We have been honored to receive feedback and comments from audience members who have viewed SYNTHETIC PLEASURES. If you have watched the film, we invite you to send us your thoughts and keep the discussion going! We can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feedback on the Film
Alysia R. — I must say, quite honestly, that your film changed my life. I am just embarking on a PhD in AI, and your work really struck a chord with me. It helped crystalize many of the things I had been thinking about but had not been able to put into words. This film really helped me to put my work into context and helped me see some new avenues worthy of exploration. Your film is an example of a very important cultural model for the conclusion of modernity and the end of the 20th century and 20th-century thought. Managed to view your film synthetic pleasures in december. Liked it very much. Expected a very hectic pulsating tecno like peace. But it was rather smooth and subtle. Very nice.
Arthur V. — Synthetic Pleasures was a very interesting and thought-provoking film. I think it handled the issues of “augmented” reality, bodies ,and brainpower well. You successfully managed to avoid being taken in by the hype, but examined the scene with a cool, critical eye. Great stuff!
Gordon — I managed to see Synthetic Pleasures for myself tonight. In my opinion, it’s a very thought-provoking and intelligent piece of filmmaking that doesn’t try to be overly judgmental—that’s pretty rare in itself. I was also very impressed with the way in which you blended live, computer-generated imagery and audio to generate an altogether unsettling and unnerving experience—visually and aurally rich. Anyway, I’m sure you’ve heard lots of praise already, but I just thought I’d let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Good luck with your future ventures!
John R. — I just saw Synthetic Pleasures tonight at the Detroit Institute of Art. It was a cold Monday night, but the theater was quite full and the film was very well received. I’m anxiously awaiting Synthetic Pleasures 2 for more info on what’s happening in our small world.
Orion — The film was excellent! It raised many ethical questions about our world’s advancing community. I had studied these questions under Fred Ritchin at NYU, and the movie proved to be an excellent supplement to the class. It is both exciting and scary to see that the synthetic/technological environments we have created are often more real than the actual world. Thanks for the exhilarating documentary!
Stef — I went to see the film not expecting a documentary, but was not bothered by the format. In fact, it was surprisingly entertaining even though it is non-fiction! I enjoyed it immensely, as did my friends, one of whom had to steal a poster from the movie to display in his room. I also purchased the soundtrack.
D. Harris — Enjoyed the film, especially the interviews.!
Sheldon D. — I saw Synthetic Pleasures. The editing was a knockout—lent a whole other dimension to an already tasty sense-crash!
Braden A. — I loved your documentary and found it invigorating. In fact, after watching the film and speaking with you, I stayed up half the night discussing various ideas with my friends.
Dee Dee — If Synthetic Pleasures is playing anywhere close to where you live, then you need to go see it! Just to hear the sound track is incredible in itself. I heard terre thaemlitz, tranquility bass, hardfloor, banco de gaia, air liquide… I thought the subject matter was very timely and even features on the new generation of “techno-philes” like us! This movie is a documentary of technology and our human evolution. So go see and dream a little 🙂
Eggboy — Nanotechnology, Nootropics, Noetics. I have been doing personal research on these topics for a while and found Synthetic Pleasures to be an exhilarating whirlwind of endless positive opportunities for our future. I viewed the film last night at the historic Tampa Theatre in Florida. It was quite ironic to see the technologies of the future displayed on a screen of a movie theatre that is over seventy years old! I look forward to a video release so others that could not attend may view this exquisite film.
Sumiyo — I’m very impressed with the film and the soundtrack. My background is Japanese and American. I lived in Japan for fourteen years before I moved to the states. My hometown is not too far from Miyazaki, where the Seagaia is located. I was hoping that the film had more interviews with real Japanese people’s points of view of all the technology that surrounds them. Also, the ravers that were interviewed in Limelight really disappointed me. I’ve been very involved in techno and computer-made music for many years. I make techno and there are a lot of people that could have represented the wonderful culture that is created by this music. The concentrated interviews on the club kids did irritate me a little. I have no say here because you are the one who made the step to dedicate your time and energy into the culture that is created by the wonderful technology. Only thing I should be saying to you is THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR GREAT TALENT AND CREATIVITY! Please keep up your good work. I hope to see your next film soon.
Wayne M. — I was struck by the preponderance of two things: Japanese scenes and American interviews. Is this film subtly or not so subtly reinforcing notions about creativity and imitation? I’m sure one answer to this question is that Americans will not sit through a string of translated interviews, but my unease remains. The correlation of virtual-reality-computer-simulation, the “malling” of experience (indoor skiing, Las Vegas), and cyborg existence (plastic surgery, cryogenics, drugs and smart drugs) is interesting—but there seems to be a risk in reducing the newness of these phenomena to “synthetic pleasures.” In a sense, human culture has always been about synthesizing our pleasure, our fears, our common experience.
The difference is today we can begin to manipulate what in earlier ages we could only explain away with myth, religion, or “simplified models.” What should concern us is the mythical content of our science and technology, not the apparent end of culture “as we knew it.”
A personal anecdote: In opposition to the exotopians, I believe that there is no escape from being human. My non-too-elaborate experience of mind-altering drugs showed me that there is no escape, no haven from my all too human self. In trying to elude my self, I learned (in theory anyway) that I had to come to terms with it.
Susan M. — What an insightful view into what many of us may perceive as in the future but is really the here and now. The thought of living in a created environment is frightening; let alone repulsive. When people who live on an island (i.e. Japan) have to construct a beach, one has to wonder where appreciation and simple curiosity have gone to. No matter what the unknown consequences of experiencing “the real thing” might be, I would not sacrifice the sense of adventure for a “safe, pre-existing experience. It is the element of the unknown, of the unexpected, that fuels the resultant satisfaction for having reckoned with and tackled a force outside the realm of our control.
Other valuable areas were explored throughout this documentary (which was most entertaining). I have no qualms with surgical enhancements, except I don’t believe a person can have a well-rounded sense of self while spending life wanting to become something else on a purely physical plane.
The ability to make someone feel as though they can dance when they are wheelchair-bound is phenomenal and that was one statement I will not forget.
Although cryonics is logical, the thought of being “born again” into an age where all my peers are not with me and the world is a foreign place hardly seems desirable; nor does the thought of being holed up in a steel container for years seem the least bit enticing either.
Anyway, a penny for my thoughts. The film was thought-provoking as well as enlightening to non-technological folk.
Patrick G. — I was fortunate enough to catch a screening of Synthetic Pleasures the week before last at the Virginia Film Festival here at the University of Virginia. What impressed me most about the film was its (overall) objectivity. For the most part, I did not feel that the film took an ideologically committed stance in favor or against synthetic/tech culture. In a panel discussion between two engineering professors that followed, a comment was made that, for me, summed up many of the implications and questions that the film raises.
Barlow’s metaphor for human curiosity and ingenuity, the human “itch” and our desire to scratch it, seems to beg the question of what are the most essentially “human” characteristics. Is our “most human” impulse towards a reconciliation with nature, with the already created, or is it an impulse to create for ourselves? We live in a time when notions of creativity are finding new outlets, transcending typical notions of art (as Iara Lee has done here). These notions of creativity go a long way in accounting for the aesthetic ethos that fires tech culture.
Nevertheless, it is important to distinguish between the actual possibilities of technology in the here and now and what may or may not be possible in the future (perhaps my one complaint about the film would be that it treated some pseudo-scientific and/or highly theoretical subject matters as though they were foregone conclusions). The line between technological myth and theory, as we are constantly reminded by the capabilities of today when compared to the fantasies of the past, is exceedingly thin. In many ways then, Synthetic Pleasures seemed to me a very ideologically steeped work of art in its attempts to project its vision onto the mythic space of the future. This is a valuable project because regardless of what the reality of technology’s future will be, it will inevitably be fueled by the fantasy of the past (think about how times man dreamed of flight before he realized it).
Alsccii — I drove to Austin from Dallas to see the film a few weeks ago. I thought it was pretty cool. Congratulations on the film!
Donna G. — I saw your film today and I thought it was great. I would like to have seen other viewpoints represented, though. Given all the talk these days about kids and technology, I thought you could have picked some more thoughtful young people to talk about their relationship to technology/computers/the internet. As it was, all the intellectual, “philosophical” stuff came exclusively from adults. I appreciated the various thoughts presented on humans/machines/technology, but I thought some time could have been given to critiquing the mad rush itself towards these ever-expanding technologies and synthetic environments. But this is never questioned. Also, because we only hear from Americans talking and theorizing about technology and humanity, it’s easy to not think about the impact these ideas will have on cultures that are not part of the discussion. Some views from people from non-“post-industrial” societies would’ve been great. But maybe that’s another movie.
D.B. — I saw the film a few weeks ago and enjoyed it. For people who do not read Wired monthly, or know who JP Barlow is, it was an excellent presentation to this, for lack of a better word, culture. One moment I found very compelling was the sequence in Japan where the surfer sweeps over the clear blue waves and you pull back to show the context. That seemed to show the actual pleasure in synthetic pleasure. It was so appealing. The sequence about the French performance artist was an interesting addition. It was hardly “pleasurable” to either watch what she does, or, I imagine, be her under the knife. Like Michael Jackson, she is a harbinger of the real issue of the next century, which has little to do with digital VR — genetic engineering.
I guess if I were to discuss what was missing for me in the film, and this is pretty rarefied stuff since I write about technology, it would be in the realm of _how_ these technologies came to be used this way. For instance, the first VR headsets (funded by ARPA, circa 1966), the cybernetic obsession with “automata” going back to 1945 (predecessor to the cyborg). The role of sci-fi in creating culture (Blade Runner, Gibson, etc.) as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also, there was an implication that people who are into computers are into this particular escapist way of life. Many are; many are not.
Kathy B. — The film is dazzling and disturbing. I’m sure that’s what you meant it to be. Congratulations!
Ken P. — I saw the movie last night. Good editing and cool graphics and animation! I’ve been thinking about the same idea as the movie’s premise: “Unlike animals, humans have an itch to make the environment adapt to them as opposed to vice versa.” I only worry that if we keep itching, there might no be nothing left to scratch… (That is, we’ll eventually scratch ourselves to oblivion!)
Phyllis M. — I just saw it last night at the NuArt in Los Angeles. It was just extra super groovy cool neat! There was some fine filmmaking and some amazing info. I was very impressed with the cuts of the Timothy Leary interviews. All the interviewees were wonderful, interesting, encouraging, heroic. Hope you get all you dream of from making this film and from the future!
Douglas P. — I was captivated and concerned about the possibilities presented in this film. I found the concept of fusing your personality with a computer to be quite shocking and yet strangely desirable. My only regret is that of Mr. Whitty’s ill-founded comments in the S.J. Mercury Eye. Please let the film stay in Shark’s territory for as long as you can, I think if given enough time, it can overcome the ignorance and fear of some critics and thrive. I give “Synthetic Pleasures” two mouse-clicks Up and a really big smile!
Matthew G. — I don’t understand all the glorification of drugs going on here. Why are they so important to the future? How can we have this synthetic future you are describing if we are all fucked-up? I like what your website has to offer—the information on AI, cyronics, cyborgization, cybersex, etc., but I don’t understand why drugs are needed to transcend. Spirituality is something I need to prevail instead of just endure in life. I don’t want a pseudo-spirituality, I want to be able to transcend at any time or place. Drugs rob from my soul. I enjoy the freedom I possess today. I can do anything. I really do not know why I am telling you this other than the fact that I am disappointed. I see a website that someone has taken time to prepare and maintain, and then I see it endorsing drugs. I read about unlocking the potential that lies between mind and matter and then I read about “psychoactive drugs” that destroy the mind referred to as an alternative to psychothererapy. What about those who have abused drugs or are abusing drugs now and need help–mental, spiritual, and emotional help? Do you think they get it from drugs? I am not religious. I believe in a higher power and I believe in a collective energy that unites all life. I call this a life force. I believe that acts of violence and other negativity (such as drug use, violence toward self) rob from this life force. I am more than my chemical makeup. I am alive and I don’t want to kill myself quickly or slowly. I transcend with music. Believe it or not, I love to get out on the dance flow and get down. I just get really upset with this culture because of the support and encouragement it gives toward drug use.
I am very confused. I left the culture and came back to it because of my views about its drug tolerance. The music always makes me return. You see, for me it is always about the music and what it alone can do for me. It takes me away, makes me high, and opens my mind. I forget about fear and feel free to do whatever I want. I am a musician. Music is my life.
Other than that hang up, your website has left me thoroughly intrigued. I am completely enthralled by AI, cyronics, biotechnology. I study music and biochemistry.
Liza B. — I went to see the movie in San Francisco. Really interesting, frightening, thought-provoking! I work at the Sierra Club and it is going to be interesting to see if environmental groups are going to be able to move forward with enthusiasm to equal the ideas of area tech-meisters. It’s hard to see how we can embrace technology for a greater good, and yet, I think that there will be no alternative but to find ways to do so. Thanks for your good work in bringing these issues out of the cubicle and into the realm of public debate.
Linda J., United States — I hope this finds you doing well and just swimming in great reviews, laudatory phone calls, sizzling party invitations and hip fall fashions. I just wanted to let you know that I finally had the chance to experience your Synthetic Pleasures the day before yesterday at, of all wonderful places, the inimitable Castro Theater. You did a wonderful job bringing together all that amazing footage and presenting seemingly disparate concepts! I really enjoyed seeing the fishing shop, Phoenix SeaGaia. and skiing/golfing compounds in Japan. Remarkable. Naturally, I wish you had been able to include at least one technology-savvy woman to provide insights. So it would appear to the uninitiated that only men know about the techno/political implications of synthetic pleasures, while women can speak only about sex and art. Well, you and I know that that’s not true, but why the decision to only allow men to speak? But I loved the way you completed the film with Jaron’s intriguing shrug.
Liz C. — Although this movie seams really shiny and cool when you first see it, as you start to think about it, you realize that it has very serious undertones. Some of the people in this documentary commented on how good it is to be technologically advancing at such a fast pace, but I can’t help but think about all those futuristic movies I’ve seen. They all have one thing in common: They’re societies that have all developed too fast. In a nut shell, this is a very shiny and yet thought-provoking documentary.
Feedback on the Webpage
Josh H. —, I haven’t seen the film yet, but I am interested in it. I did want to say that this is probably the best website I have ever visited. Please keep expanding on it. You are doing an amazing work-in-progress. Thanks!
Robert K. — “Jeesh!” Is my curiosity tweaked! I am going to actively pursue finding locations that are showing your film. I stumbled across your page and in reading comments, I got entirely distracted. It sounds like my kind of movie.
Pierce M. — I would like to compliment you on your fantastic website!
John S. — I liked what I saw on the website! You guys ask interesting questions. I agree, the focus is shifting: man, or individual, is not so much the focus anymore. I think conversation is, or is becoming, the focus. Or maybe not. Something is changing, anyway.
Michael T. — One of my main criticisms of technology is that it has gained mainstream popularity simply because of people’s need to keep up with the Jones’s—if everyone’s using a computer, I should, too. But the computer has transformed our lives in more negative ways than positive. They get more powerful each day, but they are still crude in their implementations; they don’t take into account their end-users. Likewise, the content found for them to access on the Web has been flimsy and mind-numbing, rather than engaging. This website has renewed my interest in the possibilities that might exist for the new medium created by computer technology. It is intelligent, provocative, and thought-provoking. It begs to be conceived as modern art, and that is how I view it. I wish you luck in the ongoing creation of this space.
Taura N. — Congratulations not only on this film but on your webpage, which appears to have piqued interests all over the globe!
Feedback on the Soundtrack
John C. — I enjoyed the tunes you used. Very transcendent!
Scyder — I just bought Synthetic Pleasures, Volume 1, and it is really great! All my friends like it, even those I thought wouldn’t.
Craig M., United States— I just want to tell you how much I liked your movie Synthetic Pleasures—so much that I just ordered the CD at the Rock & Roll Museum here in Cleveland. Keep up the good work!
James G. — I had a chance to pick up the Synthetic Pleasures soundtrack. I loved it. I can not wait for the next volume!
Anonymous — I really enjoyed the Synthetic Pleasures CD. Nice job sequencing and capturing some of the breadth of the film!