Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Urge to Buy and View

Assignment #2

Consumerism and Television

Living from day to day, we don't believe that we belong to any institution or cult, believing that we have free will. Kalle Lasn begs to differ. In the text "The Cult You're In," Kalle Lasn states that we are all part of a cult that we can't escape: consumerism. He is one-hundred percent correct in this statement, in my opinion. The average American consumer is exposed to thousands of brands per day. Consumerism has reached the point to where it defines you as a person, as you strive to obtain the newest pair of Nike's, or drive the fanciest car that you could afford. It is a cult, one that is very profitable to the people who run it: the corporations which sell the products that people buy.

Of course, one of the biggest mediums that influences the people indoctrinated in this cult is television. It serves as a conduit to which advertising and programming can both entertain the masses, and convince people to buy things that they do and don't need. In Harry Waters' "Life According to TV," Waters uses the research of George Gerbner to make the point that TV heavily influences the way people think and what people buy. The evidence speaks for itself: TV absolutely has an influence on the general population, in a myriad of ways.

For example, take the section of Crime from Waters' text. Critics are convinced that violence on TV has the effect of desensitizing viewers to violence, or helps make viewers more prone to commit violent acts. Gerbner's research states otherwise; it makes viewers believe that they will be victimized, or as Gerbner calls it, "mean-world syndrome." It causes heavy viewers of TV to grossly exaggerate the chances of a violent act occurring against them. In light of this evidence, I believe that Gerbner's research is right on the money. With consistent violent imagery, it causes people to become concerned for their own safety. This violent imagery is more common now than ever, due to an overzealous media, so there is very much reason to believe that TV can influence an audience to surprising effect. All it takes is a good ten minutes of television viewing, and it's easy to see what effect it can have on an impressionable audience.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Plato's Cave and The Matrix

Assignment #1

Plato and The Construct

Although the difference in time between Plato's Cave and the Wachowski brothers' movie The Matrix is staggering (almost 2500 years!), the ideas expressed in each are almost the same. The Matrix illustrates a computer simulation designed to trick the human mind into believing that the artificial construct it creates is reality. Plato's Cave is the same concept, except with a different medium. Plato illustrates that each human being is stuck in a "cave" of sorts, shackled to chairs, watching the shadows cast from marionettes manipulated by puppeteers. The human beings stuck in the cave have been there for so long that they are complacent to watch the shadows on the wall, rather than break their bindings and leave for the unpleasant, yet truthful and illuminating sunlight which streams in from behind them. While the Matrix and the Cave are separated by two millenia, both are remarkably similar, and share the same concepts.

The Wachowski Brothers' concept of The Matrix can be compared to Plato's Cave in spades. We have to start with the origin of the shadows cast on the wall in the Cave. A fire burns behind the puppeteers, casting the shadows in the first place. This is similar to the power source which keeps the Matrix running. The puppeteers in question are the Machines in the Matrix, and the puppets they manipulate are the programs which run the Matrix. The shadows on the wall, cast by the puppets, can be considered the reality that the Matrix's program projects. These shadows are observed by the people shackled to the chair, who also represent the people stuck in the Matrix. The diffused sunlight, let in by the mouth of the cave, represents the Construct of the Matrix, which serves as the staging point for those liberated from the control of the Machines. Finally, the ascent to sunlight is the exit from the Matrix into the real world. Even though the real world is harsh (read: post-apocalyptic), it is the truth, just waiting to be experienced by those bound to their chairs; the prison of the mind.

With both Plato's Cave and the Wachowski brothers' movie The Matrix suggesting that humanity is in binds and wanting to escape, one can infer that humanity is imprisoned as well. In a way, this is true. Humanity is in the binds of complacency. We go through our routines, happy with the meager experiences that we live with, not wanting to take a chance. We vote for crooked politicians, content with the injustices that they visit upon our fellow man. Instead of extending a helping hand to those who need it, we are apathetic of those less fortunate, telling ourselves that it is their fault alone that they are so unfortunate. One way to break these proverbial chains, in my opinion, is to help make the world around us better. Instead of cruelty, give kindness. Instead of apathy, care for others. By seeking fulfillment in bettering the human race, you are one step away from escaping those binds, stepping out of Plato’s Cave, into the light of those who are fulfilled.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Which pill would you take?

Prompt #1

Which pill would you take, the blue pill, or the red pill?

I would take the Red Pill. I couldn't live with not knowing the truth, no matter how painful it is. The curiosity would eat at me, drive me mad. I wouldn't be able to live with myself. So, like Alice in the proverbial Wonderland, I would take the red pill, and go down the rabbit hole.