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Video clip synopsis – Humans have always argued over territory; it’s just that the weapons get deadlier and the rules keep changing.
Year of production - 2002
Duration - 5min 0sec
Tags - Law, human rights, international relations, politics, trade unions, see all tags

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The Global Machine

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About the Video Clip

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The Global Machine is an episode of the series Human Contraptions (10 × 5 mins) produced in 2002.

Academy Award winning animator Bruce Petty takes a satirical look at the “contraptions” that shape our lives. Education, sex, finance, globalism, art, media, medicine, law, government and even the brain are transformed by Petty into evolving machines. Beginning with a simple concept, he takes us on an anarchic journey through history as each apparatus builds to its complex contemporary form. In the wry, ironic style that is his hallmark, Petty reveals these to be contraptions of a very human kind – imperfect, sometimes unpredictable and always subject to change. A witty, provocative and entertaining series, narrated by Andrew Denton.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Curriculum Focus

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By viewing this video clip, students have the opportunity to examine how global systems and institutions affect Australia’s systems and institutions. Students investigate and evaluate:

  • the development of the global machine, including development of important ideas of democracy, government and citizenship rights, and the concept of power and dissent, developed from ancient to modern times
  • Australia’s relationships with other countries and participation in global systems of law, diplomacy, human rights, trade and security.

For further information please consult Queensland Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Framework’s SOSE Essential Learnings and Standards

Background Information

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Academy Award winning animator and political cartoonist Bruce Petty says that ”caricature is a device by which we hope to make complex ideas (at least) accessible, (occasionally) witty and (sometimes) informative”.

His professional life has always been about finding those gaps and niches and trying to fill them in. He explains the challenge in creating the Human Contraptions series in this way: “I wanted Human Contraptions to be a cheerful reminder that as our cars, videos and toasters get smarter and cheaper, the institutions we really need are getting more expensive and unreliable, and are starting to rattle. I hope viewers recognise some of our more bizarre organisational devices and enjoy the general irreverence.

The main aim was to take an impressionistic, shorthand, comic look at over-worked, serious subjects. The series is based on general suspicions people have about the institutions we live in. These bodies are old or biased, often politically disfigured and under-funded – they are familiar targets. Representing them as machines at least suggests they are man-made, they wear out and can be fixed even as they do determine how we live.

The series offered a chance to check the workings of these “contraptions”. Institutions such as the arts carry our “trust” – we are expected to believe in them. We are persuaded that they are self-correcting and that the corrections are properly and democratically monitored.”

Many people are now beginning to suspect that this is not so.

The satirical, witty narration suggests double-meanings while sound effects and music are also important ironic components.

The Global Machine
The main problem with marking out territory is someone else doing it in the same place. In this episode, Bruce Petty looks at the global contraption and continuing efforts to divide the planet, even as a worldwide info net shrinks the globe. Petty’s machine comes fitted with a ‘race-ometer’ for sorting humans according to the shape of their nostrils and numerous refugee holding tanks which are filling up while the fuel tanks are running out.

Classroom Activities

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  1. Describe the images, key ideas and events, Bruce Petty uses to represent changing global trends over time. How effective is this selection of images, ideas and events in telling the story of the development of the global machine?
  2. The narrator refers to the development of the global machine as being about ‘marking out territory’. Identify the ways, groups have marked out territory over time.
  3. After viewing, undertake a SWOT analysis of the current state of the Global Machine, identifying:
    1. Strengths, for example generation of wealth
    2. Weaknesses, for example the creation of refugees
    3. Opportunities, for example shrinking the globe
    4. Threats, for example fuel shortages
  4. Construct a flow-chart or story-board with explanations or captions to tell the story of the development of the global machine, referring to:
    1. key ideas, such as Colonialism
    2. key events, like Independence, the Cold War
    3. technologies, for example the arms race, global soapbox
    4. impacts, for example refugees, fuel shortages
  5. Examine Australia’s response to the Global Machine and its efforts to ‘mark out its territory’, referring to:
    1. Australia’s membership of international organisations;
    2. ways that Australia works with other nations to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and fairness of global systems of law, diplomacy, human rights, trade and security; and
    3. development and maintenance of diplomacy.

Further Resources

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See Student Investigation Indigenous and Human rights on the Civics and Citizenship Education website which aims to promotes consideration of the existence of the rights of Indigenous peoples within Australian democracy, and to see these rights as coexisting simultaneously with citizenship rights but as unique to Indigenous peoples.

The American Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) maintains a website for the publication The Commanding Heights – The Battle for the World Economy. The website aims to promote better understanding of globalisation, world trade and economic development, including the forces that have shaped the present global economic system.

The Globalisation Guide was put together by the Australian APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Study Centre is designed as a resource for students, with information organised around Key questions such as “What is globalistion and when did it start?’, ‘Who are the players?’ and ‘Is there any alternative to globalisation?’

The Queensland Studies Authority developed a number of teaching and learning modules to support curriculum planning around topics such as ‘globalisation’. Visit to download a copy of the Level 6 module The Global Citizen to see teaching and learning ideas for promoting student understanding of globalisation.