All posts by Bridgett Skaronea


My conference presentation is on a topic that’s really interested me throughout the course of this class. Technology is a common theme throughout the books we’ve read and discussed, as well as an integral and ever-growing part of our society today. In my research, I asked the question, what social impact does technology have, both in the context of dystopian novels and in real life? After an analysis of my independent reading, along with class readings and other articles and books on the matter, I came to the conclusion that technology is portrayed as escalating social stratification throughout young adult dystopian literature, reflecting the way in which society struggles with the boundaries created by a growing technological presence today.

Throughout the presentation, we’ll first explore examples of social orders implemented or heightened by technology, looking specifically at Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

We’ll then continue to discuss a concept known as determinism, and how this view is often the driving force behind the dystopian nature of technological advancements. I’m particularly interested in the work of two scholars pertaining to this subject: Gorman Beauchamp, who argues that technology isn’t something that happens to fall in the hands of totalitarian rulers, but rather is intrinsically totalitarian in itself, and Langdon Winner, who believes that advancements in technology limit our choices and constrains the direction in which we grow as a society.

In his work, Winner also discusses how this results in the implementation of social boundaries through the metaphor of a city-suburb relationship. While in a city, we’re forced to bump shoulders and come in contact with people of all backgrounds and opinions, while suburbia is an escape from this diversity, where one can live in a bubble of their own views and not be bothered by those of others. Winner argues that cyberspace is comparable to suburbia, where one can access media that applies specifically to their niche in society. I’m excited to share more about my research with you all and to gain more perspective on this topic.

The thing that interests me most about dystopias is how they portray what we fear most for the future of humankind. Along with this come many different themes of our society’s downfall, but the one that I personally think brings to light one of the more relevant apprehensions of humans today is that of technology.

It all seems harmless at first, almost trivial. We love the ability to have access to immediate knowledge at our fingertips, to communicate across thousands of miles effortlessly, and of course, to order things from Amazon and have them delivered the next day. These things are a result of the ever growing presence of technology in our daily lives. However, along with the benefits of these numerous advancements comes many unforeseen complications. Things like lacking security and privacy in a world of increasingly big amounts of information are real issues, and continue to worsen. We see a dramatic take on this in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, where surveillance is taken to the extreme and is depicted as outright oppressive. We enjoy the freedom that the Internet gives us, but we don’t want our information used against us. Another aspect of the technological dystopia is technology gone too far. With new advancements being made regularly, where do we stop? Can we keep developing, or is there a point at which our inventions surpass us and become our downfall? This idea is explored in For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund. In this novel, we see a society that’s been torn apart by their own innovations in genetic engineering that went too far. With genetic modification of humans becoming more and more realistic, it’s no surprise that we see it portrayed in this post-apocalyptic scenario. It’s a concept that many are wary of, and thus the worst is often imagined.

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Propaganda plays a big role in many dystopian novels and movies. Wherever there’s an authoritarian government or any kind of oppressive system, both of which are commonly seen in this genre, there’s an exchange of biased information between whoever’s in charge and those who are being controlled. However, throughout Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay, this trading of persuasive campaigns comes from not one direction, but two: from the Capitol, who already has control, and the rebels, those who represent the people of the districts and are trying to take power. The differences in the type and style of propaganda that we see from either side give us a look into the goals of either side and to whom they’re trying to appeal.

Capitol propaganda is always very slick, clean, and designed to be visually pleasant. It often makes use of negative space, and the color white is common throughout. This gives the impression that they’ve got everything under control, and dissuades the idea of chaos. A government that’s got everything handled is one that’s easier for people to look up to, and it makes the idea of a rebellion seem out of place. They also never forget to remind the districts of the power differences between them, always showing certain districts as “better” than others.

Rebel propaganda, however, is most successful when it’s less clean, but more emotional and real. The leaders in 13 quickly realize that scripted and sculpted messages are the least formidable type for their cause. They’re trying to elicit a powerful reaction from the districts and show the capitol that they’re strong and aware of their corruption. They don’t have the means to produce widely broadcasted media, therefore they need to make a point with whatever time they get, however little it may be. This means they often show direct proof of the corruption and malice of the capitol, and take advantages of the symbols of the rebellion, such as Katniss, to help get their message across.

Works Cited


A dystopia is the idea of a society which is too bad in some way to exist, typically due to tyranny and/or government corruption. This is basically a fallen utopia, a society which is too good to be true, and in many cases, dystopia can stem from utopia. Many will argue that utopia will always lead to dystopia, as a society which is “perfect” must be under significant control by some sort of government, and thus corruption and tyranny is implied. However, while this is often the case, I would argue that there isn’t necessarily always this connection between the two.

Examining dystopias from the viewpoint of different genres allows us to see the concept through a new lense, opening up different common themes and perspectives. For example, with romance dystopian novels, you often see recurring themes of sacrifice and silver linings, while with sci-fi dystopian novels, the idea of the dangers of technology is typically prominent. This doesn’t usually change our definition of a dystopia, but it does add to it for different genres and often reshapes the main ideas of the depictions of dystopia.

More recently, there’s been a rise in YA dystopian novels, those that are geared towards young adults. Dystopias in these contexts don’t change in definition, but do become limited in the content that they can offer, often sparing the gory details and explicit nature. However, this can often means we see more in depth character development, and the path to maturity is a theme that’s more predominant throughout the subclass of dystopias.

While there’s quite the range of subcategories throughout the dystopian novels, they all share the basic definition and a variety of similar themes. I’m looking forward to discovering the nuances of each genre as we read and learn more throughout the semester, as more reading into the topic will certainly 

Works Cited

The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Edited by Claeys, Gregory, Cambridge University Press, 2010.