Blog Post 4

My conference paper focuses on propaganda in dystopian novels and the various ways it leads us as the audience to connect to the characters on a deeper level. I include my own definition of what propaganda can be emphasizing the point that it can be considered any form of information that is intended to create a bias or mislead the audience into believing that one side of an argument or point of view is the right one. To do this, I use the research already done by notable author and thinker Jacques Ellul. Ellul is the author of the book “Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes” which has been cited in a great number of propaganda studies since the years of its publication. In his book, Ellul describes eight different types of propaganda: political, sociological, agitation, integration, vertical, horizontal, irrational, and rational. In my presentation I focus mainly on Ellul’s category of political propaganda and how it is depicted in dystopian novels, and how it causes the audience to think. In addition, for my research purposes, I have expanded on Ellul’s classification to add the category of pure emotional propaganda which I feel is necessary when talking about propaganda shown in dystopian novels, and perhaps more easily in movies based of off dystopian novels, specifically the movies based off of The Hunger Games books written by Suzanne Collins and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

In The Hunger Games, I chose to focus on the propaganda shown through the actions of Peeta and Katniss and their fake relationship. My definition of propaganda as any information used to mislead an audience comes into play here as most people wouldn’t consider the act as one of mainstream propaganda and instead would focus on the propos shot by the rebellion and the Capitol’s response in the later books/movies.

In Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, both by Orson Scott Card, I choose to focus more on the mainstream propaganda shown through the elevation of Battle School as a prestigious school only for those worthy of it and the unification of the Earth (examples shown below) through vertical, horizontal, and emotional propaganda and how it affects the minds of the characters in the novels and of the audience.

Throughout my presentation I will make many references to subliminal messaging and subconscious thought, as it is of great impact to my research. As proven my many notable sources, when the brain sees something it will store information about it for later when that information is needed which oftentimes leads to feelings of déjà vu. However, in my case it makes the greatest impact through emotional propaganda, as the audience will feel various emotions ranging from sympathy to hatred depending on the propaganda in novels and movies they are exposed to, and the fact that they see or read this propaganda will help it stick in the mind and ultimately create an emotional reaction to the characters experiences in the novels or movies themselves which can lead to a stronger emotional bond to the characters themselves.

Picture Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda:_The_Formation_of_Men%27s_Attitudes

https://ajmacdonaldjr.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/ellul.jpg

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-TmQUcIk7k10/T5YX5PTi7KI/AAAAAAAAC9s/5ZrQNeQuA5A/s1600/037.jpg

http://collider.com/enders-game-propaganda-posters/

Here is the link to my vlog:

Also, the original source is from here:

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/244281

“is the technology in dystopian fiction merely an instrument in the hands of the state’s totalitarian rulers, used by them to enforce a set of values extrinsic to the technology itself, or is it, rather, an autonomous force that determines the values and thus shapes the society in its own image, a force to which even the putative rulers—the Well-Doers and Big Brothers and World Controllers—are subservient?”

My topic is YA Dystopian governments and how their actions are social criticisms of political issues today. The governments I studied and researched were those in my independent reading book, The People of Sparks. Along with the Hunger Games and Little Brother. My hypothesis states that the themes most common in YA dystopian literature as it applies specifically to the governments in each novel, reflect a real world event and showcase the debate and conflict in that issue.   Each of these social issues: Immigration, Censorship and Surveillance are explored through the themes and conflicts of dystopian governments. The social and political issue of immigration is tackled in YA dystopian literature through the theme of the manipulation of resources; censorship is tackled in YA dystopian literature through the theme of the power and control and surveillance is tackled in YA dystopian literature through the theme of theme of law order. I’m relating The People of Sparks to the social criticism as the conflict is reminiscent of the debate on immigrants today. One side says that immigrants are subjected to high danger and low skill work, where they are subjected to terrible working conditions. However, the other side believes that immigrants “distract and take resources” and therefore should work for their fair share. I see this debate in the Sparks government where one faction believes that they should care for the refugees from the city of Ember as it is the right thing to do. While the other faction counters saying that doubling the population of Sparks is unsustainable and the people of Ember must relocate. The heated debated in this dystopian government shows the DuPrau utilizes the dystopian theme of resource manipulation to bring up the social and political issue of immigration. I’m relating the book The Hunger Games to social criticism because of the theme of control and power in the media. In society today, there is a conflict between the Executive branch of government and the free press. One side claims that the media is creating fake news and is therefore sensationalizing inaccurate stories and targeting subjects with an inherent bias, while the other side believes that the Executive branch is attacking the freedom of the press by banning them from press conferences and describing work that the branch doesn’t like as “fake news” therefore trying to delegitimize the media and create a government controlled press. The conflict of censorship in The Hunger Games shows that Collins writes with a purpose and utilizes themes of the Capitol’s dystopian government to warn of the effects of censorship. While not written in the same time period as the recent administration, Collins social commentary relates to many governments throughout history and her commentary is used a tool of foreshadowing and warning. Finally, I’m relating the social issue of surveillance to the book Little Brother due to its theme of law and order. Today, the social issue of surveillance is an important and volatile topic. One side believes that surveillance is a necessary evil to protect and defend the freedoms of the American people, while the other side says that all personal freedoms are compromised and disregarded. The hyped-up surveillance in the novel was stemmed from the panic and fear in the DHS over the imminent threat of terrorism. In the same likeness, the debate of surveillance came to a climax after the events of 9/11. Author Cory Doctorow utilizes the theme of freedom and control to conduct a social criticism on the hyper vigilant government surveillance of today.

On Monday, March 6, I will be giving a conference presentation on escapism’s role in dystopias. While my focus will be on sci-fi dystopias or dystopias that have advanced technology, this is really something you’ll want to hear even if you aren’t a fan of sci-if.

Escapism is seeking relief or comfort from unpleasant realities. My main argument is that Escapism needs two things to be present. First there needs to be a push factor. This is the thing that will make a character want to seek a distraction for comfort or relief. In other words, what is unpleasant in their life. Dystopias are perfect for this. Dystopias are setting that are, by definition, unpleasant.

The second factor for Escapism is the pull factor. This is the thing that our character does or uses to escape their problems. Since my focus is on sci-fi’s and advanced technology dystopias, the pull factor tends to be based on technology. Part of my research supports that we prefer electronic communication over face-to-face. Especially when it would be an awkward or unpleasant conversation. This is evident in dystopian novels such as Ready Player One and the Hunger Games. It is also evident in TV shows such Black Mirror.

Of course these electronic escapes only allow the characters to find safe haven for a very limited amount of time compared to their time spent in misery. They can’t get enough in both the literal and figurative sense of the phrase. Furthermore, the connection between the unpleasant realities and the escapes isn’t just advanced technology. It can become an addiction that fuels the dystopian. Think of it like a Chinese finger-trap. When you try to escape, its grip gets stronger. The more a character gets captivated in their escape, the further they are from reality and the dystopia gets a tighter grip of control over the character. A good example of this is in an episode of Black Mirror. A new technology captures everything you see and hear and you can go back and relive memories or even share them with friends and family. The main character in the episode is constantly looking over past situations and becomes hyper-analytic and loses trust in his girlfriend. He becomes disconnected with reality and goes into a downward spiral and ends up alone. The technology had a total grip over his life.

While this is just one example, you can find similar trends among a large majority of dystopias feature advanced technology’s. I wouldn’t call them cliches though. They are more of new and developing archetypes, and that is exciting.

I saw this research paper as the perfect opportunity to communicate an issue that I think has been plaguing society. Since the rise of modern technology there has been a lack of importance placed on literature. The presence of a generation that remains more updated than ever, through social media, puts pressure on authors (and artists, etc.) to produce content more quickly. I hypothesize that this pressure results in authors falling back on “cheap” ways to get readers, instead of focusing on the “moral” aspect of the story.

Even though teens today have plenty of other things to influence and educate them, such as twitter, video games, and various new channels, YA literature remains one of the most useful tools for challenging the mind of the youth. Quickly produced and ill-thought out books might still achieve the goal of entertaining the reader, however these novels should be fully utilized by leaving the reader with questions or conclusions about life and society. This is especially true for dystopian novels, as they are the most effective in jump-starting a reader into action, often through fear.

However, this is not the fault of the ever-blamed millennials. Studies show that millennials are the most motivated generation, they have a higher “sense of purpose” than other generations, and are the largest advocates for social change. So why is there a gap between the desires of this young generation and the content produced for them? This is one of many questions my paper aims to answer.

My inspiration for this paper came out of researching some of my favorite novels, such as Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, and The Hunger Games, which are so morbid and abstract that I wondered how where the authors got their inspiration. I did some digging, and uncovered that almost every dystopian novel author came up with their idea because of a social injustice they wished to change.

My independent reading book, Uglies fits between the modern YA dystopia mold, and the “meaningful” dystopias. Uglies features a 16 year old girl as the main character with several love interests. The novel (arguably) is a part of a trilogy, is written in simple language, and was considered for a movie. These are components of a basic, money-making dystopia. However, it certainly left me wondering about the importance I place on my appearance. The author, Scott Westerfeld, explained “that his point in writing the book was not to make a big commentary on the issues with beauty, but to make people aware of the culture of retouching that is developing in the world and to be aware of our own ideas about beauty and our need to think for ourselves”.

Uglies should be a model to YA authors around the world. Dystopian novels can play into cliches, and get readers, while still having meaning.

Authors and Society: stop measuring the success of a novel by how much money the movie adaption made, and instead by the number of lives it impacted.

POST 4: Describe your upcoming conference paper by giving the audience a small preview, or abstract, of your argument. Make sure to include the title of the paper and your main arguments; additionally, make an effort to hype up your paper by talking about its most interesting elements (perhaps a fascinating source, or the really strong argument you came up with.) Aim to persuade your classmates that your paper is one to look forward to hearing during our conference.

 

My paper is on the role of religion in dystopia. If I were watching me present this, I would be supremely unexcited about this- while religion is important, it is often boring in an academic context. However, I am really going to outline how dystopian and real governments exploit religion to gain control over its citizens. History is full of examples of how religion can be exploited to justify horrible atrocities.

I’ll be talking about North Korea, which is always fascinating. I mean, a nation where their leader is said to have written six operas in two years and 1500 books, hit eleven holes in one on his first time golfing, controlled the weather with his mind and caused a new star and a double rainbow when he was born is undoubtedly engrossing. (By the way, it’s probably only feasible to hit a hole-in-one on a few golf holes out of eighteen- it’s possible on par 3 holes, on which there are 5 AT MOST and only a couple of par 4 holes, but now I’m just getting picky). And the man who did this looks like this????

I mean, his neck rolls, his glasses, his liver spots, HIS TEETH (ew)…

And his son, whose picture you will probably see next to the definition of “pudgy” in the dictionary:

By the way, THIS is his picture on Wikipedia: that’s propaganda if I’ve ever seen one:

Anyhoo, I compare it to my independent reading novel, Perfect Ruin, which has a deeply religious regime ruling it. North Korea, while technically areligious, operates under the worship of their leader, with the people striving to emulate him. I highlight five points religious regimes use to control their citizens as such: deification of leaders, treating religious doctrine as fact, fear of outsiders, debt to the government, and silence of dissenters. By manipulating these factors, government gets an iron grip on its citizens and gives the citizens a justification of how their government is treating them. And when something so good and meaningful gets twisted into a way to suppress and abuse its citizens, it begs a further investigation.

 

By the way, I’m sorry I forgot to post this yesterday. I have two really stressful tests this week as well as that project yesterday, so I’ve been really busy and overwhelmed. Sorry!

In today’s world, we take information for granted. Everything can be found at the click of a button and the all-knowing google almost never fails us. And growing up in this society, I’ve always looked at information as something good to have or something essential for my advancement through school or eventually through my professional career. However, reading through all these dystopias has given me a new perspective on information.

Information can be used as a weapon. To gain an advantage over others. However, unlike other weapons, knowledge can be disguised to look like a favor to the ignorant. The tactile handling of sensitive information – whether it is the withholding of facts, or disclosing them at the right time to the right person can all help to work the situation in your favor.

Thus, the topic of my presentation is – Information: The decider of fate in a dystopian world.

We’ll see how different dystopias use information differently to further their purposes.

One of my main arguments is that – Information can be used to manipulate. In my independent reading book – Incarceron, one of the two protagonists – Claudia is a ‘princess’ who’s about to be married off to an idiotic Earl and is not happy about it. Her father, the antagonist, is the Warden of Incarceron and has always told her half-truths. Claudia and her part of the world have been led to believe that Incarceron is a perfect world for prisoners and all those who are trapped inside, in fact, deserve to be that way. Thus none of them ever questions its legitimacy or whereabouts and all of them highly respect the Warden for keeping the ‘bad people’ in check. I also use examples from ‘Little Brother’ and ‘The 100’ to further my argument.

Some of my other arguments include how information is used to create fear, and yet how it can give hope. I explain these using examples from popular YA dystopian literature.

I look forward to presenting on Wednesday, letting you guys know more about these arguments and answering any questions that you might have for me!

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.

Social taboos (both in literature and in everyday discussion) include abuse, violence, religion, sex, and even diversity; however, these topics are still covered in considerable detail in most young adult novels. On the other hand, although self-harm, depression, and suicide are equally as sensitive topics as the aforementioned taboos, their discussion is both frowned upon and avoided. As a broad scope, there has been a sizable amount of novels published regarding teenage depression; however, they constitute an extremely small fraction of the popularity that young adult novels–with thematic elements involving romance and self-discovery–generally hold. Delving more specifically into dystopian young adult literature, this number is even smaller; in fact, over the approximately 600 (give or take) young adult dystopian novels published within the past few years, Google search results yield specific dystopian genres ranging from science fiction to romance, with a single dystopian novel discussing teen depression and suicide: The Program by Suzanne Young.
Generally speaking, and as observed in this course, dystopian novels gain popularity due to their ability to feed on actual, plausible fears rooting from modern day society. What makes dystopian literature especially unique and appealing, however, is its ability to appeal to readers through other popular teenage interests (e.g. The Hunger Games with romance, The Uglies with self acceptance, Matched with science fiction). One of the most pressing issues in modern society is the struggle with mental health; in fact, depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States in teens and adults, and in 2014 alone, 2.8 million teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 had at least one major depressive episode. One major benefit of an increase in popular novels discussing depression is that it allows for teenagers to not only feel more comfortable with the validity of the problems they might be facing, but for the introduction of a possible solution. Additionally, a huge aspect of societal debate is the role that authority figures can play to help, and novels discussing this might allow for more exposure of and solutions to deeper-rooted problems and misconceptions in society. However, both of these raise questions: who determines what is relevant to teenagers? In what ways could thematic dystopian teenage depression novels backfire?

 

Works Cited

“Teen Depression Statistics & Facts.” Teen Help, 9 Feb. 2016, www.teenhelp.com/teen-depression/teen-depression-statistics/. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.

“YA Books About/Mentioning Depression, Self-Harm And Suicide (201 books).” Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/list/show/13907.YA_Books_About_Mentioning_Depression_Self_Harm_And_Suicide. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.

Hello fellow dystopian lovers! In Friday’s class, I will be giving a presentation on  my research paper which will be covering  the topic: The Effect of Technology on the Interaction Between a Government and It’s Citizens. It’s a mouthful, I know but I’ll explain everything.

First, let’s talk about how technology has changed government, in the context of today. With the recent advancement of  technology, we are treacherously close to living out the events of our favorite dystopias. It’s no secret that the government is watching us .In today’s society, we accept it as normal that we live our lives digitally and that data can be seen by anyone with the will to look. We need only look at the Edward Snowden Case to see how much they actually see. In 2013, Edward Snowden illegally leaked classified files from the  National Security Agency (NSA) and told Americans exactly how their privacy was being a violated.

This violation of trust is actually not that uncommon What’s worrisome is that it’s a common trend we find in dystopian novels. Most YA dystopian novels feature a society with extremely advanced technology, owing, perhaps, the fact that sophisticated technology enhances the control aspects of utopian literature .We’ll go into more depth later, but for now, look to1984, Hunger Games and Little Brother as some examples of this. In each of the novels, the people are oppressed in various ways through technological subjugation. The difference between our society today and that of a dystopian society is that we trust our government to use this knowledge for our own good. There isn’t much to hold it together after these bet There is a line between security and invasion. The problem is , who draws the line? In most dystopias, the all-powerful government is that way because of the technology that got them into power. Technology shows the best of us and the worst of us, simultaneously showing Human ingenuity, and destructive tendency.

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