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Demo Men 2: Forbidden Planet

by Ned O'Gorman

Science fiction film envisions, establishes, and sometimes enforces proper relationships to technologies, especially new technologies.

The Demo Men clips here look at a series of episodes from science fiction cinema in which orthopraxic relationships to computing technologies are enforced through a regular rhetorical form, the demo. In this form the film audience is invited to identify not with an expert operator of computing machinery, but with a novice escorted by an expert into a specialized space. Before the eyes of a novice proxy, the expert operator then performs a masterful demonstration of the technology – outside of normal operation.

Rather than entering the space of computing mid-process, as we often do in depictions of industrial labor, and rather than identifying with a new user in the process of discovery, as we do in some first-contact narratives, most sci-fi introduces computing machinery by making us witness to a highly artificial, self-contained, and rigidly exclusive performance.

In this way, audiences are invited to barely cross over into the novel use of technologies that dominate the background activity of science fiction’s computing spaces.


Demo Men 2: Forbidden Planet

In Forbidden Planet, we follow our protagonists behind Dr. Morbius on a tour of an alien lab, and receive demonstrations of an alien computer that registers brain capacity.

from Forbidden Planet (1956)
Creator: Fred M. Wilcox
Distributor: MGM
Posted by Ned O'Gorman