Redo Post

Tuesday, March 21 (Week 10)


Who are you saving?

People present the best of themselves on social media. People who live online cultivate a specific brand or image around their name, but are almost nothing like their online profiles in real life. I’ve met people who had thousands of “likes” and followers on Facebook, but who were real doorknobs in real life (not to sound condescending). They were just stuck to their phones all day long, which makes sense.

So, who exactly are you saving when you apply to one of these digital wills for your online personality? Typically, a person will be saving the best image of themselves, which is fitting for a funeral. Of course, we want to remember the best things about our loved ones after they pass. These happy memories will live on and be accessible to view online, as long as the website is still operational. The best part is that you now have total control over how you’re remembered. This isn’t that different from people who plan their entire funerals to a T; complete with the song, speeches, and ceremony procedure all lined out.

Apparently, you can even modify how much of your online profile is revealed. Some digital wills give the applicant the ability to show, or hide, as much of their information as they feel comfortable. According to Rob Walker’s, “Cyberspace When You’re Dead,”:

“Given the degree to which the most popular online platforms involve promoting a quasi-public persona — the “you” who declares fandom of Bob Dylan and Flannery O’Connor, but not the “you” who binges on “Jersey Shore” reruns and TMZ.com — this instinct seems logical. If we try to control the way we are perceived in life, why not in death, too?”

The only risk that accompanies this procedure is that you’re losing the whole person. Why not give family complete access over these materials? They will find all of your belongings, secret letters and diaries, and any other physical materials you tried to hide some way or another. Why are people so eager to wipe out and cleanse their profiles by scrubbing it clean of any sort of dirt? Everyone has dirt somewhere, and it’s all already recorded online somewhere. I don’t understand why all of the online materials of a deceased person can’t be opened by a family with a simple application.

Anyways, the memorials that do survive aren’t exactly perfect. Walker states that online memorials are occasionally guilty of, “wiping out meaningful material and replacing it with ‘a thousand ‘sorry this happened’’ messages.”

Despite the amount of progress that has gone into developing these memorial programs, they are still emerging so there are some bumps along the way… like the time in 2016 when Facebook notified a ton of people that they were dead:

“For a brief period today, a message meant for memorialized profiles was briefly posted to other accounts. This was a terrible error that we now have fixed. We are very sorry that this happened and we worked as quickly as possible to fix it,” said a company spokesperson by email, (Roberts).

You can almost hear the users saying, “I’m not dead yet!”

Works Cited

Roberts, Jeff John. “Facebook Bug Tells Users They Are Dead.” Fortune.com. Fortune, 11 Nov. 2016. Web.

Walker, Rob. “Cyberspace When You’re Dead.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 08 Jan. 2011. Web.

 


I wanted to do the reflection post, but unfortunately my finals have stacked up and I knew I wouldn’t be able to deliver a decent post.  I would love to talk to you about this class sometime, though! Thanks for an awesome semester!

Are we destined to be immortal ? (blog post #6)

Throughout the semester we spent a lot of time addressing digital mortality and immortality. We started off the year with Ashe and the episode of Black Mirror, Be Right Back, later on we discussed social media of deceased, to finally conclude the semester with discussions about death of famous people and their digital mortality. In Alexandria Sherlock’s article “Digital Resurrection and the re-Enchantment of Society”, the author acknowledged that the death of a famous person can have a substantial effect on society. Parasocial relationships with famous person cause mourning and hysteria. One of the most famous examples are death of Elvis Presley and Princess Diana whose deaths still remain a relevant topic in the present day. The rise of technology allowed people to express their feelings on a whole different level. Social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, get hyperactive every time a famous person dies. Technology evolved so much that people were actually able to create a concert of Tupac with a hologram to represent him. Although the hologram looked just like Tupac, at the end of the day it is nothing more than a simulation. The same thing can be said about Ashe once Marta brought him back. The resurrected Ashe looked better than he used to look in his everyday life (due to his social media pictures), but it did not take long for Marta to figure out all the differences between the real and resurrected Ashe. The grand point being that, even though technology has progressed incredibly, especially in the last two decades, we are nowhere close to immortality, in other words, our mortality still remains just as relevant to our lives with no substantial change of dynamic, even with the introduction of advanced technology. Our life spans are longer, but once death knocks on the door, it’s pretty much the same.

retrived from: humansarefree.com/2014/09/science-could-make-us-immortal-but-do.html%5B/caption%5D

 

Peace,

Duka

Growing up with dead artists? (blog post #4)

While reading a portion of the assigned reading “A Resonant Tomb” from Jonathan Sterne’s The Audible Past, I was fascinated at how much emphasis was put on the difference between imagination and the practice of sound recording. Early recordings were seen as a method of immortalizing someone, but how successful were they?  Stern acknowledges that the process of sound recording protects present and future auditors from experiencing the deterioration of the voice. Sound recordings also separate body and voice in two different categories. One of the most unique examples from the reading was the funeral of the minister. Once he felt that he is going to die soon, he recorded his final sermon. This unusual act brought a lot of attention from the population as well as media. It was like a big mysterious spectacle where a dead person was preaching to the living. During those times people were astonished that a person that died could still talk to them, whereas today recordings are so normalized that they are not regarded as anything other than old technology. After the reading I really thought about this matter and realized that some people grew up admiring and following singers that are no longer with us. One of the prime examples is Tupac Shakur who was murdered in 1996. Even though that time is long past us, people still live with his songs as inspiration. Some even go the extra length to refuse he is actually dead. Every couple months I would run into one of those articles that are talking about how Tupac actually faked his whole death to get out of gang warfare and live anonymously somewhere else.

[​IMG] Retrieved from: www.thecoli.com/threads/tupac-shakur-died-18-years-ago-today-a-look-back-at-rap%E2%80%99s-most-influential-mc.248878/%5B/caption%5DPeace,

Duka

Repair and Destruction in Station Eleven (27-47)

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Repair and destruction operate as the main themes of Station Eleven. From the destruction and reuse of old buildings to the figurative death and rebirth of the characters, repair and destruction offer a new look at Steven J. Jackson’s “Rethinking Repair.”

Jackson’s article mainly focuses on the destruction and reparation of material objects with an emphasis on the qualities of innovation, knowledge/power, and the ethics of care. This post will take those qualities and apply them to two characters, Miranda and Arthur, in order to grasp a deeper meaning behind them.

Death is not the same everyplace, everywhere, and for everyone. Everybody dies but not all in the same way. Some people die while they are still alive.

Miranda: Rebirth

Repair

 “She saw ghosts of herself everywhere here. A twenty-three-year-old Miranda with the wrong clothiers and her hair sticking up, washing her hands and peering anxiously at herself in the ladies’ room mirror; a twenty-seven-year-old recently divorced Miranda slouching across the lobby with her sunglasses in place, wishing she could disappear, in tears because she’d seen herself on a gossip website that morning and the headline was agonising: IS ARTHUR SECRETLY CALLING MIRANDA? (Answer: no.) (Mandel, 205)

Miranda was a living Spector. She hid away in her cartoons and Station Eleven with little regard to her life, her happiness, and her aspirations. Miranda had a rough beginning with the abusive and clingy Pablo, but her life became marginally better once she met Arthur. Her promising romance with Arthur, unfortunately, ended in the most bitter way possible. Miranda hit the lowest point in her life at the anniversary dinner party where Arthur and his mistress were openly flirting and blatantly ignoring her presence. Jeevan’s picture of Miranda in her sunglasses and dangling cigarette at four in the morning helped memorialise the worst moment in her entire life.

Although Miranda was dealt all of these hardships, she managed to find her way out of it. After the divorce, Miranda took her career even more seriously and devoted her life to her job, cartoons, and Station Eleven. She blossomed into a motivated and dedicated worker, had a dramatic makeover, and lived a busy life of travel, creativity, and success. She embraced the quality of innovation by finding new ways to approach her life and take care of herself. This sense of innovation allowed her to cultivate and entirely new and beneficial lifestyle. Before the Georgian Flu took her life, Miranda was able to become the person she was always meant to be. She had shed her previous life, come to terms with it, and was moving on to greater things. She underwent a rebirth forever leaving the old Miranda behind. Once Miranda began to take care of herself, she achieved wonderful things.

As Jackson points out, “To care for something (an animal, a child, a sick relative, or a technological system) is to bear and affirm a moral relation to it. . . Care brings the worlds of action and meaning back together, and reconnects the necessary work of maintenance with the forms of attachment that so often sustain it,” (Jackson 231).

When Miranda learned to value herself and take care of her needs, aspirations, and desires, she learned how to become a stronger person. Instead of hiding away in the shadows, she asserted her own identity and power and was willing to face any challenge that the world offered.

Arthur: Death

Destruction

“It was disappointment, it seemed to her, that had settled over his face, and there was a strained quality about his eyes that she didn’t remember having seen before.” (Mandel, 209)

Arthur, on the other hand, never found the same piece of mind that Miranda did. Instead, Arthur’s light went out while he was still breathing. The young, vibrant, and eager young man had turned into a perpetual performer, a shell of his former self. Disappointment was rampant in his life and led to his multiple divorces, lack of friends, and other stressors in his life.

“Did this happen to all actors, this blurring of borders between performance and life? The man playing the part of the ageing actor sipped his tea, and in that moment, acting or not, it seemed to her that he was deeply unhappy.” (211)

This unhappiness stems from Arthur losing himself. The spirit that once led him to success had been crushed by the overwhelming life of fame. The death of his soul, of the young spirit that led Arthur to greatness, deterred Arthur from finding true happiness.

“Back then, back at the beginning. I was so struck by him. I don’t mean romantically, it was nothing like that. Sometimes you just meet someone. He was so kind, that’s what I remember most clearly. Kind to everyone he met. This humility about him.” (222)

By the end of Arthur’s life, he had lost the compassion, empathy, and genuine qualities that propelled him forward in the first place. Arthur either used up, neglected, or purposefully stomped out any remainder of this spirit and became miserable as a result. There was no more innovation, no sense of repair; there was merely a spiral into destruction.

Works Cited

Jackson, Steven J. “Welcome!” Steven J. Jackson, Cornell University. MIT, n.d. Web.

Mandel, Emily St. John. Station Eleven. Toronto: Harpercollins Canada, 2017. Print.

Profiting off of the Dead

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson topped an annual list of the top-earning dead celebrities for the fourth straight year. He gained more revenue than fellow musical icons Prince and David Bowie. Jackson, who died in 2009, raked in a bumper $825m in earnings for the 12 months ending 1 October, according to estimates from Forbes. That came mostly from the Jackson estate’s $750m sale of the late singer’s remaining stake in the Sony/ATV music publishing catalog to Sony Corporation.

In 2009, Sony paid $60 million for the rights to the Jackson film, This is It, which subsequently became the highest grossing concert film and documentary of all time. Later, Sony agreed to pay the Jackson estate $250 million for the rights to create 10 musicals over the next seven years. Similar to Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe raked in tons of profits after her death. The representatives in charge of her image decided to exploit it and gain monetary rewards by producing cheap knick knacks and derogatory products.

Marilyn Monroe Gangster T-Shirt

With the risk of sounding pretentious, why are people so infatuated with people who died of drug overdoses? This may be due to the fact that both Jackson and Monroe were cultural icons. Still, why are people so keen on idealising these two idols who led disastrous and notorious lifestyles? The fact that Monroe’s producers were pushing so much ridiculous merchandise out the door to reap a profit is despicable, but what about the people buying all of the crap pushed out of the corporate machine?

One author critiqued society’s fascination with Marilyn Monroe stating:

  1. Marilyn Monroe is notoriously known for is her adulterous acts. She was married and divorced by the age of twenty . . . On top of this, she had many affairs with married men. The most well-known with John F. Kennedy. . . Her sleaziness isn’t something commonly talked about when girls start learning about Marilyn Monroe, but it definitely should be.
  2. Marilyn Monroe stared in many movies, which is one of her claims to fame. . . Some would assume that someone who starred in such great movies of the time period must be a great actress. Wrong. In each of her roles, Monroe plays a ditzy blonde who wears tight revealing clothing, is very promiscuous and is only there to accompany the leading male role. . . Girls should have higher ambitions. . .
  3. She wasn’t talented what-so-ever, which can be told by her petty acting jobs as dim-witted characters, but many movie agencies have claimed that Monroe sent naked pictures of herself in order to make herself look presentable for the roles she was auditioning for.

So, why do people keep on buying all of this merchandise? Has her image been tailored by her producers so much that we as a society idolise a completely different person?

On another note, the Telegraph article article immediately brought to mind Vincent van Gogh and Emily Dickinson. Although Monroe and Jackson reaped enormous success during their lifetime and afterwards, van Gogh and Dickinson died virtually penniless with zero recognition. It wasn’t until much later that their talent was recognised. It’s no wonder why Monroe and Jackson reaped more financial gain than van Gogh and Dickinson – van Gogh was a starving artist wandering the streets unable to sell a painting, and Dickinson was a recluse. The fame that ensued afterwards, however, is what draws these two pairs together.

Each of these people’s artistic contributions were recognised in the wake of their death, because the world realised that it had lost something special. These individuals contributed something unique to the world that can never be replicated or replaced. Jackson and Monroe most likely reaped even more benefits, because they died so unexpectedly. The tragedy of their untimely demise definitely ramped up sympathy among the masses; people who like to observe the chaos from afar, but who are careful not to get too close.

Works Cited

Greenburg, Zack O’Malley. “Neverland Ranch – Pg.8.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 02 Mar. 2012. Web.

Kirsta, Alix. “Selling the Dead.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 03 Feb. 2012. Web.

Reuters. “Michael Jackson Is Top-earning Dead Celebrity, Beating Prince and Bowie.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 12 Oct. 2016. Web.

How dependent are we on internet ?

Image result for humanity losing control of internet

It’s interesting you bring up the effects of the post-apocalypse on the internet. I think more than anything, I find fascinating the idea of communication using the internet. I know that the internet is in many ways like the hydra, in that it doesn’t have one centralized source which, if destroyed, would end the internet. It’s more like an intricate web of sources, or pillars, which hold the entire infrastructure up. Having said that, it would definitely keep running for at least a little bit after humanity would lose control over its technological infrastructure.

 

What I find interesting to think about is what exactly we would use it for? In my personal opinion, it’d be useless to try and preserve the data and information that exists online, in an effort to retain all the human knowledge we have garnered so far. Which is pretty huge, in that we kind of depend on the ability to store knowledge and information, and we stopped doing it in books as much as we used to, so most of our knowledge is digital in nature.

I think the focus would fall on the communicative abilities of the internet. Being able to reach people and extend current information would seem to me to be the most important aspect of whether the internet existed or not, in a post-human world. However, it would still be only a matter of time where every aspect of the internet is lost. So I wonder then, of all technological blows we could suffer, would this one be the greatest? Technologies develop and evolve and come and go, the internet is much more fluid but also much more influential. Of all technologies, it seems we’ve become dependent on the internet most rapidly, letting it in our lives in a matter of two decades, as if it always belonged there. Which is interesting to think about, the development of the internet and its rapid growth seems almost like it was naturally meant to be.

Frank and the meaning of Technology

Unlike many other works of apocalyptic fiction which cite technology as the bringer of destruction (Looking at you, Fallout series.) Station Eleven use of a biological agent to end the world allows it to explore the symbol and reality of technology in a much more subtle manner. Chapters 27-47 give the reader a front-row seat to the collapse to technology, as seen from the perspective of Frank’s apartment. As the two brothers try to wait out the pandemic, it is described how the news stations become more and more of a shell of their former shells, eventually ending with the broadcast camera just turning off. Obvious symbolism aside, this degradation of the news system disconnects people, and makes the world more localized. With this comes a return to naivety, which Jeevan expresses by comparing his brother’s apartment to the treehouse they would play when they were young. Jeevan frequently comments on how nice the calm snow is, and shows a reverence for naturalism. It makes sense that this sentiment would translate into his desire to leave the apartment, because in many ways he has unbound himself technology permanently. However, Frank is forever bound to the technology of his wheelchair, which even though is perfectly functional cannot coexist with the new, post-technology society.

The ordeal Jeevan undergoes in the apartment is representative of the larger, multi-faceted way Station Eleven handles all technology. Station Eleven puts a strong emphasis on communications technology by frequently mentioning blocked off highways and airplanes. These chapters equate the symbol of the airplane to the menacing presence of the prophet, in-line with how the airplane served as the angel of death which brought the virus to North America.

 

The route of the traveling symphony above stresses the importance of transportation technology.

A Post-Human Earth

This topic would probably be more fitting for a sightings post, but it tied really well to a passage from today’s Station Eleven reading. In Chapter 30, Mandel writes, “On silent afternoons in his brother’s apartment, Jeevan found himself thinking about how human the city is, how human everything is. We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operations grinds to a halt. No one delivers fuel to the gas stations or the airports. Cars are stranded. Airplanes cannot fly. Trucks remain at their points of origin. Food never reaches the cities; grocery stores close. Businesses are locked and then looted. No one comes home to work at the power plants or the sub-stations, no one removes fallen trees from electrical lines” (178).

Last class discussion, Dr. Sample mentioned what would hypothetically happen to the world, specifically to the New York City subways, if humans disappeared from the earth. Having taken a Posthumanism English class this semester, which turned out to complement this class in a really interesting way, I’ve thought a lot about the post-human world and the intersections between humanity and technology. I found this video on what would happen if all humans suddenly disappeared from the planet:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wy7Q6wazD_E

What Would Happen If Humans Disappeared?

Although humans haven’t gone completely extinct in Station Eleven, we still see the devastating effects of the absence of humans in a post-apocalyptic world. I find it interesting that this video, as well as most similar content on the topic, does not address what would happen to the Internet without humans. As we’ve discussed in our blog posts and class discussions, in many ways, technology continues to live as people die. But like other complex technological systems, the Internet still requires human maintenance. I wonder how the Internet would fare independent of people. If new intelligent life occupies the earth after humans have left or gone extinct, would they be able to retrieve the technology saved in “the cloud” when all other traces of humanity have dwindled away?

A Love Letter to Technology?

I find modern literature (and perhaps society at large) generally disdainful of technology.  People want to dismiss the Internet, and social media in particular, as creating a less focused and present, and more superficial and inauthentic society.  I strongly, strongly disagree with this position.  Internet culture is not without its faults, certainly, but just look at this image.

A screenshot I took of all the languages available for instant translation on Google Translate (translate.google.com)

I can translate English into languages I’ve never even heard of instantly and at not cost to me.  I can meet someone in Zimbabwe over social media, and then can talk to them by translating English into Shona (a language I only just learned of) with speed and ease unprecedented in all of human history.  How is that anything less than exhilarating?

One of the things I’ve so enjoyed about Station Eleven is how it reminds me how awe-inspiring modern technology truly is.  Contrary to a lot of the current discourse, Station Eleven celebrates the miracle of technology, be it airplanes (pg 247) or the Internet (pg 202).  But what really struck me was two scenes on pages 208-209.

In the first scene, Miranda goes to Starbucks for a decaf latte and compliments the barista’s green hair.  In the second, she visits Arthur in his dressing room and he makes her a cup of tea with his electric tea kettle.

There’s nothing inherently remarkable about these two interactions, but juxtaposed with the primitiveness of the post-Georgia Flu world, I found myself in awe of them.  This awe may be partially because they center on three things I really enjoy (coffee shops, bright hair, and electric kettles), but nevertheless, Station Eleven is really good at making you appreciate technology.

We have shops where you can go and get a cup of coffee in under five minutes.  We have electricity to keep those shops running.  We have running water to make the drinks.  We’re able to import the non-native coffee bean in such enormous supply that it’s very easy and cheap to obtain.  We have factories that produce bleach and hair dye, and I can buy both of these for relatively little money.  I have access to a car to take me to the beauty supply store to buy the materials, so that the seven mile journey is but a small errand.  I have an electric tea kettle, and can have boiling hot water whenever I want it.  I have a variety of tea bags in my room.  I think you’re getting the point.

One of the things I am most enjoying about Station Eleven is how it makes me look at the world through new eyes.  By so vividly crafting a world without technology, St. John Mandel changes the way I see even the most mundane aspects of my life.  That’s not something I can say of many writers.

Afraid of Everyone Who Wasn’t Them: An Examination of Interconnected Stories

As I continue to read Station Eleven, I grow increasingly more receptive of shifts in structure, content, and time. I was particularly struck by the structure of chapters 30-37, which established a clear and straight-forward alternation between Frank and Jeevan’s narrative with Kristen and Francois’s interview. After a closer examination of these chapters, I realized that a lot of the thematic elements that are present in the novel are similar to ones we explored after watching Dead Set, especially when Emily St. John Mandel writes, “They were afraid of everyone who wasn’t them” (176). Watching the world become slowly unpopulated by humans through the eyes of humans in danger was skillfully portrayed in both narratives, even though the circumstances in each were incredibly different. When the Internet blinked out for Jeevan and Frank in Station Eleven, my mind immediately raced to the scenes in Dead Set when Patrick and Pippa were stuck in the green room with no means of communication as well as the failure of technology when Riq tried to reach out to Kelly while stranded at a railway station. I then paired all of these images of abandonment and isolation with an incredibly poignant facet of Jeevan’s thought process as his world comes to an end: “how human the city is, how human everything is” (178). Humans hold society together and when society vanishes, (as it does in Station Eleven and Dead Set) survival becomes the priority, which translates into the competition between humans to outlive one another. This can be seen through the presence of guns in Station Eleven and Dead Set. Even though both narratives show the the painful reality of the brutal competition for survival, they more subtly highlight the importance of camaraderie during times of chaos and destruction. This can be seen in the comment, “Jeevan had never felt so close to his brother” and through Kristen’s recollection of how Jeevan was “so calm” during his attempt to save Leander’s life (179, 184). Putting these alternating chapters in conversation with each other as well as examining Station Eleven’s similarities to Dead Set makes it evident that this story, even as fantastical and unrealistic as it may seem, is a human story.   

A city bustling with humans. View source here.

Why do you think Emily St. John Mandel chooses to alternate between the stories of Frank and Jeevan and Kristen and Francois in such a deliberate way? Although Jeevan’s identity is unknown to Kristen, it is evident that he impacted her in many ways. What comment does this make about the importance or lack thereof of identity in terms of interconnected stories? I think it is also important to acknowledge the importance Frank’s disability — his spinal-cord injury has paralyzed him from the waist down and he must use a wheelchair to maneuver. Aligning Frank with this disability was clearly an intentional choice made by the author, but does it have broader implications? I find it interesting how Jeevan’s first inclination was to be with his brother when Hua told him about the Georgia Flu, but he does not take it on himself to prevent his brother’s suicide when it becomes clear that Frank is giving up hope. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Reference:

Mandel, Emily St. John. Station Eleven. New York: Vintage , a Division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2014. Print.