THINGS I TALKED ABOUT IN CLASS LAST WEEK (WK. 4)

I teach an undergraduate course on the relationship between Technology and Society. This week was focused on utopia and dystopia!
  1. The valley of ashes in The Great Gatsby
    We just finished a week on the industrial revolution, which left the western world sooty and on the come-down after a few decades of technological enthusiasm. Fitzgerald's "Valley of Ashes" {and especially Baz's depiction of it!} are the best illustrations.
  2. The episode of Mad Men where Ginsberg cuts off his nipple in response to the office getting the first IBM computer.
    The room-size computer moves in, displacing all the secretaries. A metaphor for our fears about automation! Don't worry, I gave a trigger warning for this one.
  3. The concept of Zeitgeist
    I LOVE zeitgeist, defined as: the spirit of the times, the dominant form of thought in a cultural moment. I learned this term from Mindy Kaling.
  4. Vaping
    When I asked my students for an example of our zeitgeist one of them suggested vaping and I got so excited. It's perfect for our cultural moment: a social shift to the left as marijuana is suddenly legal and it's almost needlessly modern and futuristic.
  5. The Digital Frontier
    Even though we think of counterculture as being anti-establishment, the utopian values built into the communes of the 1970s (collaboration, connection) are actually the wellspring for Cyberculture in the 1990s. This is from Fred Turner's great book "From Counterculture to Cyberculture."