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Facebook's 'Adorno Changed My Life'

Facebook's 'Adorno Changed My Life'

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Theodor Adorno was an influential member of the Frankfurt School of social theory a German-born intellectual who fled Nazi Germany for America, and whose work anticipates and informs much post-modern theory. In this revolutionary 'participatory documentary,' digital filmmaker Georg Boch, one of more than 200 people that belong to a Facebook group called 'Adorno Changed My Life,' sets out to learn how Adorno's work has touched the group's lives.

For the film, Boch solicits videos and Skype conversations. Unlike the traditional documentary, this approach allows each of the participants to frame how they want to be perceived and to direct their own conversations.

For art historian Travis English, who shamelessly multitasks on camera, reading Adorno for the first time was like 'swallowing a stick of dynamite.' Australian intellectual Ivan Krisjansen (who uses a portrait of Adorno as his Facebook profile photo) compares it to 'climbing Mount Everest, standing on the peak and being able to see forever.'

Digital culture critic Dennis Redmond who at times speaks in front of a shelf full of teddy bears sees parallels between Adorno's work and the digital commons. Redmond encourages viewers to read random pages from Adorno to see how they seamlessly fit into a whole in the same way that fragments of digital culture mesh.

It's also a metaphor for the film itself: far-flung, isolated members of an online group whose individual contributions are transformed into a cultural product. The film also makes no attempt to hide its digital roots. Rather than cleaning up time lags or sharpening focus, it celebrates the imperfections of digital communication.

FACEBOOK'S 'ADORNO CHANGED MY LIFE' resists the temptation to offer a potted guide to the philosopher's thought. Instead, it allows its participants to set the terms of the conversation, and to reveal their relationships to Adorno's work. Even if they feel, as does Moldavian emigrant Vitalie Bezdiga, that 'Theodore Adorno is of no great help when it comes to jobs or employment.'

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