CONNECTED: an autobiography about love, death & technology

| March 12, 2013

CONNECTED: an autobiography about love, death & technology is a fast-paced, eye opening film by Tiffany Shlain that explores the impact of technology and the world’s connectiveness to the Internet and other media that serves to make us more independent, when we should certainly be more interdependent on each other to solve the world’s problem.

She begins with a story about seeing an old friend after many years, but sneaking away to the bathroom to check her text messages. I am sure many people also remember that when we took airplane flights, people were happy when the flight ended, so they could smoke. Now, it seems everyone is glad when the plane lands, so they can text or call loved ones and associates.

Tiffany begins with a history of how the alphabet came to be and with that a way for humans to connect with one another. She also brings into the discussion her father, noted San Francisco surgeon and writer Leonard Shlain, who received a diagnosis of brain cancer in 2007, and to whom she had been very close.

The human brain evolved to seek out contact with others, according to CONNECTED, and the alphabet made it easier to keep narrative records. By accumulating knowledge, humans progressed and multiplied. But literacy changed the way that humans thought, and it shifted the balance of power between the sexes. Leonard Shlain had posited that the left brain had masculine traits, while the right brain was more feminine. Literacy, therefore, created this patriarchy that led to the depression of women and female thinking.

The more connected we became, the greater the consequences, and Tiffany pointed to the advent of television in the 1950’s as allowing the United States to see each other differently and to see news reports from around the world. She says that this reactivated the right hemisphere of the brain and strengthened women.

While working on her film, Tiffany’s father was working on his last book, but was slowed down because he temporarily lost his ability to speak. And there was more bad news for Tiffany. Around that same time, she was enduring a difficult pregnancy, after five miscarriages after having had a daughter five years prior.

As her need to discuss technology became overshadowed by her father’s medical condition and influence on her life, Tiffany’s CONNECTED shows that she absolutely adored, respected and cherished her father and all the many things that he meant to her. She had become dependent on him, much like she says the world has become dependent on many forms of technology. She shared the story of him following her on the Golden Gate Bridge as she drove for the first time. She got into an accident, but her father miraculously appeared to rescue her as if he were Superman, because he had been following her.

And while people have many gadgets to keep them occupied, these gadgets provide new information that simply creates dopamine, which feeds the need for pleasure. But we are never thoroughly pleased. That’s why people are constantly clicking, tweeting and downloading away in a quest for more information. But technology can be a curse, Tiffany says, as she believes that cell phones, toxins and insecticides had contributed to the prevalence of cancer diagnoses, particularly her father’s, and we should disconnect every once in a while. On the other hand, technology extends our brain’s ability, with close to 2 billion people online and 5 billion cellphones—this should lead to a participatory revolution. But in the end, this connection with people from around the world should help unite us to connect both broadly and deeply to solve the world’s problems. CONNECTED teaches us that while online and out in cyberspace, we should harness the potential of people all over.

I liked this movie, because it played out differently than I thought it would. It was chock full of funny moments and brilliant animated illustrations detailing historical significances—serving as both a documentary and a memoir about Tiffany’s life and the eventual death of her loving father.

CONNECTED world premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival; was released theatrically in the U.S. in 11 cities (held over in five); has screened more than 1,000 times around the globe – including at more than 200 educational institutions worldwide—and has been selected by the U.S. State Department to represent the States at U.S. embassies around the world as part of its 2012 American Film Showcase.

Honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century,” Tiffany Shlain is a filmmaker, artist, director of the Moxie Institute, founder of The Webby Awards, co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and has advised Secretary Hillary Clinton on the Internet and society.

CONNECTED is available March 12 on DVD. For more information, visit

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
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