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Demo Men 1: Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

by Ned O'Gorman

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

In the Demo Men clips here, we 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.

In Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, we see an early visit by a film crew to an actual computing research facility. Here, we follow the protagonist as an expert professor demonstrates application of an early computer, Vannevar Bush’s differential analyzer.

Demo Men 1: Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

Demo Men This clip from _Earth vs Flying Saucers_ is the product of an early visit by a film crew to an actual computing research facility. Here, we follow the protagonist as an expert professor demonstrates application of an early computer, Vannevar Bush’s differential analyzer.

from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
Creator: Fred F. Sears, Director; Clover Productions
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Posted by Ned O'Gorman
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