All posts tagged technology

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.

Throughout my research, I encountered several interesting sources that I found to be credible and useful for my research paper on technological advances. After listening to all the conference presentations, I noticed that several other people talked about the different applications of technology in dystopian literature. After going through my sources, I feel that the article “From Utopia to Dystopia: Technology, Society and What We Can Do About It” might be useful to those who discussed the uses of technology and its consequences in YA dystopias.

The article was written by Alejandro Garcia De La Garza and discusses the progression of technological advancement from the second half of the twentieth century to now. It was first assumed that technological advances would continue to improve living conditions without any problems, but Garza argues that these advances also brought security challenges. The dream of technology curing disease and ending poverty is not being accomplished. Instead, technology is advancing way too quickly for society to keep up with controlling and understanding it. The article also provides examples of how certain innovations that were meant to enhance our lives, actually intensify the problems modern society faces.

Garza is providing valuable information that can be used in an argument that even though technology can achieve great things, one has to be careful when it is advancing too fast for society to keep up. Using real world examples of how technology is affecting our society in a negative way is building Garza’s ethos and can therefore be taken as a valuable source. The author has an MA in conflict, security and development and is therefore knowledgeable about the topic that he was writing about. This article was a great source for my research project and for some of your projects because it shows how our society is affected by technological advances and how that can lead to a potential dystopia.

Works Cited

Garza, Alejandro Garcia De La. “From Utopia to Dystopia: Technology, Society and What We Can Do About It.” OpenSecurity, 20 Dec. 2013.

Here is the link to my vlog:

Also, the original source is from here:

“is the technology in dystopian fiction merely an instrument in the hands of the state’s totalitarian rulers, used by them to enforce a set of values extrinsic to the technology itself, or is it, rather, an autonomous force that determines the values and thus shapes the society in its own image, a force to which even the putative rulers—the Well-Doers and Big Brothers and World Controllers—are subservient?”

Truly Human Enhancement: a Philosophical Defense of Limits by Nicholas Agar, is a book focusing not only on human enhancement in today’s society, but also on what should be the limits of enhancement.

A summary of the chapter I focused on can be given as a discussion of  how genetically enhancing people would result in an increased moral status that could cause negative consequences. Agar states that while the possibility of the consequences exists, they should be avoided. Raising a person’s moral status through genetic engineering can result in the destruction of non-enhanced humans, as they are now dispensable. Agar also believes this society of some enhanced humans and some non-enhanced humans will not work because there is no way to smoothly transition from our society now to one half full of unnatural creations that are still considered human and half full of the same humans that have always existed.

Image result for nicholas agar

Other chapters in Agar’s book focus on the interest behind genetic enhancement, as well as more details in enhancement itself. The chapter I focused on for my research was relating moral status to genetic engineering and the inequality that it creates.

Image result for enhanced humans vs humans

Key ideas overall in Agar’s book are the many ways that genetic engineering would change the world, and how that is a bad thing. This book is relevant to many topics not only from the conference presentations, but in general research, as genetic enhancement is becoming more and more likely. It is already happening on a lower scale in labs with foods, but there is also genetic engineering for humans at the theoretical level. It is very possible in the near future, that we could be trying out gene enhancement on humans.

Image result for genetic engineering

Whether you agree or not with genetic engineering in humans, it is an interesting topic to look into, and Agar’s provides his side as well as some counter points to the genetic engineering debate.


Works Cited:

Agar, Nicholas. Truly Human Enhancement: a Philosophical Defense of Limits, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2014, pp. 181-194. EBSCO,

On Monday, March 6, I will be giving a conference presentation on escapism’s role in dystopias. While my focus will be on sci-fi dystopias or dystopias that have advanced technology, this is really something you’ll want to hear even if you aren’t a fan of sci-if.

Escapism is seeking relief or comfort from unpleasant realities. My main argument is that Escapism needs two things to be present. First there needs to be a push factor. This is the thing that will make a character want to seek a distraction for comfort or relief. In other words, what is unpleasant in their life. Dystopias are perfect for this. Dystopias are setting that are, by definition, unpleasant.

The second factor for Escapism is the pull factor. This is the thing that our character does or uses to escape their problems. Since my focus is on sci-fi’s and advanced technology dystopias, the pull factor tends to be based on technology. Part of my research supports that we prefer electronic communication over face-to-face. Especially when it would be an awkward or unpleasant conversation. This is evident in dystopian novels such as Ready Player One and the Hunger Games. It is also evident in TV shows such Black Mirror.

Of course these electronic escapes only allow the characters to find safe haven for a very limited amount of time compared to their time spent in misery. They can’t get enough in both the literal and figurative sense of the phrase. Furthermore, the connection between the unpleasant realities and the escapes isn’t just advanced technology. It can become an addiction that fuels the dystopian. Think of it like a Chinese finger-trap. When you try to escape, its grip gets stronger. The more a character gets captivated in their escape, the further they are from reality and the dystopia gets a tighter grip of control over the character. A good example of this is in an episode of Black Mirror. A new technology captures everything you see and hear and you can go back and relive memories or even share them with friends and family. The main character in the episode is constantly looking over past situations and becomes hyper-analytic and loses trust in his girlfriend. He becomes disconnected with reality and goes into a downward spiral and ends up alone. The technology had a total grip over his life.

While this is just one example, you can find similar trends among a large majority of dystopias feature advanced technology’s. I wouldn’t call them cliches though. They are more of new and developing archetypes, and that is exciting.

My conference presentation is on a topic that’s really interested me throughout the course of this class. Technology is a common theme throughout the books we’ve read and discussed, as well as an integral and ever-growing part of our society today. In my research, I asked the question, what social impact does technology have, both in the context of dystopian novels and in real life? After an analysis of my independent reading, along with class readings and other articles and books on the matter, I came to the conclusion that technology is portrayed as escalating social stratification throughout young adult dystopian literature, reflecting the way in which society struggles with the boundaries created by a growing technological presence today.

Throughout the presentation, we’ll first explore examples of social orders implemented or heightened by technology, looking specifically at Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

We’ll then continue to discuss a concept known as determinism, and how this view is often the driving force behind the dystopian nature of technological advancements. I’m particularly interested in the work of two scholars pertaining to this subject: Gorman Beauchamp, who argues that technology isn’t something that happens to fall in the hands of totalitarian rulers, but rather is intrinsically totalitarian in itself, and Langdon Winner, who believes that advancements in technology limit our choices and constrains the direction in which we grow as a society.

In his work, Winner also discusses how this results in the implementation of social boundaries through the metaphor of a city-suburb relationship. While in a city, we’re forced to bump shoulders and come in contact with people of all backgrounds and opinions, while suburbia is an escape from this diversity, where one can live in a bubble of their own views and not be bothered by those of others. Winner argues that cyberspace is comparable to suburbia, where one can access media that applies specifically to their niche in society. I’m excited to share more about my research with you all and to gain more perspective on this topic.

Imagine a world without technology. What do you think might happen? A global search engine vanishing. Communication systems shut down. Transportation stagnating as communities become isolated. Access to food, water, friends, and information: all restricted and unobtainable. It is quite hard to conceptualize, as our generation relies heavily on technology for much in our everyday lives. But in dystopian societies, people live this challenge constantly. The fearful majority usually have no access to what we would refer to as modern innovations. Contrasting this is the powerful few who hold advanced technology easily in the palm of their hand. This difference in technological prowess is a defining aspect of what makes a society a dystopia. In my conference presentation, The Tyranny of Technology, I will explain how this disparity is evident through acclaimed YA dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and Red Queen.

Dystopian societies are notoriously protective about the media. The ways in which the elite communicate among each other and with the public is a careful process. The message they send out always has an undercurrent of strength and brutality while emphasizing peace and prosperity on the surface. But it is also broadcast in public avenues in a complex technological way. The Hunger Games gathers many people in rundown streets to watch a game of horror on a big, high definition screen or on advanced projectors. Meanwhile, there is only one citizen in the entire district who even has access to a phone. Similarly, the inhabitants in Red Queen have barely working generators that fail to keep the lights on half of the time while the elite rulers have all manners of communication to spread their tyranny over the land. This allows them to broadcast propaganda and gather information at a much faster rate than any sort of rebellion. In turn, this vicious cycle allows the government to amass a large amount of power and influence.

The big turn that allows the resistance to start winning battles begins when the playing field of technology is leveled. Other sectors that this may occur in can include militarization, transportation, and engineering. Popular YA dystopian novels introduce a new factor in one of these areas to compensate for the offset in influence. When District 13 comes into play, Katniss now has the weapons and resources at her disposal to launch propaganda campaigns and begin her attack on the Capitol. When Mare obtains her lightning ability, she, a commoner turned royal, is then able to promote a strong symbol of freedom and power back at the government. It is important to recognize the power technology can bring to the table, whether in our world or in books. For if a gap starts to form between us and the government, who knows what kind of imaginary technological dystopia might eventually become a reality.

Works Cited

  1. Henderson, Greg. “Futurespect: Utopia vs Dystopia – 10 Depictions Of The Future.” Rootnotion, 22 Aug. 2014,

Here’s a quick preview of my research. Enjoy!

Here’s the article by Bill Joy I talked about if you’re interested.

Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us

Data: the driving force for knowledge, the evidence behind scientific theory, and the basis of tracking your existence. The collection of large amounts data is not a new concept, but recently in the 2010’s, the presence of “Big Data” has far exceeded the capacity it once held in its early days. As you log onto the web, websites record your digital footprint. The likelihood that this specific data will be used and analyzed is slim, but the potential it holds for companies and institutions to reconstruct your persona through this data is unprecedented.

The four V’s of Big Data: an infographic by IBM

The fear that new technological phenomena will begin to cross the line between innovation and oppression is reflected in modern YA dystopian literature. In my paper, titled Big Data and Its facilitation of oppression: In Their Dystopia and Ours, I will discuss the way Big Data appears in YA dystopian literature, and how it’s reflective of current and prospective Big Data usage in our own society. One such fictional Dystopia that relies heavily on Big Data collection is that in Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. The Department of Homeland security strengthens its already close watch on its citizens through increased surveillance; students are tracked with library books and gait recognition, average citizens with their cars, and the entire population with surveillance cameras. All these devices collect location data, and send them to the DHS. These means would be illegal to implement in our own society (besides the surveillance cameras- those are everywhere), but there is a much easier way to know everything about anything, especially since this data is willingly given to the public. We are readily giving up information about ourselves as we shop, browse, tweet, pin, and post all over the World Wide Web.

The use of Big Data presents itself in a different, but equally unsettling way in Ally Condie’s Matched. At the age of 17, everyone is given a match, the person that will be their future spouse and life partner. A choice does not exist, given that the government possess data about a child’s genetic information, interests, and temperament and can make the “best” decision through data analytics and algorithms.  As I will point out in my presentation, something similar exists in our society, but with a little more deliberate choice: online dating profiles. The use of these sights can be harmless, even useful to those who seemed to have exhausted every other mean to find love. However, imagine this taken too far; government owned profiles on ordinary citizens, where new data is added at exponential rates until the it may seem to resemble that of a serial killer, or even a terrorist, tying back into the Big Data usage in Little Brother. The millions of terabytes of data that exists publicly and privately is more than corporate and governmental institutions know how to deal with, but as processing power and analytics continue their exponential growth in the digital revolution, we may soon find ourselves with less privacy and a new “Big Brother”.


infographic –