Wednesday, April 30, 2014

American Mentality

In relation to the story we read for class, “The City of Robots,” I tried to pay attention to the hyperreality aspects of Umberto Eco’s writing. I got the feeling that Eco’s views on hyperreality were very authentic in American culture. I liked the way he incorporated Disneyland into his work. All of his examples were related to monuments or attractions in the United States. It is almost as if Americans as a whole have been enveloped by the idea of hyperreality. Just look at Civil War reenactments, or historical landmarks which have been altered so much the only “real” piece of history in them is a scrap of wood. People still get extremely enthusiastic about visiting these places, and most of the time they know these locations are not “real.”

What about the recreation of nature? When I think of this, I think of animals in a zoo. The habitats they are in are clearly not where they came from; well maybe if they were born in a zoo. Still, these animals are not supposed to be enclosed in these areas. They should be out in the wild where they belong, but people still travel to the zoo everyday to look at these creatures.

In the “City of Robots,” Eco states that Disneyland is proud of its fake attributes. The people in Disneyland need to act like robots as well in order to obtain the full effect of this place. Eco states that once we venture into this place, we need to leave our identities behind and are expected to have the time of our lives.

When I traveled to Disney World in Florida, I was with my family for a week. I have to say in the middle of July that it was a bit uncomfortable. I remember getting into a fight with my younger sister and my mother saying, “No fighting, we’re in Disney.” It made sense to me then, but looking at it now we all had that mentality that Disney was this magical place where it was bad for siblings to have an argument. 

Generic vs. Brand Name

What really is the difference between generic products or brand name products? When it comes down to it, there really is not much of a difference. TheDailyFinance rated several generic products against the brand name products and you may be surprised with their suggestions. 

TheDailyFinance review of Cascade detergent versus Kirkland detergent: Cascade really does seem to provide the extra "grease-fighting power" and "shine shield" that its label promises. Detergent is thick and smooth and easy to pour. I'll keep buying Kirkland on price alone. Cascade seems to get the dishes a bit cleaner and the liquid has a better consistency, but Kirkland does the job too and is much cheaper. 

As a college student, I find myself buying the generic products due to the price difference between the two, but what is it about getting the "real" thing? I have bought dollar tree air freshner before and it seemed to work just fine, but what is interesting is that we still called it Febreze. 

By calling it the brand name, does it make it seem like we have, in fact, actually bought the brand name product. Generic or knockoff brands are everywhere and many people purchase them, but it is kind of taboo. 

Perhaps, this inability to accept generic brands is why the generic brand products look so similar to the brand name products. The Kirkland detergent, in the picture above, uses the same colors and the same type of bottle as the Cascade detergent. It is almost a trick! 

As humans, we have this innate desire for the truth or the original. What is the truth? What is the original? There is no original without a unoriginal copy, first. So does that make the copy more original than the actual original? Is there a definite truth to all of this? Why does it matter?

Real Life Scripted

In the chapter "Learning from Celebration," Andrew Ross wrote, "[A] common observation among visitors was that while Celebration may be Disney's first genuinely unscripted product, there was still an unwritten script that its residents would feel some pressure to follow, as if they were unwittingly playing the role of cast members" (300).

Disneyland or Disney World does nothing half-hearted and everything has a purpose. Employees are dressed to impressed, whether they are dressed in a well-known character costume or they are cleaning up the sidewalks. Each person knows how to act and how to interact with visitors and each other, as if they are given a script.

Disney, otherwise known as "The Happiest Place on Earth," emanates this concept of happiness in everything Disney associated. And so, it doesn't seem odd that the citizens of Disney's Celebration find the need to act under this "script." What seems odd about this, is the people of Celebration are "real" people. Real people are not happy all the time, but these people feel they must put on an act for the sake of Disney.

Ross later says, "A too-perfect community runs the risk of suppressing what it is that makes us human" (300). This suggests, and I think that many would agree, perfection is not real. The statement helps us to realize the statements of the previous paragraph, that the real people of Celebration may struggle to live in a "perfect" community built by Disney. Ross says, "It was not always easy to separate this awareness of being typecast from normal habits of self-presentation" (301). In other words, he said it was difficult to be oneself in a community that was typecast by the world through the media. Others had an opinion of what the people of Celebration were like and they were expected to be it.

So is Celebration, Florida "real?" It is real in that, as mentioned before, that real people live in Celebration. As I read through Ross's conclusion I found myself in awe at the amount of media time that this new community was receiving. Just down the road from my house a new housing development was built, but there was no mention of it. There was no speculation as to what type of people would eventually live there or what kinds of happenings would occur. Although, outside of these discussions I would never think to describe the housing development in such a way, it was real. However, does this make Celebration, Florida more or less real than the new housing development. 

Similar to Main Street, Disney, maybe it is hyperreal. Celebration has become more real than the new housing development down the road. It surpassed what a "real" community is by creating a more perfect community. If Celebration is hyperreal and the people of Celebration feel that they must act on that, then are they themselves a simulation of themselves? They are not acting as themselves, but rather a character in a movie setting.  

Simulation of a School Shooting

I stumbled upon this article in the “Real World” Magazine and I found it incredibly interesting. This school in Missouri has taken drills performed by the school to an entirely new level. What do you think is happening when you hear a fire alarm while you’re in school? In my experience, hearing a fire alarm in school, my first reaction is…oh it’s a drill. When we do a practice lock down and have to be quiet and close all the blinds and doors? Usually a lot of fun, but would we actually be prepared in the event of an actual lockdown if a shooter was roaming the hallways of our schools to unleash a string of tragic events? I don’t know that I would actually know how to react.
    This school in Missouri has created a full simulation of a school that has a shooter come in and cause a huge disturbance. They created bloodied students and had a live shooter running around the halls firing off blanks. Sound unsafe? The town police were involved in the simulation and many students. They had done something like this before, but on a much smaller scale and not involving the students. But once they got the students involved it became a large-scale event and students took a lot away from it and were even volunteering to play roles like people who had got shot, and hostages. It was a huge success among the students and they were psyched to really get the feeling of what this situation would be like, though horrifying, incredibly educational.

            Personally, I think this is great. There are prom night simulations to teach about drunk driving, and though school shootings is an incredibly sensitive subject, it is so important to make sure students understand the gravity of the situation. In the world today, people think all alarms and lock downs are just drills, and most of us really wouldn’t know what to do in a situation of the real. We live in a
simulation of what to do, this simulation is incredibly real and though it is a simulation, I think it surpasses our routine fire/lockdown drill we’ve been doing since kindergarten. I wonder what the blogosphere thinks of this? I love it!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Author, Thy Savior

It was asked today, "Why does the character look so similar to Jesus by the end of the book?"

I had this idea:

Daniel Quinn, the “original” character was an author under the pen name William Wilson. It seems as though Daniel Quinn is in search of an author, he is attempting to figure out who the author is. If it were “himself” he would not use a pen name. However, the author is dead. That is the author has killed himself, for the sake of the readers. Daniel Quinn, over the course of The City of Glass, is searching for an author that is himself and as he is beginning to realize that he does not exist he withers away. His first step in realizing this is the following scene:
He sees that a lady is reading his book and addresses her about the book, but she displays no recognition of him being the author. Ultimately, the author dies so that reader can experience the book and the characters within. Even The City of Glass, itself, has a mysterious author.

It seems to me, that as an author he has "killed" himself for the readers, just as Jesus did for the people. Each character was Daniel Quinn, himself. Peter Stillman is attempting to resurrect Edenic Language, but all along it was Daniel Quinn attempting to resurrect Edenic Language. It was his way of trying to "save" language, but since he could not he sacrificed himself. 

"NY Brokenness is Everywhere" -Stillman

I was fascinated while reading this graphic novel when we got to follow Stillman Senior around New York to see what he would do. We got background info on his character, so I was waiting for him to flip out or attack his family. Instead, he did a routine walk around the city picking up “trash.”

“I collect shattered objects to examine…I invent new words that will correspond to the things”-Stillman Senior (70-71).

He told Quinn he was picking up these items so he could create a whole new language (brilliant). I never considered what happens to an item when it becomes broken. Instead of just walking past the broken item, Stillman, picked it up and has given it purpose again.

Can you take a broken item, rename it, and give it another purpose? Will that change what it was originally…due to it being broke, isn’t it already different than the original?

We discussed the sign, signified, and signifier in class...
Signifier “umbrella”
Signified  (picture of umbrella)
Does the sign, signifier, and signified change if the umbrella is broken, and renamed by Stillman? 

Racism isn't Real Anymore

            In the Real World magazine, I came across an article dealing with the concept of race in World of Warcraft, and it made me think about false racism in video games, and honestly, programming racism isn't really that hard. When I play my Dungeons and Dragons games or Pathfinder I always say that some things are going to be placed within the world at the beginning and it depends on the players to either avoid the cliché or take it in hand. That being the ideas of Dwarves hating goblins or Elves and Dwarves hating each other. In the Warcraft games, we can also see the apparent racism in whoever wants to use the lore and make the lore their own.  Honestly, this makes me wonder if through this specific element of the World of War Craft world or DnD or Pathfinder makes the world more real by adding in real elements of the world that we know. 
            As we know, the Medieval period, was not the most progressive when it came to racial or religious freedom, what with many of the Jewish people being killed at the massacre of Shabbat haGadol and various oppositions from warring factions in England and Ireland (protestants vs Catholics). I ask, is it right to just throw these elements into this world to give it some flavor text. Doesn't calling upon allusions to real hate crimes and real animosities trivializing the whole thing, or is it merely something completely and utterly fictional.

            Which makes me wonder about the simulated racism in the game. We never see a lot of hate crimes in games and if we do, the racism is usually front and center (Bioshock Infinite is a good example of this). So, is putting these quests and flavor texts in these games diminishing the idea of racism in the real world. Is the common trope of elves and dwarves hating each other a bit of an oversimplification of racist tendencies placed within the human consciousness since the birth of man and only relatively demolished (if that). Does placing these racist ideas inside the world make it more real to players, (in the text the people who enjoy the lore like acting out these tendencies) and does the inclusion of this racism make the inclusion of darker skinned characters a bit iffy (they do discuss how hard it is to make characters based on their race). How do we as individuals deal with this idea placed within the world? I want your honest opinion!

Robots and Autism

I had previously posted about how there are apps out there to help children learn empathy and social skills. I was a but upset about that in my post because I didn’t believe that was the right way to go about teaching those kinds of skills to children. There was a comment on my post from Annette and she brought up the topic of maybe these apps would be helpful for kids with learning disabilities and that opened up an entire new idea for me. Then, in class when we were presenting our videos of real world and reality simulation, someone showed a video of robots working and playing with autistic children to help them with the social skills that they innately lack.

            I’ve attached an article to this post, about a robot that helps a girl who suffers from Autism with social skills. The article states that before this robot there to help her she would cringe when people tried to hug her and her social skills just were not present. Since the inclusion of this robot that is similar to a doll (A super creepy doll) and it interacts with her like a child would and since her time with this robot has begun, she has become more social with other students and has begun to “hug everyone!” I think in situations like this is when robots or technology is good for teaching kids skills like social skills. What do you think? Should there be a distinction between who these apps are good for or not? Should all students be treated fairly? I think these are great assets for kids who have learning and social disabilities like Autism…but again, I am not a parent so I am not a solid judge of this…