The 30-year anniversary of the World Wide Web is here - a perfect moment to reflect on the social and cultural implications of the networked human. I can’t wait to see what our emerging creatives are going to tell us about our digital selves.

19 September 2018
By Will Massa
Will is a Curator (Contemporary Fiction) for the BFI National Archive

Courtesy of whiteMocca/

Pshhhkkkkkbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrshchchchchchchch. First we dialled up. We visited the static pages of the World Wide Web. We waited excitedly for photos to load on screen. We surfed across sites on hyperlinks and chatted in online rooms with people we’d never met. We built GeoCities, we Java-d, we Flashed. Then we got interactive and things got big. But not the computers, they got small. We searched. We went social and reunited with old friends. We connected while we disconnected. We recorded and shared, commented and liked, blogged and emojied. We found voices and community. We filmed everything and some of it went viral. We gave up our data. We hashtagged, GIFed and memed. We sniffed out truths and we peddled lies. We agreed with our own and shouted at others.  We stayed up later than we should have laughing at cats. Celebrities changed shape. Our selves divided. Realities mixed. We danced to algorithms and shook hands with AI. We moved beyond language. We created impossible amounts of information in a very short space of time. We had more than one life.

Our contemporary condition is a mediated one. We live a life of screens and, more than ever, of moving images. For anyone interested in creating those moving images, communication technologies, digital cameras, and the internet have opened up unprecedented opportunities for production and dissemination. Indeed, from its earliest moments creatives, filmmakers and animators have harnessed the digital canvas and seized upon its possibilities. Legions followed, promoting, distributing and finding new audiences with their work, smashing down barriers and elbowing gatekeepers to one side. Beyond filmmaking, the creation and posting of moving images has emerged as a new lexicon that is edging us into a post-textual landscape. The sum total of human online culture endeavours means the internet has become the largest repository of moving image content that humankind has ever known. Some of this was created for the internet specifically, some of it has found its way online after a busy life elsewhere. Some of it is of the internet, inspired by the aesthetics and created by the tools of its environment, aesthetics that are working their way back into big screen filmmaking in a symbiotic feedback loop.

There are those who have only ever known this connected world, navigating effortlessly between URL and IRL. There are others who are increasingly drawn to a life off-grid, clinging to the vestiges of a slower time. And there are some in the middle, straddling the old and the new uncertainly.   Whatever your position, the internet and its attendant devices continue to shape us all. The BORN DIGITAL commissions are an invitation: to come up for air and explore this dizzying chapter of human existence and to ask questions about where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re headed. Whether you are 1.0, 2.0, or 3.0 – we want to hear what you.0 has to say.

Further Reference:

Neighbour (2017) dir. Adam Csoka Keller

Don't Hug Me I'm Scared IV (2015) dir. Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling

Russian Roulette (2014) dir. Ben Aston


Find out more about BBC Four and BFI's short film grants, Born Digital here.