little brother

All posts tagged little brother

What interests me about dystopian novels is their tendency to create worlds in which people are controlled by technology intended to help them. It’s similar to the common science fiction trope of a robot revolution, but the fact that a small group of humans is behind the machines makes it more realistic and possibly more frightening. These technologies range from simple surveillance tools like cameras (and the software necessary to filter through all the information for anything relevant) to augmented realities in the most extreme cases which allow those with the authority to directly observe and change the worlds in which their users live. For my independent reading novel, Under the Never Sky, the latter is used to allow large amounts of people, known as the Dwellers, to live in a small space, while spending most of their attention and time in virtual realms created and monitored by the government.

The Matrix is another example of an augmented reality which is regulated by the Agents who have the ability to bend reality.

Even more interesting is the tendency of these novels to antagonize technology completely and have their protagonists revert to more primitive ways of life. In my experience, Marcus in Little Brother is the only protagonist I’ve seen try to use primarily technology to fight back against a dystopian government. Bows and blades are much more commonly used by protagonists, even in worlds where hovercrafts and other advanced war technologies dominate battlefields which is the case in Under the Never Sky. In this novel, the post-apocalyptic world outside of the pods in which the Dwellers live is ruined by war and Aether storms that set the ground ablaze. Savages and cannibals roam the lands unclaimed by tribes, and extreme mutations are not uncommon, yet the reader still gets the sense that this natural way of life is better than the artificial one in the Realms. To emphasize this, mutations in the novel often amplify human senses to superhuman levels, giving the author an excuse to explain how sensuously rich the real world is compared to any artificial one. I wonder why authors so often write stories that seem to suggest that primitive lifestyles are better than the lifestyles permeated with technology that we’re headed towards, rather than stories that show how we can fight to keep our rights as technology inevitably develops further which I believe Doctorow does very well in Little Brother.

Works Cited:

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2008.

Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tom Doherty Associates, 2008.

Rossi, Veronica. Under the Never Sky. Harper Collins, 2012.

The human being is a rational entity, running off the presence of order and structure. This is reflected on every society that we construct, whether in literature or in actuality. Specifically looking at dystopias, the complex division (or lack thereof) of power is central to its ability to control and manipulate its constituents. The role that each part of the governing body plays seems to always be facilitated by some means – usually technology.

In Matched, by Allie Condie, the government has attempted to eliminate all sources of uncertainly and disorder – down to each person’s time of death. Had anyone seen anything remotely condoning of rebellion, they are instructed to take a memory erasing pill. They have anxiety medication at their disposal. They are told where to live, what to work, and who to love. This, of course, is all made possible by the progression of technology, in surveillance and in medicine. Cassia, the curious but naïve protagonist, find herself being watched more than the others when she falls in love out of script; infractions for holding hands in a “secluded” mountain, and shrinking meal portions as punishment. While the surveillance that goes on in Matched is very direct (government supervised dates!), that that happens in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother is done more remotely. Every keystroke, every step, and every place visited is logged by the DHS in attempt to keep a tight chokehold on its citizens for “safety”. Gait recognition, internet spies, and classroom cameras are all made possible by the speedy progress that technology has undergone.

It’s interesting to think of alternative outcomes of these stories had the technology not been there. For one, Marcus and the X-netters could not have defeated the DHS without their hack-savvy techniques.; however, the excessive surveillance would have never been possible without it. In Matched, the disposability of these different “pills” facilitates the mental control that the Officials have on the people. This created an entirely different dynamic than the one that exists in Little Brother, since digital technology doesn’t hold as big of a role for the “people” party in Matched.

Technology and its ability to facilitate oppression and control is unquestionable; ethical fears of privacy and control are huge barriers to such progress in our current society. But for the fictional worlds that authors have created for us (perhaps in warning?), the potential that technology holds for this kind of future is frightening. The physical technology that is used in YA dystopias is not far off from what is currently feasible. My research interest lies in the realm of technology’s role in oppression in YA dystopian novels, and how these roles cross with what is currently happening today with the collection of Big Data, the internet, and public surveillance.

BIG DATA: an introduction by IBM


Works cited

  1. Allen, Justin. “ Little Brother Is Watching You · Corporate America Leverages Telematics.”Forwardslash /, 21 Feb. 2015,  brother-        watching-you/. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.
  2. Big Data.” IBM Big Data – What Is Big Data – United States, 14 Nov. 2016, Accessed 19 Feb. 2017
  3. Condie, Ally. Matched. Penguin Group, 2010.
  1. Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tor, 2008.

Dystopian Literature is becoming an increasingly prominent staple of the reading community, but what is the reason for this exactly? A dystopian novel may choose a negative aspect of a current society and utilize it as the causation for the setting to be dystopian, but I believe the purpose of Dystopian Literature goes far beyond this. Modern dystopia, and specifically young adult dystopia, has become an increasing popular conduit for authors to convey the problems associated with our society and allow the readers to think and develop their own ideas on what should be done.

In Homeland, Cory Doctorow’s sequel to Little Brother, the story is set in San Francisco in the years following terrorist attacks that happened in the previous story (Little Brother). The root of my argument stems from the story of Little Brother and transitions into Homeland. Throughout Little Brother, we are constantly reminded of the dangers of an increasingly digitalized world, where an influx of data is kept on record by the government, and is available to those who are smart enough to get past whatever security was put in place. I believe this issue was raised, not just as a plot point, but also to show the young adults reading, that this is potentially where we are headed as a society. We are becoming increasingly digitalized and the possibilities of this are limitless, but there is a high potential for abuse of this, whether from an overbearing government or extremely crafty hackers thinking what they are doing is for the right cause (I’m not saying what the hackers in the book did was right or wrong. That argument is for another time). Early on in Homeland, Marcus is given the opportunity to work for a politician along with being given information about the government that could bring them (the government) a lot of troubles. Much of the story is focuses on the moral dilemma of whether Marcus should release this information. Where Little Brother focuses on a course of action if problems do arise with an increasingly tech based society, Homeland serves more to convey how we should implement such a society. How do we make decisions about what information is public and what is private? These books aren’t just written to tell an interesting story of a digitalized society, but to show the readers that we could potentially become like this. We are, as a society, progressing in this direction, and if we don’t deal with it correctly, we could become the dystopian society shown in these two books.

In class today we used the fishbowl discussion structure to work our way through a discussion of Little Brother. You all had a great set of discussion questions on Twitter and we used that as a jumping off point:

If you were absent today, there were also some great converstaions happening via Twitter on this topic, so take a look through the #1102dystopia feed for more.
For class on Friday, we will be reading Foucault’s “Panopticism,” so we will be coming back to some of the big questions about surveillance, security, and privacy. Be sure you are giving yourself sufficient time to read through this text, as it is dense and heavily theoretical.
  1. Read Foucault’s “Panopticism” (link also available on TSquare)
    • This is a dense theoretical text so start early and use the techniques for reading difficult material that we discussed earlier in the semester
  2. Friday at 4pm in Hall 102 – OPTIONAL SCREENING of The 100 (episodes 1, 2 & 5). If you don’t want to attend the screening, you will need to watch these episodes before class on Monday

Today we discussed annotated bibliographies. We started the class by working through a PowerPoint (available on TSquare) that laid out the basic elements in a standard evaluative annotated bibliography. Annotated bibliographies are a standard genre within research oriented fields, so it is important to know the basic shape and requirements (though it is likely that each professor, lab PI, or boss you work for will have slightly different preferences for how to set one up). For our purposes, consult the class PPT and the Purdue OWL for questions on format and analytical content.

We also spent a little more time talking through the particulars of MLA 8, especially the new structure of the citations and the use of “containers” to describe different types of work. We will be using MLA 8 throughout the semester, so keep your handbook handy!

Then, in small groups, you completed an activity designed to get you started on your annotated bibliography. This activity asked you to write and peer review citations for the two sources you brought today, as well as describe the sources to your partner. The notes from this activity can help you to form the base of your first two annotations (and should also be tucked away in your folder for possible final portfolio fodder at the end of the semester.)

We largely ran out of time to discuss the middle section of Little Brother, so we will look at that along with the last section on Wednesday. Plan to discuss the role of a free and uncensored education in preventing dystopia, the role of protest in voicing dissent, and the depiction of media in the story from this section, along with your discussion questions.


  1. Finish reading Little Brother through the Afterword
  2. Read Ames, Melissa. “Engaging “Apolitical” Adolescents: Analyzing the Popularity and Educational Potential of Dystopian Literature Post-9/11.”  The High School Journal, Volume 97, Number 1, Fall 2013, pp. 3-20 (Article). Published by The University of North Carolina Press. DOI:
  3. Continue to research for independent project – aim to have 4 sources + independent reading book by Friday