[Report] Screening of the documentary film "Cyber Everything" and roundtable discussion - What is the human condition in cyberspace?

On May 10, 2023, the documentary film “Cyber Everything” directed and produced by Shimon Dotan (New York University) and Netaya Anbar (New York University) was firstly screened at Scramble Hall, Shibuya QWS, Tokyo. The screening was followed by a panel discussion, with the following participants: Markus Gabriel (Professor, The University of Bonn), Katsuhiko Hibino (President, Tokyo University of the Arts), Teruo Fujii (President, The University of Tokyo), Takahiro Nakajima (Director of the Institute of Oriental Culture, and Academic Advisor to EAA, The University of Tokyo). Interpretation was conducted by Maki Sato (The New Institute Fellow).

Over recent years, cyber has emerged as a concept and issue drawing tremendous attention, either as a social phenomenon or in the field of artistic and aesthetic research. As the word “cyber,” which originally meant “relating to computer networks,” is rendered in both Japanese and Chinese in transliterated form as “サイバー”or “赛博,” its content and influence can no longer be embodied by a pre-existing vocabulary.

The film, as the director and producer stated, seeks to elucidate how “cyber,” as a mechanism or as a kind of organizational principle, rather than a cybered object processed by computers and the internet, permeated all aspects of our lives and societies. One focus of the work was the historical relationship between humanity, information and communication technologies. This is because the aim of the work was not to predict the future, but to connect with the past, which is believed to be the key to humanity gaining a better understanding of the direction we are headed. Our way of life, once so radically transformed by printing technology, has been overturned on an even more fundamental level by the emergence of the internet – one that concerns the way we perceive the world and reality, and the existential condition of human beings.

In the roundtable discussion that followed, the moderator, Prof Nakajima, pointed out that today human beings already can no longer stop scientific progress and must advance on this premise. Therefore, considering the various directions of expertise possessed by the panelists, he raised important issues such as the relationship between human beings and machines, the redefinition of “art” and “beauty,” new opportunities for building peace and the need for relevant laws and regulations in practical life. Through the discussion it was revealed that not only the problems and crises brought about by cyber, but also the unprecedented opportunities. The opportunity here is, first and foremost, to free human beings from the limitations of individual vision and experience, and to give them the chance to see the diversity of the world through databases. With cyber, we are also creating new art forms that overcome regional, racial and religious barriers and lead to a new kind of harmony.

Reported by Yi Ding (Project Researcher Fellow, EAA)