12/5 Blog Post – The Giver

In this course, Technology and the Senses, many of the texts we studied and the ensuing discussions revolved around futuristic or alternate societies, like a world where people could fall in love with their operating systems (Her), or a world without food (Soylent). We also had thought provoking discussions revolving the different the different senses and what affect different sensations had on the mind and body. In addition to the various texts, films, ads, etc. that we have examined this year in relation to English 101, I would suggest adding the book, The Giver, by Lois Lowry to the required reading list for this course.

The Giver is set in a society void of emotion, feeling, choice, and color. The society is all about rigid order, peace, and sameness. While there are no negative sensations in this society like pain or war or hunger, there are also no positive sensations, such as music and passion and color and joy. Nobody in this society has individual identity or freedom of expression. However, one member of the society is responsible for keeping the ‘memories of the past’ in order to ensure that history is not repeated. This person has a lens into what normal life could used to look like – the memories he or she keeps range from memories of sunburns and sleigh rides to romantic love and death. This person protects the other members of the society by taking the whole burden of past memories and feelings. The protagonist, Jonah, has been selected to be the keeper of memories. He soon realizes how miserable and bland his society is and yearns to escape to a more colorful and exciting life where he’d have free choice and be able to experience extremes, both good and bad.

The theme of sensation and the relationship between pain and pleasure is very prominent throughout The Giver. Reading and discussing this text in class would have enhanced existing discussions relating to senses and sensation had it been included as part of the course. Lowry’s novel emphasizes the importance of physically experiencing things such as touch, sound, and sight and shows the reader what life would be like with very limited sensation and freedom. Also, as mentioned above, The Giver takes place in an alternate society, a world with no depth – something else we have studied in English this semester. It can be beneficial to discuss alternate societies, that have different customs, values, and beliefs than that in which we live, in order to get a better idea about one’s own culture.

I think that if our class had read The Giver this semester, or at least seen the movie, we could have had interesting and thoughtful discussions that would have added to the class as a whole and helped people realize the importance of sensation and advancement, whether it is technological or societal.

Historical Ads

Sticky Notes Advertisement Analysis

My historical object of choice was the sticky note. Specifically, I focused on 3M’s Post-it products. The concept of a sticky note is relatively modern, as it was invented only in the late 1970’s. The adhesive that makes sticky notes stick was actually an accidental invention; a failed attempt at making powerful glue. Sticky notes were therefore challenging to market, as they were not created out of need, but rather as a consequence of another project. The 3M company struggled to sell the adhesive, and consequentially Post-it notes, at first; they had to use advertisements to teach people how to use sticky notes and convince them that they were a product that they didn’t know they needed.

The first Post-it note ad I studied was published in 1979 in The Los Angeles Times. It is unique in the sense that it covers three full pages to discuss nothing but sticky notes, a seemingly basic and self-explanatory concept. The ad explains to readers what a sticky note is, and gives examples of how they can be used. It aims to convince the reader/ viewer that their lives would be simplified if they used sticky notes. In my opinion, this ad is geared towards older professionals. It emphasizes the many uses for sticky notes in the office space, especially those for a secretary or typist. The ad includes a note from Sue reminding Al to return her call and as well as a sketch of a woman’s hands applying Post-it note typing tape to a document. This suggests that while the ad is geared towards businessmen who order and buy the office supplies for their workspace, Post-it notes are more likely to be used by women, who often play the supporting role in the office, as typists or assistants or secretaries. The word choice and style of writing in the Post-it ad adds pathos, as it works to excite the reader about the product. Some key phrases include, “A giant communication breakthrough,” “Little pieces of paper that look dull but have an exciting kind of adhesive on the back,” and “If you are not yet overwhelmed by the implications…”. Overall, this ad suggests that society revolves around work and productivity.

The second ad I studied was published in 1985 in Nation’s Business. It shows a montage of eight geometric traffic signs, followed by a square post-it note. Beneath these images, in bold, capital letters reads, “YELLOW IS A SIGN OF IMPORTANCE.” I can only assume that in the original version of this ad, the sticky note, as well as traffic signs, were yellow. Just like traffic signs, sticky notes are meant to catch someone’s attention. While this was stated explicitly in the first ad, it is more implied in the second. The ad is very eye catching and geometric. It is made up of mostly images, with only a small blurb of text at the bottom, which explains what a sticky note is, how to use them, and where to get them. This ad is also geared towards the business world as it explicitly states, “…people with important business messages use our Post-it Notes adhesive note pads.” This is an example of ethos –it suggests to the viewer that if important businessmen and women are using sticky notes, then they should too.

The last ad I examined is much more modern – it was published in 1995 in The Wall Street Journal. It shows triplet babies lying on their stomachs with sticky note nametags stuck to their diapers. People are sympathetic to babies as well as humor, making this ad full of pathos. This ad is attention grabbing because it features triplets, which were much less common in the 1990’s than they are today with artificial fertilization technologies. It suggests that sticky notes can be used to simplify your life in many different ways, from labeling your babies’ bottles to labeling your children themselves. The ad is also stock full of ethos, as it includes numerical statistics and phrases such as, “3M innovation has created… trusted brands, such as Scotch, Thinsulate, and Scotch-Brite.” The ad suggests a society where people live hectic lives and need simplification tools, such as sticky notes, to maintain some sense of organization and sanity.

While each ad was created in a different decade and uses different marketing techniques, they share several things in common. All three ads include the company logo large and bold- this adds to the product’s credibility, or ethos. Also, all three ads offer free samples of Post-it Note products. This is a wise marketing technique as it gives potential customers an opportunity to try the product without any risk, and hopefully get hooked. All three ads argue that Post-it notes are tools for making one’s life more productive and efficient, and that Post-it notes are attention grabbing and will help organize your life. These ads all assume that society values productivity, organization, and work.

Works Cited:

Display ad 100 — no title. (1979, Mar 29). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/158853664?accountid=10747

Advertisement 13 — no title. (1985, 06). Nation’s Business (Pre-1986), 73, 1. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/231704027?accountid=10747

Display ad 9 — no title. (1995, Dec 29). Wall Street Journal (1923 – Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1023832304?accountid=10747

Soylent Movie

If I could choose one of this week’s articles to base a movie off of, I would choose The New Yorker’s “The End of Food.” This article describes a young engineer, Rob Rhinehart’s, struggle to find time and energy to prepare nutritious meals for himself, and his solution for this dilemma- Soylent. Soylent is a chemical substitute for all food as it is a solution which contains all necessary nutrients for survival. Rhinehart claims that one could live healthily and feel satisfied, (not hungry) by consuming only Soylent for the rest of their life. This is a fascinating and slightly disturbing concept to me, therefore, if done right, would make for an interesting and thought-provoking basis for a movie.

This movie would take place in modern day society and would have two central characters, Rob Rhinehart, a motivated engineer and scientist who develops Soylent, and Liz Stephenson, a single mom who owns a local diner in Tallahassee. Rhinehart has just mastered his recipe for the ultimate food substitute and is trying to figure out effective ways to market his product to the masses. Though off to a slow start, Soylent is beginning to take off. Stephenson on the other hand is trying to expand her business and open up a second restaurant across town. She first hears about Soylent via her teenage son, who had to read an article about it for his English class. As a woman in the restaurant industry, Stephenson is repulsed by the idea of giving up real, good tasting, meals for a sludgy powder mix. She thinks little of it however and carries on with her busy life. Rhinehart is now touring the country, giving speeches about Soylent, and offering away thousands of free samples. Rhinehart and Soylent have caught the attention of the media, and he even makes several appearances on late night television to talk about his invention. Within a month, Liz Stephenson’s own son, Jake, wants to try the Soylent diet, as it now is a huge trend at the high school and bagged lunches of sandwiches and apples are no longer socially acceptable. The Soylent diet has taken off like wildfire, with a large percentage of American’s now choosing it over food. Liz sees a sharp decline in business – she can no longer afford the second restaurant and is struggling to make ends meet. She along with other restaurant owners, grocers, and farmers, are suffering gravely from the Soylent trend, and saddened that people would give up the tastes and textures of their favorite foods. The country begins to fall into an economic crisis, with everyone in the food industry out of work, and Liz decides something has to be done. She embarks on a solo mission across the country to find Rhinehart, now a multi-millionaire, and convince him to stop producing Soylent. The movie procedes to follow Liz’s journey, the downfall of the American economy, and the luxurious life of Rob Rhinehart.

This movie would make the audience question their values and seriously think about the future and whether or not giving up human experiences, like eating or talking to one another face to face, is worth it in order to become more efficient.

Researching my Roommate

In the spring of my senior year, I was so eager to get to college already, meet new people, and partake in new experiences. Though I had great friends and teachers in high school, I was ready for a big change. I always knew that I wanted to go to a college where nobody knew me or knew anything about me. That’s why I opted to go ‘out of state’. However, as high school graduation came closer, I began to panic. I was excited to make new friends, but was scared to be thrown into a “fishbowl” with thousands of unfamiliar faces. In preparation for this change, I wanted to figure out everything I possibly could about the incoming Emory freshman class ahead of time. I wanted to make sure that there were other people like who would be attending the university and hopefully find a roommate before hand with whom I was compatible. So, I joined the Emory Class of 2018 Facebook group and began my diligent research, otherwise known as Facebook stalking.

As many of my classmates mentioned in their blog posts earlier this semester, it is often hard to tell what a person is really like based solely on their online profile/ how they present themselves on social media. I knew this going in to my research, but tried to gather information on my future classmates regardless. When the roommate search process began, my research became more frequent and more serious. Instead of just browsing through someone’s first few profile pictures and reading their latest status, I would look deeper. People posted bios about themselves, which I read thoroughly and crosschecked for commonalities with my own bio. I spent at least one hour a night browsing the Emory Girls Roommate Search page and chatting with girls who seemed to have potential.

Sage, the girl who is my roommate now, and I began chatting in March. After perusing her Facebook page and reading her bio, I decided that I would contact her since we had a lot in common – especially our love for crime shows, dark chocolate, shopping, and country music. Just as I was typing out a message to send Sage, she messaged me! We began chatting and quickly learned that we were a lot alike in many regards, despite our different backgrounds. Over the course of the next few weeks, we talked on a daily basis. We talked about our friends, the guys we were into, our favorite movies, our siblings, our pets, our homework – everything. This mutual “research” we conducted on one another helped us figure out that we did in fact want to room together and helped us find true friendships in one another. While my preliminary research on my roommate, Sage, is complete, I am still learning new things about her every day! Meeting Sage and other members of the freshman class has truly changed my life for the better and I am thankful that I was so diligent to my “research” this spring; otherwise I probably would not have found Sage.

PSA: I promise I am not as creepy as this post makes me seem.

Handwritten Letters?

Theodore, the protagonist in the futuristic film, Her, is a depressed and anti-social man who makes his living by writing ‘sentimental’ letters for various customers via a company called Beautiful Handwritten Letters. He creates birthday cards from grandparents to their grandchildren, love letters from wives to their husbands, and everything in between. It is somewhat ironic that Theodore, a lonely divorcee, works in this field. He, who is no longer in a loving married relationship and who has distanced himself from his friends is responsible for simulating highly personal and affectionate messages. Theodore seems to enjoy his work however, as it allows him to escape from his own tragedy of a personal life. The company name, Beautiful Handwritten Letters, is ironic as well considering the letters produced are not even handwritten, but rather generated by a computer. This demonstrates how people living in the futuristic world in which the movie takes place have become so removed from all things personal and instead focused on efficiency and practicality. The purpose of this movie is to warn viewers that as technology becomes more and more advanced, to not lose sight of what really matters – personal and emotional interactions with other human beings.

I believe that the intended reaction of the “handwritten” letters is to make the viewer uncomfortable and annoyed. Her argues that technology can inhibit human experiences, and the inclusion of the forged letters in the film is another example of this, even though they are not produced entirely by technology. Paying someone to write a letter signed by you is a service that could streamline your life and make you more efficient – similar to technology. Though some would argue that receiving a letter written by a stranger would feel disingenuous, I believe that it truly is the thought that counts. It is likely that Beautiful Handwritten Letters’ customers actually care about those who they are sending letters and mean everything said in them (even though they didn’t formulate the text). If this were not the case they wouldn’t put in the effort to acquire and pay a letter writer. As the world advances, trade and technology becomes more prominent and people chose to specialize and use outside resources to their advantage. Those who do not have the time or skills to cook order takeout or delivery. Those who lack advanced mathematic capabilities use calculators and/or hire accountants. Is hiring someone to relay your emotions through a letter really that much different? While this helps people become more efficient, it also makes them more robotic. What makes humans human is the fact that they have strengths and weaknesses, intelligent and creative thoughts, and emotions. By only focusing on one’s strengths and either hiring others or relying on technology to account for one’s weaknesses, people become less human and more like machines because little to no critical thinking or creativity is involved. It is important to find a balance between making your life easier and making your life worthwhile.

Her. Dir. Spike Jonze. Perf. Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson.   Annapurna Pictures,2013. Film

Code Switching – Revised

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I’ve been having trouble lately figuring out my true identity. Depending on who I’m with, I change the way I talk and act. I just transitioned from middle school to high school and now have two main social circles – my middle school friends, who I’ve known for years and grown up with, and the new people I’ve met at high school, who are fun and outgoing but totally different than my middle school group. I don’t want to be thought of as two-faced, but recently I’ve started hanging out with the new high school friend group a lot more and I have caught myself kind of changing the way I act to fit in with this new crowd. Is that normal? My old friends from middle school think I’m being fake whenever they see me with my new crew, but I don’t feel like I’m pretending to be anything I’m not. I feel like myself when I see my old friends and when I’m with my new friends, which doesn’t make any since considering I act and sound like two totally different people. In fact, the only time I feel weird is when I have to see both groups together – my recent birthday party was a bit of a disaster to say the least. I’m so confused and I don’t want to lose either group of friends. I wish we could just all hang out together and it wouldn’t feel so weird. Do I have to pick a persona and stick with it? I like being both versions of myself and I honestly don’t know which one is the real me!

-A Frustrated Freshman

Dear Frustrated Freshman,

This sounds to me like a classic case of “code switching”. Code switching refers to when you alter your speech, body language, and even your personality based on the audience you are trying to appeal to. Successful code switching takes practice and if used strategically, can be very advantageous. Though some frown upon code switching, claiming it dishonest or as your friends from middle school put it, “fake,” I believe it is a necessary skill for success and a completely natural and normal thing to do, especially as you grow and mature. I find myself code switching all the time. I speak to my little brother and sister differently than I speak to my parents, to my friends differently than to my coworkers, and to my boss differently than to my next door neighbor. Normally, I have no problem switching back and forth between these different versions of myself, however, things can get complicated when addressing more than one “group” or type of person at a time. I would recommend to you to keep your middle school group and your high school group separate, or at least don’t put any pressure on combining the two. It’s normal to act differently and express different parts of yourself around different crowds. As long as you feel comfortable with the people you are spending time with, you are being yourself- you are a complex human being with many different sides so of course you may have multiple personas. Your friends from middle school are most likely calling you fake because they are confused since they’ve never seen the other side of you before and jealous that you aren’t spending as much time with them. Don’t worry, this will pass. Make sure to keep a healthy balance and maintain friendships with new and old friends. As you get older your personality evolves, you become more complicated, and you meet more people. You will find yourself code switching all the time. You don’t have to be the exact same around everyone you encounter, just make sure that you are always being true to yourself. Remember that this is normal and that everyone does it every day! Your friends should be thankful to have such an interesting and diverse friend as you.