The human being is a rational entity, running off the presence of order and structure. This is reflected on every society that we construct, whether in literature or in actuality. Specifically looking at dystopias, the complex division (or lack thereof) of power is central to its ability to control and manipulate its constituents. The role that each part of the governing body plays seems to always be facilitated by some means – usually technology.
In Matched, by Allie Condie, the government has attempted to eliminate all sources of uncertainly and disorder – down to each person’s time of death. Had anyone seen anything remotely condoning of rebellion, they are instructed to take a memory erasing pill. They have anxiety medication at their disposal. They are told where to live, what to work, and who to love. This, of course, is all made possible by the progression of technology, in surveillance and in medicine. Cassia, the curious but naïve protagonist, find herself being watched more than the others when she falls in love out of script; infractions for holding hands in a “secluded” mountain, and shrinking meal portions as punishment. While the surveillance that goes on in Matched is very direct (government supervised dates!), that that happens in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother is done more remotely. Every keystroke, every step, and every place visited is logged by the DHS in attempt to keep a tight chokehold on its citizens for “safety”. Gait recognition, internet spies, and classroom cameras are all made possible by the speedy progress that technology has undergone.
It’s interesting to think of alternative outcomes of these stories had the technology not been there. For one, Marcus and the X-netters could not have defeated the DHS without their hack-savvy techniques.; however, the excessive surveillance would have never been possible without it. In Matched, the disposability of these different “pills” facilitates the mental control that the Officials have on the people. This created an entirely different dynamic than the one that exists in Little Brother, since digital technology doesn’t hold as big of a role for the “people” party in Matched.
Technology and its ability to facilitate oppression and control is unquestionable; ethical fears of privacy and control are huge barriers to such progress in our current society. But for the fictional worlds that authors have created for us (perhaps in warning?), the potential that technology holds for this kind of future is frightening. The physical technology that is used in YA dystopias is not far off from what is currently feasible. My research interest lies in the realm of technology’s role in oppression in YA dystopian novels, and how these roles cross with what is currently happening today with the collection of Big Data, the internet, and public surveillance.
Allen, Justin. “ Little Brother Is Watching You · Corporate America Leverages Telematics.”Forwardslash /, 21 Feb. 2015, forward-slash.in/2015/02/21/little- brother- watching-you/. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.
Big Data.” IBM Big Data – What Is Big Data – United States, 14 Nov. 2016, www.ibm.com/big-data/us/en/. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017
Condie, Ally. Matched. Penguin Group, 2010.
Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tor, 2008.