We began the class by asking if this is the world in which we wish to live in. I did not know then and I do not know now. We watched video after video and read book upon book that investigated our society. On the last day of class, you mentioned that most of the world does not get to experience this kind of privilege. This is sad. Because it is not as much factual knowledge that I take away from your class, as it is a better understanding of the world I live in.
I tried asking your original question at the only place it seems I can go to get definitive answers, Internet search engines. But they did not understand. All I got were some links to webcams and porno sites. With no clear answer to this inquiry, I guess the obvious counter question would be do I have a choice? The class centered on our relationship with the media and technology. Therefore, I have broken up this essay into two parts. First I will offer my views on technology, and then on the media. In conclusion, I will correlate the two and try to answer your question.
I believe that the literature and film presented in this class generates a despairing analysis of the present and the future. We started with Brave New World, a thought provoking work of fiction set hundreds of years in the future, but written over five decades ago. Aldous Huxley presents a world where the people do not have free will; in fact, they wouldn’t even recognize the term. These quasi-humans are unknowingly, albeit willingly, controlled by a born into biological and social caste system. When the novel was first printed, it was not widely seen as an incredibly foreshadowing piece, but rather as trivial and self- centered. It was only after the passage of time that people truly recognized its incredibly ominous theme. Technological innovation changed Huxley’s futuristic society immeasurably, so much so that individuality and religion were long forgotten. Are we on our way to doing the same thing?
Soon after reading his book, we were introduced to a real life documentary film that portrayed the glaring and embarrassing differences within Ohio’s public school system. The frightening question is: Though the book is a fictitious novel about life hundreds of years in the future, how closely does the documentary correlate with what Huxley was trying to say? Is the social caste system that he presented that far removed from the real life demographic differences that we ignore daily? I do not have the answers to these questions. But until this class, I did not know the importance of formulating them.
Formulating questions: This is what we are supposed to do now, right? This is exactly what Frank Dery’s The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium (1999) does on its every page. If this book does not cause you to put into question the world we live in, then you either did not read it or you are dead. But, then again, I wonder about his motives. The theme of the book is a hot item nowadays. With the millennium approaching, the public is not only thinking more introspectively, but the world itself is a topic of great debate more so now than ever before. Part of me thinks that Dery is rather opportunistic in this respect. Throughout his book he picks apart at pop culture and in some way negatively relates it back to the public’s pathos.
However, one can not entirely refute what he is saying simply because he has a good niche. For his finale, he gives a clear and thought provoking conclusion to the world we presently inhabit. He puts into question the undying fear of the apocalypse. His point to the reader is excellent, and again relates really well to our class. We should stop worrying about the end and realize that, with the way were going, the end may already be here.
In 1984, no pun intended, my family got its first computer. It was one of those small-monitored Macs that are downright antiques by now. When I came to Denison as a freshman three years ago, there was no Webmail, and the Internet was just starting to be widely used. Therefore, Iara Lee’s Synthetic Pleasures (1996), a two-hour representation of how quickly and vastly the computer is taking over, well, it was intimidating to put it mildly.
You did not have us watch Lee’s film to show us this, we already knew it. Your point was to question whether or not this is what we want. I say yes and no. In a way, I am too young to remember life without computers, but I do remember life without the net. And from purely a research standpoint, I think that it is a student’s dream guide to quick and easy information, but a professor’s nightmare.
It seems that everything is computerized now, and it is. As William Gibson states in Dery’s piece: “I’m always a little amazed when I run into people who feel that technology is something that’s outside of the individual, that one can either accept or reject.” His Neuromancer (1984) makes this painstakingly obvious. Again the question is: How similar is Gibson’s fictional world to our own? Dery makes a few correlations between Gibson’s fictional world and our own. In one, he relates Gibson’s highly evolved life forms to our present day corporations (pg. 238). Again, Dery is saying that we should stop wondering when Gibson’s world might become a reality and instead realize that it is already here.
Neuromancer is similar to Huxley’s Brave New World in that it is not only an ominous prophecy, but a social commentary on the present day as well. One of the critiques that I read about the novel (on the Internet of course) said that in Neuromancer, society willingly lets itself be directly controlled by technology. The characters “jack in and out” of the cyber-matrix without acknowledging that they are sacrificing part of their own humanity. They create incredible technologies and then use them for evil and material gain rather than for any societal good. No one in the society takes full advantage of the technology to create either better living conditions or useful technological innovations.
Based on this account, Gibson’s novel is an intriguing representation of the encounter and functional dichotomy that you proposed earlier this year. Actually, all the videos and books presented show how we are moving away from this encountered society and into one more functional. Gibson plays with this notion by portraying the main character, Case, as sort of a hybrid between man and machine. These two entities are no longer separated in Gibson’s world. I also see the functional aspect that everything seems to becoming “means to an end,” with the end being laced with money. This leads me to the other aspect of our world that we concentrated on.
The Columbine killers are on the cover of Time magazine again this week. I immediately turned to the editor’s page. I wanted to know why right away. Why would this respected newsmagazine rekindle this fire? Because of your class, I have developed a great skepticism for media, and for how it inevitably infiltrates the public’s belief systems. The editor knew I was asking this question as I found his page, and he had his answers ready. Though sympathetic in tone, his basic answer was the age-old defense “the public has a right to know.” I have come to the conclusion that despite the colossal powers of the media over public perception, the public still has control. The only reason the Columbine massacre is on the cover again is because of our own insatiable diet for the story. I know about the Gatekeeper model, but I think the opposite is true. Because despite my anger that Time put the killer’s picture back on its cover, I bought the magazine.
This story relates to our investigation of the media in this class. We watched two videos that focused on the yellow journalism of the Nineties, and many of the books seemed to deal with the topic as well. The public should realize that it is not really about what is news anymore. It is about what sells that media can formulate into news. You encouraged us to question the role of the media, and to demand better news. I return to your statement that we are privileged. You are right; most of the public does not view the media the way our class will now. I guess this is what they mean when they say we’re “educated.”
The only way I can answer your question is to do so in solely an individualistic fashion. I draw upon our conversations about Voltaire, and how we should “till our own gardens.” In this respect, I do not mind living in this computer run and media driven realm. In fact, as far as the computers go, they make the once impossible task everyday now. When I was in Australia, I could send notes to my parents for free and they received them instantaneously. I could read my hometown newspaper from thousands of miles away. Sure, technology has brought change and will continue to do so. Yet I do not think we should fear this change as much as some of the material in our class wants us to. As Confucius once said, “Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.” Even so, I now understand what Huxley meant when he said that: “Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.” It is important to see both sides. As for the media, I learned to take it off its pedestal and view it from a critical distance. Now, all I see are dollars, but not much sense.
In closing, I would like to offer some food for thought. After the Baby Boomer generation there was Generation X. My Generation is just beginning to reach adulthood now. What’s our label? Nobody likes to be slapped with a label, and I was no different. When I heard we were being called Generation Y simply because it’s the letter of the alphabet that follows the older generation, I was initially upset. But maybe we are not being called Gen. Y simply because it’s the next letter. If you draw deeper, maybe Y can stand for more than just a letter. The letter could be a representation of inquiry: Why. Primarily, why is the world the way it is, and is this what we want? For our first eighteen years we were taught how to learn, for the next four we learned how to think. I still do not have a definite yes or no answer to your question. But now I know the importance of asking Y?