Upgrade Me! Tech Gadgets and Society

A program that examines why consumers have bought into the "next best thing" culture.


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The future is digital, but is it beautiful? In this program, technology enthusiast Simon Armitage seeks to understand the world’s love affair with all things tech and why consumers have bought into an upgrade culture where the “next big thing” may be more about desire and status than it is about functionality.

Raising many thought-provoking questions, Armitage introduces viewers to a generation of digital natives for whom tech tools are the norm; delves into the psychological factors that have turned many people into gadget junkies; examines the ceaselessly accelerating production cycles for upgrades of all kinds; reveals scientific advances underpinning items in Samsung’s ultracool consumer product lines; and questions the effects of tech on people’s relationship with the world and with each other. He also looks to the future, where “Upgrade me!” may become literal as the line between human and machine grows more and more blurred.

Video Segments

1. Humans and Gadgets Why do people upgrade their tech gadgets? Is it for functionality, or are there deeper, psychological reasons around status and desire? Gadgets have changed people's relationships with the world.

2. Archeology of Upgrades Most people have a drawer somewhere that holds the remnants of their technological pasts--old electronic gadgets and cords that have been abandoned for upgrades.

3. Increased Gadget Sales Is the speed of upgrading accelerating? Despite the credit crunch in the UK, sales of electronic equipment were up 3% over the previous year.

4. Home Entertainment In the home, living rooms in the UK have been transformed into entertainment emporiums. The digital revolution has delivered countless gizmos and gadgets into the heart of people's lives.

5. Children's Digital Gadgets Upgrade culture seems to cross all boundaries of class, age, and ethnicity. At an inner city comprehensive school, children display all the electronic gadgets they carry with them on a daily basis.

6. Gadgets Bring Children Together Today, there seems to be pressure on parents to acquire the latest gadgets for their children. These devices seem to bring children together rather than isolate them from each other. Children examine and play an old phonograph.

7. Progression of Listening Devices After the craze for vinyl records, the cassette and Sony Walkman made their debut. Suddenly, people could take their music with them. Then it was CD, the mini-disk, and finally the MP3 player. The iPod was a quantum leap in music listening.

8. Apple iPod With the iPod, Apple upped the design stakes and brought a new simplicity to music players.

9. South Korea: Cutting Edge of Digital Revolution South Korea is one of the world's most advanced digital societies. The film host tours Samsung headquarters in Seoul. What he sees there astonishes him.

10. Samsung: Products of Tomorrow Samsung's business is to create the products of tomorrow and to anticipate consumer desires. Function is no longer a primary concern. The importance is placed on fashion. Design teams brainstorm next season's phones.

11. House of the Future: Electronic Capabilities Samsung's ring-tone team creates the sounds that compel people to pick up their phones to answer. Samsung designs a house of the future. Electronic devices make it possible to check on the whereabouts of family members.

12. Bathroom of the Future In a bathroom of the future, the film host can have his vital signs checked. Electronic voices talk to him about exercise.

13. South Korea: Test Bed for Samsung South Korea is a test bed for Samsung's newest products. In Seoul, people everywhere have the latest gadgets. Wi-Fi and digital television are available across Korea. People are absorbed in their electronic worlds.

14. South Korea: Trend Setter Throughout Seoul are gaming places where mostly young men spend hours with games. How did South Korea become such a digitally advanced country? Once seen as a follower of Japan, South Korea is now the trendsetter.

15. Importance of Semiconductor At the core of Samsung's phenomenal success is the semiconductor chip.

16. Nanotechnology Samsung's investment in nanotechnology is the key to their success. Every two years the capacity of the semiconductor chip to hold information doubles.

17. South Korea: Transformed by Technology In thirty years, South Korea has been transformed beyond all recognition. It is years ahead of Yorkshire, England, for example, in its connectivity. Today, people barely get to know an object before it is replaced.

18. Low Impact Living Emma Orbach lives alone in a house without any technological advantages. She does not desire any gadgets

19. Gadget Upgrades and Human Psyche A psychologist comments on the effects of constant upgrading on the human psyche. Many people equate happiness with possession of the latest gadget.

20. Electronics Recycling At a large electronics recycling plant, 3000 televisions are processed each day. Forty tons of computers, devices, and wire goods are processed daily.

21. Science Fiction to Science Fact In the last decade, what was once science fiction has become science fact. Computer chips can restore hearing, and implanted sensors can give doctors real-time information.

22. Diagnosis and Treatment with Sensors Scientists have developed two types of sensor: one using light and the other using sound. Small disks the size of contact lenses serve to provide information to patient and doctor. Diabetics could benefit greatly from this technology.


Grade: 6-8, 9-12

Upgrade Me! Tech Gadgets and Society (DVD)
© 2009
Time: 57 Minutes

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