Speaking of Netflix…

by | Jan 1, 2019 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

[Previously, in Episode 14, I drew a connection between Netflix’s biggest competitor (i.e., sleep) and ADRABA’s biggest competitor (i.e., fear) – and concluded that, as Rabbi Nachman counselled:  The most important thing is to not be afraid.   For the complete post, click here.  And now, Episode 15… ]

A bandersnatch is a fictional creature in Lewis Carroll’s 1872 novel Through the Looking-Glass and his 1874 poem “The Hunting of the Snark.”

On Netflix, “Bandersnatch” is the name of the latest episode of Black Mirror that dropped on December 28, 2018. 

Black Mirror is a science fiction anthology series which explores the unanticipated consequences of new technologies.  “Bandersnatch” is constructed as a “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” movie, with the viewer able to select one of two options which then changes the course of the story.

Set in 1984, Stefan, an aspiring video game designer, wants to adapt Bandersnatch, a massive Choose-Your-Own-Adventure paperback. While Stefan’s journey goes down many different paths, one element remains constant while he works on the game: Juggling all the options can drive a person insane.

Some of the options seem insignificant (Frosties or Sugar Puffs?) while others are fateful (Accept the job offer or refuse?).  Netflix developed special software for the show-runner Charlie Brooker to manage all the forking paths.  Viewers online have opined that there are five discrete endings to the story.  Some have argued seven.   

As the story unfolds, we are along for the ride (or are we driving?) while Stefan (and Charlie Brooker) explores the question of control.  None of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels I rifled through as a kid in the 1970s even remotely addressed such a ponderous and weighty question.  And though Netflix has been playing around with this viewer-interactive capability for months, “Bandersnatch” was the first foray into adult story-telling, where the medium is also the message.

If you ask me, story-telling has been changed forever.  No longer are stories meant to unfold in a strictly linear fashion. More importantly, no longer is the viewer a passive spectator to the unfolding of the story.

Netflix can only exist in the 21st century, using technology to up-end traditional story telling while innovating how subscribers can consume (and, at the same time, create) narratives.

Like Netflix, ADRABA can only exist in the 21st century, using technology to up-end traditional education while innovating how learners engage with Jewish tradition and the broader kehillah.

And like “Bandersnatch” on Netflix, ADRABA, is at once, very convenient – but demanding.  “Bandersnatch” will only work on devices with the most recent version of the Netflix app because it has to cache two separate scenes up from a list to play seamlessly after your choice has been made.  ADRABA is all about personalized learning and “schools of one,” but it requires a dramatic leap from the parents of our first cohort.  As a wise counsellor wrote me, early adopters are not enough.  ADRABA needs pioneers. 

And so, as Winter Break comes to an end, (and I cue up “Bandersnatch” for yet one more go at the tangled tale), we at ADRABA continue to work closely with the pioneer families who will be the first and pave the way for those to follow – and change Jewish education for the better.