“Noah“, a 2013 short film by Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman, is an astute observation of the Information Age, hyperconnected and disembodied, where human interaction is filtered through the digital tools that we use to represent ourselves, that can distort or distill the truth, intentionally or accidentally. Noah is about to head off to college in a different city, and his conversation with his girlfriend Amy has taken on the gravity of a break-up. Suspecting there is someone else, Noah sleuths out details online.
Unfolding entirely within the verisimilitude of a desktop computer, the film’s actions mirror that of a typical computer user’s usages, gathering and giving information across a variety of platforms—social networks, search engines, text messaging and online chat portals. Most revelatory of this medium of communication is the possibility for concealment and an illusion of knowledge, or more incisively, between knowing and not knowing, real knowledge and perceived knowledge. This break-neck pace of information retrieval enables a hubris of certainty, but the truth is a much more uncertain affair.
In the former, concealment is attainable through rapid recall and a faulting of technology: instead of an admission of pornographic indulgence, Noah is able to quickly divert to a meme of cats; in turn, Amy’s near concession of dissolution is interrupted by an unreliable Skype call signal, which alleviates her momentarily, but not without consequence. The latter condition, the illusion of knowledge, is likewise a product of the Internet, as the tenor of veracity changes in its company. Having accessed Amy’s private messages, Noah interprets a collusion that is ultimately untrue, although that knowledge connoted its possibility. Later on, his failure to recognize a musician’s name is remedied through a quick search, crafting an appearance of knowing.
Segmented between the plot progression of the film are representations of today’s multi-tasking, adaptive brains in a hyperlinked world, where an idleness can only ever be artificially created. Noah, as a token of the modern everyman, is a person possessed by the digital realm: emotions are flavoured by iTunes, decisions are mulled over Facebook Chat, and solace can be found in anonymous chat online, en masse. In the absence of any inhibition of impulse, mediated over the specious silence of a semi-private experience, there seems a slight admonition of the networked lifestyle—the truth can be hard to find, its ramifications are swift, and the online persona that one crafts is undoubtedly an exercise of due judgment and undue interpretation.