1984 – Before. During. Beyond.

On June 8th, 1949 – author Eric Arthur Blair published what is now considered to be a dystopian, science fiction novel. The title was Nineteen Eighty-Four, or 1984 as it’s now mostly known. He published it under his pen name, George Orwell – a name he took to not embarrass his family when he published his first book Down and Out in Paris and London, chronicling his abject poverty. He published nine books in his lifetime;1984 was his last publication. The book is set in the far future – 35 years in the future, and the picture it painted was bleak. We are – today – 38 years PAST 1984. 

What I propose is to explore Orwell’s prognosis through the lens of three moments in time. 1949, 1984, and 2022. What was the world like as he looked forward, what was the world like when his prognosis was aligned with the date of his future vision, and how does his view of the future look today – 73 years since his prophetic publication.

The phrase Orwellian has become part of popular culture. It is used as a pointed criticism, and indictment, but digging deep – how have these 73 years mirrored Orwell’s warnings, or have we actually moved beyond his dire warnings into a new territory that makes the Orwellian pale in comparison to what lies ahead?

In order to make this journey compelling and impactful, I’ll use footage available in public archives from the 1950s, then footage from the Michael Radford film of 1984, and current news footage from the past eight years of media. 

The book’s themes will be the focus of my exploration. Totalitarianism, mass surveillance, perpetual war, and the impact of a repressive regime to control populations. In particular, I’ll explore the role of truth – and its manipulation of facts, and the way in which politics has increasingly engaged with the re-shaping of facts into expedient fictions to reach political goals. 

Work Plan for the Orwell Project:

  • Look into specific events in 1949
  • Look into specific events in 1984
  • Look into specific events in 2022 (and the previous 8 years)
  • Re-read 1984
  • Watch 1984 (the movie)
  • Choose a platform to create a visual, motion media journey.  Inklewriter or Twine I think
  • Plan the roadmap – stories that will direct the path chosen by the viewer/reader 
  • Familiarize myself with the Platform  
  • Pull clips, to tie to what 1984 predicted – including “Big Brother”, “doublethink”, “Thought Police”, “thoughtcrime”, “Newspeak” and others
  • Pull quotes from the book/movie that outline the Orwellian Vision
  • Build Wireframe – layout journey to create an interactive experience using anthropological, historical and critical analyses

The Project: 

Part 1: Description of the original text and its socio-cultural and historical contexts.

Part 2: Justification for the alternate version that explains the new socio-cultural/historical contexts. Is 1984 ‘as bad as it gets’ or are we aiming toward a future that is far worse? Did Orwell’s surveillance danger consider Artificial Intelligence or Social Media, clearly not. 

Part 3: Engagement with relevant theoretical perspectives as they apply to the original work and to the new version. Is Science fiction just about future technology, or do science fiction writers explore future dangers, as a way to warn readers of danger that lie ahead? 

Part 4: Provide a work plan for the project – how can the popularity of 1984 attract audiences to an updated view of the rise in technology, in some ways replacing the dangers of government with something far less accountable and therefore far more dystopian?