Cherishing Fleeting Moments of Connectivity

Before COVID -19, I walked briskly, focused, listening to music. I wanted to finish my walk quickly, so I could return home to prepare dinner. I was busy, and walking was a chore. During the quarantine, my life slowed down. Now, I look forward to taking my daily walks. I walk when it is cold; I walk when it is rainy. I take my time looking at the trees with dying leaves; the flowers struggling to bloom, the leaves blowing in the wind. I breathe slowly and enjoy the fresh air filling my lungs; I love the feel of the wind on the face. I have developed a greater appreciation for the beauty of nature. I enjoy the freedom of stepping out of my house, and I cannot imagine being quarantined in our homes without stepping outside. My thoughts drift to prisoners in solitary confinement. I cannot fathom being in a cell for 24 hours without the freedom to go outside.  

I also had another magical moment of connectivity during the OER: The Care in Openness Conference 2020. I read and blogged about “Frames,” then Dr. Singh replied to my Tweet. (I was pleasantly surprised.) Then I listened to Dr. Singh and my professor Dr. Zamora in London at the OER Conference discussing “Frames.” It was nice to see my professor’s familiar face on the YouTube video. Then I heard from a familiar Hi! It was my classmate from New Jersey, Medea, who called in during the Q&A portion of Dr. Zamora’s interview with the keynote speaker, Dr. Sava Saheli Singh. I was moved by Medea’s passionate commentary of “Frames”; she made an insightful comment that “We need to immerse ourselves within art.”

We need nature or art to help us connect to our emotions. “Frames” fills that void. It is a provocative work of art with “no dialogue,” which Dr. Zamora pointed out during the interview. Dr. Singh commented that “It was quiet. But loud in its message.” The theme of “Frames” is memorable and provocative, especially during the time of the quarantine and social distancing. During this quarantine, people are experiencing isolation for the first time in their lives. Students are sitting in front of laptops, computers, or cell phones without social interaction. They cannot go to the playground to play. They cannot go to a birthday party. They cannot be kids. I know that they are resilient and hope to heal from this pandemic.

To further heighten this fear of isolation, the media is reporting that loved ones infected with COVID-19 die alone. In “Frames,” the protagonist also experiences a lonely death. She dies alone. For a majority of people, dying alone is frightening. We want to die peacefully surrounded by our loved ones.

When Dr. Zamora asked regarding the ending of “Frames,” Dr. Singh clarifies that the protagonist planned her demise. In the beginning of the film, she left an envelope with a farewell note. Big Data was unable to identify the object and issued a red alert. According to Dr. Singh, the protagonist regains her agency from falling off the grid. She is free from Big Data. Her literary death frees her. I appreciate Dr. Singh’s optimistic point of view; however, the ending of “Frames” reminds me of the house in Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains” where the house is left standing when all the people die during an atomic holocaust. From a techno-dystopian perspective, Big Data continues to live on while the protagonist dies. 

The house survives, while the human inhabitants die.

In this frame narrative, there is a story within a story. The inner frame is the story of the protagonist’s last day, and the outer frame is from the point of view of the machine. Dr. Singh explains that the point of view of the machine is cold and calculating.

On a positive note, the machine (the Internet) was able to bring all the participants from around the world to this conference. At the end of the interview, there was another moment of connectivity when I heard from people from Scotland and Ireland during the conference. That is the magical moment of connectedness in our global digital world. 

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