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All posts for the month February, 2017

The first thing we did today was look ahead to next week’s mock academic conference. We looked at the schedule and the roles that each panel will need; if you are interested in volunteering to be a moderator or videographer for a specific panel, please let me know (otherwise I will assign individuals to those roles). On days you are not presenting or helping with a panel, you will need to come prepared to engage in a peer review activity for each paper presented.

Next we talked through ways to build a strong foundation for your presentation by incorporating research into your argument. We emphasized the importance of making your own individual contribution to the argument clear; your argument should be at the center of the presentation and paper. We talked about how to write a strong, clear, dynamic thesis statement that makes an argument, that takes a stand and that forecasts the structure of your paper or talk. We also talked about how to surround your evidence with your own argument and interpretation in a quotation sandwich so that you are always explicit and clear about how your research supports the claims you are making. These kinds of quote sandwiches are vital to a well supported paper and presentation, though you will need to adjust depending on the mode of your communication.

Finally, we talked through some fundamentals of good presentations and looked at some key points of good presentations. You want to be sure you identify your audience and their needs as you begin to structure your presentation. You also want to think carefully about your goals and the ways in which your goals can be communicated to the audience. We talked a little about the levels of formality and how to use specific mediums of delivery to communicate with particular audiences. Then we talked more about how to structure your talk to help keep your audience invested, to hep your audience remember your key points and to avoid common pitfalls of presentations.

 

HOMEWORK

  • Watch Lynda Video – Presentation Fundamentals (log in with your GATech credentials)
  • Continue to work on research paper – draft dynamic thesis statement and bring to class Wednesday
  • Begin drafting/outlining presentation script – plan to bring to class on Friday IN THE COMMUNICATION CENTER

 

Fresh Hell is an article from the New Yorker website that explains the appeal of newer YA dystopian novels while focusing the most on the Hunger Games. Its main argument is that these novels attract readers because they understand what teenagers are going through. Or in other words, they are allegories of our young adult lives, fraught with dangers and difficulties.

One of the main theories is that the dystopian worlds described are similar to the world of high school. This is most evident in the Hunger Games where children are thrown in an harsh environment by unfeeling adults and must survive. It also compares a main difference between adult and young adult dystopias which is the ending. The first is pessimistic and the second is more optimistic so it can be suited for a younger audience.

Its organization is effective as it goes from one point to the other while bringing examples first from the Hunger Games then from other books. These include The Knife of Never Letting Go and Little Brother. Each section first outlined a claim about young adults that related to an aspect of a dystopian novel, then it was backed up with references and examples. It had a formal tone but the diction was not ridiculously high so that everyone could understand: teenagers and scholars alike.

This source was especially important to me because it helped me with some of my points regarding the novel I was studying: After by Francine Prose. It helped me delve in deeper to some of the hidden themes the writer used. I also understood how it was an allegory to our daily lives but exaggerated. Instead of mirroring the world high-school, for example, the story was set in an high-school that turned slowly into a dystopia. That was an interesting twist that I had not realized. The negative world incorporated itself into daily life directly, which was very different from other young adult novels.

Sources:

Miller, Laura. “Fresh Hell.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 14 July 2015, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/06/14/fresh-hell-2. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

Today, we talked about Darko Suvin’s essay on “the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre.” We worked through his major arguments and his classification scheme for SF and other genres commonly associated with SF (fantasy, fairy tale, myth). We highlighted the context for Suvin’s argument, the political upside to grouping utopia/dystopia with sci fi, and the difference between the analogic and extrapolative models of SF.
We also talked about Lyman Tower Sargent’s article”The Three Faces of Utopianism Revisited” and the ways in which it is conversation with Suvin’s article. We focused on the three “faces” that he discusses (literary utopia, intentional communities and utopian social theory) and the investment in revisiting these concepts given a prevailing opinion that utopia is increasingly possible in our contemporary world. In particular, we looked at his criticism of using the word “perfect” when defining utopia and the ways in which that particular word in the definition undermines the overall utopian project.
HOMEWORK:
  1. Annotated Bibliographies are due tonight by 11:55pm to TSquare – please be sure to submit them as a Word doc or a PDF and include your last name in the file name.
  2. Read WOEVENText 10, 11, and 12 on Oral Presentations for Monday
  3. Start outlining, drafting, writing your research paper. You will want to aim to have a draft of your paper complete by next week; the conference presentation can be a very valuable exercise in helping you to distill and clarify your arguments, but you need to know what those arguments are before you can clarify them.

As a quick reminder, I made some changes to next week’s schedule on the syllabus (see previous blog post) in order to add a visit to the Communications Center on Friday, March 3. Please keep these deadlines in mind as you are working in the next few days and don’t forget that Friday’s class will be held in CULC 447.

Today we started off with a discussion about the two societies present in The 100, “the ground” and “the ark.” You worked in teams to build an argument either for or against the idea that each of these societies function as a dystopia within the narrative. By engaging in an active back-and-forth debate over these two societies, we talked through some of the overarching themes of the show and examined the ways in which anarchy can be the cause of dystopian societies.

We will discuss the Darko Suvin article that you read for class today on Friday along with the Sargent article (see below).

 

HOMEWORK:
  1. Continue working on your research project – Annotated Bibliography due to TSquare by 11:55pm on Friday
  2. Read Sargent’s “3 Faces of Utopia Revisited” (Available on TSquare – Resources – Week 7)

The thing that interests me the most about dystopias is comparing the quality of life between the dystopia and real life. The technology tends to be more significantly more advanced in the dystopia. However, the advance in technology can point out some flaws in human nature. For example, a Black Mirror episode showcases a seemingly wonderful technology. The technology allows the elderly to enter a virtual world in any time period they want (70s, 80s, etc) and relive their youth once a week. However, they can choose to “pass over” and live there forever after they die. While the technology seems out of reach to me, I think it points out a flaw in us today. We spend some much of our time in a fake, virtual world through screens that we can forget to live our real lives.

My independent reading is proving to have a similar theme so far into my reading. I am reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. The setting is a pretty horrible world riddled with problems and overall misery due to overpopulation, unemployment, and energy shortages. It provides for a bleak life, but thanks to technology, people can find an oasis in a video game world called the OASIS. Imagine a super realistic virtual reality paradise; that is the OASIS. It sounds appetizing so pretty much everybody logs into the OASIS every day to play. It provides the foundation for the human population to live two identities: who they are in the flesh and who they are in the OASIS.

Ready Player One and Black Mirror are making me ask a lot of questions about how technology is playing a role in our lives right now. The big question I find myself coming back to is, “Are we flawed for the way we use technology in our lives or is the technology flawed?” Like most black and white questions, I’m sure the answer will have some gray area. However, I hope with my upcoming research and continued reading of Ready Player One I can find and articulate an answer.

Image result for subliminal messages meme simpsons

 

For my independent reading, I explored the dystopian novel Candor which takes place in present day Florida. The entire essence of the novel is that in the town of Candor, music is always playing wherever you go, and the music contains subliminal messages that cause the citizens of Candor to obey the laws and conform to a perfect society. However, Oscar Banks (the son of the founder of Candor) knows of the town’s secret, and he smuggles new children out of the town. The novel begins with a new girl in town Nia meeting Oscar, but the two don’t get off to a good start. Oscar tries to convince Nia that the town sends subliminal messages to the citizens, but she doesn’t believe him. However, the character of Nia is very intriguing because she is seen going days in Candor without conforming to the subliminal messages as she even says “I only  do what I want” (Bachorz 86). Even though Nia has been exposed to the messages she remains in her own control until she is locked in the listening room where she spends days listening to the messages. Thus, I plan to study the effects of being exposed to subliminal messages on the human mind. Topics that I plan to look into for my research will be whether or not subliminal messages can actually change human behavior. If I discover that they can affect the behavior, I plan to look into how they actually work and whether using subliminal messages to change behavior is ethical. On the other hand, if I conclude that subliminal messages do not change behavior, then I plan into looking at possible explanations that can cause the citizens of Candor to have their behavior change. All in all, I plan to use psychological studies on behavioral changes to discover the truth about subliminal messages, and whether Candor could possibly be a reality.

     Over the last couple centuries, YA dystopias have evolved characteristically to be, more often than not, set in the future. In turn, dystopias must predict the development of technology, so that melds with the setting. One of the areas I would like to focus on is computers, and how they have played a role in YA dystopia. Its role in dystopias must have changed over time, and I would like to trace how they have changed based on our current growing dependence on them.

     The Hunger Games includes many scenes of The Capitol using computer-like devices to manage the tributes. 

– Screen used by The Capitol in The Hunger Games.

The tools at their disposal, combined with the integration of those systems, makes it clear that Collins saw the development of technology, and more specifically computers, trended towards this sort of integration. The trackers, health monitors, tributes’ geolocation, forest fire creators, and care package deliveries were all included in the screens The Capitol used during the games. In The 100, people on The Ark can be seen carrying personal devices, a sign that this more recent shift of device integration is widespread among modern sci-fi dystopias.

– Image of screen from The 100.

In Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, cell phone and computer use is common throughout their society, though more removed from the far-reaching predictions of most science fictions. Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars shows a more repressive form of technological use: its outlaw. This “prediction” falls in line with many’s fear of technology, and its power in information distribution. This creates a more bleak vision of our future, where the ruling class can control a population by controlling its technology.

     Though there is great variation in how modern YA dystopian authors foresee the future of computers and personal devices, I believe I can find some sort of trend or at the very least categorize it. Our fears of these new and mysterious personal devices are ingrained in our society, and we can examine and predict those fears through YA dystopia.