It pleases me to announce that I’ve found myself taking part in a MOOC at the start of 2013. The last time I smiled at such an acronym was when I discovered the meaning of RSS. Unless I’ve fallen upon someone taking the mickey, then MOOC stands for ‘Massive Online Open Course’. Yes! This is much easier to remember than MOODLE – the e-learning acronym for the software we use at the charity I work for, YouthNet. That one is ‘Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment.’ And if you’re wondering, I did have to look it up again for the millionth time before typing it into this blog post.
Week one of the course is about dytopias and utopias created through technology and the materials we’re considering at this stage are films that depict them. The first film that sprung to my mind was Gattaca – I remember watching it at a film festival in Dundedin, New Zealand back in 2000 (Interestingly, the country that feels closest to my personal Utopia to date) where David Bellamy talked about the implications of such a world. In very simple terms, this certainly demonstrates how a perceive utopia for some, is a dystopia for others.
As I’m pretty tired, and I’m spending the evening of my birthday after a working day trying to improve my brain, I figured that there was bound to be others out there in this glorious internet who would sum up the utopia and dystopia of Gattaca quite brilliantly. And this is what I found:
GATTACA is a capitalist dystopia, to apply a broad term. In many ways it could be a utopian world: most people are genetically engineered to be born with no diseases, no afflictions, or tendencies towards disabilities; science and space travel seem to have more of a future in the GATTACA world, as Irene says in the film, “There must be a dozen launches every day,” as she stands next to Jerome at the GATTACA center, watching the rocket ships roar upwards. He replies, “Sometimes more.” Cars are electrically powered, and it seems that the world envisioned by Andrew Niccol is shiny, scientific, and antiseptic. Yet it is also a dystopia. A perfect world it is, yet only perfect for those who are genetically gifted. People’s success in the world of GATTACA depends not on their resumes and credentials, but a blood test or urine test.
I found the gems above in a blog called Exploring Dystopia edited and designed by Niclas Hermansson.
So, now I must think a bit more for myself… I’m pretty sure that Cat Fish, would be another example of a Dystopia caused by technology – but I’m not sure, is this a bit leftfield? Or is it too close to reality to be seen in these terms? Catfish depicts an extreme example of a young man being lured into the fantasy existence of a woman who creates multiple characters online. Just this morning I read that they’ve furthered the original themes in the film to create a series – something I’ll definitely be interested in checking out. I was so struck by the original theme, that I ended up writing a poem about the phenomenon of people trying to ignore issues in offline relationships through the distraction of online ones. Thinking about it more, there is definitely an element of Utopia here too. The woman in Catfish who pretends to be different people to impress her potential young lover was actually really content in her fake world. As long as she could keep the dream alive. She was so immersed in her web of lies (no pun intended) that she had started to believe it was real and felt fulfilled to live in this version of her world.
I’ve noticed that a couple of people on the (MASSIVE) course have mentioned that identifying more explicit utopias is more tricky – I like the example of the Truman Show here and @astburyp tweeted: “Isn’t the entire Stark Trek Franchise based on a Utopian Ideal of human nature?” I’m determined to identify my own example now, but I admit I’m struggling a bit. So I’ll stop here, pleased to have got the cogs turning a bit at least.