Huxley vs. Orwell: The Webcomic

I think this piece is interesting. It might connect to the readings this week. If our mind and ideology is conquered by the mass media and redundant information, a “functional technology” might be good to us. Especially the redundant information and all kinds of “voices” might be created by ourselves.


Stuart McMillen’s webcomic does a marvelous job of adapting (and updating!) Neil Postman’s famous book-length essay, Amusing Ourselves to Death, which argues that Aldous Huxley’s vision of the future in Brave New World was ultimately more accurate than the one proposed by George Orwell in 1984. (Via).

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Response to Feenberg Critical Theory Technology Intro

Feenberg introduces two opposite voices on technology, the Instrumental Theory and Substantive Theories. The instrumental theory account the development of technology as a neutral tool, the function of which is depend on the intention of its user. The efficiency is the parameter of evaluating the technology. On the other hand the Substantive theory takes technology as a new culture system “that restructures the
entire social world as an object of control”(7). To reject the occupying social order by technology, the supporters of Substantive Theories call for a return to tradition or simplicity. Feenberg argues despite the differences, instrumental and substantive theory share a “take it or leave it” attitude. It is the reason why people try to set a boundary around technology instead of trying to reform it. Both the moral and the political boundaries are unrealistic.

Feenberg proposes “technical codes” which means the confrontation between ideology an d technique. The technical code will make the confrontation invisible. Critical theory argues the technology is the confrontation and battle between social value and the new development. He didn’t talk much about the “technical code”, but as far as I understand, Selber’s piece “Functional literacy” is an example of the “technical code”. The functional requirement of student’s digital literacy by its nature is the requirement of the job market. This idea is quite similar with Deborah Brandt’s “literacy sponsor”.

Philosophy, my first five years

Scientia Salon

philosophy_dictionary by Massimo Pigliucci

By any standards I can think of, I’ve so far had a very lucky academic career. I started as an evolutionary biologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville [1], back in 1995, where they treated me very well for nine years, nurturing me through tenure as well as promotions to associate and full professor — the classical (if increasingly less common) academic sequence. Then, in 2004, I was hired by Stony Brook University’s Department of Ecology & Evolution [2], one of the most prestigious in the field. I still remember the thrill of my first day there, walking around the 6th floor of the Biology building and passing the offices of a number of people who had written the textbooks on which I had studied when I was younger: Doug Futuyma, James Rohlf, Robert Sokal, George Williams [3,4,5]. And now they were my colleagues!

About that time…

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Some Thoughts on “The Practice of Every Day Life”

I used to wonder, who made the history? And who influenced the construction of the society. A individual person?A group? Or the inevitable trend of the bigger context? The sociologists used to  focus on the majority’s ideology in the social context macroscopically and discuss the inevitability of the evolution of the society; however, Michel de Certeau considers the individual’s behavior and describes individual’s action in the every day life. By using the tactics, the individuals will claim their own discursive power in the morden society which the ideology has already taken by the force of the mainstreams. The individuals he observed is not only the marginalized group but also you and me, and the ordinary people who constructed the society. According to other book review, the research focus of the Sociology has been switch from the group to the individual and Michel de Certeau is not the first person who pay his attention to the ordinary people and every day life. But I really appreciate the idea of using tactics to resist the force of the mainstreams.

I will interprete the beginning of the chapter we read as the reflection of the switching focus in the sociological academia. It is also a change of the research method. Walking is a great metaphor which indicates understanding the specific individual.The concept of the city is just an epitome of the society. “The concept-city is decaying.”he said(95). Now the concept-city is “a place of trasformations and appropriations  the object of various kinds of interference but also a subject that is constantly enriched by new attributes, it is simultaneously the machinery an the hero of modernity.”(95)  The pluralism is the cause of this change, and it also will be the research object of sociological study.

However, I got lost when he tried to connect the  rhetoric and the pedestrian enunciation. The verbal communication includes the location, the actors, and the the most important part, “phatic” aspect. (P99) And the modality of pedestrian enunciation is quite paralleled with the verbal communication. Michel de Certeau proposed a notion of “residing rhetoric”.(P100)


Several Responses to Bell Hooks

1. In Contemporary Perspectives,  Foss& Foss describe Hooks “talking back” or “speaking as an equal to an authority figure…having an opinion” became a characteristic way in which hooks responded to the inequities( 267);  however, in my culture, speaking your own opinion after the speeches of the authority is taken as an respect. And I think even in American culture, interrupting in somebody’s talk is someway rude. In my opinion, the women will have something which deserve the authorities’ respect.  Pointless talking back only results in disrespect.

2. Bell hooks is the pen name of Gloria Watkins. And hooks took this name as “claiming an identity that affirms her right to speech.” and she also sees a pseudonym  as a reminder that her ideas can change. (270) Why does she need a pseudonym as a new identity? What is the difference between her original identity and the new one? I think since she is fighting for her identity in the whole life, she will not change her identity at all.

3. In Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness, bell hooks looks back her childhood in the southern small town. The painful experience of segregation and her life at the university evokes her understanding of location and space.  Hooks proposes one needs a community of resistance; however, when the marginalized people get together and developed a way of seeing reality. We looked both from the outside in and from the inside out. We focused our attention on the center as well as on the margin.”  Her sense of wholeness, provide us a mode of seeing unknown to most of our oppressors.(239)

Being the member of margin is a kind of resistance. From her , I can see a notion of relative and opposition. And the opposition is not always stable, it depends on the time, space and location. Now I can see the reason why she use a pseudonym to the public. I think she need a whole image of her multi identities struggle in the segregation  and the male-dominant  society.

My Initial Response to Baudrillard

The first thing impressed me about Baudrillard, is the movie Marrix, the director of which is influenced by Baudrillard’s notion of imulacra and Simulation according to the Wikipedia. The Matrix, shows us a simulation world that all the objects we see are actual the fake illusion created by the computer program. Human is the independent subject whereas they have limited authority and confined in the virtual object.

 Baudrillard’s notion of simulation derives from the separation of the symbol and the object they represent by the emerging of mass media. The mass media have two basic functions: the first one is the “creation of representations or simulations—reproduced version of reality.” Second, the mass media deal with information rather than with communication.”(Foss, 313) The evolution of simulation has four stages, that is, symbolic order, counterfeits, production and simulation. I can see what he means when he mentions the simulation of the object. However, I still cannot take another step to see the centrality of the object. He implied “the object no longer is an expression emerging from a relationship of symbolic exchange but is an interchangeable unit… a discrete element in a chain of signification, infinitely transmissible and recombinable.”(Foss, 317) But where is the subject? Will subject lost in the mess of simulation and symbols? I don’t think so. Although I quiet like his genius ideas, I can’t agree with him. 

Response to the Perspectives on Rhetoric-Foucault

It’s the first time I learn about ideas of Foucault. Since I didn’t read his book before, what I know about his theory is from our textbook, which is an interpretation of his theory through the vision of Foss & Trapp. Unfortunately, Foucault’s books were written in French and translated in English, as a result, some of Foucault’s ideas maybe lost and distort.

 As far as I read the Foucault part in the textbook. The first impression of his theory is historical and dynamic. All his understandings about the knowledge, power and ethic is changing and unstable. For example: “Foucault understands mental illness in the revised version as a changing, historically conditioned notion (341).” ”Foucault published The Archaeology of Knowledge, in which he criticize the traditional method of dealing with history in terms of period and unifying themes and suggests that it be viewed instead from the perspective of contradiction and discontinuities.(343) ” “The History of Sexuality…characterized by a continuous increase in the mechanism of power.(345)”

 The key word to understand the Foucault’s notion of knowledge is discursive formation, which means “the total set of relations that unite, at a given period, the discursive practice that give rise to epistemological figures, sciences, and possibly formalized systems. (348)” In my opinion, I think the term of “discursive formation” is the same as the ideology of individual, because both of them are governed by culture and the political system. In other words, I will take the discursive formation as the reason for formation of person’s rhetorical discourse. And knowledge is created by the rhetorical discourses.