Reflektor

On Monday Sept 6, Arcade Fire released two music videos for their new single “Reflektor.” One, above, is easily playable on YouTube and is interesting in its own right. However, they also released a version that is only playable via google chrome, and requires access to your video camera as well as your smartphone. This version is interactive, the video changes with how you move your smartphone. While perhaps the technology itself is not very impressive–in an age of touch screens small enough to fit in our pockets, the idea that you can control something on a computer screen with your smartphone isn’t surprising–the complex messages this video presents might keep us talking about it for years to come. The song itself seems to express the difficulties of truly being able to connect with someone in our age of technology. With lyrics like “I thought I found the connector/ It’s just a Relflektor” and “We’re still connected/But are we even friends?” the song seems to question the kinds of connections and relationships that we have–ones that are characterized by constant contact but also by great distance. Even the images in the interactive video itself seem to enforce this idea.  Joe Fassler, in an article for The Atlantic, describes one of the most captivating images of the piece–in which the dancer is “connected” to our smartphone by little strands of light and we can move her as if she is a marionette. The dancer is tethered by these strands, these connections, but then suddenly she “breaks free.” As the dancer smashes a shining tablet with her reflection on it, the words “break free” appear on your smartphone as well as sporadically on your screen. The dancer herself is free, no longer attached to any strands of light, and she seems finally happy. The message of this video clearly seems to be to break free from the non-real connections that Internet provides and to go out and live life. Given the apparent message of this song it seems almost ironic that Arcade Fire chose to create a video where the audience is “connected” to the screen via technology. Not only do you need an internet connection, you need to be connected  to technology in multiple ways all at the same time in order to experience the video. Joe Fassler claims that the fact that the media embraced this video as a technological feat and barely mentions the subversive message is further proof that on the internet we are “reflecting not connecting.” But I wonder if there’s an even stronger message present in this song and video, one that questions not only the connections we make on the internet, but also our connection to the internet itself. The internet is so much a part of our lives that it is literally affecting the way we see and interact with the world. And I wonder if it is even possible for us to “break free” and if Arcade Fire even really wants us to.

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