Blog Post 6 EC

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.

We have all read and discussed 1984 in depth plenty of times; however, it is interesting to look at how it shaped us as a society.  Joanne W.’s prezi, The Cultural Impact of 1984, does just this; specifically, it explores the effects 1984 had on our pop culture. She does this with a slideshow of direct examples from various sources, spread across movies, TV, music, advertising and art, comic books, video games, and books. The slideshow itself is made up of seven columns of varying heights, one dedicated to each of these categories. She includes pictures and a detailed explanation of how each of these works relate to 1984 to emphasize her point. An example of this would be how the logo of the Batman: Arkham City video game is like an inverted INGSOC logo and how the antagonist often gives propaganda speeches through big televised screens. In the end, she uses all these sources to argue that people look towards 1984 for inspiration and social guidance to deny the control and to embrace their individuality. 

This prezi is a very efficient resource because it not only shows the effects of 1984 to help us understand how it affects our world, but also provides us with a plethora of dystopian worlds to explore. These worlds are mostly built on Orwellian totalitarianism, so they help us better understand how government control can affect us in different ways. Some examples are Equilibrium, 1985, Brazil, V for Vendetta, and Half-Life 2. Each of these works has its own backstory and reasons for the totalitarian government ruling; but they are all united under 1984’s legacy.

I personally want to use this source to show how 1984 has affected us as a society and to highlight how deep our opposition to these Orwellian conce
pts flows. The sheer amount of references in this presentation really shows us how much a dystopian work can affect the way we think of a concept such as government control.

Works Cited

W, Joanne. “The Cultural Impact of 1984.” Prezi.com, 20 Apr. 2015, prezi.com/97efdev5igwx/the-cultural-impact-of-1984/. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

One article that could contribute greatly to many presentations is “America the Dystopia?” by Jean Card. Card presents the idea that our world is getting closer and closer to one of the many dystopian societies that fiction writers depict today. She describes historical, political, and cultural changes that are gaining momentum, but that will affect our world in a negative manner. She proceeds to detail the government found in many dystopian societies: a large government led by a charismatic leader who relies on martial order and control of natural resources. Continuing on through the article, she breaks down many individual characteristics of dystopias, and indirectly connects them to our own world.

The first idea Card gives the reader is, “Big government and big media are dominating American society and suffocating free speech. Who will rise up?”. If the presenter is of the opinion that America could possibly move toward a dystopian-like existence, then this article examines many of the aspects that support that claim. Card breaks down the way the government and media have taken steps to inhibit truly free speech. She defines the term “political correctness” and talks of how many American citizens feel “muzzled” by the negative reception speaking freely brings. This, she states, is due to the way the centralized media has been grooming the culture. She speaks of every kind of diversity being so embraced that it almost feels enforced. She goes on to give a breakdown of how she believes our government has devolved from the shining ideal our forefathers created it to be.

Technology is another aspect that Card analyzes in our society and then compares to technological usage in fictional dystopias. Technology, she says, in dystopias has made almost magical advancements, and, yet, if we look at the technology we have in our world today, we can see just as “magical” of advancements. The information that can be accessed with our technology typically comes from a centralized source. One of the examples Card gives is as follows, “Facebook has the centralized, massive, unprecedented power to influence the information we consume, almost blithely, on a daily basis,”. The technology and information available to us has become both a blessing and a curse. In all, the article is good food for the thought if nothing else, however, if your own opinion is mirrored in the article, it can be quite a valuable resource.

While perusing the web for valid sources for my individual research, I came across a paper by Peter Marks titled Imaging Surveillance: Utopian Visions and Surveillance Studies. This paper focuses on the way surveillance plays a role in dystopian literature, specifically how it presents itself in utopias. He talks about the origination of surveillance in utopias, by examining Thomas Moore’s Utopia. Here, he states, “nothing is private or exclusive, … there are no hiding places outside the home, no spots for secret meetings, and … inhabitants live in full view of each other.” This description comes from Moore’s Utopia, but is reminiscent of literature that capitalizes on “surveillance societies”, as Marks calls them. In his paper, he argues for the large concern for surveillance in utopian literature. In the beginning of the article, he also talks about the power of 1984 in influencing readers’ and society’s view on the surveillance society. He also points to Stanley Cohen, who published on the importance of surveillance as a means of social control in dystopian/utopian literature. He then connects this to Darko Suvin’s idea of cognitive estrangement; he says that these utopian worlds in literature present us with alternative worlds, that catalyze new and creative thought, and in this case specifically on surveillance in our own societies.

My paper focuses on the use of Big Data in dystopias to facilitate oppression, and the most common way it is used is in surveillance. Marks’s paper was useful in addressing this issue because he creates the argument for a common “surveillance society”, in which I can use to identify them in the novels that I am examining. I can then recognize how Big Data is being used in the methods of surveillance in each novel. This then is related back to its usage in our own society, pointing out the possible abuses through the creation of an alternate society, AKA cognitive estrangement. I found the introduction and the section titled “A Case for and Against Utopias” most useful, as this is where Marks makes his general case before analyzing this trend/theme in specific TV shows and books.

This paper will be useful in other projects as well, especially those that focus on technology and oppression. During our conference presentation, I heard many themes associated with oppressive rule, whether it be through surveillance or other means of restriction. This source is worth using, since it links many ideas in the study of dystopian literature to the issue of surveillance. Because of the way Marks refers to well-known scholars in this field, his paper can point you to further readings on similar topics in Dystopian literature.

 

Works Cited:

Marks, Peter. “Imaging Surveillance: Utopian Visions and Surveillance Studies”. Surveillance & Society,       Vol. 3 No. 2/3, pp. 222-239.

The critique, “Fresh Hell,” written by Laura Miller for The New Yorker, is an in-depth look into the world of young adult dystopian literature.  Miller analyzes the boom in YA dystopian literature and believes that the autonomy of teens, the imaginative environments and cliff hangers are major contributors to the popularity of recent novels such as The Hunger Games. Comparing adult and young adult dystopias Miller says that adult dystopias are “grimmer.” In the article, Miller analyses an academic journal, “2003 collection “Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults,” the British academic Kay Sambell […] implies that dystopian stories for adults and children have essentially the same purpose—to warn us about the dangers of some current trend.” Specific examples Miller strategically uses is “1984” and “Brave New World” as “they detail the consequences of political authoritarianism and feckless hedonism.”

Similar to Melissa Ames’s academic journal, “Engaging ‘Apolitical’ Adolescents: Analyzing the Popularity and Educational Potential of Dystopian Literature Post-9/11” Miller explores the increasing demand for this specific YA genre through these themes and motifs. The most interesting argument stems from the idea that young adults are living in their own dystopia and that idea is the cause of the boom in popularity of the genre. “The success of ‘Uglies,’ [author] Westerfeld once wrote in his blog, “is partly thanks to high school being a dystopia.” Miller says, “adults dump teen-agers into the viper pit of high school, spouting a lot of sentimental drivel about what a wonderful stage of life it’s supposed to be.” This cruel sentiment is relatable to the government of The Hunger Games and how they “dump” teenagers into the games

The overall article is well-developed and ties into many of the themes of the course. The arguments are well-rounded and have no bias. Miller herself had done many critiques of literature and is very credible in her field. Her insight into the teenage condition is the most impressive feature in the article. This source really benefited my argument that young adult dystopia’s are social criticisms, however almost all other projects involving YA dystopian literature will benefit from the insightful and well-developed argument by Miller. This is because as Miller showcases the social commentary YA dystopias have for society, it also demonstrates and proves how meaningful and impactful this genre is. This notion benefits all research into young adult fiction as it heightens its purpose and gives the writer a new perspective into the mind of the targeted audience.

Works Cited

Miller, Laura. “Fresh Hell.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 14 July 2015,

www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/06/14/fresh-hell-2. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.