Shlain film opens MC ‘Connections’ themed Community Conversation series

According to Tiffany Shlain, everything in the universe is connected in an intricate way.
This is the message highlighted in Shlain’s documentary, “Connected,” which was shown as
the introduction to this year’s “Connections” themed Community Conversations series, The
screening at MC took place on Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. in Lawson Auditorium.

The showing of the documentary was the kick-off of this semester’s Community
Conversations events. According to Dr. Kelly Battles, associate professor of English and chair of
the Community Conversations committee, broad concepts are key to the success and diversity
of the Community Conversations festivities.

“We usually try to be as broad as possible so that we can include a variety of things,” Battles
said. “We knew that Dr. John Thatamanil was coming and we knew that he did cross-cultural
religious comparison work, so we used him as a basis to come up with our theme. We ended up
with “Connections,” which is extremely broad and allowed us to have a great deal of flexibility.”

“Connected” has won numerous awards and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in
2011. The documentary is about the filmmaker, Tiffany Shlain and her father. Shlain is the
creator the Webby Awards which are awards given for “excellence on the internet.” Schlain’s
original idea was to make a film along with her father about various kinds of connections in the
world. Right before Schlian and her father started filming, he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Schlain then decided to make the film about her father instead. Schlain then discovered
that she was pregnant with her second child. It had been very difficult for her to get pregnant
and it was considered a high-risk pregnancy. Schlain describes the story of her father’s journey
with cancer and her high-risk pregnancy while incorporating how she had become increasingly
dependent on technology.

Throughout the film, Schlain not only talks about her personal experiences, but the effects
of technology on other people’s lives as well. She discusses in the movie about how she sees
the importance of unplugging yourself from technology for a while every day, but how it is
always a struggle to truly do this.

The film delves into the idea that the world is so much more connected in this time period
because of the need people have to be constantly within reach of technology.

The screening of the documentary was free and open to the public. A question and answer
session was moderated after the showing by Chad Schrock, MC associate professor of
psychology. Some attendees of event felt that the two stories in the film did not tie together
well enough to make the main ideas flow together, but the overall community reaction to the
movie was positive.

The screening was also a required part of the Communication Strategies J-term course for
MC freshmen. Aside from the free public screening, two other private screenings were offered
for freshmen students.

The next part of the Community Conversations series for this semester is a panel discussion
on Feb. 12 about influential women in Blount County, featuring three local women: Nina
Gregg, principal of Communication Resources in Maryville; Wendy Pitt Reeves, chair of the East

Tennessee Women’s Leadership Summit; and Sharon Hannum, the supervisor of Sisters 4 Tomorrow.

“It’s been several years since we’ve had any events focused on women,” Battles said. “So, we thought
that it would be interesting for students and for the community to hear from three prominent women
who are involved in so many different ways in the community.”

On March 17, Lane Hall, a multimedia artist, writer and professor at the University of Wisconsin-
Milwaukee, will give a presentation on grassroots political activism. Hall especially emphasizes the
theme of “Connections,” as he is the brother of MC professor of sociology, Dr. Susan Ambler. Hall is the
co-founder of the Overpass Light Brigade, an organization that creates public art projects created out of
LED letter panels, which participants carry to form a cohesive message. The presentation will take place
in the Lambert Recital Hall in the Clayton Center for the Arts at 7 p.m.

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