Digital Skepticism in “Digital Witness”

Music Video Analysis: “Digital Witness” by St. Vincent

by Colin Hodgson

Introduction

Although the number of U.S. adults that use social media has doubled in the last decade, hostility towards social media has risen as well. According to a recent survey by The Verge, less than half of all Americans trust the three major social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) with their information. This anger has resulted from a multitude of issues such as the selling of personal data to third parties, overreaching censorship, lack of action to combat disinformation, and so on. The underlying current, however, is mistrust and fear of technology. While social media may be a new battleground for this struggle between humanity and technology, the conflict itself is extremely old.

Context

“Digital Witness” is the fifth track of St. Vincent’s self-titled album, which came out on February 24, 2014, and won the Grammy for Best Alternative Rock Album. The music video was released on January 31, 2014, and was directed by Chino Moya.

St. Vincent. St. Vincent, Seven Four Entertainment, 2014.

Analysis

Metropolis warns against technological advances without accompanying social advances. The fictional city is sprawling, rich, and abundant because a new and efficient way of generating energy. This energy, however, is powered by the majority of the population who are forced to work below the earth until they die. This type of society is what Fritz Lang feared may emerge, and unfortunately, his fears of immoral uses of technology still ring true. Even in his own time, he saw the development of weapons of mass destruction, chemical warfare, and more horribly inhuman technological advances.

Conclusion

Metropolis is a warning of technological advances without social advances. As Maria, St. Vincent takes on a physical manifestation of social media as she leads the viewers to become more dependent on technology and give up more privacy, essentially forfeiting their individuality to become part of the collective. Like most things on the internet, the colors are meant to distract and draw in with the ultimate goal of devouring the person, like an angler fish. There are many shots emphasizing eyes and the gaze, showing how everyone is monitoring/policing everyone else, just like on social media, and this self-policing is key to maintaining the groupthink that has been created.

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