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All posts for the month March, 2017

I stumbled across an article written by Joshua Garrison for the American Educational History Journal that I think could be incredibly useful for many people’s papers. This article surrounds the topic of how education is portrayed and utilized in dystopias, and compares this with how people view eduction in the “real” world.

The article opens with a real Presidential speech about school, and discusses the negative backlash to the speech. This opens up the article into a further discussion about the role of education in politics, and different political views on, or fears of, public education. The article talks briefly about the definition of dystopia, and how it essentially represents the writer’s “worst fears”.  Garrison mentions how both political parties employ “dystopian imagery” to push their own agendas, and bring down the other side. Next, Garrison names several dystopian novels, more or less in chronological order starting in the 1800s and moving to present day, and describes the role of education in each one. He compares and contrasts the novels, and explains how the educational set-up in each one was inspired by real life events, such as the rise of the  Ford-style Model-T industrial line, where everyone works as a part of a larger system in a pre-determined group. Though each novel is different, Garrison ultimately argues that every author saw children’s schooling in their dystopia as a way to impose control. Garrison concludes with some examples from various novels, where the kid is the “corrupt” one, brainwashed by society, and the parent is the one who recognizes he or she is in a dystopia. I thought this was an interesting contrast to our class, where most protagonists are still school-aged.

The author argues that the role of education, both in real life and in dystopian novels, is a political tool. In dystopias, education is used to brainwash children into believing false statements, or into believing a specific way the world “works”. In real life, Garrison argues, the role and implementation of public education is a controversial topic because both sides of the political spectrum fear the other side will promote their ideas. Thus, modern day dystopias can be created, because the “worst fears” of a certain political group will come true with the success of another group. Ultimately, Garrison’s point is that the role of public education in “real life” is very complicated, as some argue it is the key to equality and democracy, while others argue it strips the rights and freedoms of citizens. This constant debate and fear of role of education being in the wrong hands is mirrored in several best-selling dystopias.

Garrison makes a clear and fair argument since he never takes a political stance on public education, or sides with a political party. The article gives evidence in form of direct quotes from people of varying political identity, but never deems one as right or wrong.

Black Mirror is a Netflix series with non sequential episodes. In other words, each episode is totally unique in setting, plot, and characters. You can watch the episodes in any order and not be negatively affected. Because of this, Black Mirror can make a multitude of commentaries on the human condition and it’s relation to technology in a variety of ways in a small number of episodes. While each episode explores the unanticipated effects of a new or existing technology on humans, each episode is unique in the way it achieves this.
It is a great show for entertainment purposes because it really twists your mind to look at our world in a different way. Some episodes such as s1e1 do this with subtle changes to our current world. Other episodes are drastically different. Regardless of the episodes differences, you can see trends among all dystopias.


The very first episode seems to be in a world portrayed to be exactly like ours. New technologies that have not been invented yet are not present at all. The basic plot is that a English princess is kidnapped and the captor does not offer a cash ransom. Instead, he says the prime minister has to have sex with a pig on live television. The key quote from this episode is the response when the prime minister asks “What is our move? What does the playbook say?” The response is “there is no play book.” The main point being made here is that social media and media in general has a relatively new role in politics. However, despite it being new, it has an extremely high amount of power. It is a new force that when in the wrong hands is impossible to prepare against. It is dangerous.
While the pilot includes no characters or actors in the following episodes, it is the perfect introduction to the series because it shows that a simple twist can point out a major potential danger in a technology advance society like ours. Furthermore, most of the following episodes are even more technologically advanced to show us the unpredictable affects of new technology. While some of the technology being viewed seems unachievable, it is still scary to watch because we know that the pace of our technological advancement far exceeds the pace of the policy regarding it. Simply put, there are consequences when we make things we do not know how to deal and live with it

How have divisions in society transformed over time? The answer is complex and the following book is an essential research in being able to compare contemporary society to dystopian society. This book, Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present, is an excellent resource in addressing the complexity of social theory today. In my research, I focused on Chapter 3, entitled Post-feminism, which defines the post-feminist theory and how it differs immensely from previous feminist thought and theories. Post-feminism is defined as the notion of women having power, but not losing their “femininity”, which stems from the idea feminists lose femininity. In literature, as in dystopias, this provides “a critique of previous assumptions of the self, the social, the political, history, the text, knowledge, and ‘the West’”(Browning, 65). I found this theory and source especially useful and interesting in investigating feminist elements in recent dystopian literature.

This chapter uses concrete examples of post-feminist theory in literature and in television. One key piece used in supporting their claim is that of the series Star Trek: Voyager, which is set in the twenty-fourth century and explores the role of a post-feminist woman as starship captain. Tough leadership and courage characterize protagonist Janeway, though she doesn’t lose her “femininity” in this role, highlighting the post-feminist depiction of this character.

This chapter is a useful tool in identifying the social context in recent years of feminism, and its portrayal in literature. In my project, I am using this to argue the content and focus of women’s roles and depiction in this post-feminism period. Novels like my independent reading book The Selection, feature strong independent female leads, who are still able to embrace their femininity and stand up for female power and fight oppression, while not losing this aspect of themselves, a key factor in the post-feminist period.

A simplistic view of how different groups in society have privilege based on certain criteria.

Another useful chapter in this book include Chapter 33, entitled Social inequalities: coming to terms with complexity. This section argues that social divisions such as “class, gender, ethnicity, race, age, religion, and sexual orientation [are] intertwined to produce multifaceted and intricate forms of social hierarchy”(Browning, 478). This section would be useful for anyone curious about the divisions and inequalities within a society and comparing that to their independent reading novel or other dystopian societies.

Works Cited:

Browning, Gary K., Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present. London, Sage, 2000.

“Darkness Too Visible” by Meghan Cox Gurdon is an article that addresses the effects of dark content featured in Young Adult novels. Gurdon begins the article by providing a real life example of a concerned parent. The mother in this situation fears the extremely violent and dark content in a large majority of the books targeted towards her daughter’s age group. Gurdon then goes on to discuss how Young Adult novels are crude. She mentions that life is often portrayed with misery and depression, and she questions the effects of these themes on the reader. She argues that while reading a book may not necessarily make teens depressed, it certainly will have some effect on their brains. Gurdon then provides specific examples of YA novels with dark storylines. She uses several examples over time to demonstrate how the books have become more and more violent and dark over time. Gurdon then briefly discusses the argument that books such as these should not be banned. Her reasoning is that the readers could find comfort in these storylines if they have gone through something similar. However, her counterargument is that the publication of such novels normalizes dark behavior. She also discusses the fact that profanity in such storylines has been normalized over the years. She closes the article by discussing several points about book censorship and how it affects readers. She states that many librarians are against censorship as young adults should have the freedom to decide what to read.

This source provides much needed support to my argument. The author provides both a counter argument and support to my thesis. My research is about the effects of banned books and censorship on young adult readers, specifically banned dystopian novels. Dystopian novels frequently contain dark content that parents do not approve of for their children to read. I can use this source to discuss parental concerns, and also discuss the benefits they believe censorship has. In addition, I  can use the material about why censorship is bad in my argument.

 

Works Cited:

Gurdon, Megan Cox. “Darkness Too Visible.” The Wall Street JournalDow Jones & Company, 4 June 2011. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303657404576357622592697038

Virginia Tech scholars Ostenson and Scholes of The Alan Review present their publication “Understanding the Appeal of Dystopian Young Adult Fiction” as a dissection of YA dystopian literature into parts that describe and help better understand why this genre is so compelling. These scholars have observed the trend of an increasing interest in the genre, and have conducted a study to better understand which themes specific to YA dystopias compels the reader. The hope is for these trends and patterns to be understood and utilized in a way that allows for the construction of  a more interactive and interested audience in the classroom. As seen below, the survey conducted specified which themes are most prevalent in these novels which then indicated which elements were most important in order to draw in the targeted audience.

Through a thorough investigation of 16 novels, Ostenson and Scholes narrowed their research down to the most prevalent themes including inhumanity and isolation, agency and conscience, and relationships and how these relate specifically to adolescents. Teens can relate to the first of these topics in their quest to understand society through personal growth. Secondly, a protagonist’s search for their responsibility in their society relative to the greater good mirrors an adolescent’s desire to understand how and why they should function in the grand scheme of their own world. Finally, modern YA dystopian novels often include romantic or platonic relationships that interest the reader and allow them to place these novels and ideals within the realm of their own lives.
The dissection of these themes does not stand alone but is aided by Ostenson and Scholes through their inclusion of examples of these elements as seen in over eight popular YA dystopian novels. The scholars’ use of these examples makes their argument better understood and more credible. These examples from popular books in addition to the quantitative data about common dystopian themes allows for readers to easily utilize this information in arguing about the popularity of modern dystopian fiction.

https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v40n2/scholes.html

For my research, I decided to look at subliminal messages and whether they are possible or not in real life, and I found that subliminal messages do not work. Thus, I decided to look into what else could cause the human mind to start thinking a certain way. While researching I came across the following video by Veritasium on truth and different ways that humans perceive information.

Derik Muller who is the creator of the video argues that information that the human mind is familiar with is more likely to be perceived as true (even if the information is false). He explains this phenomenon through the scope of cognitive ease which he describes as how hard the brain must work to perform a task, and information that has cognitive ease is less likely to be perceived as a threat, so it is more likely to be thought of as true. Muller then talks about ways that people form cognitive ease, and he explains that the easiest way to build cognitive ease is simply repeated exposure to a stimuli. I know that this talk of cognitive ease may not seem relevant to the many people who are looking at dystopias literature; however, I feel that this video actually can help those who are researching the aspect of propaganda in dystopias because I find that one aspect of propaganda is that it is constantly exposed to the masses of a dystopia. Thus, I feel that if your research is on the aspect of propaganda in dystopias, then this video can be critical for research because it can explain that the reason the majority of citizens believe the propaganda is due to the repeated exposure to it. Thus, even though I am using this video to look at the psychology of truth, I find that others may find it helpful to adapt to areas of research in propaganda.

WALL-E

When you look at a movie like WALL-E, what do you see? The cute animation disguised it as a children’s movie to be seen by younger audiences. When I watch this movie, what I see is a glaring image of what our future could be. WALL-E portrays a dark story for the human race: we’ve been forced to leave the planet and are living on a huge space ship until Earth is deemed safe to live on again.

The biggest issue is obviously the cause of the human’s exodus from earth: the planet has been completely trashed. Not only has this become a huge issue today, but there’s also lots of people who believe it isn’t an issue at all. Our planet should not be taken for granted, and its conservation is extremely important for our continued use of it as a home.

Another dystopian issue in this movie is the extreme power that one corporation has gained. I’ve been talking a lot about how media consolidation is a huge issue today but this isn’t exclusive to the media. Internet companies consolidating and making deals with local governments has had a drastic effect on internet quality across America in areas that may only have one available provider. Companies themselves should not be considered inherently evil, but we need to ensure that the biggest of companies do not have so much control in society.

The third issue is the humans’ absolute dependence on technology. We currently live in a society where technology has slowly but surely added so many conveniences to our lives. Bicycles have been overwhelmingly replaced by motorized vehicles like cars or even segways and hoverboards. Computers are absolutely everywhere and we have become insanely reliant on them in our daily lives. WALL-E depicts a world where humans are too large to move on their own and they just move around on their hover chairs. With the way that we are currently headed, this is easy to imagine.

As a whole, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the movie as a children’s tale. But if you really dig deep into the movie, you will uncover something much less childish.

 

 

The survey was conducted by Match, the largest relationship company in the world, and the participants are singles in America. The study covers many topics, from traits in potential partners, to the do’s and don’ts of a first date, the expectations of a romantic relationship, and how technology has affected dating. The participating group consisted of both men and women, and specific statistics were derived from the millennial generation to draw a comparison between the different generations.

To start with, statistics show that 15% of singles are addicted to dating, they enjoy the process of looking for a date. However, Millennials are 125% more likely to be addicted to dating, which implies how important dating has become in the social aspect of the younger generation’s lives. This statistic is supportive in my argument of how the millennial generation are not really taking dating seriously. Dating seems to be more of an amusing activity rather than trying to form genuine connections with others.

Additionally, singles are very judgmental, and during the mock academic conference, one of the presentations emphasize how insecurity is a flaw of our society that needs to be addressed. 42% of the singles judge their first date by their social media or profile picture, and this attitude contributes to the stigma that appearances are more important than personalities. Social media has only increased the insecurities of society in regards to looks, and the impact has reached the dating realm.

Feminism is a movement that is often misunderstood; in fact, 43% of the singles believe it has many different definitions. Feminism encourages the image of a strong independent woman, and many often translate this into the idea of single women who refuse to date men because they are do not rely on men. The misunderstandings of feminism can in a way discourage the whole romantic chivalrous side of dating, and the millennial generation appears to be the most approving of the feminist movement, which in turn can explain why dating is the least romantic when it concerns millennials.

Overall, the survey can be used as evidence in the research paper as inferences drawn from the statistics support main points of the argument. During the analysis of the survey, Match does project a certain bias towards online dating, emphasizing to the fact that online dating being popular is good, and this bias is logical. Match would not want to discourage the use of dating websites since the company is the original dating website. However, actual numbers from the survey are not biased; therefore, they can be used as evidence in support of the argument of the research paper. The argument is mainly about the millennial dating culture, and the statistics pertaining to the millennials are most relevant. Essentially, the thesis of the argument is that the characteristics implied in this survey are reflected in young adult dystopian novels.

 

“Singles in America Match Releases Largest Study on U.S. Single Population.” Multivu. Feb 6 2017.  www.multivu.com/players/English/8024551-match-7th-annual-singles-in-america-study/?c=y?. Accessed 13 March 2017.

Technology in dystopias is quite a broad topic for conducting research, and I soon found many articles connecting the two. But throughout my time searching, one such source stood above the rest. In “Technology in the Dystopian novel,” Gorman Beauchamp explores the depth at which technology exists within societies, and how it brings about their destruction. Primarily, Beauchamp bases his argument on the dangerous possibilities that arise with the expansion of technology. A totalitarian empire coupled with an advanced technological apparatus could conceivably arise in the future. This type of technotopia would bring into question the methods a government would employ that would limit the general public’s use of such devices. Furthermore, Beauchamp insists that if a society eventually develops into a dystopia, people will worship the Machine, abandoning much of their power as individuals. He concludes that the fall of man will end with the aspirations to become such a machine, and so too lose what makes us human.

Beauchamp employs interesting key terms to combine the fears of dystopia and technology. He presents the idea of a technotopia, an advanced totalitarian government which controls the country via a far reaching technological device. This sort of technological dystopia could arise when man is ignorant of his creations, and they eventually transcend his reach. This evolves into Beauchamp’s concept of the Machine, which takes the faith of the people who worship it mindlessly. This occurs when the state is taken over by technology to the point where life itself relies on the mechanical deity to survive. Many other researchers interested in technology and dystopia would find a use for the source. The concepts Beauchamp introduces are good food for thought when considering what to search for next.

The article is organized in a thoughtful, comprehensive way. Beauchamp presents his ideas by outlining how technology becomes more and more incorporated into society over time. The article begins with how technology is incorporated in modern society and ends with the full takeover of machine power. It is an important source because of the unique views offered about how controlling technology can become. He presents this view of the future to provide an interesting view on how societies could fall through the overuse of technology. The dehumanization of people and emersion of technology as a ruling power emphasizes how fine a line we are on when it comes to progress and society. Beauchamp’s article highlights how bad a dystopia can be when we are enslaved to the very machines we create, and it offers a new look on what kind of dystopia will form from our own actions.

Works Cited-

  1. Beauchamp, Gorman. “Technology in the Dystopian Novel.” Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 32 no. 1, 1986, pp. 53-63. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/mfs.0.1315. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/244281.

https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v40n2/scholes.html

This article discusses a study conducted by Jon Ostenson, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University who teaches courses on young adult literature, and Justin Scholes, a high school language arts teacher. As the title suggests, the goal of the study was to analyze popular young adult dystopian novels written in the 21st century to see what they had in common in hopes of explaining what made these books so popular. Among the books studied are many we’ve discussed in class or had the option to read in our independent readings, such as the Hunger Games, Divergent, Little Brother, Feed, and a few others shown in the tables below.

A screenshot of a table of elements young adult dystopias tend to have

Second part of the table

Ostenson and Scholes then go on to explain how the dystopian fiction genre is great for developing adolescents because of its ability to introduce deeper and more complex societal issues that adolescents are beginning to understand and become interested in. Then specific elements that they believed to be attractive to young adult readers are grouped into 3 categories and discussed.

The first of these categories is “Inhumanity and Isolation.” They found that many of the novels in the study involve protagonists that see some kind of inhumanity in their society and feel isolated from friends and family that don’t share their views. Ostenson and Scholes believe many young adults can relate to this feeling of separation as they develop their own viewpoints on controversial issues.

The transition to adulthood is discussed more in the next category, “Agency and Conscience: The Brink of Adulthood.” In this section, Ostenson and Scholes discuss how in many popular young adult novels, the protagonists realize their roles in society and are able to greatly contribute to reforming their respective societies, a concept that is very empowering for young adults as they begin to experience the responsibilities and power of becoming independent adults. For example, in the Hunger Games, Katniss goes from taking care of her family to becoming the figurehead for a revolution that results in the end of an oppressive government as her influence on the society of Panem increases.

The final category is an interesting one that hasn’t been discussed too often and is titled “Relationships: Platonic and Romantic.” The development of the protagonists discussed in the previous sections are often facilitated by a relationship the protagonist has, either platonic or romantic. The relationships developing young adults form influence their beliefs heavily and vice versa, an idea reflected in many popular young adult novels. For example, Marcus’ decisions in Little Brother are influenced by his friends and his love interest, Ange.

Judging from the presentations I saw this week, this source could be useful for a lot of different research topics since it analyzes what popular young adult dystopian novels seem to have in common, and many presentations I saw this week dealt with these kinds of novels and how they relate to young adults in our society, such as Young Adults: The Key to a Dystopian Hit, Dystopias and Depression: The Implications of Social Taboos in Young Adult Literature, and A Diamond From the Rough: How reading YA dystopia benefits our society.

Works Cited:

Scholes, Justin and Jon Ostenson. “Understanding the Appeal of Dytopian Young Adult Fiction.” The Alan Review, vol. 40, no. 2, 2013, https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v40n2/scholes.html. Accessed 13 Mar. 2017.