18th November 2018

3.7 Significant conections

Dystopian literature has been a vessel for political commentary dating back to the 19th century. Dystopian texts can be recognised by the unsettled feeling that the leave you with. You often have to read between the lines to realise that dystopias carry dire messages aimed at societies development and innovation. As a young woman, my sheep like habits are highlighted through dystopian texts. I can hardly put my phone down, and often find myself ‘going with the crowd’. By reading the following texts I feel as though I am more conscious of my actions, which is the key point that draws dystopian readers in. The four texts that I have chosen are significantly connected through the implicit warning of dire situations using relatable concepts, such as technology. This is shown in the texts Nineteen Eighty-Four, Black Mirrors episode Black Museum, the movie Minority Report, and Zager and Evans song ‘2525’. Therefore they are all significantly connected through their messages and warnings about technology in our evolving world. George Orwell’s well-known text nineteen eighty-four the 24-hour monitoring of the citizens of airstrip one directly reflects the intrusive mannerism of surveillance in our modern world. A popular episode of the TV series Black Mirror, ‘Black Museum’ explores medical technology and its unreliable outcomes. It highlights humans willingness to trust in technology with very little insight into the repercussions of it. Which in turn amplifies human flaw and social fragility. Similarly to Nineteen Eighty-Four, Steven Spielberg’s movie Minority report warns viewers about extreme surveillance technology in relation to preventative justice, and how this can’t always be reliable yet as a society we heavily depend on it. Zager and Evans song ‘2525’ also touches on the impact of technology, and how technology is being used to replace human workers. 

George Orwell exercises our privacy fears throughout the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. During the novel, technology is very advanced and Orwell’s ideas in regards to technology are ahead of his time. However, his conception of the use of technology is particularly dire. It is used for the sole purpose of controlling and monitoring the citizens of Oceania. As readers, we follow the main character Winston’s journey and how technology taunts him in his day to day life. Oceanians live in a state of constant surveillance through devices called telescreens. “Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.” Telescreens are found in every building and can only be turned off entirely by an inner party member. They are the government’s tool, used to protrude on not only the private conversations of the citizens but their thoughts as well. This leads society to live in fear that they must comply with the parties expectations otherwise they will face punishment. This creates a bland society of people who are afraid of self-expression, and as time goes on, are becoming more vacant to feelings and emotion. Telescreens carry a warning message about how technology can become intrusive. While Orwell tried to warn us about technology and its surveillance, it seems we have missed the point. In this modern world, we seem to carry our own version of telescreens very close to us, at all times. Whether it be your phone or your laptop, or the security camera outside work, we have all been monitored in one way or another, similarly to how the telescreens monitored the citizens of Airstrip 1. “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.” How we conduct ourselves, when our phone speaker is on or our laptop web camera is looking at us, can determine how thing such as advertisements are inflicted upon us. As unsettling as it is, according to Dr Peter Henway- The senior security consultant for cybersecurity firm Asterix, and former lecturer and researcher at Edith Cowan University his studies have concluded that our phones are listening in, and banking up your interests in order to have you spend more time on your screen, and more money on their adverts. Another common excuse is that security cameras and surveillance technology are there to keep us safe, but who are they protecting? It has been said that CCTV cameras have very little impact on substantially reducing and solving crime. We have been told that these cameras are there to keep us safe, however, this is not entirely true. Just like the citizens of Oceania were told that telescreens were used to maintain peace and stability. After reading Nineteen Eighty-Four, you will consider taping over your computer camera. If George Orwell was to step into 2018, he would be disappointed to find that his dire warning about pervasive surveillance technology did not resonate. We store personal details on our devices without any question. This may be because it is easier to not think too far into it, or simply because we are naive, but societies apathetic attitude towards surveillence technology is unsettling. 

Black Museum, an episode of the popular TV series Black Mirror, paints a bleak picture of how innovation isn’t always as beneficial as it seems. The storyline follows a young woman on a tour of a museum in the middle of nowhere. The museum holds artefacts of “neuro-technology” that have failed and caused harm to people. ‘Rolo’, the museum tour guide attempts to get under the young girl’s skin with haunting stories of technological malfunctions. The ‘main attraction’ of the museum is a holographic African-American prisoner that guests can pay electrocute, however, he is not guilty. People become less interested in his museum, so he charges “race hating rich guys, with a hard-on for power” for longer periods of electrocution.  The stories that Rolo tells throughout this episode reflect upon how willing people are to use new innovations, with very little insight as to if the technology will actually work. Creatively, Black Museum incorporates pieces of technology from previous Black Mirror episodes. The big question that this episode asks is “is any technology worth the cost of its development?”. Medical science has an unseen dark history. For example, the technological advances made during WWII were often unethical. The warnings associated with Black museum is associated with human reaction to new innovation. In this modern world, we are becoming slaves to innovations that end up amplifying hate, human flaw and social fragility. An innocent story of one mans roadside attraction obscures the industrial scale of fatality and corruptness of mass incarceration (the digital prisoner) and medical testing. All too often, we fail to line up the positives and negatives associated with innovation, medical or not. Society is drawn to the ‘fluffy positives’ that are loudly advertised instead of reading into the negatives lurking below the surface. It is easy to assume that a leap forward in technological innovation is of benefit to us. In reality, we need to remain aware of our choices. Always taking further investigation and asking the hard questions, even when something seems sugar coated. 

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. This starts particularly well – and your texts are interesting and relevant to the points you make.

    I encourage you to be as detailed as possible with your analysis – making specific reference to evidence from the texts. You can use the small paragraph samples of analysis that I have published on our class site for both the film and the novel as examples of how to integrate evidence to strengthen your analysis.


  2. Maggie,

    This is progressing well. You’re making clear and confident observations about the ‘connections’ between the text, which you’ve identified as the ‘warning to the future’ about the possible destructive effects of surveillance and technology.

    Three areas to focus on:

    1) Ensure you’re using language that fluently expresses what you want to say. I think the meaning of the sentence “George Orwell exercises our privacy fears throughout the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four” is a little obscure. What do you mean by ‘exercises’?

    2) Your quotes from Nineteen Eighty-Four are well-chosen, but a little long. Try to strip them down to the bare fundamentals – and if there are ideas conveyed in the quote that you want still to be present, then explain these in your own words.

    3) When you make sweeping generalisations about the texts or their relevance to the world – for example “…the technological advances made during WWII were often unethical”, please give the evidence to support this assertion. It’s a great example, and the experimentation by members of the Third Reich on their Jewish prisoners are horrifying – but we do need the details. Name an experiment, name where it happened and who, or what entity, ran the experiment.

    I’m enjoying watching this develop. Do let me know if you need further feedback.



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