I would like to take a moment to comment on the propaganda video shown annually at the reapings in The Hunger Games. First, watch it for yourself.
Such a touching speech from the president of a beautiful nation. While you may think I am being sarcastic, there were absolutely members of Panem who thought just that. Effie Trinket, for one, was moved to tears. Even among the districts, tributes from 1, 2, and 4 likely use this video as justification for training and volunteering to participate in the games. They see it as an honor. Only the districts for whom the games almost never provide benefits see this video as disgusting.
What makes the video disgusting to the poorer districts? This propaganda mostly contains laughing families and images of good health. Perhaps the eldest among the districts remember a time before the war, or when the Capitol was not quite so heavy-handed. Or maybe it is the actual image of well-fed families that keeps the people angrily silent. Whatever each individual’s reason, it is obvious from the books and the movies that no one in the poorer districts appreciates the Capitol’s propaganda. In fact, they seem to see right through it. So why does it work?
Propaganda videos such as this one have the ability to serve multiple purposes. People among the Capitol and richer districts essentially buy into the upbeat and forward-looking parts of the message wholeheartedly. However, those in the poorer districts are simply reminded of the Capitol’s power over them. Those who are well-off but into the second half of the video, in which the Capitol promises riches and generosity to all who submit. Those in District 12, however, relate much more to the first half of Snow’s voice over. Here he talks about war and all the hardships it brought upon both the Capitol and the people. Yet District 12 still experiences many of these terrible aspects of life. Widows and orphans are likely common sightings within the poorer districts. Snow mentions that the Capitol is the one feeding the districts, reminding the poor and hungry that with a war, they would be even poorer and hungrier. The thoughts of life getting even worse than it already is are just as powerful a deterrent as brainwashing.
Even within this display of power, the Capitol refrains from disclosing too much information. There is no exact talk about the reason why the districts rebelled, only that they were defeated. As the victor, the Capitol has the freedom to choose which pieces of history the districts are allowed to know. They are allowed to understand that their defeat took place, and as punishment they must endure the Hunger Games. Without any other information, it becomes nearly impossible for anyone in any district to oppose the idea of the games, as it has become a norm. Add in brainwashing or an elimination of all hope, and the Capitol has the districts pinned under its thumb.
Today in class, we spent some time thinking about the audience for your Common First Week (CFW) videos, which includes other Georgia Tech students and faculty. We worked as a class to describe the audience, to find what they have in common, and to think about the kinds of appeals to make and to avoid when creating a communication aimed at this specific audience. It is a good habit to get into to conduct this kind of audience analysis whenever you are starting the process to create a communication and we will emphasize this kind of audience analysis throughout the semester.
Then, you worked in small groups to help one another brainstorm specific arguments for the CFW Video and to find evidence you can use to support the claims you are trying to work on. Remember, the more specific your evidence, the more compelling your argument will be. Also, don’t forget that a video allows for a lot of different ways of conveying that information; be as creative and innovative as you can!
Don’t forget: there are also tons of resources out there to help you with this project. To get you started, take a look at the following items:
The Presentation Rehearsal Studios in the Clough Undergraduate Learning Center (CULC), in which you can work with a presentation coach and also record yourself and then send a link of the video to yourself (or anybody else).
We then spent the rest of the class focused on the reading. First, we talked through the handout on TSquare titled “Tips for Reading Difficult Material” and discussed the importance of establishing techniques and reading practices that help you understand material and build a reference for coming back to that material when you need it, either for writing a paper, studying for an exam, or for projects and professional development in the workplace. We went over a number of tips and techniques for breaking down difficult readings, annotating those readings and preparing yourself to work with that material.
We then talked about the first two chapters of the Cambridge Companion for Utopian Literature (CCUL), focusing on the concepts that were introduced and especially the key terms that the book introduced. (The PPT presentation that highlights these key terms is available to you on TSquare). Over the course of the semester, we will continue to come back to these terms and expand on the definitions and understandings of their meanings, so it is important to become familiar with this lexicon.
Reminder, there is no class on Monday because of the MLK holiday.
In today’s class, we focused mainly on the Common First Week project, discussing in depth the different WOVEN modes, the challenges of working in these modes, and the goals you may have for improving within each of those modes.
We first discussed more about the theme for the course: YA dystopia. We talked briefly about how this theme would frame our discussions of communication and how your own independent reading would feature into the research assignments we will complete later in the semester. You will want to peruse the list of pre-approved titles for the Independent Reading Assignment (available on TSquare) and choose the book you would like to work with this semester (come prepared with your top 3 choices, in case someone else has already chosen your first choice).
After that discussion, you worked in teams to brainstorm different forms of media and communication that emphasize each of the different modes and we talked about the ways in which these modes function independently and in concert with the others.
We then brainstormed concrete ways to improve your work in each of those modes and discussed the ways in which you have or have not worked on improving these modes specifically in your previous English/Communication courses.
Finally, you started writing independently, thinking through the mode you would like to focus on when it comes to your Common First Week video. I asked you to write about not only your concerns or fears about the mode you have chosen, but also about a goal you would like to achieve as you work to improve in that mode of communication.