The Annual Faculty of Information and Media Studies Academic Journal Edited by the FIMSSC
Published 2017 London, Ontario by the Faculty of Information and Media Studies Student Council Funded by the FIMS Undergraduate Student Fund Printed and bound in London, Ontario by Creative Services Western USC
Table of Contents Acknowledgements Page 6 Editor’s Preface Marisa Cho Page 7 An investigation into the effects of changing funding models and government policies in Ontario’s post secondary education system 1980- 2014 Aidan McKendrick Page 9 Familial, Familiar, Defamiliarization Christopher Pandza Page 17 Life is Not a Forking Binary Salena Nazarali Page 27 The World of Neopets: Perpetuating the Socio-Economic Class Divide from a Young Age Ryan Thompson Page 33 This one shouldn’t have a title Nicole Manfredi Page 39 Transhumanism as Informational-Neoliberal Propaganda: A Critical Analysis of Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity Alex Prong Page 43 Understanding the Power of Educational Propaganda: The Perpetuation of Canadian Colonialism through the Contemporary Ontario Elementary School Curriculum Erica Wallis Page 51
Acknowledgements The FIMSSC would like to acknowledge our Faculty panel of professors for selecting the written works you see here out of the many submissions we received by students. We could not have narrowed down these superb pieces of writing without their help. If only all of them could have been published. Thank you to Tim Blackmore, Romayne Smith Fullerton, and Selma Purac. The FIMSSC would also like to acknowledge our student editors who volunteered their time to pour through the many works we received. Thank you to Krista Pereira, Bridget Farrell, Kara Waites, Kyra Balogh, and Christine Stebel. The fantastic artwork in this publication is submitted by three incredibly talented FIMS students. Christopher Pandza Title: Frowning House on Richmond India Ink (2016) (Cover) Nuran Seren Sahin Title: seeing double Ink,Â charcoal, and nail polish on paper (2016) (Page 44) Rebecca McLaren Title: Melancholy Water and acrylicÂ on canvas (2016) A flow of emotion and contemplation that washes through our veins. (Page 8) Title: Individuality Acrylic, magazine, and varnish on canvas (2015) Difference is inevitable. It is the energy that electrifies the Earth. (Page 40) Title: Erratic Acrylic, magazine, glitter, and varnish on canvas (2017) An explosion of bold emotions that demand attention. An image that is able to encompass the non-stop chatter of a coming of age, and a visual that intertwines past and future to create a new and captivating present experience. (Page 61)
Editorâ€™s Preface There are amazing humans and incredible minds in the third smallest faculty at Western University. Over these past years, I have seen students work tirelessly to produce an infinite amount of essays, features, journals, research papers, and creative content. What is unfortunate is that often this hard work gets lost and forgotten in the depths of laptop hard drives, never to be seen again. I made it my goal right at the beginning of my term as VP Academic that I would finish my year with the publication of Mediations. It is a celebration of outstanding works and beautiful art that deserve to be spotlighted. I wish we could have published all the submissions we received, but the journal could only be so long. It was a delight to read all the critical thinking and creative ideas of my peers with their fresh, and sometimes controversial, perspectives. It reminded me that what we learn here is great knowledge, and that our students are even greater.
I hope that these seven diverse works will challenge you and inspire you. Marisa Cho, VP Academic 2016-2017
1 An investigation into the effects of changing funding models and government policies in Ontario’s post secondary education system 1980- 2014
The increasing demand for higher-level education to secure employment has
resulted in Ontario’s post secondary education system being pushed to increase on-
line education. There are two methodologies for the on-line system; firstly, blended learning where students attend traditional, in-class lectures along with sections of
the course that have been transformed into an on-line component. Secondly, on-line courses, where the entire learning experience takes place on-line, with no required face-to-face contact. For the purposes of this essay, the term on-line education will be used to refer to both types of methodologies. This essay will argue a changing
political mandate and reduced funding has lead to an increase in online courses in the post secondary education system causing damage in the structure of the academic workforce and delivery of education.
This topic is important because the increasing use of online education is
leading to the destruction of the academic workforce by reducing full time faculty to part-time or contract status. This has resulted in their work status being more
precarious, in terms of security, wages, benefits, and academic freedom and in
students feeling “ripped off” (Mackay, 2014, p.18). Post graduation, these students
often find difficulty in securing employment as these courses are viewed as inferior
than an in-class degrees by the employers (Adams & Defleur, 2006). This has left the
education system in a dysfunctional state with dissatisfaction being felt on both
sides, the students and the faculty. The main cause for this change in the provision
of higher education can be related to decreasing government funding.
The diminishing government funding has resulted in post secondary schools
being pushed to develop a privatised funding model resulting in the increase
utilization of digital technology to deliver educational courses. The decrease in
funding can be traced back to the late 1980s as provincial and federal governments
began withdrawing funding into the system. This has had significant repercussions, affecting all post secondary schools. Mackay (2014) notes that the federal
educational cash transfers for post-secondary education was 0.41% of the gross
domestic product (GDP) in 1992/3 and has decreased to 0.20% of GDP as of
2012/13, indicating a decrease in funding of 50%. The result of this has been a hard
push towards the usage of online courses as a means to mitigate the loss in funding. Contact North (2012) reported that there were “approximately 500,000 online
course registrations - over twice that of any other Canadian jurisdiction” (p.24) the
online students were registered in 18,000 courses within the university and college system.
This large number is in keeping with a commitment made by the Provincial
government in the throne speech to create the Ontario Online Institute to support the development of online learning. The Provincial government also included the sector of education in its report, Ontario’s Differentiation Policy Framework for
Postsecondary Education (2013) noted that the assessment metrics for teaching and learning in institutions would be assessed on their ability to demonstrate a
“strengthening [of] their innovative teaching approaches, such as technology-
enabled learning” (p.14) and the assessment would also include a review of how
many students are enrolled in online courses. In review of this shift, it is quite clear
that the drop in funding has produced capitalist orientated educational institutions that have increased their student/consumer base through the utilization of online courses. This is a shift from the government providing a substantial percentage of funding for education to focusing on students providing funding through their
tuition fees. This shift has been widely supported by the government and also by
private corporations and the school’s administration. In order to survive within the privatised funding model, while retaining the institutions own entity, it seems the colleges and universities had to develop a space that had not previously been as developed, namely online courses, as already existing modes of education.
While existing modes of education relied on full time faculty, this shifted to
an increase in online education has resulted in classroom-based education and it’s
staff being devalued and the faculty being placed in danger of loosing their full time positions. Neely and Tucker (2010) note that the traditional faculty model involves one faculty member developing curriculum, delivering instruction, assessing
learning outcomes, advising students, conducting research and other university
related administrative tasks. For this position, Neely and Tucker’s (2010) research found the cost for this traditional faculty member to be $8,986 per course. In
contrast, when they looked at what they term the ‘unbundled faculty model’, where faculty is only paid for delivering instruction; they found the cost to be $3,676 per
course. In keeping with the shifting workload, Mackay (2014) notes that there is a trend for full time faculty at colleges to have their standard work formula (SWFs)
consistently maximised at 44 hours a week following their collective agreements,
working over the 44-hour period must be paid as overtime. Partial–load faculty and
course-by-course instructors do not have SWFs and are only paid teaching contact
hours. The reduction and the exploitation of the remaining academic workforce has lead to the administrations increased ability to control how the workforce delivers programs resulting in an increase in top down control (Mackay, 2014).
Mackay (2014) further notes “between 1988/89 and 2004/5, full time
student enrolment increased by 53%, while full-time faculty decreased by 22% “
(p.32). The revolutionizing Ontario’s post-secondary education system for the 21st
century (2012), a leaked discussion paper from the Ministry of Training, Colleges,
and Universities, proposed modernising and increasing the productivity of Ontario’s post secondary system by implementing the “3 x 3” system. Under this structure,
students would be able to graduate from university in 3 years by including 3 courses online and additionally moving to a three-semester system. The implementation of
this system, while user friendly for the students, was thought to result in increased
stress and instability for faculty as there would be no standardisation of courses or
school year. The report further noted that if “Ontario’s online education and training capacity improves opportunities [and] may also exist to export an Ontario education via the Internet. International students could enrol in the Ontario Online Institute
and obtain an Ontario university degree from abroad.” (Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, 2012, p. 7). While the government and universities are encouraging the development of the online education field, Mackay (2014) notes
that faculty will not be allowed to maintain their academic freedom in terms of the
ownership of their intellectual property. He further discusses the fact that research
and publications are part of what creates innovation within academia and if “They (faculty) have none, then there is profound disincentive for
intellectual workers to innovate, create, and develop new knowledge.
In the CAATs today, all intellectual property developed by faculty is seen
as the legal property of the college that employs them. This knowledge can
then be sold to whomever the college wants” (p.59).
The shift into online teaching has lead to the slow erosion of classroom-based
education and with it; faculty’s being downsized into providing services to both
online and in class students. In place of a traditional single teacher developing a
course and seeing the course through to its completion, faculty are made to play
multiple small part time roles in several courses. These roles are often, for full time faculty pushed to the maximum 44 hours without overtime, while part time faculty struggle to maintain consistent work or a liveable income. With enrolment
increasing yearly, and the Ontario government’s proposed changing mandate for education, faculty are being pushed to teach more students more often without
control of their immaterial labour. The faculty are being further exploited in this shift, by administrations of the schools redistributing the content they develop without acknowledging its the faculties intellectual property and labour. This redistribution of course content further reduces the need for full time faculty
because the same course content is being utilized by various other staff members 13
and courses. With this already occurring due to under funding, if combined with the policies of 3 x 3, the faculty will likely become a group of predominantly part time
labours who have no rights to their intellectual properties and will be expected to work on demand, year-round, to educate the next generation of workers (Fuchs, 2009).
The main rhetoric for the shift to online courses in post secondary education
is the notion of increasing accessibility for all students by the education
administration and government. In the government’s 3 x 3 discussion paper, while
addressing the need to increase the academic year to three semesters and increase online courses, notes its first objective as being to “put students first. The paper states the express purpose to enhance and expand the choices students have in
content learning models, quality, flexibility, accessibility and affordability of their
post secondary experience” (Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities 2012, p. 3). However, Mackay (2014) states that “Tuitions currently make up 33%
of the operating revenues of Ontario Colleges, a 300% increase from 1967” (p.31). It
would seem that the government and educational institutional administration’s
rhetoric of greater accessibility for all students while somewhat supported, is from an economic perspective unsound and damaging as tuition is at the highest it has ever been. Students either have a growing and substantial student loan debt or
cannot enter school due to financial restrictions (“the facts”, 2010). The Canadian
federation of students’ reports that the average student debt after a four-year
degree is $37,000 while per student funding in Ontario at $10,222 is the lowest of
the 10 provinces. In comparison, Alberta, for example had a per student funding of
$25,469, ranking first in Canada (â€œthe facts, 2010). The utilization of the â€˜increased
access to educationâ€™ mantra has not been successful and has not provided students
with more opportunities, but in reverse, seems to have affected the education
There is a general sense that the changing political mandate, which has
resulted in funding to postsecondary institutions being cut, has had a negative
impact on the provision of educational courses. The need to increase funding has driven a surge in institutions providing online courses, often under the rouse of
increasing student accessibility. However, the formation of this quasi-education
market in Ontario has in fact had detrimental effects on the immaterial academic
workforce and has seen the financial burden of education being placed squarely on
the backs of the students. If this system continues, then according to a Marxist view, the continual increasing investment in the technology will force the institutions to find larger student bases to increase revenue and absorb the funding deficit while
reducing faculty (Fuchs, 2009). This will continue to the detrimental cycle that has been discussed in this paper.
Adams, J. & Defleur, M.H. (2006). The acceptability of online degrees earned as a credential for obtaining employment. Communication Education. 55(1), 3245.
Contact North. (2012). Online learning in Canada: At a tipping point. A cross-country check up 2012. Retrieved from http://teachonline.ca/sites/default/files/contactNorth/files/pdf/publication s/online_learning_in_canada_at_a_tipping_point_a_cross_country_check_up_2 012_july_18_2012_final.pdf
Fuchs, C. (2009). Some theoretical foundations of critical media studies: Reflections on Karl Marx and the media. International Journal of Communications. 3, 369-402. Government of Ontario. (2013). Ontario’s differentiation policy framework for Postsecondary education. Retrieved from http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/pepg/publications/PolicyFramework_PostSec.pdf Mackay, K. (2014). Report on education in Ontario colleges. Retried from http://ocufa.on.ca/assets/2014-04_CAAT-A-Report_Education_FULL.pdf
Neely, P. & Tucker, J. P. (2010). Unbundling Faculty Roles in Online Distance Education. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11(2). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/798/1543
Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities. (2012). The revolutionizing Ontario’s post-secondary education system for the 21st century. https://murraydegrees.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/3x3-revolutionizingontarios-post-secondary-education-system-for-the-21st-century-leakedpaper.pdf “The facts”. (2010). The Canadian federation of students. Retrieved from http://www.cfsontario.ca/en/section/182
Familial, Familiar, Defamiliarization
MIT 3221Fâ€¨ Professor Sharon Sliwinski 1 November 2016â€Š
Pandza 2 The trauma of immigration is built into my family home: our folk past is repented through wainscotting, stainless steel, and grey colonialism. My mother, the main curator in our museum of Anglicization, works hard to build this order. Of course, she hates when I go to flea markets because she fears my bringing home something too previously-enjoyed and mustard-coloured for her exhibition. And of course, I always come home from the market with things that are too previously-enjoyed and mustardcoloured. My mother requires that I quarantine the refugee objects in our garage. Over time, the garage has become my cabinet of curiosity (cabinet of kitsch, if you ask my mother). I understand that I shouldnâ€™t love things out of guilt, but the price of adoption at the flea market is low. The flea market is a sort of orphanage of the quotidianâ€”showing the signs of a past love in worn handles and wiggly legs, the objects at the market are infinitely lonely. But the loneliest object at the market in June 2014 was an aerial photograph of a modest bungalow at a flea market in Courtice, Ontario. The photograph, framed in walnut, sat atop a pile of obsolete electronics in the dark corner of a barn. This was the loneliest photograph in the world: the home itself had become homeless. I tried to pass by the image, but could feel its anthropomorphic windows staring at my back. I put the photo in my garage. Much like my mother, my discussion group was unenthused with the photograph. The image was simply kitsch, or a self-indulgent monument to the banal. Though I cannot argue that the draw of such an image is universal, there is evidence that interest in these images extends beyond my own self-indulgence. The original photograph was captured by Aerial Farm Statistics (AFS), a London, Ontario
Pandza 3 firm that uses airplanes to survey and photograph land from the air. These types of photographs are archived for various purposes, including survey and archaeology. Still in business, AFS has survived for over 50 years by photographing, retouching, framing, and selling images of homes to their owners. AFS is not an anomaly—there are similar businesses across Ontario and the globe. Even if merely novel or kitsch, there is enough demand for these images to warrant an entire industry.
Why are some drawn to these photographs? What do they tell us about ourselves? A photograph of a building might not tell us anything of the people who live in it. In his ‘Little History of Photography’, Benjamin cites Brecht, who writes that, “[t]he reification of human relations—the factory, say—means that they are no longer
Pandza 4 explicit” (Benjamin 526). Brecht asserts that photographs of the products of human relations do not reveal much of said relations. This is particularly true of the residential aerial photograph, which reveals little about its inhabitants. In fact, the houses in these photographs are often so nondescript that the purchaser must see a proof to verify that the correct house has been photographed. However, it is precisely the weaknesses of reification which makes these images interesting. The reification of human relations into the family home denies a reading that focuses on any one subject; it denies the powerful effects of contingency that may overwhelm an image. It differs drastically from the family photograph in that there are no human subjects present to overwhelm the frame. Human lives are absent, but their container or impression remains. Can we read the image physiognomically, as we do with Sanders’ work? Perhaps the landscaping, curtains, and yard can tell us about who lives in the home. My discussion group’s initial reaction was to understand the house through signs of its inhabitants. However, such a reading is complicated by the photo’s history, which is documented on the back of the photograph. The photograph, AFS 97-SUA-11, was taken in 1989. The original photograph was black and white, and was tinted and altered in oil paint according to the purchaser’s demands: “Our artists often use their judgement regarding colouring items which may not have been specified on the original proof. An open garage door, or a car left in the lane way adds to the picture rather than detracts from it so, art often left as is, since they tend to give the painting more life.”
Pandza 5 The construction of the image is then an interplay between the photographer, homeowner, and artist. Brecht might argue that this interplay does not detract from reality, but instead creates it. On the limitations of reification, Brecht writes that, “something must in fact be built up, something artificial, posed” (Benjamin 526). The purchaser alters the image to better reflect the reality they live in. In AFS 97-SUA-11, the most obvious alteration is the driveway’s erasure. It appears that a car has been erased from the driveway in a manner so haphazard that the paint interrupts the phone line that should run over the driveway. Accordingly, the image may not be read strictly physiognomically, but instead as a result of desired representation. Like in Sanders’ photos, the house has been posed. These images can also be approached through through Barthes’ Camera Lucida. “[P]hotographs of landscape (urban or country) must be habitable, not visitable,” he writes (Barthes 38). He explains that this desire to inhabit is not driven by dream or function, but by fantasy. To Benjamin, the phenomenon of experiencing a habitable landscape is a double movement: forward to a utopian time, and back to somewhere within oneself (Barthes 40). An image of predilection, as he calls them, make us certain that we have been somewhere or that we will be somewhere. The aerial residential photograph, then, can be thought of as a fantastical image. It is an image of longing, to which we belong and to which we wish to belong. The photograph is the home in which we live, but also the home in which we wish to inhabit. The photograph is not documentation of who a family is or was; perhaps instead the photograph is a
Pandza 6 testament to the inhabitant’s potential. The image of a family home is a reminder of the shape of the container to which its inhabitants can aspire to conform. The aerial photograph is both familiar and unfamiliar. A photograph of one’s home from the sky affords the homeowner both familiarity and a detached perspective. This quality is reminiscent of Atget, who produced unsettling photographs of an empty Paris which was simultaneously strange and familiar. But instead of transforming the image into unsettling commentary, I that the optical quality of these photos affords the necessary distance to transform a familiar image into an image of longing. Seen from the sky, the homeowner can be certain that this is a place within themselves, but also a utopic place that they wish to inhabit. The aerial photograph seems to be taken from an omniscient narrator—the lousy front garden is transformed into the Garden of Eden. But I find that there is an inviolable optimism to photographs of the home that is independent of retouching or aerial technology. I first observed this quality in another photograph of a home in Western Florida. This little pastel home belonged to my neighbours, Bob and Mae, who were already twice great grandparents in their seventies (the reproductive cycle in the South can be quite short). Bob and Mae’s house was an orphanage for the next generations of their family, who filtered in through the Midwest. My family gave them a set of our house keys and enlisted them in maintaining the home while we were in Canada. I found their pastel house idyllic, and so I photographed it for my pleasure abroad. Much like Barthes, I became obsessed with the image, and even reproduced it in paint:
When Bob and Mae died, their grandson John (already in his 40s) took possession of the family home with his mother Ronda. Last year, Ronda called my mother to tell her that they would be leaving Florida and selling the house. She attributed the move to her son, John, who had already â€œgotten into troubleâ€? too many times in town. Paranoid and internet-connected, my mother scrubbed state records until she found the truth about John. John was a violent sex offender who happened to have our house keys. John had committed crimes in and around the pastel home next door.
Photographs of the home were uploaded almost immediately to online listings services. The pastel home on Bayridge Court now looked unassuming despite the crimes it had witnessed. Initially I found the photographs disturbing, as I projected my knowledge of the homeowner into them. But in the context of the listings sites, I started to access these images the way a homebuyer wouldâ€”I began to imagine what my life would look like in this pastel container. There is something I find inherently optimistic about images of home which may have roots in the homeâ€™s construction. It cannot be said that all homes are built optimistically (functional and pragmatic design negates this possibility). But all homes are built to contain and support life, and so there is an almost inviolable hopefulness to the image of a home. The pastel home is merely an innocent witness to Johnâ€™s crimes. The home did not appear idyllic to me because of my knowledge of its inhabitants. The idyllic quality was not violated by knowledge of crime. Instead, this quality is perhaps built into the photograph, which in its in habitableness calls upon hope and fantasy.
Pandza 9 The way we build and build up the home in photographs reveals how we would like to see ourselves. When we find an image inhabitable, as Barthes describes, we are also defining the type of life we should hope to inhabit. My mother’s fixation on colonial furnishings is not likely arbitrary. This fixation is perhaps related to childhood memories in the cafeteria where she was embarrassed by foreign deli. If so, it is likely related to picking names like “Christopher” for her children and going to the courthouse to amputate the Slavic-sounding parts of our surname. In shaping the image of the home, perhaps she hopes that we too will be shaped.
Pandza 10 Works Cited Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981. Print. Benjamin, Walter. â€œLittle History of Photographyâ€? Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 2, Part 2, 1931-1934. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1999. 507-529. Print.
LIFE IS NOT A FORKING BINARY
MIT 1020E: Introduction to Media, Information and Technoculture Tutorial Section 018 Professor John Reed and Doug Martin February 25, 2016
Nazarali 2 Technology is created to be used; made to enhance, simplify and influence the processes of life. However, what often seems to occur when technologies become staples of society is naturalization, or the ideological simplification of these man-made creations. Seeing technologies as native to their associated purposes is a dangerous practice as it essentially promotes ignorance by means of centralized thinking. Rather than being seen as a part of a complex network, technology intertwined with ideology disregards the truth. “Rhizome” is the term used to describe this truth, in which all technologies influence and are influenced by the world, and this philosophy can be applied to the simplest of technologies; the fork, for instance. In Western society, forks are associated with eating. A fork is not a natural appendage to the act of eating food; this meaning has been socially constructed and naturalized to be so. The fork itself is merely a 4-pronged piece of plastic or metal, which is the result of raw materials, production, transportation, and years of intellectual evolution. Although it is made with the intent to stab food and transport it to a mouth, the fork is not of any importance to the actual act of eating; the connotation is a result of cultural, political, and technological ideologies which have smoothed over into what is collectively called “the fork”. Sociologist and theorist John Law developed the Actor-Network theory, which shows how power is given to technologies when they become part of ideology. His theory in combination with the three schools of media can be applied to the fork, and through this analysis an understanding of the risks of binary thought and the need for awareness of complexity can be made clear. The medium of the fork carries a series of meanings which stretch from the mere physical effects to the complex social and psychological; the wide array of possible analyses based off such a simple technology proves the dangers of ignorance and false autonomy. Marshall McLuhan would look at the fork and likely apply his popular theory, the Medium is the Message,
Nazarali 3 to understand the effects. In his book, McLuhan states that “[a]ll media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us un-touched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the massage” (1967, 26). With regards to the fork, this theory would view the eating utensil as a technology which has invaded a natural human process. Western society has been massaged by the fork, and dependence on the fork is only realized when one is forced to go without it. Although this observation is quite insightful, it is not a comprehensive view of the effects of the medium of the fork. Using Law’s theory, one could point out that the medium of the fork is affected by many other things, such as trends, availability of materials, and more. The fork also in turn affects lifestyle, choices, and the environment among other things. Although the medium may be the message or massage, it is much more than that. Forks also have a cultural impact, and in various visible and invisible ways. There is the Stuart Hall approach one may take, in which representation and signification can be criticized, however, this is not the only approach to analyzing cultural influence. Law’s paper states that objects shape culture and are directly involved in the process of human communication “[…] if these materials were to disappear then so too would what we sometimes call the social order. Actor-network theory says, then, that order is an effect generated by heterogeneous means” (1992, 382). This concept of heterogeneity is particularly visible when it comes to the cultural study of technologies, as it is easy to envision the network of explicit and implicit meanings anything can have. The distributed network of objects influencing and being influenced by others is elaborate, despite seemingly simple technologies. With the fork, there are the highly visible meanings such as table etiquette signifying respect, enforced meaning of what a fork is from media representation, and social norms surrounding what is and is not acceptable to eat with a
Nazarali 4 fork. Going beyond this, the fork also embodies ideas of class by means of fork quality or brand name. Lessons of ethnocentrism can be derived from the fork as well, since Western culture often sees a lack of cutlery as “classless”, despite it being a norm in other cultures. This is only a glimpse into the diverse amount of connections the fork has with society, revealing how binary thought surrounding the cultural impact of technologies leads to much ignorance. Money, of course, is extremely important in this discussion as well. The political economy viewpoint of this problem is quite relevant as Adorno and Horkheimer of the Frankfort school briefly discuss this topic in their theories of the Culture Industry and propaganda. They state that “[a] technological rationale is the rationale of domination itself” (1944), and with Law’s Actor-Network Theory in mind, this idea can be used as an interpretation of the risks of binary thought; a lack of diverse perspectives further supports existing power structures. Although there is the economic impact of forks, including design, retrieving raw materials, production, transportation and consumerism, that is only one viewpoint. With the rhizomatic approach in mind, one should also note the earlier mentioned relationship between class and cutlery, in which there is indeed a hierarchy of forks; think fancy silverware versus disposable plastic. There is the environmental impact of the fork, but there is also the social, political, and personal. Forks create jobs and therefore stimulate the economy; forks create waste which therefore impacts the environment; forks even impact history, by means of antiques and relics. The simple eating tool of Western society is not an autonomous technology. It affects society and society affects it, and this network must not be ignored as it is relevant when observing how society functions. So what is a fork? It is a norm; a tool; a technology; a part of a network. By analyzing the fork through the three schools of media and using Law’s Actor-Network theory to further
Nazarali 5 interpret the implications of the fork, one can see how the simplest technology does indeed impact many other parts of society. Whether it be the differences it makes in day-to-day human functioning, culture, social standards, the environment, the economy, or anything else, one concept is made clear; even the fork is not autonomous. The rhizomatic approach, in which there is a distributed network of interactions between technologies, is an accurate representation of how society works. Binary thought is blindness, and it is by means of binary thought that important connections are overlooked. This thereby leads to an inefficient and ineffective worldview, in which it becomes easy to fall into the trap of thoughtlessness, misunderstanding, and worst of all, ignorance.
Nazarali 6 References Adorno, Theodor, and Max Horkheimer. 1944. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”. In Dialectic of Enlightenment, edited by Andy Blunden. New York: Social Studies Association, Inc. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/adorno/1944/culture -industry.htm Law, John. 1992. “Notes on the Theory of the Actor-Network: Ordering, Strategy and Heterogeneity.” Heterogenity.net. http://www.heterogeneities.net/publications/ Law1992NotesOnTheTheoryOfTheActorNetwork.pdf McLuhan, Marshall, and Quentin Fiore. 1967. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. New York: Random House. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwyDePyHbx1RM zdjMGUxZjctZTI2MC00NTNiLTg1YWYtY2U2YzNjZjBkODJl/edit?hl=en_US&pli=1
Ryan Thompson DC 2002B Andie Shabar 1 February 2017 The World of Neopets: Perpetuating the Socio-Economic Class Divide from a Young Age When exploring the children’s virtual world website Neopets, the first thing that appears on the screen is an advertisement that reads: “Create a free account and receive over 2500 Neopoints!” Once I saw this screen, it immediately drew me into the idea that I was gaining something valuable if I made a free account. Turns out, Neopoints is the currency used in the game, Neopets, and can be used to dress, feed, comfort, and house the user’s Neopet character. The more Neopoints you have, the more you can interact, consume, and enjoy the virtual world game. In addition, users can bargain, trade, and sell items in order to receive certain privileges, thus creating an online marketplace for children where they can learn fundamental economic practices. Although Neopets’ intention is to create a fun and interactive environment for children, the virtual world promotes extreme consumerism and exploitation that ultimately reflects a class struggle present in our North American economic culture. After signing up for my free Neopets account, I received a quick tutorial on how to navigate the virtual world, where the Neopet can explore different communities and interact with other users through trading or selling items, playing games, or “battling”. Neopets has no clear objective; however, the game is built on a monetary achievement and consumption model. Once I received my 2500 free Neopoints, I began purchasing personal items for my Neopet like food, clothing, and household accessories. Although, the 2500 Neopoints I was originally given did not last long, and my character needed to “battle” to achieve more Neopoints in order to stay alive.
The winner of these “battles” would achieve more Neopoints, which they can later cash in at the “NeoMall” to receive items like weapons, shields, and power-ups that can make them stronger in future battles. By making my Neopet “battle” others in order to gain the basic needs of life and materialistic items, is an indirect representation of today’s economic marketplace, where the average worker falls into a constant cycle of exploiting himself or herself to gain a sense of satisfaction. Janice Denegri-Knott and Mike Molesworth describe how game designers purposely invent virtual worlds that mimic today’s consumerist society: “Players ‘work’ (in the form of quests and other in-game activity) in order to achieve the very high-quality goods and find themselves in a never-ending cycle of desire, acquisition, then re-hooking of desire onto another item” (122). At an early age, children playing Neopets are taught to value an individualist society where personal reward overpowers collectivism and community. Children playing virtual world games like Neopets will inevitably transfer these consumerist ideologies into the real world by reinforcing the constant cycle of selling labour to reap the rewards and satisfactions of materialism. As a result, the class struggle between the ruling-class and the working-class is evident throughout this online world because those who achieve more Neopoints earn more materialist rewards than those who are not, and the wealthier Neopets can exploit weaker characters due to their materialistic advantages. While continuing to interact on Neopets, I kept receiving notices that my Neopoints count was low and that I needed to either buy Neopoints with real money or try and win “battles” against stronger and more experienced Neopets. If I did not achieve more Neopoints, my Neopet would begin to become ill because I was not able to feed or take care of it. Since I did not want to use my own money on this game, I tried to win Neopoints by battling other Neopets; 34
unfortunately, I have not played the game enough or have the right Neopet “tools” in order to win a battle. This scenario outlines a daunting real world issue of consumer capitalism, where the wealthy are able to succeed over the less fortunate. Those who are able to afford Neopoints using real money will have an advantage in the game over those who cannot; thus, the fortunate users will increasingly participate in the cycle of consumerism. Joel Bakan explains how the process behind attracting children to a game that requires mass consumption using both real and virtual currency leads to the exploitation of everyday people on behalf of corporate entities: “The virtual cash and goods at Neopets, pixels on a screen, cost little to make and distribute, and are thus profoundly profitable for Nickelodeon and Viacom. The bottom line […] is that these companies are manipulating children’s emotional connections to cute virtual pets in order to sell them worthless things.” By placing myself in the mindset of a child who would be fascinated by all the gadgets and toys in Neopets, I understand how children can easily fall victim to economic manipulation by media conglomerates. Some believe, however, that virtual world games like Neopets do in fact have significant underlying implications. For instance, Ian Bogost identifies that virtual worlds do not merely distract users with meaningless entertainment, but they “make claims about the world. They do it not with oral speech, nor in writing, nor even with images. Rather, video games make argument with processes” (125). The process that Neopets is trying to convey is the constant progression of consumer culture by reinforcing the class-divide within the game, ultimately strengthening today’s socio-economic inequalities. Neopets has effectively mastered its manipulation strategies in order to exploit children and prepare them for our consumerist society. After interacting with this game for multiple days, I realize that users understand why more is better, and that the world of Neopia is every boy or girl 35
for themselves. These selfish implications mimic todayâ€™s consumer-driven society, which inherently benefits multinational corporations and the economically elite. The creators of Neopets had two things in mind: consumption and money. They wanted to draw in children to consume as much content as possible and then make them pay for additional perks once users were emotionally attached to the game. Neopets, on the surface level, can be seen as a fun and educational game, but deeper analysis proves that the gameâ€™s creators intend to exploit young children only to support todayâ€™s economic class struggle.
Works Cited Bakan, Joel. "Exploiting children's emotions for profit at odds with Nickelodeon's CSR." Children's Rights and Business. Guardian News and Media, 04 Apr. 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2017. Bogost, Ian. " The Rhetoric of Video Games." The Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Literature, Communication, and Culture (2008): 117-39. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Web. 31 Jan. 2017. Denegri Knott, Janice, and Mike Molesworth. "Concepts and Practices of Digital Virtual Consumption." Consumption Markets & Culture 13.2 (2010): 109-32. Web.
3215 Killer Culture: Log 1 Nicole Manfredi September 20th 2016
This one shouldn’t have a title
I have tried to write about other things, to find other subjects, to make potentially better conclusions and yet, this thought has been nagging at me all week. I didn’t want to write about it because I felt no point to it, no real revelation without any twists or turns or drawn out explanations. I keep coming back to it, wanting to crack it open, but not understanding how to in terms of war. I do think it has been something I have been carrying with me, something I may now carry for an undetermined amount of time but then, it feels wrong to attribute my very small “humping” of a thought to that of the soldiers in Vietnam. It feels wrong and contrived and played out and like I’m stretching to parallel my mind (the London, Ontario, middle-class, politically correct, university map of my mind) to a soldier’s dense jungle brain. I didn’t want to write about it because I don’t think I have much to say and because I feel like I am dramatizing that which I don’t have much to say about. I didn’t want to write about it because of the shame. Then, I couldn’t get it off my brain. One hundred pages of a new book and all I could think about was the photograph from lecture. Tim O’Brien wrote about how people went to war out of 39
shame, how embarrassment fueled the war. I find it interesting that embarrassment began the war, and from what I have heard of Vietnam, embarrassment ended it. Shame seems to be what keeps people from talking about war and what makes them unable to stop. So let’s talk about embarrassment as a theme this week. Let’s make my shame matter so then I can feel like it doesn’t, or still does but in a more relieving context. Dramatic. This should be short and bitter.
I cannot get the famous image of the little girl running away from a napalm strike, naked in the street, out of my head. I cannot get it out of my head for reasons that may surprise you, reasons that surprised me. I wonder how many people have looked at that photograph and objectified her body in the moments of her torture. For my innocence’s sake, I hope very few. For my shame’s sake, I hope enough to make it normal. I have seen the image before last week’s lecture. As it does for many, it horrified me. I was struck by how raw and stark it felt. The photograph sliced. The image punches you in the stomach. Her mouth, agape, swallows you whole. In that moment, Kim Phúc became a kind of soldier. Her body was given to the war. Her nakedness was drafted for the cause.
Her body has been politicized, symbolized, objectified, immortalized. I have never looked at that photo for so long before. You were speaking, I was listening and then I drifted, just staring at it. Then, for a split second, I was envious of her. I disregarded the terror on her face and noticed her hourglass figure, her athletic legs. I took stock of her flat stomach, small waist, and the curve of her hips into the swoop of her legs. I compared myself to her. I noticed her legs not for the fact that she was running from a bomb, running for her life but for the fact that they were long and lean. I wanted to be her. To clarify how altogether insane, insensitive and compulsive this felt moments after: I wanted to be the parts of her that were not melting off of her or jutting out from her.
I ignored the obvious protrusion of her ribs, ignored the signs of starvation because I was focused on the fact that she probably didn’t have cellulite. It was like I was in a trance. I did not think about the skin melting and oozing from her back, only of the skin taut around her stomach. I dissociated what was happening to her to take stock and size up her fragile, nine-year-old form. How fucked up is that? In the quick bite of envy and guilt, I decontextualized her body, her nakedness. I am not condemning myself but there is meaning in my ridding of it. The photograph is gripping and haunting in how it reduces her to a symbol, a moment, an encapsulation of the war. I went further. I stripped her of her survival, undermined the evil she endured, reduced her to shapes and jutted angles. I consumed her as a target. I consumed her as competition, as a goal. Now I look again at the photo of her devastatingly unhealthy, undeveloped body and I cannot associate with that consumption. I cannot understand my inclination to envy. Maybe I just don’t want to. I know we are conditioned. Beauty standards, all that. I just thought I was above 40
that, better than that. It is one thing to look at a little girl and want to have her scarless, blemish-free skin. That happens like a reflex sometimes. I feel embarrassment then but I also take comfort in knowing I am not the only woman who does this. Older women are made to feel sorrow for the physical, tangible, giggling representations of what they can no longer be, what they can no longer attain. As a young woman, I feel a slight pang sometimes. To look at the photo of this little girl in this moment and feel that envy? It disturbs me.
This photograph depicts human survival in its most basic and visceral forms. Her arms skewed and flailing, her naked body, their faces. Everything about the photograph is so painfully honest in its candidness. And yet, her primal hunger for life was overridden by my inventory of her proportions. In this instance, the war did not prevail. So, what remains? Am I uncontrollably conditioned to view fellow women as targets? Are we all? Does the image make such a horrific impression that my mind attempts to dissociate, to normalize? Or am I so desensitized by graphic imagery that it is easy and natural to make such superficial, self-centred associations? I think the 'answer' is a mixture of all three.
I do not know what to make of all of this. I do know that by consuming her as a target, I become a soldier in the ongoing war against womenâ€™s bodies, against female wholeness, against ethnic female bodies. Maybe that too is a dramatization, but it sounds right for how wrong it feels.
Prong 1 Alex Prong MIT 3225 - Final Essay December 5th, 2016 Transhumanism as Informational-Neoliberal Propaganda: A critical analysis of Ray Kurzweil’s singularity Transhumanists are growing in number (Pellissier and Dal Santo 28), consequently increasing discourse on the future and specifically the singularity – a term largely popularized by engineer and futurist for Google, Ray Kurzweil. For Kurzweil, the singularity is a representation of “the culmination of the merger of our biological thinking and existence with our technology, resulting in a world that is still human but transcends our biological roots” (9). This idea, and all of the money, research, and time spent in attempt to make it a reality, is not politically neutral and its partiality warrants examination. The Singularity, and notions of transhumanism that surround it, are informationalneoliberal propaganda, ultimately propagating concepts of teleological inevitability and technological determinism that work to sustain the current hegemonic rule of transnational capitalists. Kurzweil uses propagandistic tactics in The Singularity is Near, including appeals to common practice, discursive restriction, appeals to ethos, and circular reasoning in regards to his credibility. Although not the only example, the Singularity offers an interesting case study into the ways in which the public is subtly convinced of the legitimacy of informationalneoliberalism. To convince his audience of the singularity’s inevitability, Kurzweil uses a model for exponential growth through human history called the “Law of Accelerating Returns,” in which technological progress increases exponentially through time (10). He describes the reason historians and scientists may disagree with him is that they were simply at the beginning of the 43
Prong 2 exponential curve, so all previous progress would appear linear (11). This appeal to common practice suggests that Kurzweil is drawing from a comprehension of time and progress that is widely accepted already. He uses the same tactic when he draws epistemological connections between widely accepted scientific facts – like the big bang (23) – and his predictions for the future. Another such example is Kurzweil’s “Six Epochs” in which he presents all of human history in an evolutionary line starting with the chemical reactions that create RNA in Epoch One, quickly moving through evolution until the singularity in Epoch Five, and finally matter infused with intelligence in Epoch Six (15). This way of framing history suggests the teleological inevitability of the singularity by claiming that Epoch Five is the logical next step for evolution, since this is the way evolution has always progressed. Aside from just being anthropocentric, this historical frame leaves out evolutionary setbacks, such as ice ages, extinctions, or asteroid collisions. To strengthen his audience’s conviction in the singularity, Kurzweil is also propagandistic through discursive restriction in multiple subjects. When considering the shape of technological growth over time, he posits that such growth is exponential rather than linear (11), disregarding any other model for growth, such as cyclical growth, or more complex models that would account for stagnation or decline. Additionally, Kurzweil not only restricts, but closes the conversation on what it means to be human when he writes, “ours is the species that inherently seeks to extend its physical and mental reach beyond current limitations” (9). By concretely stating what it is that makes us human, rather than opening up discourse on the many possible qualities that could be considered inherently human (emotion, morality, intuition, culture), Kurzweil restricts the conversation in a way that is favourable to the singularity.
Prong 3 Perhaps most significantly, Kurzweil also uses discursive restriction in regard to the singularity itself. To Kurzweil, the singularity is our ultimate destiny (21), and alternate possible futures are never contemplated. He questions whether the singularity will be utopian or dystopian (7), but never asks whether or not it will happen. Similar limitation is demonstrated when he describes Epoch Six: “Whether our civilization infuses the rest of the universe with its creativity and intelligence quickly or slowly depends on its immutability” (21). He asks whether his predictions will happen quickly or slowly, but again leaves out the possibility that his prediction will not materialize at all. By presenting his questions in such a way, Kurzweil gives the impression of deep contemplative thought, while enforcing the inevitability of his predictions. Discursive restriction is a tactic favoured by Kurzweil, but not all transhumanists neglect the consideration of alternative views. Vernor Vinge is one of the transhumanists that Kurzweil cites in his book, and even Vinge presents other paths to the singularity and other potential outcomes (Vinge 16-20). He recognizes his own technological optimism, as well as issues of labour in regard to the singularity such as technological unemployment (14). He even presents the possibility that there might be limits to computing power, and we might begin to see it level off (15). By acknowledging such things, Vinge is broadening the borders of discourse surrounding transhumanism. However, he propagates similar concepts of teleological inevitability as Kurzweil, stating, “even if all the governments of the world were to understand the threat and be in deadly fear of it, progress toward the goal [singularity] would continue” (15). Even when considering the dystopian nature of the singularity, it is depicted as our unavoidable destiny, leaving no room for alternate predictions. Turning away from Kurzweil’s rhetoric in terms of his predictions, he also uses appeals to ethos that are problematic. In The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil deliberately references his
Prong 4 expertise on the subject of the singularity by mentioning that he has been contemplating the singularity for several decades (29). Less subtly, there are anecdotes scattered through chapter one describing occasions where Kurzweil proves other intellectuals wrong. In one example, he recounts a time when a Nobel Prize winner predicted that we will have self-replicating nanotechnology in 100 years, and Kurzweil proved that, instead, we would have this technology in 25 years (11). By consistently describing his own intellectual domination, Kurzweil builds a reputation for himself based on a biased sample of stories. In addition to building his ethos through selective stories, Kurzweil also backs up his predictions by referencing his “twenty-year track record of accurate predictions” (“About Ray”). In order to understand this claim, circular reasoning must be employed. Kurzweil’s prediction in both of his early books, The Age of Intelligent Machines and The Age of Spiritual Machines, that pocket-sized, cheap, text-to-speech converters for the blind would be created by 2009, is exemplary. After making this prediction (twice), Kurzweil put money, time, and research into text-to-speech converters through his company: the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader (K-NFB Reader). Then, in 2005, the K-NFB Reader released the first text-to-speech converter that could fit in a pocket, although notably it was not cheap – being sold for $3,495 (Maurer). Kurzweil has constructed a reputation based on his predictions coming true, but they are actualized because of his investment in them. Now that the propagandistic qualities of Kurzweil’s singularity have been addressed, it is important to shift attention to the informational-neoliberal political economy that the singularity works to maintain. Informational-neoliberalism is the combination of the globally integrated market system with information communication technologies (ICTs) that favours global capital and capitalists (Neubauer 211). The singularity acts as propaganda for this world order by
Prong 5 focusing on a delayed ultimate destiny, while downplaying capitalist relations of production that would be necessary for its inception. In a survey of people who identify as transhumanist, alignment with the informationalneoliberal ideology is shown when respondents are asked, “What do you see as the world political government in 100 years?” (Pellissier and Dal Santo 24). The most popular answer was “one world government” (41.8%), with the second highest being “abolition of government” (20.1%) (Pellissier and Dal Santo 24). The disdain for traditional government reflected in transhumanists reflects the erosion of national sovereignty committed by informationalneoliberalism (Neubauer 195). A similar parallel can be drawn in regards to individuality. When asked what would be important to them in the future world, 61.6% of transhumanist respondents replied “more personal freedom” (Pellissier and Dal Santo 25). This aligns with informational-neoliberalism’s focus on individuality in that it emphasizes the autonomy of the self (Mehan 266). However, both informational-neoliberalism and transhumanists fail to acknowledge the political context to which the self is tied. Kurzweil subtly encourages individuality by making note of the relations of production that make technological production possible. He mentions that information technology is becoming more cost effective, and therefore growing even faster (25), but he makes no mention of the neoliberal free market that makes cheap labour oversea possible. By not mentioning it, Kurzweil suggests that collective inequality does not warrant our attention, because one day we – as individuals – will live forever. Informational-neoliberalism and the singularity feed off of each other. Informationalneoliberalism is the structure under which the cheap manufacturing to create machine intelligence, along with the corporate investments that fund AI research, are made possible.
Prong 6 Meanwhile, the singularity is propaganda that uses teleological inevitability to make people think that any struggle against the world order would be unproductive, since itâ€™s product will be eternal life, and bionic capabilities. A potential objection to the connection between informational-neoliberalism and the singularity comes from Donna Haraway in her Cyborg Manifesto, where her approach to transhumainsm comes from a feminist socialist perspective. Although she recognizes that we are all already cyborgs (292), Haraway claims that post-singularity cyborgs represent a way out of the patriarchy and capitalism (293). According to her, there is a need for responsible relations with machines from privileged women, and in this way the politics of cyborgs will be completely separate from what we have now (293). However, this imagined future is improbable under current economic conditions. In the survey of transhumanists, 90.1% of respondents were male, and 85.4% were white (Pellissier and Dal Santo 23). This is, largely, the demographic that is working towards the development of singularity technology, and this is the demographic that will have relations with it. Additionally, her writing is still ripe with technological determinism and teleological inevitability, bearing similar propagandistic tactics to Kurzweil. She is still pointing us toward a deferred destiny that we will arrive at if we keep everything the same, including our current political economy. After accepting the singularity as propaganda for informational-neoliberalism, an investigation into the acceptance of this propaganda is necessary. Kurzweilâ€™s most recent method of dissemination takes the form of a university. Singularity University has been running a $25,000, ten week graduate program every year since 2009, and every year the course has more applicants than available spots (Vance 2). In addition, the university runs weeklong executive programs in Silicon Valley that almost always sell out (Vance 2). The university is a vessel for
Prong 7 disseminating Singularity propaganda to a wide range of what Gramsci would call â€˜organic individuals,â€™ the members of the dominant class who maintain hegemonic relations (Gramsci 4142). The implication of Singularity propaganda being disseminated amongst this group of influential political leaders is not to be understated: the further entrenched informationalneoliberalism becomes, the harder it will be to consider alternate futures that step away from the inherent inequality of this political ideology. The singularity is propagandistic. Kurzweil uses appeals to common practice repeatedly to naturalize the idea of the singularity, while also using discursive restriction to ensure alternate futures are not discussed. His claims to his own reputation involve biased appeals to ethos based on carefully selected stories, and his predictions come true only after he puts his own resources into their research and development. Ultimately, the singularity is propaganda for the informational-neoliberal world order that privileges individuality and the abolition of the nation state. While the public is distracted with stories about living forever and being free from biological ailments, the hegemony of elite capitalists goes unnoticed.
Prong 8 Works Cited “About Ray.” Singularity.com, 18 Nov. 2016, http://www.singularity.com/aboutray.html. Gramsci, Antonio. “The Intellectuals.” Contemporary Sociological Thought: Themes and Theories, edited by Sean P. Hier, Canadian Scholar’s Press Inc, Toronto, 2005, pp. 49-58. Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, technology and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century.” Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinventino of Nature. Routledge, 1991. Kurzweil, Ray. “Chapter One: The Six Epochs.” The Singularity is Near. Penguin Books, 2005. Maurer, Marc. “The KNFB Reader Becomes the Property of the Nation’s Blind.” Braille Monitor, 18 Nov. 2016, https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm15/bm1506/bm150603.htm. Mehan, Uppinder. “Neoliberalism, Post-Scarcity, and the Entrepreneurial Self.” Capital at the Brink: Overcoming the Destructive Legacies of Neoliberalism. Open Humanities Press, 2014. Neubauer, Robert. “Neoliberalism in the Information Age, or Vice Versa? Global Citizenship, Technology, and Hegemonic Ideology.” Triple C, vol. 9, no. 2, 2011, pp. 195-230, ISSN: 1726-670X. Accessed 27 Oct. 2016. Pellissier, Hank and Teresa Dal Santo. “Transhumanists: Who are they, what do they want, believe, and predict?” Journal of Personal Cyberconsciousness, vol. 7, no. 2, 2012, http://www.terasemjournal.org/PCJournal/PC0702/Papers/Pellissier_Dal_Santo_APA. Vance, Ashlee. “Merely Human? That’s So Yesterday.” New York Times, 11 Jun. 2010. Vernor, Vinge. “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to survive in the post-human era.” Vision-21: Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering in the Era of Cyberspace. NASA, 1993.
Understanding the Power of Educational Propaganda: The Perpetuation of Canadian Colonialism through the Contemporary Ontario Elementary School Curriculum Erica Wallis MIT 3225: Propaganda December 5, 2016
Introduction: The Vanquished Narrative of Canadian History1 Canada has a long history as part of British and French colonies, but the narrative of European conquest is not the only component of Canada’s origin story. While Indigenous people populated Canada long before Europeans ‘discovered’ the land, their legacy today is often treated as an unfortunate side note in an otherwise spotless history. This oppressive relationship between settler Canadians and Indigenous cultures continues today, and evidence of this can be seen in the way Indigenous history is taught in public schools. Instead of teaching students of the genocide that sought to destroy Indigenous populations and culture, the contemporary curriculum repackages the history of Canada as a triumphant narrative of European advancement and democracy. Although learning about Canada’s English and French colonialist roots is part of the nation’s history, restricting elementary education to this narrative has immense propagandistic implications. The determinedly positive stance on history taken by the Ontario curriculum does an injustice to victims of colonialism and engenders a legacy of settler-colonialism. This paper therefore, analyzes the way in which elementary school education can be used as propaganda to influence ideology in the contemporary public sphere, specifically how this education can be used to guide discourse on Aboriginal culture in a post-colonial country. Using the Ontario elementary school curriculum implemented in 2007 as a primary source of study, the ‘Aboriginal Perspectives: The Teacher’s Toolkit” guide was examined to investigate the ways in which Aboriginal relations are discussed in the Ontario classroom. Ultimately it can be concluded that the Ontario Curriculum just marginally meets the 94 recommendations for reconciliation outlined in the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, and it fails to impart meaningful education about settler colonialism. Ultimately the purposeful mistreatment of Indigenous issues in the contemporary Ontario public elementary school curricula is not a harmless oversight, but a propagandistic decision that enables
1 Please note that much of the word count responsible for exceeding the limit is a result of the Works Cited and
the continuation of a culture guilty of genocide, and reinforces ideology of a single-narrative Canadian history. Early Education as Colonialist Propaganda in Canada Primary education in public schools is an inherently propagandistic institution, and it has been used as a tool of colonialist propaganda since the height of the European empires. Public education is defined by Carroll Wooddy as “conscious and purposeful activities designed to equip the individual with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes currently regarded as possessing utility to the individual or to the society of which he forms a part” (Wooddy 1), and early education in Canada pivots around equipping children with knowledge of European ideology. A study of the 19th century origins of elementary schools in the British colonies of Canada, New Zealand, and Australia found that educational models had been “an experiment in early intervention targeting young poor children, tying a social reform agenda to an experimental pedagogy” (Prochner 12). In other words, colonial schools in the British Empire were a conscious directive on the part of governing bodies to instil settler-colonial ideology in children. ‘Settler- colonialism’ can be defined here as an imperial formation that “seeks to replace the original population of the colonized territory with a new society of settlers” (LeFevre 1), and was executed to devastating results in Canada. Settler colonialism has an emphasis on land use, specifically on the access to territory needed by these incoming populations, and is seen as a “winner-take-all project whose dominant feature is not exploitation but replacement” (Verachini 8). Settler colonialism operates upon the assumption that the incoming group is superior, and the curriculum in early colonialist schools encouraged the promotion of this ideology. Since the contemporary Canadian public school system stems from these settler colonial roots, the curriculum continues this propaganda of colonial hegemony when examined with this framework in mind. The ideology of settler-colonialism can insert itself into early childhood education in a multitude of covert ways, which makes education an immensely effective propaganda tool. White
teachers for example, were thought to embody ‘the apex of civilization’ (Prochner 5) in their very presence. Children learned in their textbooks about the colonial possessions of England and their value as commodities instead of cultures (Prochner 8). Even writing tools can have ideology embedded in them, as Crayola crayons, which were a fixture of the North American classroom since their inception in 1903 (Roth 74), carried an ideology of racial normativity in the ‘flesh’ coloured crayon until 1962 (Roth 72). This crayon was the colour of Caucasian skin, but the demarcation of ‘flesh’ constituted a normalization of whiteness as the default racial profile. This may not seem like a blatant example of propaganda, but this small act of race normalization can covertly assert white supremacy in an Indigenous land, and makes it clear that ideology is embedded in every aspect of the classroom. Early education is a tried and true way for a regime to assert its ideology in a population, and in the following analysis we will engage directly with a propaganda tool that carries immense ideological significance for the Ontario curriculum guidelines. Parameters of the Analysis: Examining The Teacher’s Toolkit To compile information for this analysis, a close reading was undertaken of a series of documents entitled ‘Aboriginal Perspectives: The Teacher’s Toolkit”. This has been distributed to Ontario public schools since 2007 as the approved set of guidelines “designed to help Ontario educators bring Aboriginal perspectives into the classroom” (“Aboriginal Perspectives” Grade 6). There are two sets of resources in the Toolkit, one entitled ‘Part 1: Great Ideas for Teaching and Learning’, or ‘expectations’, and the other is entitled “Part II: Practical Teaching Strategies’, or simply ‘strategies’. This analysis will examine primarily the ‘expectations’ segment of this Toolkit, as it provides the mandatory guidelines for a student’s learning, where the ‘strategies’ are merely suggestions for teaching aids. Only the expectations for the Elementary school grades (grades one to eight) were investigated, and readers should note that religious, private, and other forms of Ontario school systems may use different material for their curriculum. This discussion does not
even begin to touch upon the state of colonial education on Indigenous reserves or in residential schools, as that presents a far more complex and devastating topic that could not possibly be done justice in such a small analysis. A Short Content Analysis: Expectations for the Grade 1-8 Classroom In reviewing the expectations of the ‘Aboriginal Perspectives’ toolkit, it became evident quickly that Aboriginal education in Ontario public schools is not held as a priority. Readers can refer to Appendix A to recognize that Aboriginal culture does not have to be studied until the third grade, when students are already eight years of age, and the topic is not explicitly mentioned again until the sixth grade. In the first and second grades, students are expected to examine topics such as community relations, environmental responsibilities, and the passing of traditions, but these integral aspects of Aboriginal life are not tied directly to the culture from whence they came. In third grade, Indigenous culture is taught as the study of relations between early settlers and Aboriginal communities in the 1800’s. This topic is revisited in grade six, where students learn about precontact Aboriginal life and “investigate positive and negative effects of early contact between First Nation peoples and European explorers” (“Aboriginal Perspectives”, Grade 6). The seventh grade involves learning about settlers in French Canada, and children are expected to identify “similarities and differences in the goals and interests of various groups”, as well as examples of “conflict and cooperation between the French and First Nation peoples” (“Aboriginal Perspectives”, Grade 7). Finally, the Canadian history taught in eighth grade focuses on settlers in British North America and the mechanisms of Confederation, and mention of Indigenous culture is infantilized as a ‘responsibility’ that is “divided between the federal and provincial governments” (“Aboriginal Perspectives”, Grade 8) and placed along other governmental functions such as trade and telecommunications.
Analysis: The Conscious Revision of History This analysis of the Ontario curriculum has been grounded in the findings and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, as that report represents one of the first major initiatives of the Canadian government to uncover the legacy of colonialism in the country. The TRC Report is unforgiving in it’s assessment of Indigenous relations in Canada, having taken testimony from Indigenous individuals and communities from all over the country on the ongoing impact that settler colonialism has had on their lives. The report unflinchingly terms colonialist activity in Canada as genocidal, and it offers 94 recommendations for reconciliation that span government, healthcare and educational institutions. The guidelines directed at Canadian public schools represent one of the more vague mandates, as Recommendation 62 states: “We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 331) The Ontario curriculum could technically claim to meet this standard, as the Teacher’s Toolkit is a mandatory aspect of the curriculum, however, Indigenous culture does not need to be explicitly mentioned in Ontario until grade three, not Kindergarten as recommended. Historical contributions are covered adequately, but the legacy of residential schools and the state of contemporary Indigenous Canadians is not mentioned. Furthermore, Recommendation 47 calls for all institutions to “repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 327), and the Ontario’s school system again falls short here. The Teacher’s Toolkit makes no effort to repudiate the insidious and dangerous legacy of settler-colonialism, which is the very ‘concept used to justify European sovereignty’ that the TRC report seeks to destroy. Instead the curriculum introduces children to Indigenous cultures in a
sanitized way that makes it seem as if the ‘positive and negative’ aspects of the settler-Indigenous relationship were equally weighted. Furthermore it relegates Indigenous cultures to a placement in history books, as if Indigenous people do not continue to exist and suffer the oppression of colonialist functions. Both of these critical omissions by the curriculum indicate a wilful rewriting of history that propagandistically posits colonialists as the victors in a glorious history. As a propaganda tool, the Teacher’s Toolkit is immensely effective in continuing the implementation of colonialist values and legacy. Discussion: Where do we go from here? There can be no skirting around the fact that genocide and oppression of any kind is a difficult lesson to approach with school age children. Child educators suggest that educators should “emphasize our connections with the victims and survivors, and help children to take action” (Brown) when acclimatizing children to atrocities. In Canada this conversation is made vastly more complicated in the fact that most children exposed to the Teacher’s Toolkit are descended from immigrant families; therefore their education in Aboriginal genocide implicates them as the perpetrators of injustice. There are no easy answers for how this subject can be taught to children, but the TRC Report’s assertion that there must be “an awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 6-7) rings true. If early childhood education contains propagandistic qualities and the ability to instill ideology in children, then perhaps this influence can be re-appropriated for good instead of ill. British Columbia for example updated its curriculum in 2015 to teach children as young as ten in clear terms that “that past discriminatory government policies towards Aboriginal Peoples resulted in the crushing legacy of Canada’s residential-school system” (Meissner). Although this is a brutal lesson for any person to learn, it is the burden of colonial descendants to bear. Instead of skirting the topic and pretending as if colonialists were absolved of blame, children could be gradually taught about past injustice as
a framework to understand the context of contemporary stereotypes and problems that exist within Aboriginal communities today. Perhaps when this happens, the next generation of Canadians will have the tools to become engaged and educated leaders who can continue the work of correcting Canada’s legacy. In conclusion, it should be clear that Ontario’s curriculum just barely meets the 94 calls to action in the TRC report, and it fails to educate students about the genocide that took place within Canada’s borders. Instead of using the curriculum as a teaching opportunity to correct Canada’s shameful legacy of oppression against Aboriginal culture, the Ontario curriculum uses the ‘Teacher’s Toolkit’ as a piece of propaganda to provide a sanitized version of colonialism that emphasizes the ‘positive and negative effects’ of settler relations. This propagandistic revision of history absolves Canadians of blame in their treatment of Aboriginals, and it does nothing to teach a new generation of Canadians to recognize the conditions of oppression that continue on Aboriginal reserves today.
Works Cited "Aboriginal Perspectives: A Guide to the Teacher's Toolkit." Ontario Ministry of Education. Ontario Ministry of Education, 27 Apr. 2011. Web. "Aboriginal Perspectives: A Guide to the Teacher's Toolkit- Grade 6" Ontario Ministry of Education. Ontario Ministry of Education, 27 Apr. 2011. Web. "Aboriginal Perspectives: A Guide to the Teacher's Toolkit- Grade 7" Ontario Ministry of Education. Ontario Ministry of Education, 27 Apr. 2011. Web. "Aboriginal Perspectives: A Guide to the Teacher's Toolkit- Grade 8" Ontario Ministry of Education. Ontario Ministry of Education, 27 Apr. 2011. Web. Brown, Skila. "Talking With Kids about War and Genocide." Education.com. N.p., 26 Mar. 2015. Web. Coombes, Annie E. Rethinking Settler Colonialism. N.p.: Manchester UP, 2006. Print. LeFevre, Tate A. Settler Colonialism. N.p.: Oxford Bibliographies, 2015. Web. Meissner, Dirk. "New B.C. School Curriculum Will Have Aboriginal Focus." The Globe and Mail. N.p., 17 June 2015. Web. Prochner, Larry. History of Early Childhood Education in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (A), UBC Press, Canada, 2014. Web. Roth, Lorna. "Flesh in Colours." Visual Communication and Culture Images in Action (2012): 7385. Web. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. N.p.: Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication, 2015. Web. Veracini, Lorenzo. Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010. Print. Wooddy, Carroll H. "Education and Propaganda." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 179 (1935): 227-39. Web.
Appendix A Copied selections from the curricula summaries in the ‘Teacher’s Toolkit’ (Grades 1-8). Highlighted are mentions of the ‘positive and negative’ effect on settler-Indigenous relations as a particular feature that enforces settler colonialism.
• Recognize relationships in students’ own lives and community • Learn about environmental responsibility • Identify ways in which heritage and traditions are passed on (stories; community celebrations; special days such as Remembrance Day, Canada Day, Aboriginal Solidarity Day, and religious holidays; the Canadian flag, music, crafts, dance, food, recreation, clothing) • Identify which holidays you celebrate and which holidays other people take part in • Describe the communities of early settlers and First Nation peoples in Upper Canada around 1800 • Use a variety of resources and tools to gather, process, and communicate information about interactions between settlers and existing communities • Identify and describe types of communities in each physical region of Ontario • Describe a variety of (financial) exchanges that occur among the communities and regions of Ontario • Learn about early civilizations (Mediterranean, African, Asian, North/Central /South American) • Describe the characteristics of pre-contact First Nation cultures across Canada, including their close relationships with the natural environment; the motivations and attitudes of the European explorers; and the effects of contact on both the receiving and the incoming groups • Investigate positive and negative effects of early contact between First Nation peoples and European explorers • Analyse examples of interaction between First Nation peoples and European explorers to identify and report on the effects of cooperation and the reasons for disagreements between the two groups. • Learn about settlers in New France • Identify and explain similarities and differences in the goals and interests of various groups • Identify and explain examples of conflict and cooperation between the French and First Nation peoples • Ask questions to aid in gathering and clarifying information (e.g., How did the Catholic Church influence the life of First Nation peoples and French settlers in New France?) • Learn about settlers in British North America • The history of Confederation and creation of Canada • Use sections 91 and 92 of the British North America Act to outline how and why responsibilities are divided between the federal and provincial governments (e.g. federal responsibilities for First Nation peoples, health care, the environment, trade, telecommunications).
Explicit ties to Canadian Aboriginal Life No No
No No Yes
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