Cinematic Machines: Film and The Modern Technological Imaginary

  • Location:
    Veteranenstr. 21, Berlin 10119

School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe presents a five-week live online program exploring the interplays between cinema and technology.

About this Event:

What can the cinema's spectacular illusions and popular mythologies tell us about ideas concerning technology, human ambitions, and social norms?

/ Five-week Live* Online class begins 4. November, ends 2. December

/ Every Wednesday, 7pm-9pm, CEST

/ Small class of participants

/ €176.68 – €261.79

/ Event Link:

Course Description

Throughout modern history, technology has not only embodied human ambitions and shaped social systems, but it has also served to tell stories about constant change and progress. Electricity, railways, mechanical engineering, or computers have been almost as important factors in creating knowledge and fantasies about the industrial age as they were in industrial production itself. In this process, film came about not only as a strikingly complex and rich medium of human expression, but also as a highly efficient technological means of mass communication.

Capturing the public’s imagination, cinema created a symbolic space in which multitudes could collectively encounter and ponder upon their hopes and concerns about the surrounding techno-social environment. However, in recent times, instead of physically gathering to see moving images, people have found themselves socially distanced and connected to ubiquitous virtual realities. This is a context, in which we need to revisit cinema’s sensational presentations and influential myths, reconsidering the relationships between humanity and technology.

This class aims at recognizing, analyzing and criticizing these complex encounters. Highlighting issues such as work, gender, or social control, it focuses on the ways films have grasped the mutual co-construction of societies and technologies. It deals with the recurrent tropes of domination and dialogue that have kept the myth of modernity in constant motion throughout the years, incessantly challenging, modifying and reinforcing it in popular films.

Each week, we will look at a specific cinematic topic through a series of ideas, concepts, and a rough film historical contextualization. This will set the stage for more detailed case studies (one or two well-known films each week). Finally, in the last part of each session, participants will have the occasion to reflect on the discussed problems from their own perspectives and with regard to their own everyday practices. These personal takes can be further explored in the creative assignments participants will receive each week.


Week one: A moment to get to know each other.
To help make the online classroom experience a bit more convivial and a bit less virtual, we will begin by introducing ourselves, and exchanging about our backgrounds and our relationships to film and technology. These personal points and a brief conceptual introduction will serve as a framework to our discussion about what we expect from the class and what we hope to gain.

Week two: Technology, Work and Gender
After an overview of some concepts related to work and labor, we will briefly consider how the distribution of tasks affects the organization of modern societies, and how this system assigns specific roles to individuals. Afterwards, through a series of film historical examples, we will look at discourses that normalize or criticize these social roles. Ultimately, we will focus on how certain kinds of work have been made “invisible” in modern societies, and what this has to do with gendered divisions.

Week three: Human, Machine, Posthuman
While getting familiar with a handful of ideas and cinematic subgenres that question the human-centered worldview of the Enlightenment, this class will ask what non-human characters and non-anthropocentric forms in the cinema can tell us about ourselves. Cinema, a kind of technological prosthetic itself, offers encounters with sentient machines and intelligent systems that unavoidably modify our bodies and selves upon interaction.

Week four: Technology and Social Control
In the first part of this session, we will mention some ways technology has been used in the arrangement, surveillance, and control of modern societies. Subsequently, we will trace cinematic encounters with utopian and dystopian visions of human society, enabled by technological means. We will relate the tropes of domination and dialogue to the inhumane dictatorships and freedom fighter hackers that inhabit moving images, and will discuss possibilities to present technology as a tool for changing society.

Week five: Are there Alternatives?
After studying the myths that constitute modernity, we will take a brief glance at approaches that refuse or merely ignore them. Through the discussion of a series of examples, in which technology is uncoupled from progress and rationality, we will hint at possibilities of further exploring alternative mythologies. Ultimately, all the works and ideas participants developed during the class will be shared and discussed.

Who is this course for?
The course is designed for humans curious about the history and aesthetics of film and for anyone who seeks to develop an analytical approach or is interested in reflecting on popular images, stories, and discourse related to technology as portrayed through film. Artists, designers, makers, researchers, and anyone wanting to readdress their own relation to technology, come join us! No prior experience is required.

International participants welcome!

The classes are live?*
Classes are 'live' meaning that you can directly interact with the instructor as well as with the other participants from around the world. Classes will also be recorded for playback in case you are unable to attend for any reason. For specific questions, please email info[at]


Márton Árva

Marton Arva is a film freak, critic, and Film Studies PhD candidate, venturing to explore alternatives to mainstream Western aesthetics, mostly from a decolonial or postcolonial standpoint. His research projects, which he conducted in universities, research institutes and archives in Budapest, Mexico City, Madrid, and Berlin, focus on filmic expressions of social inequalities and the critique of Western modernity. He has been writing on films since 2010, covering such major events as the Cannes International Film Festival and the Berlinale, and interviewing leading figures of the contemporary art house scene, such as Pablo Larraín, Ruben Östlund, or Amat Escalante.

His former projects related to moving images include teaching university classes at ELTE University, Budapest, editing a book on contemporary Latin American filmmakers (Kino Latino, Prizma, 2020), writing dialogues for a daily TV series, and working as a cameraman in a puppet show for children. His most recent research project addresses how discourses of scientific knowledge, technology and progress have been shaping film culture and human imaginaries.