Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Project Proposal

Project Proposal
For my final project I would like to further revise my second revision, the one which views Portal through the lens of Marcuse’s ideas.  While I believe that my revision of this essay improved it as a whole, there are still a great many ways which it could be fine-tuned.  The inclusion of more research will focus my argument and provide more, or better, connections between the game and the text.  I feel like I’ve adequately discussed Portal; a few more screen caps or quotes may be necessary, but primarily I need to focus more on Marcuse because that is where the heart of my argument lies.  I also need to further specify my argument, and deviate from it less.  Mostly I plan on adding new content, though I’m sure some parts will lose cohesion and need to be scrapped or thoroughly changed.  The purpose of this essay is to reflect upon the nature of the Great Refusal, highlighting its inherent difficulty, questioning its necessity, and at some points questioning its benefit.  In the form of an argument I suppose that would look something like: “The Great Refusal is an idea which we inherently cannot wrap our minds around due to the nature of our upbringing within our society (uniformity of inputs?) and the difficulty of defining new paradigms (producing new outputs with uniform inputs?).  Furthermore, carrying out the Great Refusal will fundamentally change our direction as a species, taking us down a different path which may or may not be superior to the path we are currently walking.  Portal seems to be preaching caution, asking us to deeply consider our actions before enacting a decision with the immense ramifications of the Great Refusal.”  Is our current path (culture) not sufficient?  Is the Great Refusal something which we should really pursue?  That last one is the question I am trying to reach; it is also the question I believe Portal is asking.  My argument is that we should be cautious in such a radical undertaking; it may do more harm than good.

This article is a gold mine; it’s so long I still haven’t read it all from start to finish.  It seems to view the Great Refusal as the rise of Marxism, i.e. the abolition of class structures, primarily for the benefit of the working class.  Or at the very least it uses Marcuse’s criticisms of a capitalist society as evidence for the benefits of revolution.  While 1D Man certainly makes sense in this context, I believe Marcuse would not consider socialism different enough from our current paradigm to constitute the Great Refusal.  Part of my plan here is to draw upon the inherent similarities between socialism and capitalism to further express the difficulty, and perhaps the dangers, of successfully completing the Great Refusal.  I may end up mentioning Portal 2 a little here; viewing Wheatley as a symbol for the Soviet Union, i.e. a failed attempt at establishing a new paradigm, is simply too good to pass up.
            Another critic who believes Marcuse is promoting Marxism, although this one seems to be doing so for the sake of discrediting Marcuse.  Ultimately, I don’t think this author has the right idea either, but there are some interesting points he brings up which I can use.  For my own future reference: “If by “communism” is meant the political regime in the Soviet orbit—and what else can it mean?—then its antithesis is not “capitalism” (as it seems to be for Marcuse) but either “democracy” or “fascism,” or some other political concept.”  That’s like saying negative infinity is the opposite of infinity.  None of these can be the antithesis of communism, all are political concepts within our culture, derived from our culture, with more similarities than differences. These two articles are nice because they are both interpreting Marcuse the same way for opposite reasons.

            This one for mostly the same reasons I used it previously, I don’t know if I should include it in this summary as I doubt I’ll expand its usage.  Perhaps I can draw on its thoughts about algorithms as a limiting factor in our society.  Or to further highlight the similarities between GLaDOS and our culture.  Hmmmm, maybe.  It refers to GLaDOS as a “collection of complex algorithms.”  This is literally exactly what Western Culture is: a collection of people whose ideas have fundamentally synchronized.  As all of the pieces of GLaDOS’s mind have centered around the need to experiment, all of the people in our society have centered around the need to consume (material items or otherwise).  A lack of inputs which would produce a different output can result from a uniformity of previous outputs; an infinite loop so to speak, which highlights the difficulty of carrying out the Great Refusal, i.e. breaking out of this infinite loop.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Through the course of this proposal, you show that you have some sophisticated and interesting ideas. I want to encourage you in those ideas, while also emphasizing that you cannot and should not try to create a thorough response to Marcuse all in one essay. You need to find a way of emphasizing/uniting the idea that Portal itself raises interesting problems about the Great Refusal - maybe its desirability, maybe its coherence as a concept. I think you have a rather good handle on Marcuse (although the devil is always in the details), but responding in a compact & coherent way will still be a challenge.

Don't forget that Marcuse has a great deal to say (mostly very early on) about the probability that the one dimensional society is beyond anyone's ability to change it at this point. I also wonder whether this essay is more about your suspicion of the totalizing nature of Marcuse's critique, or whether in some ways it might be about responding to Marcuse's critique of the entertainment portion of the mass media.

All of which is a long way of saying that I'm interested, but that I hope that you'll find ways to focus this more strictly as you continue.