In my research on media and communication in relation to dystopian fiction and to society today, I found a very interesting and informative source titled, “Living the Orwellian Nightmare: New Media and Digital Dystopia,” by Greg Diglin. I found it extremely helpful in uncovering some new ideas and new information for my paper, and it seems like anyone who is interested in the topic of surveillance or that of media and communication in dystopian fiction would find it highly applicable and helpful.
The basic, underlying argument that the author makes throughout the article is that many elements of George Orwell’s well-known book, 1984, can be observed in society today due to the fact that governments today are able to use new, unprecedented technologies in order to have similar powers to “Big Brother” in the dystopian novel. To elaborate upon this argument, Diglin first offers a description of the political and social conditions that 1984 emerged from, so that even someone who has not actually read the book could understand his argument. He then goes on to further his ideas through the use of events that have actually happened, as well as real organizations and people as examples of Orwellian influence in modern society. Some of these examples include the WikiLeaks Project, Edward Snowden, and real governments’ use of propaganda. He makes strong connections from the real world to the Orwellian dystopia, and successfully covers a range of issues, from surveillance, to propaganda, to netspeak, to create a very well-rounded and soundly reasoned argument. A few of his main points are that all people using new media are constantly subjected to surveillance through various government organizations, that the US government has used digital propaganda to promote warfare and influence citizens’ opinions, and that the use of the internet is leading to the breakdown of language and knowledge.
This argument is made easily coherent with the organization of the article into different sections based on those core issues of surveillance, propaganda, and destruction of knowledge, which makes it simple to find the information that you are looking for and gives it a logical flow. Overall, it’s an important source because it directly relates fact to fiction, and the dystopian world to the real world, rather than resting solely in one or the other, which makes it easy to connect them through common themes.
An interrogation room. The conditions are dark and cold. There is one means of escape and communication with the outside world and that access is determined by the interrogators.
Jeffrey Deskovic was a 17-year-old who was wrongly convicted of raping and murdering one of his high school classmates. He was convicted and sent to prison for the crime he did not commit. He was held against his will in an interrogation room for eight hours with no adult to help him other than the officer interrogating him. He was pushed beyond his limit and, because of his abuse in the interrogation room, he was forced to admit he was guilty. However, he was not guilty of such a crime. My research focuses on the psychological aspect, but I believe this article is useful for many areas of research, but in particular, when dealing with communication. Communication is key to a dystopia and as shown by Jeffrey, when communication is damaged, bad things can happen.
The argument presented by the JJIE (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange) article about Deskovic and his unjust punishment is that a person undergoes severe repercussions before, during and after imprisonment. From the beginning, Deskovic was forced to shut his mouth and only open it when he had the “right” thing to say. When imprisoned, Jeffrey, and other inmates are kept in solitary confinement while the rest of the world continues to move forward. Almost all communication is destroyed. This is evident in Deskovic’s case as he left prison with no idea what to do or how to do it; he was a minor when he entered prison and an adult when he left prison. He was untrained in how to do simple tasks that adults living in the real world could perform because he was confined and disconnected for the outside world.
Inmate talking on the phone with someone on the outside world.
The article describes Jeffrey’s experiences and the conclusion is made that the conditions Jeffrey experienced were and could have been horrific if he had not had a major life change after his release (he was welcomed in by some people to help him get his life together). The source can help anyone researching communication in dystopias because it points out how the use of violent tactics can force someone to confess or conform (another research topic) to what society or authorities want because the victim has no means to ask for help.
Williams, Brooke L. “Wrongfully Convicted Teen Finds New Challenges in Freedom.” Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 7 Dec. 2015, jjie.org/2015/05/08/wrongfully-convicted-teen-finds-new-challenges-in-freedom-as-a-man/. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
Take a moment to imagine what life would be like without any communication with other people. Each person would become an island, isolated, with no connections to anyone else and no ability to forge connections. There would be no reason to have any of the things that we use to facilitate communication today. We would have no telephones, no internet, no newspapers, no television, no radio, no magazines, no advertisements, and no books. Furthermore, no one would talk to each other. And there would be no exchange of ideas and information. This means that we would lose the need for language, written or verbal. We would lose one of the main things that makes us who we are, that makes us fundamentally human: language. That, in and of itself, is a terrifying prospect. Because, without communication, there would be no progress as a society. Would there even be a such thing as society? It’s almost unimaginable. Dystopian fiction takes this idea of the lack of communication and uses it to play upon some of our most deeply rooted fears. By taking our current system of communication and breaking it or altering it in order to make it dysfunctional in some way, authors of dystopian novels force the readers to think about the necessity of communication and they comment upon the issues inherent in our current system of communication. This is the topic that I will be discussing in my research presentation this Friday and in my research paper. I am going to use the books that we have read in class along with my independent reading book, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black, and academic sources on the topic of communication and media to analyze how communication and dystopia combine to reveal how our system can break down and is currently breaking down. The main ways that it is failing, as revealed by the dystopian novels, are that people are questioning what sources of information are trustworthy, there are concerns about larger entities controlling information, and there is possible surveillance of private communication. So, get excited to hear my presentation, titled, “Severed Connections: The Dysfunction of Communication in Dystopian Literature.”
In dystopian novels, one issue that generally manifests itself is the issue of communication. This can happen in many ways. For example, in the book, Little Brother, the main character, Marcus wants to hold a press conference but doesn’t want to reveal his identity, so he uses a game on the Xnet as a mode of secure communication for himself. Another example is in The 100, a dystopian television show. When the ship lands on earth, all of the communication systems get broken on impact and there is no way for the teens on earth to communicate with the people still on the Ark except through bracelets that relay their vital signs. The photos show the bracelets on the characters’ wrists and the readout on the Ark. I think this theme recurs in many dystopias because for humans, communication with others is essential for survival, no matter what the time period is. Just the simple fact that our language is so complex and sophisticated, and that it is continually developing into modern modes of communication, is proof that it is absolutely necessary.
It is therefore unsurprising that this issue came to light in my independent reading book, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. The basic premise is that vampirism has become a disease and is spreading throughout the population and those that are bitten must be quarantined in what they call “Coldtowns.” The communication between the outside world and those inside the Coldtown is very unreliable and skewed by the media. Those outside the Coldtown have to rely on the news and traditional media sources in order to hear what goes on, yet these are not necessarily accurate. The main broadcast is of an endless party held in a mansion, which glamorizes life in the Coldtown, when the reality is much less than glamorous and is in fact very dangerous and difficult. The more reliable sources of information are the people in the Coldtown that have a social media presence. One specific character, Midnight, entered the Coldtown with the intention of sharing her experiences online with her followers. She makes blog posts and YouTube videos divulging the true things that happen within the walls of the quarantined city. So, social media, because it is not filtered by other people that have their own agendas, and comes directly from the source, becomes more trustworthy and honest. Even in our society today, more people than ever are relying on social media as a mode of communication and a source of reliable information.
For my research paper, I want to investigate the relationship between traditional media and social media, and their role in society and in dystopian fiction. At this point, the topic is pretty general, but I think it will get more specific as I continue to research.