Reading Doctorow’s Little Brother has definitely brought my attention to digital privacy. One of the reasons why Little Brother is such a thought-provoking dystopia is that the novel uses contemporary technology in modern-day San Francisco which gives its readers the sense that they may actually be living in a similar dystopia not too far in the future whereas it’s difficult to put myself in the shoes of Aria in Under the Never Sky because I don’t live in a post-apocalyptic world in an augmented reality controlled by the government.
Digital privacy is becoming an increasingly controversial topic, especially now that President Donald Trump has signed a law that loosens the restrictions on what internet service providers could do with the data they collect. Due to the lack of competition among internet service providers and the fact that internet is practically a necessity now, there isn’t really a convenient way to avoid having data collected on you, and most people wouldn’t go out of their way to prevent data from being collected on them.
I will admit I do not fully understand what the consequences of this law will be, but after reading Little Brother, I think it’s safer to side with the individual consumers than the big data companies. There is something uncomfortably invasive about the idea of having data being collected on you and then sold, even if it’s just to advertisers. Little Brother has also drawn my attention to how difficult it can be to protect your digital information from being collected if restrictions aren’t put in place. Most people understandably don’t understand what happens behind their computer screens and are easy prey for businesses that want to sell their information. In Little Brother, if people wanted to access the internet while protecting their privacy, someone who understood how the technology worked like Marcus had to figure out a countermeasure and then teach it to everyone first. A similar series of steps must occur already in the real world for internet users to protect themselves. First they have to learn about the potential threat in the first place. Then the majority of them will have to hope someone else has created a tutorial for a countermeasure. Realistically, most people won’t go through all that trouble, so I think it’s the responsibility of the lawmakers to protect citizens from being taken advantage of.
Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tom Doherty Associates, 2008.
Rossi, Veronica. Under the Never Sky. HarperCollins, 2012.
M.T. Anderson’s Feed takes place sometime in the (hopefully) not so near future, with a main emphasis on social media and corporations taking over everything in America, from School^TM to private instant messaging. Subtly, underneath all of the advertising we see clogging Titus’s (the main character) mental feed, we also catch glimpses of a future in which the Earth is nearly too toxic to safely inhabit, and in which America goes to war and cuts off ties with other world powers without much explanation. In this grand scheme of events, the novel focuses on a group of (mostly) uninformed teens who have little to no life experience without a chip in their brains telling them almost everything they could ever need to know. In this dystopia specifically, I’m most interested in the development of technology, how separated the young adults are from the world around them, and how the young adults develop with such a connection between the internet and their brains.
Following these interests, one possible main research question of mine is: What traits do young adults pose that make them so well-suited for the dystopian genre? In Feed, the sheer amount of time spent on social media is strongly emphasized, which is incredibly reminiscent of complaints by parents about their kids in America today. This makes young adults an incredible audience for a story like this because of how well they can relate, perhaps even more so today than when the book was originally published back in 2002. Alternately, another question of mine is: How does the development of technology impact in YA dystopian literature? The impact of technology in Feed is rather intense, as the function of one’s feed chip directly correlates with their brain and therefore their physical and mental health. Are teenagers just rebellious enough naturally to fight back against the system that makes their world a dystopia in the first place? Are young adults better suited to understand world problems when articulated through ways in which they can relate? This is just a taste of some of the questions I’m hoping to answer and understand throughout the ongoing and upcoming research process.