A Conversation with Jore
Interviewer: Jordan Brown is an activist, artist, writer, musician, independent filmmaker, freelance journalist. And your work focuses on interface between the dominant culture and real impact on people’s society and the environment. Thank you for joining us on The Green Flame.
Jordan Brown: Thanks for having me.
Interviewer: I’d love to start the conversation with talking about your 2017 full-length documentary Stare Into The Lights My Pretties that had a huge impact on me.
Jordan Brown: Definitely. Thank you for that. Well, one reason why I decided to make this film is because back in the year, well, I think it was 2009 when the original idea sort of popped into my mind about doing a short film about Google and the implications of what happens when we have one corporation that’s an effective monopoly over the majority of people’s access to, well, how they find and consume information. So, back then, it was really obvious to me that I needed to make a polemical work to try and sort of cut through all of this gloss and technology worship–I guess you’d call it–of this culture and really take a sobering look at what was actually going on out there. I mean, a lot of documentaries at the time were sort of looking at different aspects of technology in a I guess a positive way, which is I guess on one level fine, but it felt to me that there’s always been a lot lacking in this space in terms of addressing themes such as addiction, privacy, and surveillance, and information manipulation, and behaviour modification that was really coming up at that time–this is sort of pre-Filter Bubble times, and that would of course later go on to happen–but, the real impetus for the project was to take a critical view of the society of today, or that era, where we have the average adult spending the majority of their waking hours in front of some sort of screen or device. And I think conservative figures even back from that time was something like: the average adult spending more than 8 hours a day in front of a screen. But I think today a more realistic number is probably better reflected in a report from Nielsen from 2014 that showed that an average adult in the United States spends more than 11 hours a day with digital media. So, you know, that accumulates to more time than an average working week looking at screens. And of course, the majority of our working hours in a lot of cases.
So, the screen culture is a concept of looking at the whole a whole way of life that revolves around digital devices. So not only concerning that amount of time people were and are spending in front of some kind of screen–you know, a phone or a laptop, Xbox, television, of course–but you know, digital billboards and the Internet of Things. But then, the other side of this: also “culture” in the sense that the beliefs, customs, and stories, and social institutions–the institutions of society–that are driven by and revolve around the screen and digital devices, or indeed are solely built around them these days. So, with screen culture, I think it’s kind of this language with how we can explain things such as hyper-consumerism, or targeted advertising and behavioural modification, or the gig economy, or the society of the spectacle where the whole culture is a highly image-based culture that thrives on appearances and frippery and not much of much consequence or meaning. But, it’s also at the same time very highly emotional and perhaps more so than ever before. We have social media platforms manipulating people’s feelings and stirring up frenzies on the most unprecedented human scale. I have a figure here in front of me right now that says, global human population is something like 7.6 billion people and 3.8 billion people currently have Internet access which is something like almost half of the global human population. And the portion of that population that’s online, 2.2 billion of them are on Facebook which is something like 70% of the population that has Internet access. So, that’s a staggering amount of power and control that’s been gifted to a single corporation and a user-based that’s larger than the entire population of several countries combined.
Or we could talk about other statistics. There’s another stat in the film that says, by the time the average person reaches 70, they will have spent the equivalent of 10 to 15 years of their life watching television. And over 4 years of their entire life just watching the advertisements–and that of course doesn’t include the now-ubiquitous forms of advertising that are embedded into the content of a show these days, or maybe a better way to say that is: they’re indiscernibly masquerading as the content. And of course this also ignores advertising from other mediums, too–we’re solely talking about TV.
Or there’s another stat that’s thrown around often, too. I think it’s a poll conducted in 2016 that shows that two and a half thousand British youths aged between 18 and 25 preferred a decent Internet connection over what they called “trivial matters,” such as daylight or having a good night’s sleep. So, I think it’s pretty clear that the screen drives society and society drives the screen.
And I guess this is turning into a bit of a long-winded answer, but the point of the film is to sort of ask the other part of this question of: how did we get here? Computers are still a relatively new invention and it’s really only post-World War II where we have the invention of the digital computer, which is less than one human lifetime ago. And I should say that the first digital computer–this is also something that’s in the film–the ENIAC, was invented by and for the military, and one of its primary uses was to calculate missile trajectories and play a considerable role in the production of the first nuclear weapons. So, we’re looking at computers quite literally coming from war, and were and are used to wage war.
And then also happening alongside this are other massive social transformations such as the beginnings of suburbia, where we have the industry that boom during the Second World War which either had to stop or collapse–which of course didn’t happen–what occurred instead was this huge transformation from a war economy into one of consumerism, an extension of which we still live with today. And we also have the requisite transformation of advertising around that time, you know, the 1950s turns from one that generates… advertising changes into this sort of model where desires are instilled and generated in a population.
And then from there, the film takes us through the Cold War where we had the Space Race, and superpowers/allies rushing to deploy satellites in space for military uses, and of course also all sorts of other weapons and things like that, all controlled by various computer systems and electronic systems. And then to the invention of the Internet by, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency–or DARPA–in the mid-1960s, I think it was. And so, I guess by the early 70s, we start to have various defence projects and universities linking together, joining all their computers into this giant network. So, by the 1980s we have commercial partnerships emerging with the telecommunications and computer industries to form the beginnings of the Internet, which of course exploded throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s with a craze of corporations rising up to make easy, quick money in insane amounts, and led to the dot-com bubble and the 90s economic boom. And then you know, by the early 2000s, the bubble burst and well, I guess the point to be made from saying all of this is that in less than one human lifetime, we can see that we’ve literally gone from no computers at all to computers everywhere, connected to all the other computers everywhere, and that’s a very rapid and profound social transformation, but also one that is rooted in war and driven by the military and corporations.
Interviewer: One of the things that you said in the film that I see all the time is that we’ve gone from a three-dimensional world to a two-dimensional world. And I don’t know if that was you that said that or one of the people that you interviewed, you’ve asked.
Jordan Brown: Yeah. That was, I should say, Susan Greenfield, the renowned neuroscientist. That’s a wonderful quote of hers.
Interviewer: What’s changed since you made the movie?
Jordan Brown: Well, I guess, the movie is largely about how we’ve already been changed, you know, the way we think and feel has already sort of changed within that one human lifetime. Even the past 30 years, I guess, if you’d take it from being no Internet to the Internet being central to all of our lives. So, there’s this question of how we perceive and understand the world had changed, and also how we’ve literally changed the way our brains work. And so, the film–and this is not even a new idea for the film either–many academics and lots of authors and prior people doing social commentary talked about declining attention spans, and the film talks a little bit about how we’ve already outsourced our memory and recall to the computer, and what the commensurate impacts of that are on learning and remembering, you know, I think we could all relate to this, perhaps on some level. I mean, for myself, my calendar knows more about my week than what I do. And then I guess another issue that the film talks about is multitasking, which is basically the fragmentation of your attention. So, you know, you’re doing lots of things simultaneously with a screen and we think we’re being really productive, but what’s really going on is that we’re actually turning into scatterbrains. And I guess the film really pulls on this idea in a big way, hopefully emotionally, to send home the point that this is a time when depth and meaning have been largely destroyed or lost, so things like contemplativeness or long deep thinking or concentration–sort of unbroken, uninterrupted thinking–which is pretty much all gone these days. And of course, that too is not at all a new idea but, I think the screen culture is the epitome of that idea: that we get everything instantly and we’re now socialised and acculturated to expect instant feedback and gratification.
So, I guess the film, looking at that sort of mindset that had already been quite well established when the film came out in 2017, but even during production that was like 2013 I think when I was filming those interviews, and 2010 I guess was the peak where, you know, psychologists and people like Susan Greenfield the neuroscientist, and authors like Sherry Turkle or Nicholas Carr, and other people were sort of raising these issues or being concerned about these issues that had already sort of, I want to say seeped into the culture but it’s more like being exerted on the culture in a large way or taken up in the culture in a large way even back then during that time.
Interviewer: Children are being addicted to screens and constantly on screens as well, and because their minds are so malleable, are you eliminating the ability ultimately to neurologically engage in deep thought?
Jordan Brown: Of course, I think, yeah to go back to your other question too with what you’ve just said then there, I think it’s very important because we see: some of those effects that we have seen and we’ve seen for several decades–I remember people raising similar concerns about television, children being socialised by television and the behaviour modification that came from television and media that was prolific at that time. So, it’s really it’s almost like this unbroken line and just acceleration and exacerbation between television, and then computers connect to television and then we just sort of have the impacts expand and proliferate from there. So, you know, today if we’re talking about things like addiction–and even the concept of reading I think is something that’s brought up in the film that’s still very relevant today, you know. I think about schools, how schools have this very strong push for total digitalisation of their libraries. I mean, I’ve heard of, I think it was in the Netherlands and I believe somewhere also in the United States as well or maybe it was Canada, I can’t remember where, but some libraries deciding to throw out all of their books because they just sort of had this idea that, oh well, you can get it all on the Internet anyway and, so why do we need books anymore? And they threw out all their books and now they don’t have any physical books. It’s all online. So, that raises up the question of, okay, well, what happens when things disappear from the Internet? Which is something that happens often. And things get deleted or removed or changed. But then, also this larger question of longevity. What happens with things like the energy crisis where we literally run out of fuel to power the Internet and that all starts to shut down? Or not even any sort of infrastructure collapse. I mean, I’m sure everyone’s had this experience, too: hard drives fail or discs get scratched and the data’s lost forever. And even if you’re backing up… there’s a documentary called Digital Amnesia that talks about this, too, you know. I believe it was the NASA moon landing tapes got lost, and other important historical documents were saved on disks that literally can’t be read anymore because the hardware doesn’t exist any longer. So, I think this just brings up the point of the vulnerability of digital information: it’s not permanent, and it doesn’t last as long as we’re expecting it to. It’s a very temporary sort of, I guess, lens on society. But, well, on one level it’s very temporary. On another other level, it’s totally not. You look at things like Facebook and it’s something that you can never delete and even messages that you delete on Facebook sometimes apparently don’t get deleted. So, on one level, we have information that disappears rapidly or is changed rapidly. And then on another level, we have information that has an intent to be kept forever whether or not that’s possible or not, it’s another question.
Interviewer: That makes me think about how the product is you. That the important thing is to keep the data on you, so that you can be mined.
Jordan Brown: Yes.
Interviewer: And so that you know, other information is trivial but when gathering information on you is the point and how to use you to become a great consumer, you know, to consume more and more and more. That data is as saved as sequestered doesn’t go away. And you speak to that as well in the film. So, how is the surveillance and the data mining working now? Has it changed since you made the film? Has it accelerated?
Jordan Brown: Yes. That’s definitely something that’s changed and accelerated since the film. It’s something that’s been around for a long time and I think I could have done a better job to explore this in the film. I think we sort of talked about Facebook generating what they call shadow profiles of everybody, so this is Facebook going out and trying to discern data about every single person whether or not you’re on Facebook. And of course, it’s not just Facebook too, there are many other companies that specialise in this, you know. Axiom comes to mind, or Choicepoint, LexisNexis… Google is another one that deals with this sort of profiling of people, trying to assume what people are interested in, in order to show them targeted advertising. And that’s data that’s regularly traded and sold to… corporations that have an interest in buying it for all sorts of purposes, you know, we’ve seen it be used to work out people’s insurance premiums or to work out what level of health care they should get. And then we get into the territory that’s also very much expanded since the film where we have algorithms that discern whether someone gets a job or what grades they should get in school. That’s something that we saw happen during COVID actually. I believe it was in Britain, where people that couldn’t physically attend school or missed some exams got algorithmically estimated scores because of the interruption to school. So, yeah, we could talk about all sorts of specific effects that are kind of alluded to in the film, but have really accelerated in such a big way since 2017.
I mean, even the political landscape has changed and transformed so significantly since the film is released. That in some ways we’re looking at a much more atomised and fragmented society. We’re looking at this problem where, it’s because of the Filter Bubble, because of the way that we all get these individualised information streams–we each get this tailored perception of the world presented to us through these large corporations–it’s becoming much harder to even sort of agree on baseline reality, let alone having political conversations with people that you may disagree with or that are ideologically different to you.
So, I think that’s something that the film kind of suggests or alludes to. I mean, the film talks a lot about the history of voter manipulation and not just happening in the United States but sort of suggested something that’s happened all across the globe. You know, the back-story with Cambridge Analytica which was one that got a lot of attention and is one that sort of suggested to in the film, had a history of meddling with elections in other countries, and the big experiment was Brexit, and when they worked out that, you know, it only took a few swing voters to move Brexit in the direction that they desired, then the next big test was the Trump campaign. But I think for us on the left, the big missing piece of that story is that this has been going on for a long time, you know. We like to get upset about the manipulation that occurred to put Donald Trump in power, but what we miss so often is that Barack Obama used the same tools, George Bush before him, and then I believe there’s a very early inklings of this within the days of President Clinton.
I think it was in 2004 there’s a video that I have doing background research for the film where, I think it was 2004 or 2003, I can’t remember which year the election was, apologies, someone going from house to house with a PDA, this sort of very early handheld device–this is before smartphones obviously, too–and showing individual swing voters very targeted select messages. I think it was in the state of Ohio, in order to sort of swing things the way they want. But all of this was run on data and all of this was run on predictive analytics. So, gathering information about people working out what sort of personality they had, which means you could guess what sort of behaviour they would exhibit, which means you could generate information campaigns that you knew with a higher probability that they would respond to, and so, that’s just something that we’ve seen become more tailored and more automated in the proceeding years since, the 20 something years since almost.
Interviewer: And to the point where the megamachine has these bubbles of people that have alternative facts. I mean, that’s something that you hear a lot right now, that there are alternative facts and it used to be that you can have your own opinion but the facts are the facts. Now, you’ve got this feedback in a little bubble where you live online and those political entities, those social entities are really insane and acting out in some really insane ways and very emotional ways. I’m so interested in what you brought into the conversation, the combination of losing your memory, losing a grip on facts and becoming extremely emotional. Sounds like a perfect formula for mob formation or something.
Jordan Brown: Yes. As we see, too. I mean, I can’t remember the year but I remember Facebook did an experiment and this is something that’s covered in the film too, where I believe it was some researchers just asked the question: Could you change people’s emotional state if you just altered their news feed slightly? It was done in sort of, I guess semi-subtle ways: if you show someone or if you present a narrative of the world to someone, it can have a big difference on whether they felt depressed, or whether they felt anxious, or whether they felt happy. Which is just sort of one of the many ways which exemplifies just how one platform, in this case specifically Facebook, had such a visceral impact on the emotional content and the emotional experience of someone’s life.
And then when we talk about things like Twitter, where the whole, I guess, one of the main drivers of Twitter is in some ways outrage. It’s this sort of… what you say, it’s very kind of in some ways mob-driven mentality. I mean, it reminds me of this book that John Ronson wrote not that long ago called So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, where you have this culture that’s built around Twitter, where you step out of line on Twitter, and people not just sort of complain at you on Twitter, they actively destroy your life. So there’s some stories in that book that talk about someone made a joke in bad taste and they lost their job and their career was destroyed. So yeah, we’ve really moved from I guess, emotional manipulation which is problematic in and of itself, to driving sort of problematic behaviours in the real world. And to go back to things like Cambridge Analytica where you have billionaires that have this specific interest in driving groups of people to do specific things in the real world then, and that have the data and the ability to manipulate such large groups of people, then yeah, we have a really problematic situation for what it means to be civically engaged in society. There’s a lot to be concerned about with there.
Interviewer: This is fascinating. I understand being a human animal is being emotional and being communal that you have to have those two things. So, it seems logical to me that if you drive down empathy then the community that you will find is very authoritarian and gives you those kinds of perimeters. You don’t step out of line. You step in unison and you belong there because of whatever belief structure is put in place by these incidents, corporate and military kind of entities. You go back to the beginning of who created this and what are they really after. And you also said in the film that it’s really not about making the world any bigger, it’s about social control in a very deep way, in a very savvy way. And at a level with access to data that is beyond any other civilization’s capacity to even dream of. It’s a fascinating film.
Jordan Brown: Well, I don’t even think that’s a conspiracy either.
Jordan Brown: It reminds me of Zuboff’s book, Surveillance Capitalism. This is just what corporations do. There are people in Silicon Valley that talk about data being more valuable than oil now. It’s just the thing… and because things are so unregulated at the moment with what you can do with people’s data, it sort of makes sense from this kind of capitalistic perspective to just get in there quick and do all these nefarious things while they’re not illegal–or even do illegal things because you just won’t get busted, or if you just fold or whatever. There’s lots of money to be made. So yeah, I mean, it kind of sounds like this kind of conspiracy theory that all of this is being used for social control, but I don’t know if I’m of that opinion, I think it’s just sort of a phenomenon playing itself out, you know, these tools that… I guess we can get into this bigger conversation around what sort of technic they are and how you have a tool like the computer that comes from a certain social structure, and that enforces a certain mindset, and there’s this feedback loop that the society changes from the computer and computer changes from the society, and that goes back and forth. Yeah, it brings up this bigger question of, well, what sort of society comes from the computer and makes the computer stronger and vice versa?
Interviewer: Yes. What kind of society do you have when you’re living in two dimensions? And it brings up, for me, another question that’s really important. All of this is happening and especially, I’ve heard some comments from activists during COVID that while all of this is happening, you’re locked down and more and more you’re on that screen and socially isolated, but the machines never stopped rolling. The devastation of the living world never stopped. The mining operations didn’t stop. The exploitation didn’t stop. All of that was actually in some cases, more able to function and more quickly, I think, because you were socially shut down. That’s a really good question. I mean, here we are, we’re talking about the societal impacts and how we’ve been mined as human animals and how devastating it has been to us psychologically and emotionally what’s happening to the rest of the environment, to the rest of the creatures we share this planet with, as a result of what it takes physically to support the net. There’s a very very obvious cost if we just look up for them in screen and look, you know, look over there. What does it cost?
Jordan Brown: Yes, that makes me think of, I saw a news article at the height of COVID lockdown for me in Melbourne that had the headline Jeff Bezos–who’s the CEO of Amazon–his fortune grew by something like twenty four billion dollars during the coronavirus pandemic. And Zoom, this is something I spoke about with Susan Greenfield, the neuroscientist from the film. Everyone turned to Zoom because we’re all sort of stuck inside. But, I think one of the good things… is that we realise that Zoom calls weren’t the same as having a real conversation with someone. It’s like: why are virtual hugs not the same as real hugs? Why is getting a text from someone not the same as having a conversation where you can hear their voice, and look in their eyes, and you’re sharing pheromones, and body gestures, and tone of voice, and things like this? All of that is lost to the screen, and I think one of the tiny good things that may have came out of the COVID lockdown is perhaps because we all turned to technology so much, we realised that yeah, none of this is a sufficient simulation or a replacement for the real world.
But in terms of the lockdown I mean, I guess we can talk about all of this has really visceral direct harms in the real world that we don’t see. I mean, one thing that I’ve been sort of throwing around with some people from production and with my latest film is just the hidden ecological impact of computers and the Internet. Screen culture uses a tenth of the world’s electricity and that’s something like, I think it’s 1,500 terawatt hours of electricity per year, which is 10% of the world’s total electricity generation or roughly the combined power production of Germany and Japan combined. Which is the same amount of electricity that was used to light up the entire planet in 1985, just to give you a comparison of how much we’ve shifted.
Interviewer: That’s incredible.
Jordan Brown: It’s amazing. Just the growth of this is insane. We like to point the finger at the airline industry and blame people for flying around in planes all the time, because the airline industry contributes something like three and a half percent of global pollution output that changes the climate, but the vast server farms that have to exist to make things like Google and Facebook and all of these social media platforms or even websites possible–all of the electricity that’s required to keep those computers running and to keep them cool–in most cases, they’re cooled by air conditioning or by pumping water to cool them down. That’s a huge amount of electricity that’s required to power all of these computers. And the stat I have in front of me which is an old stat, I’m sure it’s changed because of COVID too, but that the Internet was on track to surpass the same output of the airline industry by 2020 in terms of global pollution output and contribution to climate change. Something like, “data centre pollution was expected to grow to 14% of the world’s carbon emissions by 2040.” And I’m sure because of the big kick in growth in all of these Internet services from COVID that number would have changed significantly since. I mean, even the other day I saw an article from CBS saying that carbon dioxide and methane continued to rise throughout 2020 despite all of the economic slowdown called by COVID. And that now the global rate of increase of CO2 was even the 5th highest on record according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
So yeah, long story short, computers and the Internet are just as harmful to the planet as flying around the world on a plane all the time. And I guess that gets us into territory of what we were talking about before about the libraries. Libraries throwing out of all of their books just because you can access it all online. When we think about things like Spotify or YouTube–we’re streaming a movie or listening to a song, streaming from the Internet–we think it doesn’t use that much electricity or it’s environmentally friendly because we’re not doing anything tangible, but all of that pollution and all that electricity generation and usage is still occurring and is in fact growing as more things become digitised. And we just sort of… we put that out of our minds so often.
And this is to speak nothing of the environmental impacts of actually making all of this stuff in the first place.
Jordan Brown: We haven’t even got to stuff like e-waste yet. It’s not something that I know a lot about, but I think doing background for Stare Into The Lights My Pretties is that I was looking at how it’s China and Ghana that accept most of the world’s electronic waste. And because of all of the components that are in computers and mobile phones, we have huge problems with things like mercury and arsenic, cadmium, chlorine, lead, and plastics–all of this leeches into the soil and poisons the groundwater. And then we can talk about things like factory workers in Foxconn that are using, I think it’s benzene or other solvents to do cleaning, who are exposed to these very harsh chemicals and get cancer.
It’s a crazy system.
And also, on top of this too, the churn rate is really high: I think Apple puts out a new iPhone seemingly every other year, so what you do is you throw out your old one or you palm it off to someone else and often gets chucked out, and then you get a new one. So, all of this stuff–especially the plastic–is something that hangs around for thousands of years and has an impact on the environment for a very very long time. So, that with the energy requirements, is something that’s just insane to be doing at a time when the world’s running out of oil, we’re not preparing for a transition. It’s just crazy. It’s literally crazy. I don’t know.
Interviewer: It is crazy. It’s mass insanity. And you mentioned when you were talking that is something you’re looking at for your new project. Could you tell us please about what you’re doing right now?
Jordan Brown: Sure. Thank you for that. I think it’s, well, the thing that I’m working on at the moment is, I guess I’d call it an extension of Stare Into The Lights My Pretties in some sense, in that, it’s taking a specific segment of that film, particularly the start where we’re looking at how did we get here. There’s a segment at the beginning where people are talking about, okay, we’re dispelling this myth that technologies are neutral, they come from and are contextualised by the culture and society at the time. There was an idea that I wanted to… Lewis Mumford is mentioned in the film and this project that I’m working on right now is I guess, how do you say it–zooming in on him specifically, and it was an idea that I really wanted to put into the documentary but had trouble with because of time constraints, but it’s really talking about one of his essays called Authoritarian and Democratic Technics. And so it explains the concept of technics.
Mumford uses the word technics to describe the interaction between the social system that emerges from and gives rise to certain technologies, and then how those technologies in-turn impact the social system, and it’s like that cycle that we’ve been talking about through this conversation. Technics comes from the Greek ‘techne,’ I believe which means not only technology, but this concept of art or skill or dexterity. Technics refers to this interplay of social milieu and technological innovation, which is the wishes, and habits, and ideas, or goals of a society.
So, one of the, well, I guess I should say that Mumford’s whole point or one of his points is that technology is just one aspect of technics, we’ve got this society attached to this too by saying that, you know, other civilisations reached a high degree of technical proficiency without being profoundly influenced by the methods and aims of technics… I don’t know if this is describing it very well, but I guess where I should go to with this is that, what the beginning of Stare Into The Lights My Pretties is talking about is that war, conflict, and competition were the fundamental drivers in the development and escalation of computers and digital technology. So, I kind of wanted to really zero in on that and put the computer into Mumford’s model of Democratic and Authoritarian Technics. Because so often we talk about computers–or the internet especially–being this democratic tool, and it’s going to be this “great levelling” of society, it’s going to be “fantastic for democracy” and so often we see that almost the opposite is true in so many cases. So, I guess I wanted to ask that question: is the computer, is it a democratic technic? Is it an authoritarian technic? And if it is authoritarian, which I’ve come to think it is, then what does that mean for our society and for our futures? The current project is a video essay about this idea. Hopefully, it unpacks that question in a way to sort of leave that with the viewer. Because it’s not just computers too, it’s all sorts of other technologies that this culture is really based on. I mean, another thing that we talk about in the short is agriculture being a huge driver of civilisation. And of course, that’s authoritarian for reasons that are explored in the film… But I hope to have that ready by July, so hopefully that’ll be out there soon enough.
Interviewer: It sounds amazing. I’m so glad that you’re, you know, going in deeper with that pivotal line of thought. I can’t wait to see it. So, you say it’s going to be available in July?
Jordan Brown: I hope so. I mean that’s the self-imposed deadline. But I mean, it was actually meant to be done before the COVID lockdown but of course, yeah, things changed. But hopefully sooner rather than later because it’s a very timely idea and something that’s been on my list for quite a while now. Actually, yeah, since before Stare Into The Lights My Pretties was completed, I really wish I could have worked the idea into the film. I think it would have helped audiences a lot with what’s happened since.
Interviewer: I think, I mean I’ve been re-watching the film as I shared before, and I think that you went over so much in that film and this particular point needed focused energy. I think you made a very wise decision there. And I’m glad that you did.
Jordan Brown: Okay.
Interviewer: This one needs to have its own piece. And I can’t get into your artistic process at all but I would have ended up stalled out at the very beginning and not been able to see the overview of all of the different effects that you spoke of there. It was brilliant.
Jordan Brown: Well, thank you for saying that. And yeah.. I can very much, I relate to that process, too. There was many times in the production of Stare Into The Lights My Pretties where I questioned my ability to actually even do it. I had a couple of false starts after 2009 where I met some amazing people then, and I guess this is where all the credit lies, to a lot of this thinking. A lot of this brilliant analysis comes from others and their tireless work. Just doing interviews throughout the process of making that film, just having my mind blown and totally expanded by… I was on sort of one track and then a lot of people opened that up, so I think that’s how the film got such a big scope. But yeah, thank you for saying that.
Interviewer: When you’re fortunate enough to encounter a community of thinkers that can manage that deep thought, that we’re being deprived of through the megamachine. I love what you just said about having your mind blown repeatedly. And when you have your mind blown, it stops you up short and you have to sit with it.
Jordan Brown: Yes!
Interviewer: All the way through this interview, you’ve referenced so many places for people to go for resources, information, and what you can read. Anything else that you’d like to add to that about sources that you go to? To be able to do your work?
Jordan Brown: I should mention I’m reading a book by Alice Friedman at the moment. She’s just got a new book out called Life After Fossil Fuels. In terms of having your mind blown, that’s been something that’s very profound. I guess, this is a good time to be plugging Max Wilbert, Derrick Jensen, and Lierre Keith’s new book Bright Green Lies that was something that really helped to coalesce a lot of those concerns–to the things we were talking about before about e-waste and manufacturing–the extension of that with green technologies these days, there’s a lot of parallels there in terms of the insanity that’s being pushed forward by capitalism as we go deeper into ecological crisis.
I don’t know if I have any sort of solid sources that I constantly refer to. I am inspired by specific filmmakers. There’s a filmmaker Adam Curtis that I admire, that had a new series out recently looking at the implications of individualism I guess is a short way to say it. That series was called Can’t Get You Out of My Head. Yeah, his back-catalogue of works has been influential on some very profound issues. And another series of his, The Century of The Self was great to understand the beginnings of advertising at that same time in Stare Into The Lights My Pretties which were talking about the beginnings of suburbia and the computer emerging. His whole series The Century of The Self looks at sort of a similar time frame, I guess, yeah maybe sort of the mid-30s or something like that, and then through to the counterculture of the 60s and beyond, talking about consumerism and how advertising sort of shifted into this desire-based and manipulating-the-masses model that has a connection to Sigmund Freud and psychoanalytics… So Edward Bernays, his nephew, was one of the first people that invented Public Relations. So [Adam Curtis’s] work has been really good and really influential. It’s sort of a difficult question…
I’m checking Democracy Now sort of every now and then but yes, I mean that’s a whole other other conversation isn’t it–with the collapse of mainstream media? There used to be sources that I’d go to get a handle on things, but with the consolidation of media outlets now, it’s becoming a little bit more difficult to kind of get something that isn’t too coloured by ideology these days.
Interviewer: I think that this is the perfect place for me, at least is paying attention to that, which does analyse deeply and then connecting with other human beings and that expands my world. The community links expand my world faster than anything else will, so just what you offered to us right now is incredibly valuable. Because that’s the way that I keep finding more and it all relates. It all relates to other pieces of the puzzle. It’s like endlessly putting a puzzle together in your head. Only every single piece is brilliant and you have to look deeply at all the pieces but they all relate.
Jordan Brown: It’s great, so thanks so much for that.
Interviewer: Thank you. I do want to make sure that we hear from you about where we can go to see that video essay. Where can you go to listen to your music? I do have to say your music is amazing. It sent me into a trance state. And now you know, you have some pieces out there that are specifically for activists to help support them. I love that. And then you also are a writer. Where can we go for more?
Jordan Brown: All of my works are on my website at jore.cc. So yeah, you can find all of my films on there. There’s a library of music that I’ve created over the years. There’s interviews, there’s all sorts of stuff on there; downloads, plenty of things to keep you busy. It’s basically everything I’ve ever done in the last decade is up there.
Interviewer: Wow. Thank you.
Jordan Brown: Well thank you for having me, I appreciate it. And like we were saying, I’m equally as appreciative to the community that makes all this possible!
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