h1

Class 4: Walking away

March 1, 2017
snapshot_004

Looking in on the discussion from the outside.

Last night was the fourth Digital Skies session with the group and it was the second theory-based session after we looked at Stephen Duncombe’s intro to Sir Thomas Moore’s Utopia in the first one. This week we updated the concept of Utopia by reading Ursula Le Guin’s text: The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas (1973). A deeply provocative rendering of a Utopian society that is conditioned by a darker reality, the picture painted by LeGuin in the text falls between Utopia and Dystopia. By implying that a perfect society will always be structured by some kind of exclusion or exploitation, Le Guin draws a parallel between the fantasy of Omelas and the social economic order that has dominated since the industrial revolution. It seemed that for most of the participants in the group the story was an analogy of contemporary democracy and the ethical challenges of living in a globalised economy. Whilst much of the discussion focused on the moral dilemma faced by those citizens in Omelas there was also an ambivalence towards their final response, the act of ‘walking away’. In many ways we could argue that this is a negative response to the situation, an abandonment, however by refusing to be a part of the situation, to leave it and go towards the unknown, we could say it also is a utopian act. It may not be Utopia in the macro sense of the word, as in the creation of a new society, but rather in those micro acts of freedom that happen in everyday life and that have the potential for greater change. Anyone interested in following this train of thought could look into the work of Avery Gordon who is developing the Hawthorne Archive which sets out to ‘record the living and intellectual history of the arrival and existence of a group of runaways, secessionists and in-differents who form autonomous zones and settlements and have receded from living as obedient (and also resistant or resisting) subjects’. Further within this discussion, an important point was raised about how one might even begin to imagine resisting in an overwhelmingly oppressive situation, such as the Nazi Regime, and a reference was made to the White Rose student movement, as an example of non-violent resistance, which led to a discussion on a more contemporary (and virtual) act of resistance in the online critical game Escape from Woomera.

Escape_from_Woomera_3.jpg

Escape From Woomera. 2004

As can be deduced from this summary, the session got a little dark as the group entered into a deeper discussion on the politics of the utopian imagination. We will lighten this discussion a bit in the next session by looking at a lecture by Richard Noble on ‘The Politics of Utopia’. All being well, we will be joined in this session by German Artist Susanne Bosch who will talk about her residency at the Utopia Festival in Austria in 2015.

Finally, each student was asked to send in some landscape photos of their travels in second life, these will be used on Sherkin Island to develop a series of visual investigations around the question: what is nature? We might try to show some of these works in second life in the next theory session.

It was really great to get over most of the technical issues the group have been having and to focus on the content of the course. Last night was a very impressive discussion to have on a Wednesday evening with a bunch of weird looking avatars (No Offence!!).

Next week will be led by John and below are the requirements for this session:

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. View: Fake It – to control your digital identity. In a 2013 TEDx Oxford presentation Danish journalist Pernille Tranberg, who wrote the book Fake It – Your Guide to Digital Self-defense with the German journalist Steffan Heuer, explains what happens with your data, what it can cost you now and in years to come.
  2. View: The Power of Privacy. In this 2016 film by The Guardian, Aleks Krotoski travels the world to undergo challenges that explore our digital life in the 21st century. Watch her be stalked and hacked, fight to get leaked documents back, dive into open data and live in a futuristic home that monitors her every move.
  3. Read: Who’s watching me on the internet? Technology Correspondent for the BBC, Rory Cellan-Jones writes about our digital footprint and explains data trails in iWonder 2016.
  4. Write the fourth post: to your blog reflecting on the discussion of The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. Ursula K Le Guin. 1973.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: