Andrew Kenneth Martin, Marina Eisen, Alex Eisen

[53 minutes—]

“What is the Internet?” asks one of the now-hilarious VHS-era videos sampled in the opening sequence of the recent collage-umentary INTERNET RISINGFor the next hour, the filmmakers take us on a far-ranging journey through innumerable perspectives on that basic question, from techno-gurus (Kevin Kelly) to e-celebrities (ze frank), media scholars (Douglas Rushkoff) to Second Life activists (Serenity96).

Organized in topical sections, this film’s thesis seems appropriately recursive: the medium is, of course, the message—and the medium of the Internet is a kind of superfluid hologram that itself contains and transforms all prior media (cinema for example) with its hyperlinked collective cognition. Gone is the linear narrative—replaced with the “noetic polities” of ideas existing in association, spatialized in and as people, each of us “possessed by” the ideas of creative freedom, anonymous activism, radical expression, or liberation of potential that the web’s Neptunian promise animates in so many of us.

But as the Internet is a meta-medium itself, an ocean in which music and video, text and programs flow, INTERNET RISING echoes tapes and 8-bit video games, taking the skin of a gritty, pixelated, cyberpunk aesthetic that confuses past and future. Is it simply ironic, or does the noisy anachronism poke fun at our own silly version of the future?

Halfway through the film, everything suddenly shifts from fake tape noise to spinning mycelial galaxies and the angelic endgame of the Internet is exposed. When suddenly the conversation turns to how digital life transcends the survival drive and liberates selfhood into total exploratory richness, it casts the whole conversation of conflict between anonymous protests and web savvy media machines as a drama of cosmic proportions. The corporate cloud as backhanded centralization and #occupy as the first global folk uprising are depicted as characters in a clash of the titans.

To hear people talk about it, you’d think we were building a temple—and maybe therein lies the ultimate point of consensus for which all of us are grasping. There’s something else taking shape here, an angel through the noise… in the midst and mix, a meta-agreement occurs. We may not agree on the nature or potential of cyberspace, but we all recognize its intrinsic value as a medium of (transnational and transpersonal) connection-and maybe that is the first idea that seven billion egoic agendas can get behind. “What’s good for cyberspace?” might be the question that saves the human species.

INTERNET RISING‘s diverse sources and solid talking points make for a fittingly webby presentation, many-faceted and open-ended like the Pandora’s Box this topic is. It’s a film suitable for compassionate mockery by time capsule archaeologists in fifty years, wondering how wise and unsuspecting we were before the Great Awakening.

“Free speech, indeed, depends upon the existence of anonymous speech.”

Watch the video here:


Review by Michael Garfield first appeared in Reality Sandwich.