Looking through my previous blog posts, I notice that I am more likely to reject meaning in the works we examine than embrace it. For example, my blog post regarding the preservation of audio addressed the applications and audiological fascinations of the modern day, rather than exploring the content presented in the article. Overall, rereading my work reveals the curve that I think every student at Davidson is familiar with.
My overall quality of writing was at an all-time high at the beginning of the semester, and began to drop a work mounted. I found my blog posts regarding TV series and films much more thought provoking than my posts about literature. I believe that this is because sitting down with a pen and paper and watching a film is a much more interactive experience than reading an article, and allow ideas for writing come more naturally. Furthermore, I believe my writing was better regarding film and TV shows because I viewed these works in a group setting. For example, I wrote my blog post on the Black Mirror episode after watching and discussing it in great detail with another member of the class. I think it would be really impractical given everyone’s varying schedule at Davidson, but also really cool if there were something like a buddy system for reading articles, or some avenue to allow one-on-one discussions regarding the text before a blog post was to be written. I also notice in my writing that if I cannot generate ideas in a timely fashion then I often default to “Playing school” and stating the obvious in flowery language until I feel I’ve produced what is satisfactory for the grade I wanted. Furthermore, I found it kind of disturbing how implicit my reaction to do this was. Even if I set out with a novel idea, if it did not pan out my blog post would just transform into a restatement of the obvious without any explicit intent.
Thank you so much for an awesome class, Dr. Sample!
The blog posts were one of my favorite things that the class had to offer. I believe that having a medium to express ourselves through is highly conducive to a better understanding of the material. I found that questions that came up in posts were either addressed in class discussion or in a simple conversation between the members of my table. I enjoyed skimming through the posts before class to see what others had to say. The benefit of these blogposts is that they allow us to see the mental diversity that we have in the class. We all have different interpretations of the reading, of a metaphor, or any symbolism present in the course materials, and the blogposts melted these together into a pot.
Looking back of my previous posts, I saw that asking questions were a very prominent part of my overall reading analysis. On a regular basis I ask myself questions after reading any piece so that I’m sure that I’ve gotten the best understanding possible. However, through my posts i saw this tendency manifests itself in every single post. There is no blog post where I did not ask question about the reading, or its implication in other situations.
I also saw that I often questioned the reading at hand, in explicit or implicit ways. You can look at Enter the Grief Moderators, Not the Grief Police to see my specific criticism of online grieving. In Tourism from the Perspective of a Developing-Country Native I challenged the viewpoint that all tourism is bad. These are just a few of the critical examples found in my blogposts. I see this trend as an active representation of how much this class challenged me to think for myself. I entered the class not knowing what to expect, and I feel like I came out of it truly knowing what Death in the Digital Age looks like.
I do not think the structure of my blog posts changed as time went on. The questions, the critiques, and some type of format remained the same. What did change, was the style that I chose to write in. When writing about Black Mirror, my writing style was more laid back and open as opposed to my somber posts concerning “A Head Full of Ghosts.” Whenever we were discussing real life events, I tended to be more serious and less hypothetical. If we were discussing fiction novels, or tv shows, I was less serious and more open to asking more risqué questions.
One final theme that I noticed among my posts was the presence of ethics. It began with me questioning the ethics of replicating someone’s life form so that they would still be alive, such as in Black Mirror. “What if Ash, while living, has heard of the program yet had asked Martha to not do it? How can we determine what the dead would like to have done? I see the ethical dilemma arise from the fact that someone may not wish to be “rebirthed”, yet a grieving family member may go against these wishes. Does a person still have rights to their identity and digital footprint after they have passed? ” These questions were asked in my first blog post. Ethics once again came up when discussing Facebook’s “Remembering” feature. Here I questioned the possibility of someone’s social media profiles being taken over, even if they have explicitly stated that they did not want that to happen. I personally highly value ethical behavior, and think about it context of the society that we live in. This class allowed for me to explore the concept in a new arena.
The blog posts in this course did a great job of bringing outside references and materials into the class. Each of us had different, but relevant experiences that contributed to class discussion. One of my favorite aspects was learning about different ways a theme or idea had been discussed/used in real life that I might never had heard about if my classmates had not brought it up or written about it in their posts.
Writing these blog posts, I found myself reacting personally and viscerally to many of the themes we discussed in class, or different ideas I had during our discussions. Some examples:
… I should have seen the ending to Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts coming.”
“My first thought while reading about the rise of QR Codes in Graveyards was, “Oh I hate pulling out my phone and scanning those codes”- while my second thought was shame about how few seconds it would take to scan the memorial and do it for a deceased family member or friend”
“The characters we are attached to in the beginning not only introduce the Georgia Flu so well, but they are engaging and, just so damn human.”
Many of the topics I covered were examples from my own interests. There were many pop culture references, and discussions of television shows, video games, and examples from Wikipedia holes I had gotten sucked into. I was excited to contribute though, because I was glad to relate some of my experiences to this class.
While I enjoyed writing in a “blog style,” swearing once or twice, and generally in a less-formal manner than papers, I wish that our class blog was more engaging with one another. I felt a need to think of creative, click-bait-y titles in the hopes that other people would read and comment on them. While forcing students to comment on other people’s blogs does not work well, because then it feels like busy-work rather than genuinely exciting, it would be nice to figure out a way to keep class discussions going on the blog.
I really liked this class, in all honesty, because it was a great way to both explore topics that satisfy our morbid curiosity, and learn about topics and fields that we would otherwise never heard of. I know now the different criteria of post-modern works and enjoy finding different examples of themes we have talked about in other aspects of my life. Thanks for a great class guys!
I have always considered myself to be a people person. As much as I love making other people smile, I also consistently seek out other people when I need to vent, cry, or verbally process. After re-reading my blog posts for our class, it is clear that I take this very “person-centered” approach to my writing style. In other words, I rely on specific outside examples (whether they be cultural, social, personal, etc.) to support my arguments. Instead of solely grounding myself in my own thoughts, I reach outwards; which at times makes a strong and well-researched claim, but at other times, may take away from my authority as a writer. However, before I reach outwards, I analyze the question I am exploring or the topic I am examining in complete detail. I have always liked analysis, whether it be in terms of analyzing people, academic reading, or writing. It is clear that my blog posts take advantage of this “people-centered” value and my passion for deep and thorough analysis.
Before I delve into a broad examination of my posts, I think it is important to compare and contrast my first and last blog posts. My first post, entitled, “Grieving 2.0: Can we ever move on?” begins with an analysis of the five stages of grief and brings into question whether Martha, from Black Mirror, ever arrived at the final stage of acceptance. I proceed to analyze various moments from the show that led me to arrive at the claim that it is not until Martha develops an unhealthy attachment to the technological replica of Ash that her grieving process truly goes astray. After this analysis, I take a close look at examples of how people can grieve publicly in our digital climate today. This when I look outwards and cite examples such as funeralOne and the growth of virtual candles to show how technology has infiltrated into realms of death in our modern world. My final blog post, entitled, “Afraid of Everyone Who Wasn’t Them: An Examination of Interconnected Stories,” takes a far more analytical approach to a section of the book, Station Eleven, as I specifically examine the significance of the alternating structure of various chapters. My piece is incredibly heavy in close-reading techniques, and instead of reaching outwards to cultural/societal examples to support my points, I reach out to the class for advice. I pose questions such as, “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?” or “What comment does this make about the importance or lack thereof of identity in terms of interconnected stories?” Even though my desire reach outwards is present in both blog posts, I think it is important to note how it shifted in terms of who I reach out to. It is telling that my final blog post takes into account the opinions of people in our class, which shows how connected and comfortable I became with the group.
More broadly, it is clear that I like to flaunt what I know about music, history, literature, etc., into my academic writing. From a comparison of A Head Full of Ghosts to the gothic elements in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, to an analysis of the gun violence in Dead Set through a comparison to the rhetoric used in the Cranberries song “Zombies,” to redefining the nature of preservation with parallels between the embalming technique and the controversy of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, to a close examination of theories from Abbey Smith Rumsey’s book, When We Are No More: How Digital Memory is Shaping Our Future, and to cultural references such as the deaths of JFK and Robin Williams, my posts explore a plethora of outside examples to enhance my points. An examination of this has led me to question what kind of balance I should establish between analysis and outside support in my writing. I like to show what I know, but does this make my argument too general and less authoritative?
I also decided to put each of my blog posts in the “Writer’s diet test,” an automated feedback tool that examines whether your writing is “too flabby or fit” by identifying how often you use verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs, or passive voice. Although each of my blog posts resulted in different counts for each category, my use of adjectives and verbs were consistently very high. I do not necessarily think that this is a bad thing, but it does speak to the idea that I like to make my writing look and sound “pretty” as opposed to getting to the point. I enjoy dancing around the claim I am trying to make until the end of my paper, for then I know it will have the most impact on the reader.
Writing this post made me think about how my academic advisor, Dr. Suzanne Churchill, stands by the concept that the best and most advanced ideas form within the space between two or more people. To her, the space separate from one’s individual head is where the conversations that produce complex and well thought-out ideas occur. In a way, I engage in conversations like this as I use multiple sources to develop my arguments and avoid being caught up in my own thoughts. DIG 215: Death in the Digital Age has given me the outlet to explore conversations of substance both inside and outside the classroom and has made me feel capable of developing complex arguments. Composing this reflective piece made me realize how who I am and what I value does translate into my writing, and I am excited to see how my writing will morph and change just as I do during my next two years at Davidson.
I tended to make loose connections between my subjects and the traditional notions of death. Can a concept like “truth” die? How does social media change our relationship to the concept of dying? How does a video game “die” — and then become resurrected by social fascination and fetishization?
I felt most engaged when injecting discussions of death into unexpected places, whether it’s neo-liberal politics or the demise of Fyre Festival. I enjoyed considering death beyond its biological process; what are it’s cultural and social dimensions? How does it shape media we consume? How does our conception of death itself change over time?
My best posts responded to class content while also integrating readings from my other classes. I wrote “Postmodern Politics: Post-truth, Putin, and Power” in a state of crazed shock after watching Adam Curtis’ BBC documentary HyperNormalisation, which traces the rise of postmodern culture across a forty year timeline. I wrote “Fetishizing Trash: Atari and Material Lifecycles” after reading about how objects can provide concrete representations of abstract human concepts — whether that’s our sense of self or how we conceptualize video game culture.
I would have loved to write more about how death is being changed not just by our societal attitudes (it’s now socially acceptable to live-stream funerals!) but also by advances in technology. What ethical dimensions should we be concerned about when imagining the ability to upload and download consciousness, or mimic consciousness like in the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back”?
If I take anything away from this class and my posts, it’s that elements of death and dying can be applied to almost any artifact or media in our postmodern, hyperreal world.
Looking back through my blog posts, one thing is clear: it appears that I am not a fan of technology and that I tend to assume the worst in things. While obviously in reality this is not entirely true (I have a deep appreciation for my iPhone and BuzzFeed), these weekly blog posts served as a space in which I could air my fears and concerns while only slightly sounding like my mother. I noticed that this ever-present pessimism toward technology was a pattern that showed up in all my themes and arguments.
In my first post, “Are you cheating? Designing Relationships in Black Mirror,” my inner pessimist worried about the impact of technology on our human relationships. While Ash’s physical death was framed as the plot-driving loss, another, metaphorical death seemed to have already taken place long before his funeral: technology’s substantial daily role and involvement in both Ash and Martha’s lives resulted in an absence, a void, and an unnoticed loss.
Incidentally—by magical coincidence alone—I actually ended up returning to this exact notion in my very last blog post about Station Eleven titled “Can You Be Dead While Still Alive? Exploring the Limitations of Humanity in Station Eleven.” In this final blog post, I readdressed the concept of metaphorical death and the loss of human relationships from technology. I argued that “…in a world increasingly dominated by social media, self-interest, competition, and materiality…,” performance often takes the place of authenticity, resulting in a symbolic death of both the self and humanity. It was satisfying to come full circle in this final blog post and also really interesting to see how preoccupied I continue to be by the threat of technology.
Interestingly, both my blog about internet policing and my post about death in a sharing economy also explored the “human cost” of technology. These posts focused on how online realities and commercial concerns come at the cost of human relationships.
Yet another theme that surfaced both in my final blog post on Station Eleven and in my post on A Head Full of Ghosts was the theme of truth/reality within technological spaces. In my post “How Do You Remember it? The Construction of Truth in A Head Full of Ghosts,” I noted how Paul Tremblay’s book “…destabilized the belief that there exists one version of reality, providing instead various conflicting accounts and retellings of one event to highlight the subjective and constructed nature of truth.” This conversation was particularly relevant for a book centered around a reality TV show. Similarly, in my discussion of performance and authenticity in Station Eleven, I explored the the idea that truth and the concept of the “true self” are subjective and thus impossible to define or obtain in a technologically-driven society.
Last but not least, mortality/immortality was another theme that surfaced in multiple posts, particularly in my blog titled “The Modern-Day ‘Spirit Phone’: Forever a Failure?” in which I argued that the “…fear of an absolute end without continuation is arguably the greatest tragedy of mankind for we must reconcile our finite existence and the feeling of insignificance this awareness engenders.”
These three central themes remained fairly consistent in my posting over the course of the semester and yet, as I compare my earlier posts with more recent submissions, I do notice a clear shift in how I approached these main themes. While many of my earlier blogs focused on more obvious quotes or main ideas in our readings that articulated a central theme, in my later writings I looked instead for smaller nuances and interesting details that spoke to these themes, but more indirectly. For example, my first blog post explored the effect of technology on relationships—a very important yet nonetheless rather obvious theme to take away from Black Mirror. However, weeks later for my post on internet policing I discussed the difference between the use of first and third person by internet trolls. This focus on a small detail from the reading helped me to consider the ways in which the theme of performativity is inscribed into language and the subtle ways in which we enact this distancing in human relationships.
Funnily enough, the article I cited most was actually the very first article we ever read for class by Walter Benjamin titled “The Storyteller.” For example, in my post on A Head Full of Ghosts, I drew on Benjamin to explore how technology alters our relationship to memory by shifting our emotional responses since technology “…can’t capture feeling, only fact.” I referenced Benjamin yet again in my post “Fantasy or Reality? The Gray Line Between the Truth and the Story” about dark and toxic tourism in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Here, however, I expanded upon Benjamin’s description of the storyteller to situate this figure within contemporary contexts.
As I read back through all my blog posts, I noticed that I actually didn’t do as much real-world application as I had intended: Yik Yak, the movie Her, and Airbnb were the only tangible examples I cited throughout all my posts. I think this is due largely to the fact that I’m generally more comfortable talking about theoretical questions and larger concepts rather than their practical application and real-life parallels (no thanks, I’m sure, to my French major which focuses almost entirely on literary analysis and theory). This hole in my analyses is a reminder to myself that sometimes I get so involved with the theory that I forget to ground myself in reality to remain critical of the very systems I depend upon in daily life.
As someone interested in art and fashion—industries in which the tension between truth and performance is always at play—these three main concepts of truth, mortality/immortality, and performativity remain highly applicable and relevant to my thinking even outside the classroom.
A cursory look over my post history on this site doesn’t reveal much about myself that I didn’t know. One thing that did stick out, however, was that I apparently absolutely adore comparing things. I think that the idea of comparing too things is attractive to me because it involves a true understanding of two not always entirely different topics, and searching for underlying meanings that may produce overlaps. Due to the nature of the course, many of the things I’ve compared follow a general, analog versus digital structure.
For example I’ve done a post on public online grieving, which was being implicitly compared to more traditional expressions of grief. I’ve compared the concept and act of repairing a broken analog and digital object. The list continues, but the most surprising thing that I picked up was that I didn’t consistently ‘favor’ one side or the other. Going into the class, I probably would have had strong opinions on whether some things should digital and others analog. But in retrospect, I think that I was more flexible than I thought. For example, in my blog post about repair, one of my observations include that as modern technology become more sophisticated, we rely less and less on single individuals who of capable of repairing it. I meant that statement in a truly neutral way; I don’t think that specialization in repairing abilities really spells anything catastrophic or amazing for modern, digital society.
Finally, one last thing: my choice of the digital media in the ‘required integrated digital media’ criteria in the blog posts. While I’ve done a lot of screenshotting from that day’s material, I found that as the semester progressed, I used more and more pictures and tidbits that I had prior knowledge of before the assigned material. Things I like xkcd comics I remembered from a while back, a still from a movie, or an interesting photo from reddit.
And I definitely know the reason for this interesting phenomenon: I usually post my blogs not too long before the deadline (sorry Dr. Sample), but I usually try to read everyone else’s blog post before I do mine. In my efforts to try and appear *unique* and *original*, I ended up using things that I’ve seen from my own experiences! And it ended up pretty okay, I think. Thank you to any readers that followed this rollercoaster of a class!
Reviewing my posts over the past semester, I’ve found three main themes: 1 – I love technology, especially the Internet, and seem to think people unfairly criticize it, 2 – I tend to apply what we learn in class to other pieces of art or pop culture I enjoy, and 3 – I tend to question the representation of marginalized groups in what we read/watched.
Because I feel online relationships and interactions are so frequently devalued, I came across as an unequivocal supporter of them. As a result (and it pains me to admit this), I think I ignored some of the nuance in the issue. In my opinion, technology is fantastic and people criticize it because a – it’s new, and people hate change and 2 – they want to feel superior to the mindless lemmings who dare to use Google. But right there, I’m making an incomplete and ungenerous generalization. As much as I love technology and the Internet and the opportunities it provides, my posts suggest that I may need to take a break from being so defensive and acknowledge that just as technological development isn’t all bad, it isn’t all good, either.
The other theme that appeared in my posts is that I love pop culture and like to bring it into these discussions. Whether it’s Rosemary’s Baby, zombie tropes, or bad video games, I can’t refrain from applying these concepts beyond the class. Sci-fi and horror are two of my favorite genres, so I really had a lot of fun learning about them and getting the opportunity to watch The Exorcist for class. I think my excitement about the subject is pretty evident in these posts.
A third and final theme I noticed was that I was often critical of the representation of women, mentally ill people, and minority groups in our assigned texts. I think this criticism is a lot fairer than my staunch defense of technology. I’m still not sure how I feel about Marjorie being characterized as violent as a result of mental illness, as I talk about in this post. I had plenty of criticisms of Dead Set’s treatment of its black, gay, and female characters. As I mentioned earlier, I consume a lot of sci-fi and horror, and I think I go into these pieces expecting the mentally ill to be vilified, women’s sexuality to be condemned, and black and gay characters to be seen as expendable. That being said, these representations are rarely black and white. I think particularly in reference to Marjorie, I was asking questions far more than making accusations. Nevertheless, I can’t set aside my critical lens when consuming media.
Overall, I don’t think I looked at what we read or watched for class from an apolitical, detached perspective. I definitely analyzed pieces with my own agenda. I don’t think that’s inherently wrong, but I think especially in the case of defending technology, I may want to be a bit more conscious of nuance and different perspectives.
Looking back through my blog posts from over the past fifteen weeks, I noticed that I tended to use the readings to talk about a larger relationship between humans and technology, using a smaller detail to talk about a trend or something else it reminded me of. For me, I enjoyed that our readings covered many different manifestations of our relationship with technology, but I used the blog post to speak to my personal experience or opinions on the weekly readings’ themes.
In my first blog post, I reflected on how technology fell short in both Head Full of Ghosts and The Exorcist, and in both cases the families tried to turn to religion to solve their problems instead. In my second blog post, I used René Magritte’s The Treachery of Images an an example of how post-modernism has left me questioning “truths” to this day. I disagreed with the readings most in my third and fifth blog posts, frustrated that Kocurek did not go further in her analysis of video games and I basically ripped on QR codes later.
Throughout a few of my posts and projects, I analyzed and thought more about various episodes of Black Mirror. Having watched a decent amount of episodes outside of class, I think the show does a great job of not only envisioning different forms of technology, but showing how much technology can shape the human experience (often in very scary or disturbing ways). While the show presents extremes, it does show in a believable way, and it pushed me to question how real forms of technology, primarily self-driving cars, have the opportunity to drastically change our society – a topic I touched on in my sixth blog post and explored more thoroughly in my final project.
Despite, the class focusing on many representations of death, I stayed away from that topic for the most part. All of the readings still provided lots to think about, and when the time comes, I’ll definitely be thinking a lot more about the digital life I’ll eventually leave behind.
When looking back at all of my blog posts, I noticed that I seemed to be drawn to discussing similar ideas in all of my posts. Though not always obvious, after thinking about the discussion in my posts I realized that I was drawn to the idea of otherness.
In my first post, I wrote about different forms of possession were presented in Black Mirror and in The Exorcist. Regan becomes an other by being possessed by a demon while the robot-Ash is an other by nature of his technological creation. I discussed how both Regan and Ash are classified as being others through their bodily secretions–or lack thereof, in Ash’s case–and through their use of sexuality. Somewhat similarly, in my second blog post, I discuss whether Merry could be considered a reliable narrator in A Head Full of Ghosts after learning of her double otherness. Merry is the only child in the world of the story, and she was the only one to survive her poisoning the family spaghetti sauce with potassium cyanide (though I’m still not sure if I believe it), forcing the adult Merry to be an other for all her life, due to the tragedy she has lived through.
I then had two blog posts that dealt with an otherness of perception. In one post, I argued that memorialization on websites is not beneficial because it encourages loved ones to hold on to a static image. Similar to what happens with Martha in “Be Right Back“, I argued that these websites prevent people from moving on after a loved one is lost. Looking at this post in relation to all of my other posts, I believe that I settled on this assertion because the virtual presence is in fact a false remembrance: it is an other, unable to express ideas, thoughts, and feelings behind actions. Similarly in the other post, I discussed how televised celebrity funeral should perhaps not be viewed as beneficial. I asked this question after reflecting on how the perception of a celebrity by the public could be other to the family’s perception and vice versa.
In some ways, I did find it surprising that 5 of my posts were able to relate to the same overarching theme of otherness, especially when I looked at the various topics I discussed: “Be Right Back,” A Head Full of Ghosts, possession, celebrity funerals, and online memorials were all able to unite under the umbrella of otherness. However, I am not too surprised. I tend to enjoy looking at marginalized groups and trying to tell their stories. I think this is what drove me to look for and write about otherness so much in this class: I want to hear the stories that are different from my own, and draw attention to the outsiders. In regards to death and technology, I think there is a huge potential for people to become others simply by the separation that takes place between the living and the dead, and the lack of face-to-face interaction due to the influx of new forms of technology. I think that this is a cool idea worth more exploration: how does death or dying turn someone into an other? How do people dealing with death or dying turn into an other? How do they cope with the feeling of otherness? Does technology lead to more or less otherness?
I don’t want to leave out my last 3 blog posts. Towards the end of the semester, I focused less on otherness and more on fears associated with death and technology. I’ll give it a try to relate these three posts to otherness here. I wrote about the fear associated with ethical robots, the fear of globalization, and how we will be remembered after death. I suppose the fear of globalization relates to the fear of those outside our own borders. The otherness of other nations, other customs, other germs, other immunity stems the movies that play upon this fear of the interconnectivity of the world today. After we are gone, we are immediately an other as we are no longer living, so that could be how otherness ties into my post on how we should be remembered after we are gone. As for ethical robots, were these machines to be created they would exist as an other between two worlds: not quite machine, but not quite man either.
I guess, in reality all of my posts were about otherness. They varied in whether the otherness was in reference to death, or a result of technology. It is interesting to go back and see how I was drawn to these ideas subconsciously, but I think they are a large part of what makes studying death in the digital age so compelling. We have technology that truly changes the way we see the world of the living, so perhaps it is changing the way we see the world of the dead as well. Maybe the ideas and concepts that I found to be other will become the norm in the future, and our ideas will become other-ed. Just like how death photography seems so other to us nowadays.