Final Project Proposal for Narrative and Technology
Death of a Stink Bug An essay converted to interactive web-narrative that discusses the cycles of technological progression throughout history, evaluates the individual’s role within a one-dimensional society, and evaluates the use of language (paired with warped logic), to confuse needs within that society, looking particularly at American media and politics after 9/11 and during the Cold War .
Mimicking the lack of control, or inability to logically (in terms of Plato’s logic, rather than formal logic), understand the economic and political processes that individuals are deliberately excluded from in modern society, the structure of the project will resemble Danielewski’s labyrinth, using connected hyperlinks that build into a narrative. The users must explore the story using visited and unvisited links as a guide, but, as alienating as this will be, they will never be able to visualize the whole structure. The use of juxtaposed images, jQuery animation effects, metaphor, and allusions to concepts taken directly from Marcuse, Heidegger, and Joy will complicate the relationship of transcendent artist as a visionary or mode of scientific revolution and the overwhelming, fucking terrifying and frustrating political processes that, in the name of Western tradition and profit, continue to warp the individual’s ability to differentiate between appearance and reality. Like Danielewski’s use of footnotes and appendixes to give many perspectives to his discussion of language, I will also use a layered commenting effect to provide an analytical understanding of the voice of the piece. This piece, like House of Leaves, is concerned with the question of truth or transcendence as voice of social change, and this structure will allow me to better explain the historical reasoning for the narrator’s inability to understand the process that force her to consider herself as an individual in a society that only portrays itself as logical. This realization of society’s suppression places her in a position of alienation. Using a hover effect, the “footnotes” will place heavier meaning on to the stream-of-consciousness narrative and the symbols that frame the narrator as an individual coming to terms with her position (and lack of ability to change her position), in a one-dimensional society.
I should also say that this is a project concerned with the transformation of technology as a way to tighten society’s grip on the individual’s psyche. I will use images and advertisements for earlier forms of media, using propaganda as an example of the allure of false consciousness and the abandonment of historical truth for the rationality of technology and progress, essentially providing better ways to manipulate language and images to accomplish society’s goals.
Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon, 1964
· Drawing from Marcuse’s argument that media (as a form of social control and perpetuator of false consciousness), acts as a distractor from the “overwhelming, anonymous power and efficiency of the technological society” (Marcuse Chapter 9), I will use narrative voice paired with analytical commentary to discuss poetry and art as a form of transcendent or negative thought. I will argue that this is the only defense against “false realism and the rationality of domination” (Marcuse Chaper 8).
Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962. + footage from The Prelinger Archives
· Using propaganda from the Atomic Age and Cold War, as well as Kuhn’s concept of paradigm shifts, I’ll argue that the rationality of technology is cyclical and that society rejects the replacement of paradigms in order to maintain control over the political community. I’ll also make use of campaign ads from American politicians directly after 9/11 and discuss the Marcusian concepts that value historical fact (the physical or the true), over the historical, or manipulated. I’ll stress the importance of the voice of the individual and the artist or intellectual in the conflict between the perpetuation of progress and oppression of individuals within this teetering framework that is powered by operational behavior rather than transcendent thought. In a way this is an attack against the cultural logic of Capitalism (or Consumerism powered by the terrible ethics that corrupt Capitalism), but also an acceptance of an individual’s lack of agency in this system. After all, 1)Intellectuals are forced to be integrated into the system because that is the nature of beaurocracy, but that also 2)we can avoid being media-manipulated drones if we can preserve the concept of revolution in the art we make and hold on to the memories and human relationships that exist separately from social distraction.
Mueller, Heiner. Weber, Carl, ed. Hamletmachine and Other Texts for the Stage. Interview: “I am Neither a Dope—Nor a Hope—Dealer.” New York City: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1960.
· I am mostly concerned with Mueller’s discussion of language and it’s tendency to warp historical images in a way that unifies or stereotypes experiences. He describes his first introduction with Disney: “The horrifying thing for me in this is the occupation of the imagination by clichés and images which will never go away; the use of images to prevent experiences, to prevent the having of experiences.” You can see how this discussion fits into the argument that media promotes one-dimensional living that replaces fact and truth with social thought, the American Dream, fear of harm, neoliberal agendas that aim to maintain hegemonic control, and the unification of language that transforms reality into what is rational and what appears to be true consciousness. I will also use Mueller’s concept of self-awareness (the intellectual as someone who despite artistic resistance to the processes of society, cannot live without reliance on the very system s/he wants to resist), through the use of “footnotes” to acknowledge this frustrating relationship between individual and society.
Once again, my argument will emphasize the artist or poet as most concerned with the human project: man’s conquest to see and know what really is, and that truth and reality will save society from the destruction of progress. While both poets and the media and industry are capable of manipulating language, it is only through the preservation of an individual’s true reality that can resist the unification or absorption into a one-dimensional mode of thinking. The voice of this piece is one who struggles, like us all, with the human condition, the uncertainty and question of personal purpose/faith placed: a Religious figure, a deified figure such as parents or significant other, social distraction such as video games or reality television or pornography or information news entertainment. The alternative is concentration in creativity that rejects social distraction, as Marcuse would explain, the use of art to purify language in an attempt to force society to consider its individuals in a “three-fold urge” that re-establishes a voice of reason with the purposes “to live, to live well, and to live better” (Whitehead’s proposition, as referenced in Marcuse Chapter 9). The poet is concerned with truth in language as a means of liberation from the operational concept of freedom and democracy now in place.
SYMBOLISM (This really only makes sense after you've explored the web site)
The Stink Bug
· The stink bug is a terrorist and a scapegoat. Its death frames the whole piece, forcing the individual to question why a creature portrayed as alien should simply be killed despite its species’ similarities to the human race. At the same time, it symbolizes globalization and commercialism and the spread of technologic rationality as a primary mode of thinking. Its death is a denial of these realizations and a disregard for the alienating process of negative or analytical thought, the kind that considers history and societal representations that most people don’t question.
· The World Trade Centers (and their instability), represent Western productivity and growth, and the unstable systems that provide America with its position of hegemonic comfort. The discussion of September 11th tries to analyze the effects of tragedy on the individual, but also brings into question the role of society in the aftermath of tragedy, and how the warping of ideas and language leads the individual to less rights and an even less clear understanding of historical truth and reality.
The Atomic Bomb
· The discussion of my father’s version of the Atomic Age, and how it differs from my understanding plays into the idea of collective memory and paradigm shifts, and also how history affects language and images. It also allows me to discuss disarmament and the prevalence of military spending over social spending as an attempt to preserve social control and justify the disregard for individual needs. The stink bug metaphor returns here as well: people are just bugs, and it is society’s (or its leader’s), needs that are valued over even the well-being of the individual. To strengthen my argument, I will use both Joy’s discussion of the development of the atomic bomb, Marcuse’s first sentence of One-Dimensional Man, and my own experiences as a child first coming to an understanding of the consequences of nuclear warfare and the destruction of nature in the name of corporate growth, a particularly dark period marked by the post 9/11 tragedy and the political arena’s assault on truth during this time.
· The anxiety that the narrator struggles with is in many ways an allusion to the Marcusian concept of alienation. It drives her to look for more transcendent ways to capture her frustration, and essentially drives her to look for a way to use technology in a way that presents truth, rather than appearance in reality. In the discussion of nuclear catastrophe and terrorism, it is fear of society’s agenda, “enforced not by any terroristic agency, but by the overwhelming, anonymous power and efficiency of the technological society” that causes anxiety. This suggests that disarmament and pacification are the only way to absolve these fears, allowing the individual to feel some control in such an unstable societal organization.
Alzheimer’s and PTSD
· These are both metaphors for living without negative thought or historical self-awareness, but instead in the foggy, or unclear reality built by media distraction: in denial, in forgetting, in fear, in uncertainty, and in false consciousness. This is the way we are being asked to live, inside a teetering building that we can’t fully see or understand.
WHY THIS CLASS, and WHY THIS PROJECT IS IMPORTANT
Coming from a background in creative nonfiction, the point of this project is to achieve a truer perspective of an individual living in a one-dimensional society, using narrative and technology to create a transcendent piece of art that comments on its struggle to differentiate between the Marcusian concept of apparent and authentic truth. This is a study of philosophic language through a narrative voice that speaks through comments that incorporate concepts from major writers we’ve studied in class. This is a project that stemmed from an essay that I transformed into an interactive experience that attempts to merge technology with creative expression, to use a machine process to explore the relationship between the individual and society using major historical records from the Cold War era and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, illustrating the cycle of technological progress and the media’s involvement in the techno-political process. The project (keep in mind that while the basic structure of the piece is there, it does not say everything I am proposing just yet), can be found at this link: