- description of the original piece and its socio-cultural and historical contexts
I first watched floatland by vewn about 3 years ago, when it first came out. The video, just under three minutes long, follows an unnamed girl who is playing a video game called floatland. As the levels increase while she plays the game, she finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into it. In the game she meets a boy named Aubury and slowly falls in love with him. As the game progresses she finds that she is spending nearly all her time invested in the game. She slowly cannot distinguish between reality and the game. Her friends in the outside world check in on her because they’re worried and haven’t heard from her. As the video progresses, it gets more and more existential until she has finally reached her full potential in the game and is forced to stop playing. The video ends with her finally putting her video game controller down, opening her window, and staring at the outside world.
I find this piece to be extremely relevant as it speaks volumes about both today’s issues with technological balance and the problems that the future holds with regards to balance of time and technology — particularly youth.
- alternate version justification + new socio-cultural/historical contexts
The basic concept of vewn’s “floatland” piece highlights a number of issues that kids in today’s world face when it comes to balancing their life with certain technological devices. Video game, internet, and social media addictions are rampant in today’s society, particularly for young people. The recent Covid-19 pandemic added an entirely new layer to the depth that social interactions take within online communities. As a teacher, I found it interesting how technology helped and harmed my students and siblings during the pandemic. My students hated their online classes and often struggled to cope with the intense expectations that their teachers still had of them, despite having limited academic resources and constant “Zoom fatigue”. I watched as my little sister began to grow a viral following of tens and thousands of users on TikTok. Once the pandemic hit, however, she struggled to create the kind of fashion/lifestyle content that she had been working on before. The pressure to maintain an online following coupled with the high stress from Zoom classes inevitably triggered major panic attacks that led to a later diagnosis of severe bipolar disorder. All of this was exacerbated by the lack of in-person contact, during the early stages of the pandemic, outside of one’s immediate family.
I wanted to explore these themes and the themes of struggling with one’s relationship to technology in my novel: Party Talk. Party Talk takes place sometime in an unnamed future. In this future, a pandemic is raging through the world and everyone is forced to stay indoors. College students are some of the most affected by this sudden change and seek to forge social connections similar to real-world ones, but without the threat of catching the pandemic’s disease. A few students at a random university decide to throw a party in the metaverse/cyberspace/(whatever it is lol). The story is split into 3 parts. The first part has ten chapters and the setting is before the party has started. Each character in the novel gets their own first-person-perspective chapter. I’m not quite sure how many chapters the 2nd part has, but it is told from a third-person-perspective and takes place during the party. The last part has ten chapters and takes place in the aftermath of the party. It is told in first-person-perspective and each of the characters gets their own chapter. I structured the novel this way so that I could play with exploring how the same event can be interpreted differently by different people. As the novel progresses, different characters with their relationship to different ethical dilemmas that attending a party in the “something-verse” might pose. How do inebriation, the ethics of consent, and the ethics of advertising/data/privacy work in a “something-verse” party? How does a young person strike a balance between their relationship to technology when the lines between technology and reality become even more blurred and the access to real-world interaction gets taken away? I tie these themes together in a way that is heavily influenced by my own pandemic experiences and the gist of what is conveyed in vewn’s “floatland” piece.
My justification for an alternate version of a piece that explores these themes is that I think it’s important to explore the relationship between potential future technology, ethical quandaries, and youth. Young people are often some of the first people to be exploited by changes in technology. Through exploring the scenarios that take place in my novel, I hope to start a conversation about how technology geared towards young people can be safer.
- engagement with relevant theoretical perspectives as they apply to the original work
The theoretical frameworks that will be guiding me throughout the process of my novel are technological determinism and social shaping of technology (SST). Technological determinism ties into the themes in my novel because of the salient impact that virtual reality technology has on the lives of the main characters in my book. Their entire experience of a social life in the pandemic is intertwined with virtual reality. SST theory ties into my book because of the ways in which the novel’s technology ties directly with its makers’ capitalistic intentions. The virtual reality in the book is designed as an extension of hardcore technological capitalism. This type of capitalism often disregards privacy and other ethics.
- project work plan
I’m currently working on my novel for Lucy Ives’ novel writing class. This process involves lots of drafting, outlining, and researching. On top of the novel, however, I wanted to incorporate modern technology and art to bring life to the characters of the novel. For this purpose, I will be utilizing Artbreeder (a machine-learning based art website) to create realistic looking versions of each of my main characters. The final product will be a novel and the accompanying illustrations that were created, through machine learning, on Artbreeder.