The Internet of Everything, a TV documentary, comes from Brett Gaylor, whose previous works include a documentary about Girl Talk. That lightness seeps into this new work about the internet’s omnipresence. Damn kids and their screens, weird online toilets, etc. But a decade of working also means the same amount of time for growth.
He then moves on from lighter topics and takes his camera outward. Gaylor shows us drone footage of cities, implying the invisible connections between these spaces. And how governments or private companies can use those connections in malevolent or benevolent ways. New technology can betray us, and he’s here to tell us the bad news first. He shows and narrates examples of technology going awry.
There’s the case of a man whose insurance won’t cover him because they haven’t collected his information properly. But again, this is about the big picture. Gaylor then shows us social media moguls like Mark Zuckerberg apologizing for his messes. And then, world leaders like Boris Johnson go to bat for these private corporations. Valid targets for the choir.
There’s the difficulty in showing the big picture in that it might make a documentary feel scattered. We jump from Canada to the West to China. Specifically, there’s a city called Shenzhen. It turned from a fishing port to a metropolis where 90% of all electronics pass through. That’s a change that took one or two generations. Gaylor shows both the glamorous and not so tech-y spaces within Shenzhen.
The Internet of Everything can’t avoid the binaries and clichés that audiences have previously seen in dystopic films. Shenzhen also has online moral policing. And since this is a Canadian doc, it loops worldwide trends to its local copies. Vancouver BC has predictive policing, the movie showing police headquarters with CCTV cameras. And as much as the film tries to be subtle about it, its images still feel ominous.
The Internet of Everything, which is tangentially about devices, thankfully still has a personal tone. This documentary still has its share of interviews, one of which is with someone within the Vancouver Police. It’s a civil discussion. But it’s a still a strange decision to be combative towards online toilet guy. Meanwhile, it’s soft balling someone using creepy devices.
All of that said, The Internet of Everything tries to end on a high note. And I can’t help but fall for it. It shows how our devices can help us in making our environment better. What better way to end a documentary than that?Connecting both Chinese manufacturing and Western innovation, the documentary shows positive and negative ways to use both.
The Internet of Everything premieres at CBC Docs POV on March 22 and will stream on CBC Gem.