Our (Possible) March Toward Becoming an Eloi

“We enter a time of calamity. Blood on the tarmac. Fingers in the juicer. Towers of air frozen in the lunar wastes. Models dead on the runways, with their legs facing backward. Children with smiles that can’t be undone. Chicken shall rot in the aisles. See the pillars fall.” (39)

When hacked, these words are the words uttered by Titus and his friends – “a time of calamity” is the world in which M.T. Anderson’s story, Feed, unfolds. And it is in the world that Titus falls in love with unusual Violet, whose questioning and understanding of the state of affairs in this consumer-orientated society leads to her untimely death. It is perhaps rather easy for the reader of this novel to come to the conclusion that technology, at least in the state as depicted in this novel, is inherently destructive to the progress of society given its tendencies to erase almost all traces of individuality against the unremitting noise of the feednet. As readers living in the 21st century however, we cannot help but acknowledge the bettering of society new technologies have enabled.

In what ways is the state of humanity really that different in Feed’s world than our own? “When I looked around, I wanted so much,” (34) said Titus just prior to being hacked. This human desire for excess is something we have experienced in the past, are experiencing now and will always experience in generations to come. It is also this very desire that drives progress because only in dreaming for things do we set the necessary goals to achieve them. The problem with the state of humanity in Anderson’s novel is that technologies have become so entwined with humanity that almost 73% of Americans are now technically cyborgs. But dumb ones: “Because of the feed, we’re raising a nation of idiots. Ignorant, self-centered idiots.” (113) These people are not dumb in the sense that they don’t know things, but “dumb” because they have become so complacent with their feeds that they are now too lazy to think while thinking they are perfect the way they are.

“I don’t know when they first had feeds. Like maybe, fifty or a hundred years ago. Before that, they had to use their hands and their eyes. Computers were all outside the body. They carried them around outside them, in their hands, like if you carried your lungs in a briefcase and opened it to breathe. (47)

 It would certainly have been quite difficult for someone as complacent as Titus to comprehend a life devoid of his feed. But one thing that is certain in this novel is that remnants of individuality still exists, and is worth fighting for. Just before Titus and Violet kiss for the first time, she says to him: “You’re the only one of them that uses metaphor.” (63) It becomes very clear at this point that her attraction to him is his distinction from all of his friends – his ability to employ metaphor sets him apart – within him, she saw an ability to think outside of the norms as taught by one’s feed, therein lies a potential that Violet desires to cultivate. He hasn’t been fully corrupted by his feed, at least not yet.

When Violet tells Titus of her new project in the mall, and describes her task as follows:

“What I’m doing, what I’ve been doing over the feed for the last two days, is trying to create a customer profile that’s so screwed, no one can market to it. I’m not going to let them catalog me, I’m going to become invisible.” (98)

Have you ever looked at something online, say on Amazon or eBay or on one of the many websites available to shop, and find yourself gazing upon the very object you had considered buying the next time you clicked on your browser? This sort of target advertising has become such an integral part of our lives that Anderson’s rendering of this situation is completely familiar to us as readers. We might not have our own feeds, but we are certainly the victim of our own Google searches or web-browsing history. Little by little, corporations, like those depicted in Feed, have amassed detailed information on our personal preferences and are selling things to us online that are eerily similar to the ways in which Titus and his friends do their online shopping.

The loss of the English language is perhaps the less addressed, but equally pivotal problem examined in the novel. Anderson’s employs a Clueless-meets-A Clockwork Orange kind of language where his characters’ most common reaction to bad situations is “Oh shit!” And where they speak in sometimes confusing ways when referring to information related to, or in relation to their feeds. The simplicity of their language echo the simplicity of their minds, and it is with this in mind should we come to understand the statement made by Violet’s father in reference to H.G. Well’s The Time Machine. The Eloi race is a race so intelligent and so successful at ruling the world that they have degenerated from their prior human state, and have evolved to a state that can only be considered sub-human. Only in understanding this parallel do we truly understand Anderson’s message that while technologies possess all these undeniable benefits, if we are not too careful in maintaining our humanity, we will fall despite progress, further than anyone can ever imagine.

 

 

“Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China”

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My intention in completing this assignment was to analyze a work of electronic literature that was different than that of my particular literary interests. However, I do find electronic literature very compelling, as it positions the reader in a controlled space in which he/she is restricted to read at a certain pace, in a particular order, etc. I visited the Electronic Literature Collection Volume One site and came across a text entitled “Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China” written by Kate Pullinger and babel. I was immediately drawn to this title as it embraces elements of multiculturalism and assimilation as represented by the relationship between the terms “Alice” and “China.” As stated by the author,

“Inanimate Alice depicts the life of a young girl growing up in the early years of the 21st century through her blog and episodic multimedia adventures that span her life from childhood through to her twenties. It has been created to help draw attention to the issue of electro-sensitivity and the potentially harmful pollution resulting from wireless communications.”

Thus, it is interesting to examine the dynamics in conversation centered about two striking topics: electro-sensitivity and pollution in wireless communities. In order to engage in this discussion, it is necessary to understand the larger context of the story and the specific graphic and electronic features.

I definitely found the variation and addition of sound to be very important to the conceptual basis of the work, as it grounded the literature in cultural tradition. This was specifically apparent through the presentation of music directly related to Chinese culture. Although this particular music was beneficial to the end that was reader was able to engage in the cultural appropriation of the text, many of the sounds were daunting and distracting. These sounds took a lot from the text, as they took the focus deviated from the actual work.

I felt that the graphical images were necessary elements in “Inanimate Alice”, as they gave the reader a better understanding of the setting and context of this literary work. For example, when the main character speaks about always traveling, an image of a map appears along with the image of a road in a deserted area and her father’s jeep. This allowed for the reader to have a much more personal connection with the story and it also added an element of sentiment and sympathy for the main character who going through a time of anxiety.

I feel that the presentation of the text was distracting throughout most of the story. This is mostly attributed to the fact that it made it harder to retain the context of the story because the focus was primarily on its dramatization. I do feel that the dramatization added a sense of consciousness to the severity of the situation endured by the protagonist. The words and the images collectively took us on a journey similar to that of the protagonist by allowing the reader to experience the overwhelming nature of the situation and forcing the reader to focus on many different things at one time.

Another important feature was the game, ba-xi via the image of the phone and its respective electronic depiction. This along with the incorporation of terminology associated with Chinese culture created a sense of cultural awareness and prestige. I feel that it again allowed the reader to gauge the culture more closely so that it was easier to engage in the reading.

In its entirety, the digital aspects of this text often hindered the interpretation and conceptual dimension of this text, as many elements were distracting. I do feel that the intent behind the incorporation of said features were justified, as they served to create a space in which the reader was distraught and anxious. As found in research,

“Digital literature is the marrying of the two terms digital and literary; however, it is much more than a combination of the two terms. Digital information is a symbolic representation of data, and literacy refers to the ability to read fro knowledge, write coherently, and think critically about the written word.”

However, it is evident that digital literary does not intend to replace the traditional form of the literature. To this end, I do feel that the “Inanimate Alice” builds upon tradition and literature, as opposed to deviating from cultural norms and not engaging in the literary qualities of the text. In conclusion, I feel that the digital aspect of “Inanimate Alice” offer a lot in respect to the interpretation of the work and its conceptual dimensions, however many of the digital elements confound the strictly literary comprehension of the work.

 

Long Blog Post #1: Technology Dependence

What we have been accessing in class this half of the semester has had much to do with the down-spiraling of human society because of technology. The juncture at which technology meets humanity is one of compromise. A comprise by which humanity is the price to pay for a feasible, more orderly lifestyle.  To mitigate the discomfort of human intercourse, we substitute face time conversations with virtual ones, or in many instances (as observed in in-class texts) we utilize cyberspace appliances to run our everyday knowledge transactions. In the past weeks we have discussed and perused novels and blogs, as well as, databases and have accessed their harmfulness to us.

In the Feed, M.T. Anderson shows us the dangers of technology through the character of Titus; the character of Titus warns us about how complacent and ejected from our basic selves technology makes people.  After losing the one he loved (Violet) he learns that the love for one another is more important than the “Feed”. The lesson of suggests that we must not be marked by self-satisfaction especially when it is accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies; there is much more in life to live for as people. The universality of the lesson not only applies to Titus, but extends beyond the boundaries of the “Feed” to admonish today’s society.  The parallel between the “Feed” story and today’s society is so powerful that ignoring it will be detrimental to self. In the book “Feed” the masses have computer chips inserted inside their brains (making their life decisions). Similarly, our society today is grotesquely dependent on technology. With the pace of advancements in social media technology, as well as, digital communication devices we slowly forgo the propriety that is our ability to think for ourselves. Just like in the “Feed” we now leave decisions both trivial and life-changing to tools like Siri*–an apple application that works as an ‘informative and suggestive engine’. With the frequency at which we use laptops, smartphones, Facebook, and e-mail it is not impossible to see that one day we may have computer chips inserted inside our heads. As time passes the fictional plotline of “Feed” could be our reality. The “Feed” then becomes a thematic representation of how we are surrounded by so much technology that we ignore the finer things in life, like family and friends. It alludes to our natural knack to be led or have our lives facilitated by a medium or by another force beside ourselves. This has been true in much of the literature we have looked at this semester. For instance, in “The Machine Stops”, the dystopian future describes a world in which almost all humans have lost the ability to fend for themselves. As a result they create around them artificial dependencies like a machine that facilitates and makes up for their shortcomings as human beings. So now they have created an environment whereby they are driven by the functionality of such a machine. So that if ‘The machine’ was to have a shortage and becomes incapable of doing [mundane task] then they are left complacent, or indisposed towards such a task. The idea of dependency on technology of an object thing is almost dehumanizing.

As we have seen in “Feed”, “The machine stops” as well as in “the library of babel” humanity and the mind has been enslaved by a proliferating culture of short-cuts, and human indecision that has been brought on by technology dependency. An excerpt from “the library of babel” alludes to the built in cluelessness that comes with humanity, and the emptiness that fails us when we need to follow instinct, as well as when we need to depend on each other rather than on object things:

“When it was announced that the library contained all the books, the first reaction was unbounded joy. All men felt themselves the possessors of an intact secret treasure. There was no personal problem, no world problem, whose eloquent solution did not exist—somewhere in some hexagon. The universe was justified; the universe suddenly became congruent with the unlimited width and breadth of humankind’s hope. At that period there was much talk of The Vindications—books of apologies and prophecies that would vindicate for all time the actions of every person in the universe and that held wondrous arcana for men’s futures. Thousands of greedy individuals abandoned their sweet native hexagons and rushed downstairs…but those who went in quest of them failed to recall that the chance of a man’s finding his own vindication, or some perfidious version of his own, can be calculated to be zero”

In “the Library of babel” Jorge Borges suggests that we are directionless persons constantly in search of purpose to drive us. We always subdue our existence to a decider; leaders who will draft out of lives and vindicate us. Someone or something that can be in control of us is what the people living in hexagons sought after most of their lives. When the people heard that the library contained their answers they became dependent on finding such an answer, making the library their mechanism for survival. When the virus infected the survival mechanism of Titus and his friend’s they were displaced and directionless. By the same token when “the Machine” being the engine that facilitated life in a dystopian future stopped, humanity was dismayed. In all of these, there has been a resounding cry against the dependency on technology.

Technology and humanity works in such a way that the very nature of their coexistence accelerates the social lives of this generation. People are now able to communicate at a pace that is rapidly creating disconnect between humans on this planet, especially within the youth. The ability to be in constant communication with your peers as early as age 12 (within the best situation) cripples society’s personal connection with one another. Virtual modes of communication through phones, tablets, computers,   etcetera, have little to no emotion behind them and can be inexplicably misinterpreted by the recipient whether it be through race, relationships, or opinionated conversations. An underlying theme of “the library of babel” was perception and the duplicity of understanding on one subject thing, and such a theme is not so far from the duplicity of functions we ascribe to our social media and our smart-devices.

Technology plays a double role in society. It quickens the understanding process but in a way that destroys the foundation of communication established by personal conversations. It has in some ways taken the god role of delegating and regulating our lives, just like in the “Feed”, “Neuromancer” and “The Machine Stops”. And at this level of dependency, much sooner than later, ‘everything will go’.

Long Blog Post #1

In M. T. Anderson’s “The Feed,” the world in which Titus and Violet live is one controlled by technology – one cannot function without the presence of technology, more specifically the feed. The feed seems absolutely essential and to imagine life without it is impossible for Titus because he, like most people, had the feed implanted when he was an infant. This is how the book addresses the effects of technology on a society. The main question that is asked is this: at what point does technology being having an adverse effect on a society and how do you recognize it?

The use of proper language in this world is not encouraged or even really taught in schools. Education and learning is not something that is necessary for their society to “function” because any information you would ever want is in the feed. Individual knowledge is of no use if everyone else has access to it as well.

“I can read. A little. I kind of protested it in School(TM). On the grounds that the silent ‘E’ is stupid.”

This seems like a great thing – but the reality is that is creates a society of people who are completely dependent on the feed because they cannot do things for themselves. In fact, Titus was surprised when he learned that Violet could write with a pen because this was not something he was ever taught because it was not necessary with the assistance of the feed. Their poor education shows through in their vocabulary as well. The vast majority of the population uses extremely simple sentence structure and words such as “like” and “dude” and “unit” are a big part of their vernacular.

Another theme throughout the book is the lack of resistance to the feed’s oppression. Society, including Titus, is obsessed with doing what is considered cool. The feed markets things that will appeal to the masses, and because people are so controlled by the feed, they have extremely similar interests:

“…It’s like a spiral: They keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone. And gradually, everyone gets used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple. So the corps make everything even simpler. And it goes on and on.”

It is hard to make out where the feed ends and real thoughts begin. They are so interwoven that they are basically the same thing. Original thought and individualized internal dialogue are not regarded highly. The general population is on the same feed so that they can communicate with each other without having to speak out loud. One of the central ideas of the feed is that it makes you who you are – the feed knows you better than you know yourself:

“Everything that goes on, goes on on the feed…. But the braggest thing…is that it knows everything you want and hope for, sometimes before you even know what those things are. It can tell you how to get them, and help you make buying decisions that are hard.”

Most people see this as a good thing because the feed keeps them from having to make decisions for themselves. However, that prevents people from developing an inner sense of self. They blindly follow the feed instead of trying to think through something on their own. This reverts back to the lack of basic knowledge and an uninformed population. This allows the government to control their citizens without them even realizing it. Violet points out:

‘”No one with feeds thinks about it,’ she said. ‘When you have the feed all your life, you’re brought up not to think about things.  Like them never telling you that it’s a republic and not a democracy.  It’s something that makes me angry, what people don’t know about these days.  Because of the feed, we’re raising a nation of idiots.  Ignorant, self-centered idiots.’”

This is the most alarming side effect of the feed because it gives the government free rein. M. T. Anderson is commenting that these citizens are slaves to the feed and to their government. They have no chance of escaping the confines they have found themselves in, no matter how hard they try (exemplified in Violet’s unsuccessful fight against the feed). So, Anderson is pointing out that this system is something that they should want to fight while also acknowledging their helplessness against the feed.

Longer Essay #1: Feed

 

            Feed, a novel by M. T. Anderson addresses many questions that today are constantly being asked about the role of technology in society. Although it does not bring forth a clear answer, mostly because there is not one, it provides an additional interpretation that sets it aside from most other parodies and predictions of the future. In addition to answering a variety of different stereotypical questions about the future Anderson also presents the viewer with a question about change in the human nature. One can first observe how kids in the future act, to then be able to answer if the nature of the human beings change in the future because of the new technologies that would be available to us.

Anderson does this most effectively by creating a narrative line that presents the everyday life of an average American of the future. This is an aspect that sets it aside from over futuristic novels like Neuromancer, which is about people that are not considered average in that particular future. As a result, novels like Neuromancer make it harder to consider whatever these characters think and do as the most typical features of the general human population. Thus in Feed, overall the reader will conclude, setting aside the extreme differentiations between the human environment, there are aspects of the human personality and life that remain the same.

On the surface, for example, one can see that the typical day of a teenager consists of many daily activities that are iconic of today’s American life. It is something that at first may be glossed over like the fact that that they go to school, have a spring break, go to parties on weekends, get their first car, but these are activities that by many are imagined to be lost in the future. Yes, with statements like “You write?” (Anderson, 65) and by showing how their curriculum has become worthless, how budget cuts left the students with hologram teachers, and how schools have transformed into a sort of corporation with the trademark label TM Anderson uses school fundamentally as a platform to illustrate how he thinks society will become dumber but these cornerstones that are still present today gives a reader a sense of familiarity. Sometimes many assume that the future, in all senses, will be completely unknown, but Anderson offers a future that is not completely cut off from the present and familiar.

Another way to observe the continuance of many social factors in the future is by observing the relationship between Titus and Violet. Quotes like “I was playing with the magnets on my boots trying not to look at her” (Anderson, 20) seemed like something exerted out of one of today’s popular chick flick films. It was also interesting how through their whole relationship they never had sex. Today it seems that the more time passes the more liberal society gets, and in Anderson’s interpretation of the future society did not seem that much more liberal. Even while looking at the family dynamic, although Titus’s parents were eccentric and spoke as poorly as the children, they seemed to treat their children in a fairly similar way.

All these parallels become clear after reading Anderson’s end not about feed. He claimed, “My intentions wasn’t really to predict future tech – but instead, to think about cultural conditions as they already were then,” (Anderson, 305) which makes it clear that he tried to tie in today’s social conditions to the future. He even claimed to have gotten lines from the novels by listening to people talk in the mall. It was completely intentional, but it also seems like he brought many of the aspects of today’s society, which are elaborated on above, unintentionally. Anderson was particularly was trying to concentrate on consumerism and expressed it in the novel through the new high-tech feed. Thus, leaving similarities like Titus and Violet’s relationship were not necessary in order to express the anxieties of consumerism. It seems like it was done unconsciously.

The novel brings forth another way to interpret the future. It does answer questions like does technology make us smarter or dumber, but by trying to tie today’s consumerist culture with the future Anderson brings forth a completely different angle. One is able to answer if human relations and daily life going to change drastically in the future and the answer Anderson gives is no. Yes, there are going to be drastic changes, but even with the feed it seems like humans really did not change.

The Insidiousness of the Feed

The Insidiousness of the Feed

             The prevalence of and sophistication of technology in one’s society have a major influence on one’s experience of the world.  Certainly, technology changes lives, but whether it makes them better or worse is an open question.  Feed, a work of young adult fiction by M.T. Anderson, provides insight into answering this question.  In this fictional world, consumerism has come to dominate virtually all aspects of life; classical educational systems have become defunct, replaced by instruction on how to operate one’s Feed, which has become the very center of one’s existence.  Additionally, human interaction has lost some of its value, as it is always tainted by the incessant noise coming from the Feed, and what it means to be human has also lost its value: to be human is to provide a vessel for a Feed.

The most glaring danger of the Feed is that a malfunctioning Feed can be fatal.  On a vacation on the moon, the protagonist, Titus, meets a girl named Violet.  He, she, and several of Titus’s friends are assaulted by a hacker, who causes their Feeds to break down temporarily.  Everyone recovers, except for Violet; the damage to her Feed eventually leads to her death, as the Feed is hardwired into her nervous system.

But the insidious Feed causes harm in more subtle ways.  Education is centered on operating the Feed, rather than on growing one’s mind; in this world, all but a few people see no need to learn because all information is only a thought away from a Feed-owner.  Indeed, Titus explains, “You can be supersmart without ever working.  Everyone is supersmart now.  You can look things up automatic, like science and history, like if you want to know which battles of the Civil War George Washington fought in and shit” (Anderson 47).  Ironically, Titus explains how “supersmart” he and everyone is while committing egregious factual and grammatical errors.  Merely looking up a tidbit of information is not conducive to internalizing it; learning is facilitated through extended engagement with the subject matter.  But in Titus’s world, all that people are really learning is how to operate the Feed.

After the incident on the moon, Violet explains to Titus at a mall,

“Everything we’ve grown up with – the stories on the feed, the games, all of that – it’s all streamlining our personalities so we’re easier to sell to….They do these demographic studies that divide everyone up into a few personality types, and then you get ads based on what you’re supposedly like….they keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone.  And gradually, everyone gets used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple.  So the corps make everything even simpler.  And it goes on and on.” (97)

In Titus’s society, humans have precious little diversity of thought or individuality.  Whereas in our society, a person can expand the horizons of his mind through exposure to people who think differently, such expansion of the mind is rendered virtually impossible in Titus’s.  Everyone thinks in essentially the same ways, and no one really can really make unique or valuable contributions to remolding the framework of another’s mind.  The human mind loses its wonder; all people (except for Violet and her father) become sheep consumed by both advertisements for products and entertainment shows devoid of intellectual value.

Later in the story, Violet berates Titus and inveighs against society for this ‘sheepification’ of the human race.  She bitterly asks,

Do you know why the Global Alliance is pointing all the weaponry at their disposal at us….Do you know why our skin is falling off….Do you know the earth is dead?  Almost nothing lives here anymore, except where we plant it?  No….We don’t know any of that….We take what’s coming to us.  That’s our way. (273)

Concerns such as the state of the world, the health of the environment, and even the health of oneself have become utterly subordinate to concerns about products or entertainment that provides instant, rather than lasting, gratification.  But worst of all, compassion itself has become a commodity that must be purchased.  When Violet suffers a serious breakdown of her Feed, she calls FeedTech and implores them for a repair.  She receives this response: “Unfortunately, FeedTech and other investors reviewed your purchasing history, and we don’t feel that you would be a reliable investment at this time.  No one could get what we call a ‘handle’ on your shopping habits….Sorry – I’m afraid you’ll just have to work with your feed the way it is” (247).  Because Violet refuses to bow to the tide of rabid consumerism, she is deemed unfit to live.  Her ascetic habits become a death sentence.  There is no way to articulate the injustice and inhumanity of that fact.  In this world of Feeds, a human being’s right to life is contingent upon one’s purchasing history.

In Feed, the Feed kills Violet in two different ways.  Its malfunctioning causes her nervous system to fail, and its record of her scant purchasing history rules out any hope of restoring her health.  But the Feed also poisons one’s every living moment.  As Violet nears her end, Titus goes to say goodbye to her unconscious body.  He narrates, “I tried to talk just to her.  I tried not to listen to the noise on the feed, the girls in wet shirts offering me shampoo” (296).  Human interaction is diluted and tainted by the incessant buzzing of the Feed.  Other people must always compete with the Feed for one’s attention, much like we must compete with smart phones for other peoples’ attention.  Anderson’s message is clear: while technology obviously offers numerous benefits (health care, transportation, and on and on), we must be vigilant not to let technology cause us to lose sight of what is truly important: compassion, meaningful human interaction, diversity of thought, real education, and valuing of others.

[Sorry about the improper block-quote formatting; I can’t correct it, despite my best efforts]

The Intelligence of Technology – Essay 1

Does the Feed inherently increase dependence upon technology while decreasing intelligence, or is there a scenario when feed-like technology could make people more intelligent?

In M.T. Anderson’s novel Feed, characters are implanted with a “feed” that projects advertising and information to their minds, eliminating much of the need to learn.  Consequently, in this scenario, characters become seemingly less intelligent and more dependent upon the feed embedded in their minds.  It is the advertising projected through the technology, however, not the technology itself that poses the greatest threat to the characters’ minds.  The technology, if used for other purposes, is neutral, simply enhancing the intelligence or naiveté of the user.  In short, the feed technology, or computer technology in general, magnifies the user’s inherent brilliance, producing a more powerful good or evil than the user would be able to attain solely using his or her own power.

In Feed, many characters have the feed made a permanent part of their person, connecting with the flood of advertising that it provides at all times of their waking and sleeping hours.  The corporations who provide the feed content, have used the technology to hold captive an audience, ensuring that they will have the final say in what people buy, what people know, and how people act.  Because people in Feed have become so reliant upon the technology, even the supposedly most intelligent among them have lost some of their ability to know and think for themselves.  For example, when a doctor is examining Titus and his friends before releasing them from the hospital, the doctor remarks to the nurses, “Okay.  Could we like get a thingy, a reading on his limbic activity?” (page 69)  When the doctor calls the limbic activity reading “a thingy,” it appears as though he was waiting for his feed to provide him with instructions and names for the task he was performing.  Although the doctor is executing the role the reader would expect, the feed has obviously made him less intelligent, forcing him to rely on words and instructions that the feed provides him and reducing the skill needed to work successfully in his occupation.

The users of the feed believe that the feed has made them more intelligent by increasing their access to information.  Titus explains why he believes the feed has made people smarter, saying, “That’s one of the great things about the feed – that you can be supersmart without ever working.  Everyone is supersmart now.  You can look up things automatic, like science and history, like if you want to know which battles of the Civil War George Washington fought in and shit.” (page 47)  Although Titus claims that the feed can provide educational information, rarely if ever does a character use it for educational purposes in the novel, instead it is used for advertising and more advertising, billed as entertainment.  Titus also claims “everyone is supersmart.”  This statement implies that people are “supersmart” because they all have easy access to information.  Readily available information, however, is not a measure of intelligence, although it can be a significant advantage for learning and for the development of ideas.  Intelligence is perhaps more easily measured by the way that each person’s mind interprets, comprehends, and utilizes the information available to him or her.  This confusion of intelligence with information availability is a concept that is central to understanding the ways in which technology like the feed is misused in Feed, but could be a powerful tool under different circumstances.

If one were to imagine feed-like technology under different circumstances, the impact it could have might look radically different from the effect it has in M. T. Anderson’s novel.  If, for instance, the feed technology were presented to users in the same format as the feed, but with no male-intent in mind, simply as a more neutral technology (much like an implanted version of the internet,) the technology could be seen as useful and valuable for productivity in today’s world.  Although it would not automatically make each user “supersmart,” it would grant users the ability to complete more mundane tasks in less time, and it could aid users in the completion of more complicated undertakings.  Although the technology would undoubtedly produce its fair share of harms to our society, it would certainly also produce progress and enhance quality of life for millions of people.

M. T. Anderson’s novel, Feed speaks to the dangers of corporations and technology in our society, demonstrating and predicting the ways in which the unaware are and will be influenced by advertising in their daily lives.  The concepts presented in Feed, however, demonstrate the magnification effect that technology has upon the intentions its producers and users.  With the right purposes, the feed could have been utilized as a productive addition to the wide range of tools available to enhance peoples’ everyday lives.  Though the feed would not have the ability to make people more intelligent, it would provide a platform from which they could use their intelligence to create value for themselves and those around them.

Access to Excess: Mere Bliss or Something Amiss? – Blog Essay #1

“ ‘You’re feed!’ ” cries Violet to a cut-covered Quendy and some other kids, the equation capturing the one around which M.T. Anderson has built the title of his book.  In Anderson’s digital dystopia, feed is not only the technology that enables people to easily access excess, but also the excess’s human vessels, the people that act and talk upon the gadget’s advice.  While the feed provides people with excess, has it, in its control of many mental faculties, morphed this ideal into that which is disgusting and degenerate instead of merely satisfying?

When Titus takes Violet to the party at Quendy’s house, he witnesses his friends “going mal.”  After declining to do so himself, Titus watches as “they spread out their arms and closed their eyes…doing the quiver.” (88)  This two-sentence description uses the plural proper noun of “they” or its variants eight times.  Jamming all of Titus’s entranced friends into this one noun synchronizes their mal-induced movements.  The continual reference to “they” strips the kids of their individual identities, this and the coordination of their actions robotizing their movements.  The rendering of such digital, collective action to humans, whose individual attributes usually make them the epitome of uniqueness and distinction, comes across as disgusting and unnatural.

In this passage, the sentence structure of “they…first,” “and then,” etc. fits an order to the synchronized motion, as though it were a dance.  At first glance, this element lends the excess present in going mal a pleasurable connotation, but upon examining the steps to the mal-dance, the degenerate quality of the excess can be observed.  Titus describes his friends “getting the shudder first,” “big stumbling,” and “doing the quiver.”  The first movement, shuddering, is the body’s natural reaction to something fearful, disgusting, or otherwise antagonistic whereas the second motion links coolness or hipness with clumsiness.  But the third dance step is the worst, as it likens, through use of “doing the,” a phrase typically attached to popular dances, a motion reminiscent of epileptic seizure to a famous dance technique.  The oxymoronic linking of a fear-induced response, clumsiness, and a debilitating sickness to a jovial pastime is simply sickening and emphasizes the debilitating nature of the feed.

The atrocity underlying going mal is also magnified when Anderson finally notes one of its individual victims.  This is none other than Link, a teenager, “whose tongue came out.” (88)  While this passage describes an individual, the trend of no individuals taking action continues, as Link’s tongue performs the action of exiting the mouth.  Anderson’s continued separation of individual from action subordinates humanity to the mechanisms on which it relies (i.e. the tongue and the feed).  The tongue is a mechanism of the body; the performance of an action, of its own accord, by such a mechanism represents, in Feed, the subtle dominance of tools over the humans that once controlled them, this inversion being made easier when the descendants of the feed’s creators are drugged into a blissful ignorance.

But empathy is evoked when the victims are identified as the youth, something which is done when Link’s tongue is described to be “purple from candy.” (88)  While candy is a food almost exclusively associated with children, purple, being the hue of a bruise, connotes an injury received from this pleasurable treat.  Created here is a metaphor that likens Link’s bruise from a treat to the Feed society’s injury from excessive gratification via the feed.  While candy and the feed may be scrumptious to the senses, the excessive consumption of each is unhealthy.

Such excess has crippled conceptions of significance, leading Titus to say “ ‘I’d like to have this…sense overload’ ” (145) when asked, by Violet, how he would like to die.  In his response, Titus’s verbal superfluity juxtaposes the excessive physical nature of his preferred means of dying with its actual “shallow”ness, as Violet later describes it.  While the typical conversational filler of “like” is used thrice, “just” is employed equally as often, these words filling the void of expressionlessness with that which lends no meaning or further substance to what is being said.  Anderson’s verbal interplay here ironizes Titus’s desired death; just like “just” and “like” strive to replace a lack of intelligence and imagination in a culture saturated with digital resources that can be called upon instantly, the intensity of Titus’s death seeks to compensate for a lackluster life in which “going mal” is one of the only forms of actual pleasure.

This desperation for intensity is perhaps best reflected with the exaggerated use of maximal diction, words that connote extremity.  Almost every line of Titus’s description has words/phrases such as “every one,” “mile a second,” and “just jammed.”  Particularly striking is the line of “every one of my senses all of them so full up.”  Here, redundancy is utilized in Titus’s reference to his senses as both “every one” and “all,” as well as in the phrase of “so full up.”  In this latter piece, all three individual words connote excess, the use of all of them implying that no single one of them, alone, can communicate the intensity for which Titus yearns.  When whimsically wielded by Titus to describe his preferred death, these words of excess and greatness become weak and superfluous.  The necessity for both death and words to be excessive represents a watering down of these concepts, the instant gratification that the feed gives requiring each to be exacerbated to achieve any real significance.

While the feed is represented as that which dehumanizes and debilitates when Titus’s friends go mal, it is also, when Titus describes his desired death, portrayed as that which undermines the significance of pleasure and language.  Although the feed is able to provide short-term gratification, it ultimately undermines this concept, desensitizing its human vessels to pleasure.  This is captured not only in the first sentence of the book, in which the moon, travel to which and experience of which would usually be the epitome of adventure, is said to “completely suck,” (3) but also through the boredom and dejection with which Titus and his friends associate many things.  In short, Anderson’s feed feeds off of the human capacity to have fun and find resonance in the world outside of the appalling apparatus.

Dependence on Technology in The Machine Stops (1st blog essay)

The short story “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster begins with a character, Vashti, alone in a hexagonal room with the Machine. The Machine is responsible for people’s communication needs, entertainment, and practical requirements like getting the bed out. Forster describes the room being like a “cell”, which conjures up images of jails and being imprisoned. To what ends would technology make you dependent on it? Technology in the Machine’s world made the people so reliant on it that they literally died once it stopped.

Vashti, a mother, tries to communicate with her son Kuno. However, she seems to be more interested in getting back to the Machine than having a meaningful dialogue with Kuno. She says, “’Be quick!’ She called, her irritation returning. ‘Be quick, Kuno; here I am in the dark wasting my time.’” This is not the only thing that hinders their connection. Kuno wants his mother to come visit him, however she replies, “’But I can see you!’ she exclaimed. ‘What more do you want?’” Vashti is incapable of valuing seeing someone in the flesh as opposed to seeing them via the Machine.

Vashti got on an Air Ship to visit her son. She almost fell, however the flight attendant tried to steady her. She thought the action was “barbaric”, because people did not touch each other anymore. Vashti said, “’How dare you!’ exclaimed the passenger. ‘You forget yourself!’” The flight attendant just wanted to help, however even simple help was seen as hostile. The Machine had isolated people so much, that human contact was seen as foreign and was unwelcomed. This line is telling, “The woman was confused, and apologized for not having let her fall.” In this world it is a bigger offence to touch someone than it is to let them fall and hurt themselves. Technology has distanced people both physically and psychologically.

In this world the physical world outside the Machine is regarded as being unnecessary and uncivilized. Kuno tells his mother that he wants to visit the world outside of his room, and she replies, “’Don’t. Don’t talk of these terrible things. You make me miserable. You are throwing civilization away.’” Because of the Machine, nature and open spaces became obsolete. Kuno went to the outside in a way that was not permitted and he was going to get in trouble. Kuno does not like nor trust the Machine. He says, ‘”Cannot you see, cannot all you lecturers see, that it is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives in the Machine? We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now.’” The Machine used to serve the humans, but now the humans are servants of the Machine. The humans are now more limited by their technology, they are reliant on it and they have less freedom to physically move around.

After a while, going to the surface of the earth was not permitted. At the same time, first hand ideas were not seen as being valuable. Here is an interesting line, “’Beware of first- hand ideas!” exclaimed one of the most advanced of them. ‘First-hand ideas do not really exist. They are but the physical impressions produced by live and fear, and on this gross foundation who could erect a philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element – direct observation.‘” Direct observation is seen as a bad thing, and the further that one could get away from it, the better. At this point the mechanical, the Machine, was seen as the only proper thing there was for humans.

The world is really reliant on the Machine at this point. However, the Machine was starting to have some issues. Kuno tells his mother that the Machine is stopping, however Vashti had no idea what that really meant, she could not imagine a world without the Machine. Vashti tells her friend about the Machine stopping, and her friend replies, “’The Machine is stopping?’ her friend replied. ‘What does that mean? The phrase conveys nothing to me.’” The issues began with music, then they gradually got more serious such as there being mold on fruit. At first people complained about the issues, but after a while they got used to them. Here it says, “Time passed, and they resented the defects no longer. The defects had not been remedied, but the human tissues in that latter day had become so subservient, that they readily adapted themselves to every caprice of the Machine.” Even though the Machine was having issues, the humans were so reliant on it that they had to get used to the new problems, there was simply no other choice.

Then the Machine disconnected everyone, then there was silence. Here it says, “She had never known silence, and the coming of it nearly killed her – it did kill many thousands of people outright.” People were so used to hearing the hum of the Machine, that not hearing it literally killed people. Then something happened that had not happened for a very long time. People finally got out of their cells and interacted with each other. Here it says, “People were crawling about, people were screaming, whimpering, gasping for breath, touching each other, vanishing in the dark, and ever and anon being pushed off the platform on to the live rail.” When the people got scared, they finally found their humanity. Kuno says, ‘”Quicker,” he gasped, ‘I am dying – but we touch, we talk, not through the Machine.’” At the end, they got to embrace each other and found the connection that had been missing. They did not need the Machine to communicate with each other anymore.

“The Machine Stops” tells a tale of a dependence on technology that leads to death. There are many instances of dependency on the Machine, such as it providing the bedding, food, and communication to all people. Because all of the people relied so much on the Machine to get everything done, when it broke down they could not survive anymore and everything literally came crashing down.

Long Blog #1: Feed and Technological Determinism

The idea that new technologies make our lives worse and humans less intelligent is a common idea posed in today’s technologically dependent world. This question is a prevalent theme in the novel Feed by M.T Anderson. This view of thinking is called technological determinism. Technological determinists say that every problem or solution that technology provides is blamed on the technology itself and disregards the aspects of societal changes and interests. The technology discussed in Feed has produced a dystopian world in ecological and political crisis that is filled with brainwashed humans.

Feed takes place in a futuristic world where humans have “the feed” installed into their brains. The feed provides the humans with constant streams of advertising and information and also controls some of their basic bodily functions. In the fictional world of Feed, the demise of human intelligence by the hand of technology is evident. The world in which the characters live is also noticeably falling to pieces in environmental as well as political terms. The feed was created by the very large and powerful companies that govern this world and is installed in most of the humans upon birth. The feed is a tool of these companies to brainwash the humans into thinking that the world is in a good state even though mostly everything is artificial. The feed does everything from profile the user as a consumer to offer up a descriptive word when a character can’t remember. The feed amplifies the effects of a consumerist society. There is no longer school, as we know it but now School ™. In this artificial school the students learn, “about how to work technology and how to find bargains and what’s the best way to get a job and how to decorate our bedroom.” (110) The school is run by the big corporations and uses the feed as a teaching aid as well as the subject the students are educated on. There are not even real teachers anymore due to budget cuts. When Violet shows Titus that she can write he is stunned and says that he can only read a little and he wonders why she doesn’t just use the feed because it is faster. Writing in the feed allows for instant “chatting” between people without even speaking aloud. This act of chatting while in the same room clearly represents the demise of social interactions that are culturally valued in today’s world. Violet says, “Because of the feed, we’re raising a nation of idiots. Ignorant, self- centered idiots.” (112)

The effects of the technology the conglomerates have created have done more harm than good. The Global Alliance says, “the physical and biological integrity of the earth relies at this point upon the dismantling of American-based corporate entities, whatever the cost.” They have polluted the earth and have put superficial Band-Aids on these problems. The “fashionableness” of the lesions is popularized by the feed. These lesions seem to be a result of Earth’s deteriorating ecological system. It seems that if the corporations can genetically engineer meat farms and create a piece of technology as advanced as the feed then they should be able to come up with technology to clean up the environment and heal the lesions. However, when the doctors are attempting to heal Titus and his friends after their feeds are corrupted, the doctor says, “Okay. Could we like get a thingie, a reading on his limbic activity?” (669) Clearly even the professions that are valued as expert are reliant on their connections to the feed to supply them with words and ideas. This means that likely everyone is one hundred percent reliant on the feed and because of this it is hard to have thoughts of their own. If the experts cannot think for themselves then solutions to fix the problems that the feed creates are not likely to be discovered.

Violet characterizes a person who is completely dependent of the feed. She is not dependent for superficial reasons like the other characters are but is dependent for the basic bodily functions the feed provides. When her feed is compromised at the beginning of the book she experiences many complications and eventually dies because it is broken. The book says that seventy three percent of Americans have feeds and even though that is a majority, other parts of the world seem to not have feeds as well. These people without feeds seem to be suffering more than the people with feeds because there is no voice in their head to put a positive spin on the horrific happenings in the world.

The feed and all of the other technology created in this disastrous world clearly aided in its downfall. M.T Anderson’s Feed represents some of the worst possible outcomes that technology can have on society. His satire comments on current societies dependence on technology and many parallels can be drawn between the fictional world of Feed and modern day Earth.