Friday, August 31, 2007

Next Assignment (for group 2, due by next Tuesday night)

Here's three options. Please specify which one you're doing.

1) Find a difficult passage in Lyotard's essay and explain it. By difficult, I mean that it should be one of the more difficult passages in the essay, such that you really don't understand it at all at first. By explain, I mean you should analyze it it in detail to explain the sentence (or phrase, or paragraph) both by itself and in context. You may need to look some things up, maybe in an unabridged dictionary or a dictionary of philosophy. Finally, once you understand it you should explain (or justify) why it's so hard. Why does he need to make a sentence (or paragraph, or phrase) so difficult?

2) Try to pin down, citing several passages from Lyotard, his understanding of technology, then respond to it, perhaps (although not necessarily) guided by one of the following questions. What functions does this definition serve? Does it have merit? Would you use it yourself?

3) Discuss in detail one crucial difference between Joy and Lyotard's understanding of what the posthuman future will look like, and discuss the significance of that difference. How should this effect our understanding of both authors?

In Doubt to Act or Rest..

Graded Blog Entry due 8/30

2) Analyze or respond to some aspect of "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" using Marcuse’s quote about advanced industrial society

As a short preface to this entry, I would like to define narrative and technology and their respective relationship. Technology is the creation of tools which ease a certain procedure in human life; that said, all significant technology is created by a society with the aims of simplifying and advancing the life of a society in a strictly technical and physical sense. Narrative, the act of storytelling, reflects the human emotional response to technology and technology manipulates the way the narrative's author perceives humanity's progress.

While Marcuse and Joy stand in staunch agreement that there is something terribly wrong with the progressive relationship of technology and society, they fear two different outcomes. Marcuse believes “advanced industrial society’s” destiny is a mental hell, while Joy’s vision of the future is one of physical destruction in which society’s technological advancements have led to the extinction of the human race. The societal rules that Marcuse claims are killing humanity’s liberty are the same types of regulations that Joy believes will eventually save humanity.

In the excerpt from One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse never explicitly details “those needs which demand liberation” which “advanced industrial society” has canned. There are plenty of details though as to the consequences of society’s industrialization, such as “stupefying work where it is no longer a real necessity.” This first idea of redundant work comments on the top down ruling so common of industrial societies. So often, when an industrial society is created, a bureaucratic system is put into effect. The simplicity and ease of such a system often dumbs down the objective of the industry. Instead of one man trying to create iron on his own, he is directing many different men to do small, “stupefying work” in order to obtain the goal.

Marcuse also objects that in an industrial society, the people have “a free press which censors itself.” This is not bureaucracy that Marcuse is opposing here, but rather societal rules. No matter how free the press, there will always be authors who will be held accountable for every story. It is not only in an advanced industrial society that the press exerts its own censor over itself, but in every society because every society has its own strict societal rules, which often mix with political and economic concerns. Marcuse is not particularly objecting to “advanced industrial” society, but rather to all society and the bureaucratic and social means it uses to accomplish its goals.

It is these very bureaucratic and social means that Joy believes will save humanity from extinction. Joy remarks that “certain knowledge is too dangerous and is best forgone.” Preventing the discovery of this knowledge will be difficult and Joy acknowledges that “enforcing relinquishment will require a regime similar to that for biological weapons.” This proposition suggests that the creation of an advanced bureaucratic, societal system is the only way to save humanity, not from Marcuse’s mental doom, but rather from Darwin’s rules.

What Joy is suggesting here is something trite and contrived: that society will save itself by having meetings with all the world leaders and everyone agreeing upon some magical ethical code (Cue NBC The More You Know Music). The problem with Joy’s idea is simple: he wants society to stand in clear opposition to its logical purpose. Society is supposed to use all the technology at its disposal to make its members lives better. Joy cannot predict the outcome of nanotechnology, nor should he try (I’m still waiting for my hoverboard…)

While Marcuse holds that the destruction of society will finally grant us mental bliss, Joy believes the solidification of society’s bureaucracy will help to slow the grinding wheel of technology before it crushes our skulls. I believe that they both have glorified the negative side of society, the side which slows human development. In reality, society is the reason we live in civilized cities where our goal is never to murder each other with work or with nanotechnology, but rather to live without fear under a general social code.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

For the Second Time i apologize in advance this entry will most certainly not be of the caliber of the first one i wrote. Thanks to my "bloggin" ignorance i deleted my entire entry and it is now 12am..So not ready to do this again. However, my frustration brings me to my definition of technology. Technology to me seems like a tool made by man to make life less complicated, and to make everyday task simple. I personally am not a fan of all technology. For instance some computer software is designer to think for the user rather than to wait for the user to designate specific responsibilities to the software. For example...spell check in windows. It is assumed by the program that you don't know how to spell because on occasion as i am sure everyone has experienced it corrects or replaces a word based in the software’s knowledge of grammar and spelling. I hate that. yes it does come in handy at times, but when i write a paper with an name not in the dictionary and it underlines it with that stupid read line i get mad. Now I’m looking at a paper splotched with red marks. Soo frustrating. Another reason i have slight distaste of technology is because i feel like it is created with human leisure in mind, as a way to make the human even more lazy. technology makes life easier but by doing so eliminates certain qualities that make life worth living. I can honestly say i don't know what i would classify myself as because though i am against technology in some forms, i am a huge supporter in other. (Hypocrite i guess would fit. ) The difference in technology and narrative is huge. A narrative to me is a story. More specifically a story told by a human verbally to another human. (although some books are very good narratives, usually i would generally prefer to hear the story rather than read it) Secondly a narrative must in some way enrich the life of another person. it could do so in the slightest of ways but any effect it has, I believe is of great significance.

Honestly i have more to say about narratives, however my frustration with having to re-write this so late at night is really crippling my ability to think.

In short Narrative suggest human contact and interaction, i apologize in advance this entry will most certainly not be of the caliber of the first one i wrote. Thanks to my "bloggin" ignorance i deleted my entire entry and it is now 12am..So not ready to do this again. However, my frustration brings me to my definition of technology. Technology to me seems like a tool made by man to make life less complicated, and to make everyday task simple. I personally am not a fan of all technology. For instance some computer software is designer to think for the user rather than to wait for the user to designate specific responsibilities to the software. For example...spell check in windows. It is assumed by the program that you don't know how to spell because on occasion as i am sure everyone has experienced it corrects or replaces a word based in the software’s knowledge of grammar and spelling. I hate that. yes it does come in handy at times, but when i write a paper with an name not in the dictionary and it underlines it with that stupid read line i get mad. Now I’m looking at a paper splotched with red marks. Soo frustrating. Another reason i have slight distaste of technology is because i feel like it is created with human leisure in mind, as a way to make the human even more lazy. technology makes life easier but by doing so eliminates certain qualities that make life worth living. I can honestly say i don't know what i would classify myself as because though i am against technology in some forms, i am a huge supporter in other. (Hypocrite i guess would fit. ) The difference in technology and narrative is huge. A narrative to me is a story. More specifically a story told by a human verbally to another human. (although some books are very good narratives, usually i would generally prefer to hear the story rather than read it) Secondly a narrative must in some way enrich the life of another person. it could do so in the slightest of ways but any effect it has, I believe is of great significance.

Honestly i have more to say about narratives, however my frustration with having to re-write this so late at night is really crippling my ability to think.

In short Narrative suggest human contact and interaction, while technology suggest a "advancement of some sort" strictly for the purpose of making life as simple as possible. Simplicity has the power to destroy.
le technology suggest a "advancement of some sort" strictly for the purpose of making life as simple as possible. Simplicity has the power to destroy.

Graded Blog entry #1 Role of the speaker and imagery

Role of the Speaker and imagery in “Life in the Iron-Mills”
The main focus of my first blog is to show the role of the speaker and imagery in Davis’s short story. My response to Marcuse builds on these literary technologies, using my personal example juxtaposed to the situation of the Welsh puddlers in Davis’s short story.
So apparently “Life in the Iron-Mills” is an indirect attack on the social effects of the industrial revolution. Her use of heart wrenching, visually painful descriptions demanded my attention from the first sentence. Unfortunately the speaker thinks very little of me (the reader) but this predisposed animosity seems to aid Rebecca’s implicit argument/attack on capital sympathizers such as myself.
The speaker plays a major role in our understanding of the text because he/she immediately labels the reader as an unsympathetic bigot who’s views on those less fortunate rivals that of slave owners during their campaign for the “necessary evil”. Intriguingly enough, the speaker seems to possess knowledge of events, emotions, and desires not directly available to those of us who are mortal but yet is still human. The speaker’s omniscience gives the reader insight to the hopes and desires of the struggling labor class, specifically appealing to our emotions. I believe the speaker directly voices Rebecca Harding Davis’s opinion of those who decide to read her short story. The speaker’s knowledge and inherent dislike for the reader is also a strategic move by Davis to let the reader know her specific audience for this particular story.
Thick imagery of the physical surroundings and the emotional/spiritual motivations of the characters help to enhance the tragedy of the situation. Taken place in about the 1860s during the civil war, Davis takes the reader immediately into a town not much different from the place Dante described in his inferno. Her description of the puddle workers stooping over the boiling cauldrons with “skin and muscle and flesh begrimed with smoke and ashes” made me think of hell on earth, where Disney world is its antithesis. Her emphasis on the jargon/colloquialisms of the laboring class as opposed to the Doctor and Mitchell effectively adds to her implication (of what we think) is a difference in their humanity. This is where I pick my quarrel.
Beggars can’t be choosers. The speaker says we shouldn’t be quick to judge the immoralities of the workers and their apparent lack of responsibility and drunkenness because we sit on a seat higher than them. We all have choices and whether we chose to let opposition or the illusion of opposition hold us back is our decision. When I read Marcuse’s quote I thought of my dad who came all the way from Nigeria, leaving his wife, kids, and everything he knew in the 80s to come to America to go to school for Pharmacy on a special visa he labored for years to get. For years he worked to be able to take his children and his wife away from a place that doesn’t even own its own natural resources so we could reap the benefits of a place with so much opportunity for advancement. While Marcuse claims the “advanced industrial civilization” has created a one dimensional man, I see my father as a living example that contradicts his claim. He says we produce and consume waste? My dad worked for Merck Medco for 17 years producing many of the drugs that help people today live happier, healthier lives. Some might say my dad only worked to help himself and his immediate family leaving his country behind, but they are wrong. To this day he still sends money home and visits my brother and sisters he’s adopted from his deceased friends paying for their schooling and giving them the same opportunities me and my sisters have.

"When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?"

(The title to this comes from my favorite author, Chuck Palahniuk. You've probably heard of him. Or maybe you’ve heard of Fight Club. I found it oddly fitting, despite the fact that I don't mention him anywhere in the blog.)

Blog Assignment 1

Let me start off by say that I, Tim Allen, love my iPod. I take it practically everywhere. Do I know where it came from? Certainly not. It could have been (and most likely was) made in some factory located in the states where workers were paid more than fair. Or, it could have come from a factory outside of the states, where some small child was paid minimally for long hours (as doubtful as I find that). Or, maybe it went down an assembly line in some factory where different robots slowly pieced it together.

What I’m saying is, I really don’t have any clue, but my desire to own an iPod greatly outweighed the means in which it was produced. That is not to say I support outsourcing or slave labor, but it just goes to show what is most important in my life.

If it was produced in a factory in the states, awesome. I fully support providing work for the people of our nation, and I just hope that whoever made it didn’t encounter harsh working conditions that involved smog and a hellish working environment. I want an iPod, yes, but I do not support putting the worker who makes it through awful conditions just so I can have it. Certainly the factory where Apple has the iPod produced is no steel mill, but who is to say that it isn’t close? I don’t have a direct testimony from someone, but it’s quite possible that working for Apple sucks. That’s just the way things tend to be. You work for a big corporation, and your rights will most likely be abused. As was the case at the Bethlehem Steel Works which was the second largest steel producing mill in the nation during World War II.

As for the other scenario (the one that didn’t involve small children working long hours), what if a robot had made my iPod? That, to me, is somewhat frightening. If we have come to the point where robots are producing goods for us, how long until we make it to where they can potentially think, as proposed in Bill Joy’s essay? I don’t expect the need for miniature Will Smiths running around in order to save us, but is it really possible for us to get to a point where robots can think and do our jobs for us? I hope not. But I do believe that we could possibly come to the point where this is happening. It would be like a mix between I, Robot and Minority Report. Hopefully more like Minority Report, where the technology was being used for good (until the part where the one creator… nevermind, this involves spoilers). The potential for this situation going wrong is very high. As Joy points out, what if we were to become subservient to the machines? Would it be possible to escape from their rule or would we eventually fade off as we became less of a necessity and more of a hindrance?

As far as that goes, I am clueless. Needless to say, I do not look forward to having to deal with such a situation. So, for the time being, I pray that my iPod was made by a well-paid, American worker, rather than a robot that will one day rule the world.

Why the Future Actually Really Does Need Us After All

Graded Blog Assignment #1

As a quick aside before I start, I'm going to just point out that I don't engage in politics. I don't care for politics, politicians, or policies, I don't vote, and I don't keep abreast of what's going on in the geo-political spectrum, so with that in mind, please forgive me if I comment on your blog and miss any sort of political point you were trying to make. I'm not smarmy, a republican, or a democrat, I just don't really like politics. Anyway, on with the show.

Marcuse, in his quote, seems to say a lot about how terrible liberty and choice is. He's really got his panties in a bunch over his perception of what is a control over supply and demand in multiple formats. In response to Marcuse (and also to a lot of the topics raised in Why the Future Doesn't Need Us), I feel that what they're commenting on really isn't any different than things have always been. Ford, way back in the day, could crank out a Model T car in 93 minutes. That was in 1914, and it was done almost entirely by hand. They didn't have robotics or anything fancy like that. They used conveyor belts and hand tools. 93 minutes. If it's anything to say for Why the Future Doesn't Need Us, it now takes about 25 hours to build a car. Yes, I realize that cars have come a long way and that there is significantly more stuff involved in building one of them here in 2007 than in 1914.

What I'm trying to say here, though, in regards to Why the Future Doesn't Need Us is that, even though technology becomes more sophisticated, we still need able bodies to employ this technology. BMW has one of the most technologically advanced production lines in the world, but employs over 100,000 people. Are we really ever in danger of building ourselves into such a hole that we can't dig ourselves out?

Joy raises some excellent points in his article, such as saying that "People won't be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide." In a lot of ways, this is happening now. So much of our business and way of life relies upon the internet and other technologies that to disconnect would virtually cripple things. However, Joy later goes on to paint us a dystopian vision not unlike the world of The Matrix. Machines capable of independent thought, rebelling against their creators, and enslaving us lowly human beings.

What I say to Joy, however, is that if we created these machines, couldn't we also destroy them? There are people out there who can create computer viruses that can render a personal computer completely dead. Any computer system, any piece of technology has flaws. The most expensive hard drive in the world is just a useless piece of metal if you stick a magnet next to it. Human innovation and the ability to improvise is second-to-none other, and there's a reason that machines can only hope to emulate it.

To get back to Marcuse, and sort of relate the two, as well as bringing home the point about the Model T, Marcuse complains, basically, that everything revolves around money in a capitalistic society. Corporations compete with each other to produce similar producs at a lower or equal cost, newspapers censor themselves so as to alienate the least amount of people, and so on. Yes, the goal of capitalism is to make a buck. Yes, it's kind of a bummer that everything in life as you know it revolves around the dollar bill. Corporations are enhancing technology, streamlining the production process to make goods faster and more efficiently, and therefore, cheaper.

This enhancement of technology does create the things Marcuse talks about in his essay, and it could theoretically cause the situations Joy outlines in his article, but are we, as a race, not capable of overcoming our own creations? While it's not up to me to solve these problems, we've done pretty damn well so far.

I hope that made sense.

The Human Animal

Blog Assignment 1

Growing up I was always a firm believer that you, and only you, were in charge of your own destiny. In many ways this is true, but in the past couple of years I realized that you can not control everything. For example, you may be by far the best worker in your profession because of all of the hard work YOU have done, but just because a certain person knows the boss a little better means they get the promotion and you do not. This example clearly shows that even though you do as much as you can and think that you are destined to succeed there will (almost) always be something holding you back. Someone might be thinking what does this have to do with "Life in the Iron Mills"? It is pretty clear that Rebecca Harding Davis thinks that we humans are more like animals. I would have to agree with her after having some of the experiences I have had.

I am sure it comes as a surprise that I, a human, agrees with someone insulting my own species. When I think of animals, I think of something that does not think of its actions and does not realize the consequences of its actions. I may not know much about wildlife but it is fairly obvious that they only look out for themselves or at most their family or others then benefit them, like a pac of wolves or a pride of lions.

After thinking about the ways animals interact it is pretty clear that humans act the same way. Like I said earlier, you can not control everything. A person would like to think that another human would help them out, but when it comes down to it everyone (including me) looks out for number 1 before anything else. One blog I read basically talked about how homeless people should not be asking for food, clothes, ex. It said everyone can work, which is very true but these people need opportunities from others and it is hard to get an opportunity when no one cares about anything but themselves.

Please do not get me wrong. There are plenty of good people out there to offer help. I am just saying that I can definetely see where Mrs. Davis is coming from.

It's Good to Care

A quick comment for everyone, because we are already getting into issues which people care intensely about. Disagreement is good; more than good, actually -- it's necessary, if we're going to take anything away from these contentious issues.

When arguing with one another, though, think of that nonsensical show, Crossfire (which is widely imitated), which basically consists of people yelling at each other. There's a radical difference between trying to convince each other to change positions and simply expressing our disagreement more loudly.

Which is not to say that there is a problem yet, and I apologize if this seems to be directed at anyone; my intention is to say that our goal from the beginning should be persuasion; when I grade papers and blog entries, one very important thing will be whether you are pitching yourself towards a skeptical audience, rather than assuming one that agrees with you.

On Crossfire, they preach to the choir (two different choirs, actually -- Marcuse, ironically, brutally dissects this aspect of the media as the "unification of opposites," but that's a discussion for another day), to those already convinced. Your goal needs to be otherwise.

How can we do this?

One important beginning is to focus on the texts at hand; to analyze Davis, and Joy, and Marcuse (although I've only given you a fragment of a rather strange and difficult book, in all fairness), while trying to avoid falling into overly familiar patterns of writing, of speech, of thought.

"Begin with a text, not with a feeling" - from Wit, by Margaret Edson

Narrative and Technology

As a disclaimer this is my first attempt at using a blog as a mode of discourse. I usually keep my thoughts between me and who ever they are currently relavant. Enjoy
Since elementary school I have always thought of Narrative as giving an account of certain events whether in a linear or non-linear fashion. Today, I believe the same thing except now i know how complex Narratives can really be. This is where i think Technology comes into play. Like we saw in class technology interestingly enough doesnt directly translate as biology and all the other words with the similar root word logos. After class i found myself leaning more heavily towards the definition of Technology as a description of innovative techniques used to produce a certain end. So commenting on Prof. Johns question "Can we, in fact, accurately talk about a narrative (a representation) separately from its technologies (means of representation)?" I think it is possible to talk about the Narrative separately from its technologies but to do so would be to severely limit the scope of the argument because in many cases the technologies used to form narratives are chosen purposefully, enhancing or enlightening meaning in a specific work. In "Life in the iron hills" Davis employs several literary techiniques or technologies (Like the colloquialisms of the puddlers juxtoposed to the speech of the Doctor 
and Mitchell) to effectively ellicit certain emotions and depict certain scenes for her tragic tail, alluding to the inadequacies of the capitalist society. I'm not saying i agree with her because i dont but i think technology and narrative go hand in hand during discussions.

Technology R Us

First Graded Blog

This is probably common knowledge, but you know the same guy who created the Nobel Peace Prize also invented dynamite? He was just trying to do good stuff for the world, you know, create easier ways to blast through mountains to make railroads or whatever. Did he think that people would use that to blow each other up? Probably not. It took someone thinking he was dead for him to realize the destructive potential of his creation. Is that what we all need? Mistaken obituaries?

In "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" it seems like the utopian look of technology is that it's meant, in the end, to level the playing field. In theory, it'd be awesome to have robots so advanced that they could eliminate the necessity of human work forever and ever. My friend Alex is by far the sweetest hearted guy I know. He also happens to be some kind of mechanical and computer genius who is convinced that if he can somehow program artificial intelligence that everything will be better. Nobody would need money and so no one would have to work and everything would be free and we could spend our time appreciating the beauty of the world. He confessed this to me, adamant and full of determination and I, being the entertainment nerd I am, squinted my eyes and said "You're going to create Skynet."I'm also the girl who threatened to break up with her boyfriend because he was considering working on Project Aura and I was afraid of being the Will Smith in the story who would have to save us all from a rise of the machines. Though that might be kind of nifty.

I don't want to be cynical, but these things that we've read all seem to be saying the same thing, that no matter how advanced our technology gets and no matter their original functions, someone is going to suffer for it. The downside of the robot-run society in which everyone is free of the shackles of money and responsibility is the kind of thing we see in movies. Robots run rampant, gain minds of their own, blah blah blah "In order to uphold the 3 Laws, in order to protect you, we might have to hurt you." All I could think about when I was reading Marcuse was that law that they were going to pass that made it alright for the government to get into our business. Phone calls and emails and whatever else, this law was going to make it okay for the government to have access to any information all the time. In order to protect our freedom, it was necessary to take some of our rights away. He says "liberty can be made into a powerful instrument of domination."

So we're making all these jumps in technology so we can have this freedom. So we can get as much done for as little work and for as much profit as possible. For this ultimate freedom. But Joy is putting forth this argument that says if we're not careful (and really, when have we ever been careful?) then this technology on which we're relying to give us this freedom is going to ultimately spell our doom. In making shields from weapons, the byproduct is going to be stronger weapons. People are gonna die. People are dying, and not even in the socially complicated way like in "Life in the Iron Mills." A guy died playing World of Warcraft for too long. Blizzard didn't create the game thinking that it would kill someone, though I'm sure they made it purposely addictive.

I agree that it's how we choose to use that technology that's the freedom. Robert Shenck (I think) had an essay where he said that soon intelligence isn't going to be measured by what we know, but what we've experienced. Information is really easy to get at nowadays. But who does anything anymore? There was an old Nickelodeon commercial, it had to be in the early 90's where they were advertising Actual Reality. "Feel the wind in your hair, because you're holding the ball! Feel the sun on your face, because you're actually there!" I guess this was just when video games were beginning to get super popular and childhood obesity reached new levels. There are simpler ways in which technology is going to kill us.

But I think... well, I don't know. People are getting smarter. Things move faster, by the time I was in the 7th grade, my 3rd grade brother and I were studying the same things. Your parents ever say "hey, I didn't read that book you're reading now, in middle school, till I was in college!" Children are teaching their parents how to use computers. There's going to come a point at which they're teaching Human/Robot ethics in kindergarten. I think that we have to kind of trust that the next generation of thinkers are also going to be more educated in the ways that prevented Albert Nobel from seeing that dynamite could also kill people. And instead of just acknowledging the fact, that they'll have to means by which to save us.

Tyranny Through Commercialized Technology

This is the 1st graded blog entry

As a child I grew up conservative, I believed in weapons over education, trickle-down economics, and the like. However, it is after coming to college, when my mind's castle and moat of conservative ideals passed down by grandparents, aunts, and a parent is assaulted and ultimately conquered by the breadth of new information, but more importantly, new experiences, that has swung my beliefs (some would call them political) in the other direction. Clearly we have a need for welfare, workman's compensation, and federal laws that regulate how employers treat their employees.

The reason I bring up my past is because though I may be at risk of an ad hominem fallacy, I find it juvenile that any person could call America a "free country" if they are utterly opposed to the idea of lending those who wish to make their dreams come true, and can't, assistance. And when I say "assistance," I mean money. "Life in the Iron Mills" is only outdated in the sense that it captures older technology, but the reason the story is important is because its sentiment still resounds into the 21st era. A moderm equivalent may be a single father working at the assembly line in a General Motors factory who suddenly has his wages cut because the company is outsourcing or feels they can make more competitive prices if production is amped up at another factory. This father, who because his family was poor and could not afford to send him to a private school, or even a decent public school, can do nothing else but his job. He finds that he now must devote all of his time to his grueling job, assembling and disassembling car engines in a smoking factory, inhaling fumes that aren't supposed to kill him-- unless he's inhaling them 16 hours a day. Oh yes did I forget to mention that he needs to work double shifts so that his two daughters can eat, go to school, and have a roof over their head? Don't even get me started on their college education. It would all be O.K. except the US government's definition of "poverty," in pure number terms, is a hundred dollars less than what he makes... but this worker needs that hundred dollars to pay for his house utilities and therefore finds himself stuck, enslaved to his monotonous job and the CEOs who decided that it'd just be easier to give themselves larger Christmas bonuses and give their employees nothing, saying that the company is losing too much money. This father might sue, but attorneys need money to eat, too, and if he had the access to perhaps the ACLU they might be able to help him, in 10 years, when he has lung cancer and an amputated arm from a factory accident. In fact, a factory accident would almost be welcome, because then at least Workman's Comp. might come through.

The enslaved working man is not a myth, or an extinct species, but a common sight today. If it weren't the case, why would popular movies like "John Q." win 2 awards and be nominated for 7 others? I checked, it's not just because Denzel Washington is a fantastic actor. I find Mike's summarization and coincidental shrugging off of the idea that the "system" (which I am unsure of which system he means here) is "set up to ensare the poor to benefit the rich" outright obtuse. I would ask Mike to recall that Ronald Reagan's idea of "trickle-down economics,"-- an issue still widely considered viable by the Conservatives-- is just a financial approach that says, if the government gives money to the rich (in the form of superior tax breaks and financial support to already monstrous companies) that the rich will spend more money and somehow the cash will "trickle" it's way down to the average blue-collar working man. Obviously Ronald Reagan forgot what "avarice" means.

We can't forget that big business and big money is tied almost exclusively to the development of new technology. Ever wonder why Paris Hilton has a better Blackberry than you? You can't afford it, but she can. Until machines can self-replicate, but then you find one of the largest dangers outlined in the beginning of "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us." Sure, we may find ourselves experiencing extra longevity in entirely silicon bodies, but if a wo/man isn't made of flesh and tissue anymore, is he really a man?

Marcuse is absolutely right; our freedom is not given to us au gratis. The people who master technology convince the masses that they need it and then have them work endlessly producing it, hoping they may too one day have that one thing that somehow makes their lives easier without realizing that it could be detrimental to their physical and mental health and their social life. Am I going to work double shifts to buy some crappy car that spews atmosphere-annihilating chemicals and can only manage 14 miles per gallon when I have free mass transit or could even, G-d forbid, partake in some physical activity and just walk? No!

I hate to pick on Mike's post, but there's a reason my grandmother's addages and aphorisms aren't law-- they have too many fallacies to them. Anecdotal evidence like "my grandmother said so," is not valid and it's use is wrong. That little saying is meant in the sense of farming, where the individual was his own man and would only produce as much as he was willing to work. I am not a botanist, but if I planted a carborater I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get a Mustang. Marcuse talks about "free competition at administered prices" and "free choice between brands and gadgets," showing us the paradoxical nature of "fixed retail price." It's not because the employer has to pay his employees minimum wage that we have these prices, or even because of the ingredients used to make whatever the next little toy to come along, it's because the CEOs decide that a million and a half dollars a year is just not enough to afford two yachts instead of just one. This idea may sound jaded, but to quote the late Don Marquis "When a man tell you he got rich through hard work, ask him: 'Whose?'" and I believe that sentiment traverses into today.

I do believe that Marcuse is trying to dissuade us from the idea that technology is what makes us "free." Really it is how we choose to use that technology that ultimately is the freedom.

Regarding Comments, Grading, etc.

Reading Mike's interesting post, I'm reminded that I have omitted several things when discussing the blogs, especially the graded blogs.

1) When you write a graded blog entry, for the sake of clarity, I'd appreciate it if in the title or first line you clearly indicate that it is a graded entry.

2) My current intention is to make my comments on graded entries public (barring highly negative comments, which I try to avoid anyway), but to keep the actual grades private, and email them to you. I am not married to this idea, and could be convinced to move towards either public grades or towards keeping comments private.

My theory is that one major barrier to transparency and at least perceived fairness in most writing classes is that you only see your own papers my responses to them. Here, you will get a sense of the class as a whole and my responses to everyone, with only the actual grade being withheld.

While this opens problems, I think it will do more good than harm to you. After a couple weeks, I'm open to trying something different, depending on your collective wishes.

3) Since this is a blog, and you are supposed to interact with one another, you certainly may reference one another's posts, including in graded entries. To pick Mike as an example: his framing of humanity as slaves to nature is something other people could work with, either to build on it or to critique it.

4) At least for this first batch, I'm going to hold off on grading and commenting (other than my highlighting of Mike's closing idea as one worthy of pursuit) until everyone is finished, so I get some sense of where everyone is at.

Defending America from Rebecca Harding Davis

In French, it’s “C’est la vie.“ In the Bible, it’s “reap what you sow.” To Buddhists, the phrase is “Life is suffering.” and to grandma, it’s just “You get what you give.” All these phrases mean something similar- that life is hard and you’ll only get out what you put into it. This is why ideas like those in “Life in the Iron Mills” make me roll my eyes. Why is it that people still cling to the idea that somehow the system is set up to ensnare the poor to benefit the rich? It’s a ridiculous assertion no matter how many different ways it’s stated.
While crossing Forbes Ave after leaving our last class, I saw another of those ubiquitous “A revolution is possible in America!” signs put up by people that should be ashamed of themselves. Every time I see one, my red, white, and blue blood boils with rage. Particularly, this sign said something like “Society takes money from the masses and give it to a rich few.” I scratched out parts and changed it to “take money from willing consumers and give it to those who worked for it.”
“Life in the Iron Mills” shows how one can become enslaved. The workers are stuck in this hot, dirty mill doing a job for little pay over long hours. Somehow I’m supposed to feel sorry for these people? They’re not SLAVES, they’re doing a job! They’re producing something meaningful! If they don’t like it, they can quit or run away. Why don’t they? Ah yes, my point exactly…they need food and shelter! I suppose the authors of the sign on Forbes and of “Life in the Iron Mills” is arguing that someone should just give these people food for free, manna-from-heaven style.
I feel this claim could use elaboration. I need to eat. Therefore, I want food. To get food, I need to either gather it or make it. If I can’t, I need to trade for it. If I decide to trade you for your surplus, I need something to give you. Therefore, I need to MAKE THINGS to trade with. It doesn’t matter how you slice it, you need to WORK to get things like food. If no one works, there won’t be anything to eat.
The people in the mills are enslaved, I don’t argue that. What I take issue with is that the story tries to say they’re enslaved by other people. That not true at all, they’re a slave to their own hunger! Nature is the one that traps us. These mortal coils, as Shakespeare puts it, are the ones doing the trapping, not Mitchell and the other wealthy citizens. The story doesn’t convince me that life is unfair, it only convinces me that life sucks. All the proverbs listed above show that it’s a moot point.
Marcuse said “Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.”, implying that our bosses are our masters. In actuality, it’s nature and the physical world which master us. The “Plight of the working class” is a plight of being human. I have no idea how anyone in the 21st century can still think that socialism, aka “getting things I didn’t earn”, somehow overcomes the universal laws of “You can’t get something for nothing”. I feel it’s my job as an American citizen to take up the war path against the something-for-nothing ignorance that socialism, Marcuse, and Life in the Iron Mills profess. Thus the title of this blog.

Mike Kobily

P.S. As for "The Future Doesn't Need Us",

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Technology and Narrative

There probably is not much left to say about these two topics since we went over it in class and I am one of the last to write about them. Having said that, there are many different ways to look at narrative and technology. In my mind narrative clearly means a story that is told, but you could look at this a lot of different ways. For example, a book could be a narrative, but at the same time a video game could be a narrative. As long as the "thing" takes the reader, gamer, or whatever, along on a journy. Narrative is a way of working your brain.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of technology is computers, cars, and all of that kind of stuff. But when we talked about it the first day in class, it became apparent to me that technology is not only something we can touch and use, it is a progression in time. Therefore the best word I could use to describe technology is development.

When we use these two words together it is very tough to figure out exactly what that means because there are so many ways to look at them depending on the person. Narrative and technology to me, show the who, what, when, where, and how about how things have evolved. But in reality, I have no clue how these two words got intertwined.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Here we go...

I’ve never been quite good at expressing my thoughts and ideas, and I don’t expect to blossom into an awe inspiring essayist by the end of this semester. That being said, I hope you all will bare with me as I attempt to do anything but bore you with my forced witticisms and most likely sub par responses.

Narrative to me, like most everyone else has said, is a way of telling a story; a series of related events strung together for one reason or another. For whatever reason, the author has set out to tell this story, to narrate it, in hope that we may come out of it being better informed or having learned some sort of a lesson.

We said in class that agriculture is technology, but in my mind that is not the case. To me, technology is anything new and innovative. Or anything that allows for advancement. When I think of the word technology, I automatically think of computers. Or iPods (and how they are currently developing technology that will allow the user to control their music with their jaw. Random interjection, yes. But, to me, that is technology; advancement.)

I agree with what has been said on the relationship between narrative and technology; that is, that the two evolve symbiotically. With the invention of new technologies, we find new ways of creating narratives. Written word translated to radio, which in turn translated to television, and so on and so forth. From where we are now, who knows what could happen in twenty or so years. With advancements in technology I am sure we will be seeing an abundance of change in the way we view narrative.

Fancy Gadgets

I agree with how Mike defined a narrative and technology. I like his definitions in particular because they make it easier--for me, at least--to connect how we see technology (fancy gadgets and advanced electronics) with its roots ("technique"); what's more, these definitions help me to connect the ideas of a narrative and technology, too.

Actually getting to the point, here's how I connect them:

A narrative, as Dr. Johns said, is a representation of an event or a series of them. I would call how we represent them, "the technique." Well, how do we represent them? Easy. We make these representations by utilizing the "fancy gadgets" we have around us: television, movies, video games, radio; the list is endless. With each gadget there comes a new form of representation, a new technique.

By viewing it this way, I've not only managed to connect the word 'technology' to its root, "technique," but I've also manged to relate it with the word 'narrative' without having to "divorce" it from its original meaning.

Overall, I have come to same conclusion as some others have; I think that 'narrative' and 'technology' evolve as one. As I'm sure House of Leaves will show us, a lot can be done with print. But without new techniques (read: technology) to assist us, the progress of the narrative would eventually grind to a halt. On the other side of coin, without the demand for new ways to portray the events of life, I believe many of the gadgets we have today would not exist.


I'm greatly enjoying what I've read so far of your blog entries, and may yet get around to commenting on them. Regardless, here's the assignment for the first graded blog.

The following extract is from Herbert Marcuse's One Dimensional Man (1964), which attacked "advanced industrial civilization" (both capitalist and communist) for making people one dimensional. It was an exceedingly important book for the "New Left" -- i.e., the intellectual component of the 1960s counterculture. The actual assignment follows the quote.

The distinguishing feature of advanced industrial society is its effective suffocation of those needs which demand liberation -- liberation also from that which is tolerable and rewarding and comfortable -- while it sustains and absolves the destructive power and repressive function of the affluent society. Here, the social controls exact the overwhelming need for the production and consumption of waste; the need for stupefying work where it is no longer a real necessity; the need for modes of relaxation which soothe and prolong this stupefication; the need for maintaining such deceptive liberties as free competition at administered prices, a free press which censors itself, free choice between brands and gadgets.

Under the rule of a repressive whole, liberty can be made into a powerful instrument of domination. The range of choice open to the individual is not the decisive factor in determining the degree of human freedom, but what can be chosen and what is chosen by the individual. The criterion for free choice can never be an absolute one, but neither is it entirely relative. Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.

Now, for the assignment. Use Marcuse's quote about advanced industrial society (technological society) to do one of three things.
1) Analyze or respond to some aspect of "Life in the Iron Mills"
2) Analyze or respond to some aspect of "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" (to be handed out on Wednesday)
3) Analyze or respond to some aspect of your own life, with some reference to "Life in the Iron Mills" or "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us."

p.s. You are by no means required to agree with Marcuse, or any other author we'll study. Hostile (but reasoned) responses are legitimate.

Tangent - Nik Style

That's what I'm about to go on, just so you know. Hopefully, it relates to what we're talking about. Since I'm highly caffeinated and had this brilliant idea while I was busy not paying attention to my World War II in Asia professor, this is going to run together. Also, I haven't read anyone else's yet. But I will.

Narrative to me is a story. Because a narrator tells a story. Like Morgan Freeman, he's the ultimate narrator to me because he did March of the Penguins. Anyway. Narrative is a story because the narrator tells it.

Technology, well, now I can't really look at it in any other way than the kind we said, with the technique and the words. That's a lot cooler than just some computer kind of thing, though when I go on my tangent I'm definitely going to say something about computers. When I think of technology, the spiderwebs in my head that lead to every other thing possibly even connected to any other thing lead first to techno music. Well, second to techno music. First to... well, to computers. But techno music, I know nothing about other than it sounds like the kind a computer would make. *shrug*

So. About the way these things connect to each other.


Stories started as oral things. Word of mouth, you know, sitting around the fire and listening to some old guy tell you a ghost story that just also happens to be Little Red Riding Hood, which really means "don't disobey your parents and don't go into the forest by yourself." Only in a way that would keep someone's attention, you know? Because we have attention spans of peanuts. But as we (humans, or whatever) have advanced, the way that stories and morals that are meant to come from stories, or whatever, have also had to advance.

Adam was talking before about narration being a representation and then asked whose responsibility the reception of the representation is. I ended that on a preposition. Sorry. Is it the narrator or the listener? It's kind of both. I think people have realized that, at least insomuch as stories were told around fires and then in books and then over the radio and now in movies and video games and every freakin other way else. As our attention span gets shorter because of these technological advancements (in the sciencey way, not in the way we talked about), the technology with which we narrate has to advance, too. People remember the movie version of... I dunno, Hamlet, better than they might remember the actual play, read in high school. Everyone knows The Lion King. That's a watered down, happy ending version, but it's the same deal, Hamlet on the African savanna. Or something. I'll probably mention the way that a narrative changes because of technology later, in a comment that I'll make on my own post, after having read it when I'm not jazzed on three iced quad venti caramel macchiatos. Btw, the computer is saying that I misspelled "macchiatos" and that the correction for that word is "psychiatrist." Does that say something about me? Probably.

As someone who wants to write for a living (or at least make a book or something, maybe, once) this means that I'm going to have to be exceptionally awesome because nobody reads anymore just to read it. One of my orchestra directors once said that soon violinists won't have jobs because nobody listens to classical music and everyone's downloading music and why pay musicians anymore? It's gonna be like that, with writing, unless there's another... thingie (for lack of a better, real term) in which to represent your idea. Because I'm a huge dork, I'm really into online forums and message boards and stuff, but not because I have an opinion on something but because the forums I'm a part of are roleplaying forums. Create a character and write them and it's like... telling a communal story in a way that we wouldn't have ever been able to do without the technology of the interwebs. I'm co-writing a story with people who live in Georgia and Kentucky and the Philippines, you know? It's just another (thingie) in which to get the idea across.

That's what I mean.

So, if you've read any of this and understood any of it, then great. And if not, then... yeah, that's ok too. I'm sure I'll comment on this later and realize none of this made any sense. But yay, welcome to my mind!

Monday, August 27, 2007

"Narrative" and "Technology"

When you think of a narrative, one of the first things that comes to mind is literature, and indeed, the written word is one of the most widely utilized means of narration. As is the emphasis on our class, though, the narrative can be spread through a variety of non-traditional mediums. A narrative is simply the telling of a story. While the way in which the story is told can affect how much of the narration we absorb or how quickly, overall the message should be able to be translated into any sort of format. Whether the format is pre-historic cave paintings or an internet forum, the basic notion of the narrative remains unchanged.

Technology, much like the idea of the narrative, can come in virtually any shape. Technology is such a part of our lives that we take for granted, as we are constantly using it, perhaps without even realizing. For myself, the definition of technology would be any sort of tool that allows us to accomplish a task easier than it would be without it. If we go by this very basic definition, then even things like the key to your car could be considered a technological advancement. Maybe some of you have seen the old-timey cars that required the engine to be hand-cranked before starting. The key is definitely leaps and bounds beyond that process. Sure, you could pop off the panelling around the steering wheel and find a way to complete the circuit (this doesn't work on newer, push-button ignition cars, by the way), but that's the long way of doing it. The key is the short way, and thus earns the name of 'technology'.

As we become more technologically advanced as a people, we will begin to see more and more usage of technology as a means of telling a story. The radio dramas of old have been replaced by television shows that have been replaced by YouTube. We are at a point now where it's quite easy for anyone to capture their story, be it in print or in video, and disseminate it quickly to the masses. While the base concept of what story telling is remains the same, it is the evolution of technology that has allowed it to flourish, due in no small part to easier and farther-reaching methods of distribution. This relationship creates a sort of reliance upon technology for the narrative to flourish, which in turn creates the need for such technologies.

I hope I answered that well enough without being too long-winded, or else this is going to be a long semester.

Let's see if I'm doing this correctly

Let's see now...

Narrative - simply put, a story told by someone as opposed to a story you may witness unfold in front of you.

Technology- devices used to accomplish a task. People that use chopsticks and people that use forks have different technologies, for instance.

The relationship between them is that as one evolves, so does the other. Writing allows us to expand our audiences efficiently. With the advent of motion pictures, it is no longer necessary to verbally describe sounds or environments as this is now obvious to the audience. Through audio technologies, a story can be played back in perfect mimicry of the first telling. With each new medium comes a new element to story-telling.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Hi Everyone,

Welcome to the Blog for Narrative and Technology. Please remember to send me your email address asap (my email address is on the syllabus). You'll get an email with signup instructions once I add you to the blog.

Once you follow those instructions, do a short blog entry to try it out. Briefly respond to this question: "What do 'narrative' and 'technology' mean to you, and what, in your view, is the relationship between them?"