TELEPRESENCE IN POPULAR CULTURE

A study of portrayals of presence

Tales from the Dark Side: All a Clone by the Telephone

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ABOUT THE WORK

MEDIUM:

TV episode 

YEAR:

1985 

WRITER(S):

Haskell Barkin 

OWN COPY?

No 
 

ABOUT THE STORY

SUMMARY:

from imdb.com Author: Danny Blankenship from Petersburg, Virginia Overall this TFTD episode is one of the better ones, it features good acting from TV comedy man Harry Anderson and the plot is interesting and good. Anderson is an out of work TV screen writer who needs a job, plus he's lonely in his apartment, but he always takes calls from his answering machine. All of a sudden this answering machine takes on a life of it's own a talking voice that starts to talk for him and leave messages to other people pretending to be his voice. Basically this is a machine taking over the life of a man! At first this seem odd only finally a shared plan is thought of between answering machine and man as the Anderson character takes it's advice on his new job, and this will finally work to his advantage! Really this was a well done episode that featured good acting with a good story, and it sent a message this during the mid 1980's that machines of all types are taking over man and they are really the future!  

ERA/YEAR:

Present day when produced 

CHARACTERISTICS
OF WORLD:

Present day 1985. 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE-EVOKING TECHNOLOGY
NAME:
answering machine 
DESCRIPTION:
The answering machine is about 2 feet by one foot - large for an answering machine. It is stationary and cannot move, but can make its own phone calls and track down where Leon is and call him there. The machine can speak as if a person, which is how Leon interacts with it. People on the phone think it is a person. He/it can also imatate Leon's voice perfectly. The machine must be plugged in to work. It acts superior and condescending, is rude to people Leon knows, and is ambitious. 
NATURE OF TASK OR ACTIVITY:
People interact with it over the phone, although Leon speaks to it when he is in his apartment. It only leaves messages - it does not actually converse with anyone but Leon or other answering machines. 
PERFORMANCE OF THE TECHNOLOGY:
works well. it even gets Leon a job by pitching a story to a producers answering machine. 
 
ABOUT THE CREATORS OF THE TECHNOLOGY
DESCRIPTION:
unknown.  
MAJOR GOAL(S):
unknown. 
 
ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO EXPERIENCE PRESENCE
DESCRIPTION:
Leon interacts with it the most and in person. He is male, in his 20s or 30s, and white. He is a television script writer. 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE EXPERIENCE
TYPE(S) OF PRESENCE:
Social presence 
DESCRIPTION:
the machine is rude and mean. He/it purposely messes with Leon's life, first insulting his girlfriend and then later proposing to her. However, by the end, the machine gets Leon a job and reveals his ambition. Leon will be his conduit to fame. 
USER AWARENESS:
yes. 
VALENCE:
unpleasant. the machine is narcisstic, rude, and generally mean - does not seem to care for people. 
SPECIFIC RESPONSES:
intense parasocial relationship, feelings of depression, emotional response, anger. 
 
ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF PRESENCE
LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES:
Bittersweet. Leon gets the job he wants - but he must listen to the machine and write what he/it dictates. It is using him to express his/its ideas. 
 
AND FINALLY...
OTHER INFORMATION:
 
CODER NAME:
Amanda Scheiner 
CODER E-MAIL:
amandags@temple.edu 
CODER AFFILIATION:
Temple University 
DATE CODED:
3/22/2007 

 


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