnation of Doctor Who.
posted by XMLicious at 4:53 PM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

wacko fringe theory / conspiracy

Surely we can't forget Sandra Bullock's movie The Net?
posted by dfriedman at 4:55 PM on January 1, 2012

The wikipedia entry on "films about computers" offers some interesting sub-genres to consider when structuring your course.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:09 PM on January 1, 2012

Colossus: The Forbin Project is one of the early "computers have minds of their own" works. You can draw a line straight from this movie to WarGames, the Terminator, etc.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:45 PM on January 1, 2012

Sneakers may cover the topics of intellectual property, security, and privacy. Here's a decent wikipedia list as well.
posted by samsara at 6:49 PM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you have any video editing skills? Do you have a comp sci prof to work with?

I think a montage of getting it right/getting it wrong with computers in movies would be an interesting way to lead into a discussion of the many ways computers are viewed by the West, and how for certain large groups computers are currently, right now today, viewed as magical things.

CSI is famous for gibberish:

Many "hacker" movies have the same relationship with technology that cartoons have with violence:
posted by jsturgill at 7:28 PM on January 1, 2012

Whoops. Here they are as links:

CSI video

hacker movie video
posted by jsturgill at 7:30 PM on January 1, 2012

A few ideas:

Code Rush

Triumph of the nerds

Nerds 2.0.1

RiP!: A Remix Manifesto!:_A_Remix_Manifesto
posted by PueExMachina at 9:20 PM on January 1, 2012

Copyright Criminals is a great documentary for IP/sampling/remixing issues. I've shown it to several classes, and my students have all really enjoyed it, and it has stimulated really great debates. I've also seen RiP, which is very good, it leans more towards remix culture per se than the legal issues.

MeFi's own Jason Scott's BBS Documentary is incredibly detailed on the early development of BBS communities & culture, but it's quite long, so you'd probably want to pick only one or two of the episodes to show. (Personally I think the episode on ASCII art culture would be really interesting to show a group of undergrads who probably have never heard of it!)
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:59 PM on January 1, 2012

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