Dharma Orientation Film
by Roberta Pearson — University of Nottingham (UK)
October 28, 2007 – 09:00
Say someone accidentally stumbled across this clip on Youtube and had no idea what to make of it. Is it an old documentary, the product of an obscure cult, the celluloid trace of a mad conspiracy? Say our someone then googled the mathematician Enzo Valenzetti mentioned in the clip. Clicking on the first site would take our someone to a site authored by Enzo’s son, Enrico, complete with link to Enrico’s blog. Enzo states that his father was a brilliant mathematician who died a suspicious death. If our someone was by now herself suspicious and clicked on a site further down the list she’d discover that Valenzetti is a fictional character, fabricated for the Lost Experience. The clip itself is of course a fabricated fiction, a component of the ARG that consumed Lost fans between the show’s second and third seasons. It’s part of what Jenkins refers to as transmedia storytelling and participatory culture, brought to us by the collective intelligence of the Losties tracking down the seventy glyphs required to unlock it. A lot of me thinks this is way cool and takes pleasure in the increasing blurring of the real and the virtual enabled by digital media and the internet (and thinks that Lost is way cool enough that I’m editing a book on it at this very moment and hoping for some viral marketing). But I’m also a little worried about the totalising spread of big media that this clip represents, bringing us perilously close to Horkheimer and Adorno territory. Should academics really be celebrating this extension of corporate media into every space of our lives? Might it not be important for us to be able to make distinctions between the real and the virtual?