Movies can be a very useful way of discussing ITGS social and ethical issues, but finding films that are relevant, reasonably modern, and realistic enough to make discussion meaningful can be difficult. Below is a list of some of my favourite ITGS related films – both documentary and feature – and the areas of the ITGS syllabus to which they relate. These movies are also helpful as wider viewing resources for students who want to expand their background understanding of concepts.
Government use and abuse of surveillance technology has frequently been in the news recently, with ever more startling revelations about NSA and GCHQ spying. In the light of these news stories, films like Enemy of the State and The Net look much less like science fiction. Both feature protagonists who are pursued by government forces using a variety of technology to locate them and erase records of their past. This directly ties to the privacy and surveillance social and ethical issues and the politics and government scenario. The Net is a somewhat older movie (it features floppy disks!) but is still worth watching – at least until a film about Edward Snowden is released… (Update: There are now two films about Snowden (Citizenfour – which is a documentary, and ‘Snowden‘ which is a feature film based on Snowden’s life).
Several well-known documentary films address the phenomenon of obsessive computer gaming and the effects on players and their families, which could be studied under either the Home & Leisure or Health areas of ITGS. The King of King: A Fistful of Quarters (pictured), High Score, and Ecstasy Of Order: The Tetris Masters all deal with the video game world records attempts (for Nintendo’s Donkey Kong, Atari’s Missile Command, and Tetris respectively) as players battle each other on and off screen to be crowned the world’s best player. Each film offers a unique, sometimes worrying, insight that is sure to be a great source for ITGS class discussions.
In 2005 the American defence research agency DARPA staged the Grand Challenge – a competition for driverless vehicles across a 200km course in the Nevada desert. The Great Robot Race is the story of that competition. It offers an excellent insight into the challenges each team faces and the approaches they take in solving them, and is a very useful resource for ITGS HL students when studying the Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Expert Systems topic. Although the film is a little old now, this itself can lead to interesting debates about the speed of technological developments (for example Google’s driverless vehicle) and ethical questions about any limits that could, or should, be placed on the technology we develop.
Although computer history is not a key focus of ITGS, examining the historical context of certain issues can help students understand current situations and concerns. Many computer history documentaries are a little dry, but some of the better ones are Triumph of the Nerds, which features well known industry figures including Bill Gates and Steve Jobs; Revolution OS, which traces the roots of the free software movement; and Pirates of Silicon Valley, a dramatization of the birth of computer giants Microsoft and Apple. These films work best when watched as short clips within the context of other lesson activities.