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On Friday, I will be giving a presentation on the role of “Technological Surveillance in YA Dystopias” and the effect that it has on characters within the books that we’ve read (as well as my independent reading book, Matched). I will start by giving my personal definition of what a Dystopia is, just as I did in my first blog, and then I will delve into the definition of technological surveillance and I will connect the two definitions to one another. I am going to discuss how the presence of technological surveillance in societies have a largely negative effect on the characters that I’ve chosen to discuss from each book. I think that the presentation will be interesting for you all to hear because although we’ve talked a great deal about technological surveillance in Little Brother, we haven’t had the chance to really discuss its’ effect in The Hunger Games. In addition to discussing the effects that surveillance has on the psychological state of characters within these novels, I plan to compare the level of surveillance in the novels to the level of surveillance in the world today. It’s scary, but I’ve found lots of similarities.

I am also excited to present the information that I’ve discovered about technological surveillance in the United States today because there seem to be a lot of things that we aren’t aware of as US citizens and I am interested to see how people will react to what I’ve found in my sources. You should all look forward to hearing my presentation because it will not only shed light on subjects that we haven’t been able to discuss about the books we’ve read in class, but it will also shed light on how scarily similar some of these books are to today’s world. I hope that my presentation will make you think about your use of technology and reconsider how excessively one should use said technology. I’ve attached a link to one of my sources and I hope you all get a chance to read or skim through it so that you might have some food for thought before my presentation.

Today, we talked about Darko Suvin’s essay on “the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre.” We worked through his major arguments and his classification scheme for SF and other genres commonly associated with SF (fantasy, fairy tale, myth). We highlighted the context for Suvin’s argument, the political upside to grouping utopia/dystopia with sci fi, and the difference between the analogic and extrapolative models of SF.
We also talked about Lyman Tower Sargent’s article”The Three Faces of Utopianism Revisited” and the ways in which it is conversation with Suvin’s article. We focused on the three “faces” that he discusses (literary utopia, intentional communities and utopian social theory) and the investment in revisiting these concepts given a prevailing opinion that utopia is increasingly possible in our contemporary world. In particular, we looked at his criticism of using the word “perfect” when defining utopia and the ways in which that particular word in the definition undermines the overall utopian project.
HOMEWORK:
  1. Annotated Bibliographies are due tonight by 11:55pm to TSquare – please be sure to submit them as a Word doc or a PDF and include your last name in the file name.
  2. Read WOEVENText 10, 11, and 12 on Oral Presentations for Monday
  3. Start outlining, drafting, writing your research paper. You will want to aim to have a draft of your paper complete by next week; the conference presentation can be a very valuable exercise in helping you to distill and clarify your arguments, but you need to know what those arguments are before you can clarify them.

As a quick reminder, I made some changes to next week’s schedule on the syllabus (see previous blog post) in order to add a visit to the Communications Center on Friday, March 3. Please keep these deadlines in mind as you are working in the next few days and don’t forget that Friday’s class will be held in CULC 447.

For my independent reading, I read Matched by Allie Condie and while reading the YA Romance Dystopia, a lot of questions came up. However, one of the most prominent questions that kept popping up in my head was “Why do these people trust the ‘Society’ so much and why do they let the ‘Society’ make all of their decisions for them?” Throughout the novel, I kept finding more and more people who simply went along with what the ‘Society’ instructed them to do, and without question. I think the reason why this came as such a shock to me is because growing up, my dad always taught me to question everything and trust my own instinct versus others’ instruction.

To go back a little bit, I’d like to explain what the ‘Society’ is and its large role in Matched. The ‘Society’ is the form of government that exists in Matched and it controls its citizens through constant monitoring and constant control over what they do. They decide who marries who, who does what, and everything else you can think of. However, the characters are deceived by the ‘Society’ and are convinced that they have some power over what they choose to do, when the reality of the situation is that it is only an illusion and the ‘Society’ truly makes all of the decisions.

This concept is so bizarre and intriguing to me because I feel that it is totally possible in today’s world. I feel like with all of the technology that exists today, it is so easy for people to be wrapped up in technology that they don’t realize if they’re being monitored or not—or if they do, they simply don’t care. Because of this, I plan to research how technology affects people and how it can numb people to the concerns of constant surveillance. Ultimately, the role of technology and surveillance in dystopian novels is what interests me the most and that is why I’ve chosen to write me research paper on this topic.

 

Works Cited:

Condie, Ally. Matched. Penguin Books Ltd., 2012.

According the Dictionary.com, propaganda is defined as “information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.” 

It’s important to note that propaganda can be both helpful and harmful. In The Hunger Games, for example, the Capitol benefits from the false information spread about the Games, while the citizens of Panem evidently suffer because of the propaganda. The Games as a whole can essentially be considered propaganda because the Capitol claims that they’re essential in order to maintain order and peace. While the Capitol believes that the Games are helping them maintain order, the Districts are being fueled by the Capitol’s lies and corruption. If the Games weren’t a thing in the first place, Katniss would never have inspired the Districts to rise against the Capitol. In The Hunger Games, the role of propaganda is supposed to be to maintain order, but as we find out later in the franchise, propaganda seems to be the root of the war.

Just a facetious ad criticizing the Capitol’s thinking.

Another book in which propaganda plays a significant role in is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. (Great book by the the way. I definitely recommend it) The book is basically about an isolated, mysterious society which consists of only men and animals who are able to listen to each other’s thoughts. The story revolves around Todd, a 13 year-old boy who’s unsure about why there are no women in his community. His whole life, he’s been taught that aliens known as Spackle invaded his community and killed off the women with a germ called Noise (the germ that men had in order to be able to listen to each other’s thoughts). In order to avoid spoilers, I won’t say what happens exactly, but Todd makes the realization that he’s been lied to his whole life. In this book, the government utilizes propaganda as a strategy to have full control over their community.

In both books, authoritative organizations use propaganda in an attempt to enforce complete dominion over a society. Unfortunately, the propaganda isn’t very successful in neither of these books, and that’s what these authors are trying to argue: despite the hefty use of propaganda in dystopian literature, complete dominion over a society already overrun by its flaws is impossible.

In The Hunger Games (film), a propaganda film version of the “Treaty of Treason” described in the book is shown before the reaping that sends Katniss and Peeta into the 74th Hunger Games. It uses a variety of rhetorical techniques to convey its point, which is to remind the districts of the Capitol’s version of Panem’s history, as well as explain the Capitol-District relationship to the viewer.

The clip begins by evoking an emotion of discomfort and uneasiness, utilizing human skulls embedded in mud in the rain, and men in hazmat suits reminiscent of Chernobyl, standing behind flames and ruin. The uneasy mood quickly shifts to sympathy, as the narrator (President Snow) says “widows, orphans, a motherless child.” He places blame on the districts for starting the uprising that causes these gloomy circumstances. “13 districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them” is an example of asyndeton. This rhetorical device creates the illusion that Snow’s list is longer than it really is (making it seem like the Capitol did more for the districts than it really did) as well as making each list item more impactful, giving the actions a unique emphasis. As the video progresses further into the uprising period of Panem, the scenes become shorter and shorter, which makes the viewer more and more frantic and uneasy. Finally, after showing the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb, it is quickly replaced with a peaceful, billowing wheat field. The contrast between atomic bomb and quiet field (followed by a toddler running into its parent’s arms) makes the peace that follows the rebellion seem that much better and hard-fought in comparison to the death and destruction we were shown only a second ago.

Taking a step back out of Panem and looking at how the real audience interacts with this propaganda, it’s easy to see that the filmmakers intentionally made it poorly. The narration is cheesy, the transitions are reminiscent of educational history videos shown on rolling TVs in an elementary school classroom near you, and it looks like it was directed by a History Channel docuseries filmmaker. If we are supposed to identify with citizens of the districts, Gary Ross’s directing combined with Tom Stern’s cinematography succeeds in displaying how out of touch the Capitol is with the districts. Capitol citizens would eat up false drama and theatrical scenes, but the people of the districts couldn’t care less about the cheap tricks. It doesn’t look like too much money or effort was put into the video, which is reminiscent of how much money and effort the Capitol spends on the districts.

Looking at this video clip from perspectives both inside and outside the world of Panem allows two completely different analyses, both of which say something different about dystopias and how characters and readers/viewers interact with them. Using real-world film techniques to show the Capitol-District relationship is an example of how filmmakers shove as much information from the book into a 2-hour movie time slot.

The worldwide phenomena that the YA dystopian novel The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has become in the recent years called for an enormous amount of advertisements, movie posters and all sorts of marketing to cater to the audience’s demands. Lionsgate Films, while promoting the third movie in the franchise “Mockingjay, Part 1” decided to design and release a collection of portraits depicting and representing several of Panem’s districts.

Each of the images came accompanied by a blurb about the individuals portrayed in the collection.  These portraits were published in the Capitol’s website as if they were designed and distributed all across Panem by the same Capitol with the objective of glorifying the citizens of each district and thanking them for their hard work and contributing to the community where they belong.

If these portraits have been supposedly created and designed by the Capitol it is obvious that there is always going to be an underlying message. I decided to analyze in particular the portrait associated with District 10, because I believe it has a lot to say and holds a lot of hidden meaning. I am going to refer to different objects and areas of the portraits that I labeled in the images.

The first thing I noticed when looking at the image for the first time was the smoking pipe (1). It is most certainly something placed on purpose and I believe it is a way to depict the Capitol. It is there to show their veiled presence throughout Panem. People in the districts hold no riches when compared with the Capitol and therefore the pipe would seem absurd if it were not mimicking the citizens of Panem’s capital.

Secondly, I started to notice how they turned the model into a citizen that fits into the definition of “cattle” by using a furry coat and a nose ring (2). Clearly the nose ring is an icon that is widely associated with cattle, as it is a symbol we can find in many advertisements and related products. The furry coat obviously envelops the model as if it were his second nature, its clothes, and its comfort. It can also be thought that it is the Capitol’s way to mask their belief that the people in the districts are more animal-like and savages when compared to their own.

It is also important to notice how the district’s seal (3), a cattle and two crossed butcher knives, is then contradicted by how the model is holding the lamb, as if it were its own baby or prized possession, close to his heart. Therefore we are lead to believe that citizens in District 10 value their cattle, but as the emblem shows, in the end they are as lethal as any other for “the good of Panem”.

 

Finally, I would like to talk about the text in this portrait (4). The blurb itself is already downgrading the citizen by saying “raised amongst the herd” as if he were part of the cattle of District 10. However, it is masked by thanking the citizen for its hard work and its contribution to the nation, placing importance in the recognition of “love your labor” and “make us proud”, which ultimately leads to the famous “Panem today, Panem tomorrow, Panem Forever”.

As a whole I believe these portraits created by Lionsgate Films were thoroughly thought through when being designed to align them with the Capitol’s ideology and propagandistic views that are so widely represented throughout the books and movies. These portraits have veiled meanings, thus, the truth is found between the lies.