Teaching Information Ethics through Fiction and Film
“Almost everything in Fahrenheit 451 has come about, one way or the other - the influence of television, the rise of local TV news, the neglect of education. As a result, one area of our society is brainless. But I utilized those things in the novel because I was trying to prevent a future, not predict one.”
- Ray Bradbury, Wired
, Issue 6.10, Oct 1998 Table of Contents
The COAPS Framework
Web Resources Introduction
Generally, we can learn about information ethics through fiction and film in works that explore the abuses of information and technology, moral values, and public policy. Usually we see this in genres such as Science Fiction, Cyberpunk, Dystopias, and Speculative Fiction. These genres look at the “what if” factor. What if information and communications technologies take over for human thought or free will? What if a totalitarian state took away our rights to free speech and learning? What if we lived in a state which controlled and manipulated biomedical, genetic, and reproductive rights through eugenics or other controls? The purpose of this pathfinder is to guide librarians and information professionals, science fiction and literary theorists, philosophers, teachers, professors, and students towards works of fiction and film that can teach us more about information ethics. Certainly the list of works here is not comprehensive, but rather serves to provide a substantial grouping of relevant literature and film, as well as the means to discover more works relevant to the topic.The COAPS Framework
This pathfinder will look at works of fiction and film and how each falls into one or more of the categories in the COAPS framework, representing 5 ethical dilemmas (community, ownership, access, privacy, and security) in Information Ethics. The COAPS Framework and some of the films and books mentioned here reference
Edwin Elrod and Martha Smith. Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics
. Ed. Carl Mitcham. Vol. 2: D-K. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. p1004-1011. 4 vols.Community
- When future creative work builds upon past creative work and the availability and sharing of information amongst a group or society. When the right to share information is disabled, extreme moral collectivism, or sharing information that is falsified (such as propaganda) would all be examples of abuses surrounding community.Ownership
– Taking responsibility for what you posses, buy, steal or create. specifically in terms of technology. Failing to do so can be an abuse, as well as overly tight controls over the sharing of knowledge, such copyright.Access
– The right to gain knowledge through the availability of information. Censorship and the suppression or altering of information are examples of limits placed on access.The right to free speech and free thought directly relate to the concept of access.Privacy
– The right to keep information pertaining to ones self from others. Unauthorized surveillance or control of language thought or behavior are examples of privacy violation. Security
– The loss of human rights and/or freedoms in the name of Security generally at the hands of the state.LC Subject Headings
Some of the Library of Congress subject headings for works of fiction and/or films that present dilemmas in information ethics. Also a list of subject headings in literary criticism for subjects and authors in this pathfinder, and in professional literature on information ethics for librarians.Books and/or Films
Androids – Fiction.
Fantasy fiction, English.
Misogyny – Fiction.
Science fiction, English.
Science fiction films.
Totalitarianism—Fiction.History, Criticism, and Interpretations
Orwell, George, 1903-1950. Nineteen eighty-four.
Science fiction, English--History and criticism.
Dystopias in literature.
Science fiction--History and criticism.
Totalitarianism and literature.
Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963. Brave new world.
English literature--History and criticism.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851. Frankenstein.
Science fiction, English--History and criticism.
Horror tales, English--History and criticism.
Frankenstein (Fictitious character)
Fantasy fiction, American--History and criticism.
Scientists in literature.
Creation in literature.
Monsters in literature.
Motion picture producers and directors.
Dick, Philip K.--Criticism and interpretation.
Science fiction, American--History and criticism.
Atwood, Margaret Eleanor, 1939- --Study and teaching.
Atwood, Margaret Eleanor, 1939- --Criticism and interpretation.
Atwood, Margaret Eleanor, 1939- Handmaid’s tale.
Gibson, William, 1948- --Criticism and interpretation.
Science fiction, American--History and criticism.
Virtual reality in literature.
Cybernetics in literature.
Technology in literature.
Computers in literature.
Burgess, Anthony, 1917- --Criticism and interpretation.
Bradbury, Ray, 1920- Fahrenheit 451.
Science fiction, American--History and criticism.
Book burning in literature.
Rand, Ayn. Anthem.
Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951 --Criticism and interpretation.
Popular culture--Moral and ethical aspects.Professional Literature – For Librarians
Librarians -- Professional ethics.
Information technology -- Moral and ethical aspects.
Information science -- Moral and ethical aspects.
Information scientists -- Professional ethics.
Library science -- Moral and ethical aspects.Fiction
Novels and short stories that illustrate information ethical dilemmas.All Synopses’s from Amazon.com)
Atwood, Margaret (1986). The Handmaid's Tale: A Novel.
The Handmaid’s Tale focuses on the loss of access and basic rights specifically for women.(Community, Access)Synopsis:
In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies? Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.
Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....
Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.
Boye, Karin. (1940). Kallocain.
The truth drug, Kallocain, aids in a totalitarian states control over its citizens. (Privacy, Security) Synopsis:
This classic Swedish novel envisioned a future of drab terror. Seen through the eyes of idealistic scientist Leo Kall, Kallocain’s depiction of a totalitarian world state is a montage of what novelist Karin Boye had seen or sensed in 1930s Russia and Germany. Its central idea grew from the rumors of truth drugs that ensured the subservience of every citizen to the state.
Bradbury, Ray.(1953). Fahrenheit 451.
Book burning is a central topic in F451. Major themes include misinformation through modern media (primarily television), sophisticated technologies that render ethics insignificant, and the suppression of knowledge through the destruction of literature. (Access)Synopsis:
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's classic, frightening vision of the future, firemen don't put out fires--they start them in order to burn books. Bradbury's vividly painted society holds up the appearance of happiness as the highest goal--a place where trivial information is good and knowledge and ideas are bad. Fire Captain Beatty explains it this way, "Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs.... Don't give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy."
Guy Montag is a book-burning fireman undergoing a crisis of faith. His wife spends all day with her television "family," imploring Montag to work harder so that they can afford a fourth TV wall. Their dull, empty life sharply contrasts with that of his next-door neighbor Clarisse, a young girl thrilled by the ideas in books, and more interested in what she can see in the world around her than in the mindless chatter of the tube. When Clarisse disappears mysteriously, Montag is moved to make some changes, and starts hiding books in his home. Eventually, his wife turns him in, and he must answer the call to burn his secret cache of books. After fleeing to avoid arrest, Montag winds up joining an outlaw band of scholars who keep the contents of books in their heads, waiting for the time society will once again need the wisdom of literature.
Brunner, John. (1975). The Shockwave Rider.
A techno-dystopian novel set in a world of information overload, corporate drive. Privacy is a main theme, everybody knows everything about everyone. Pertinent to ethics and the web in particular.(Privacy, Access)Synopsis:
He Was The Most Dangerous Fugitive Alive, But He Didn't Exist! Nickie Haflinger had lived a score of lifetimes...but technically he didn't exist. He was a fugitive from Tarnover, the high-powered government think tank that had educated him. First he had broken his identity code -- then he escaped.
Now he had to find a way to restore sanity and personal freedom to the computerized masses and to save a world tottering on the brink of disaster.
He didn't care how he did it...but the government did. That's when his Tarnover teachers got him back in their labs...and Nickie Haflinger was set up for a whole new education!
Brunner, John. (1968). Stand on Zanzibar.
The themes in this novel are somewhat more loosely related to information ethics than others on the list but themes do include government enforced population control and eugenics, as well as privacy issues such as “bugging." Information overload is also a prevalent theme. (Privacy, Security).Synopsis:
There are seven billion-plus humans crowding the surface of 21st century Earth. It is an age of intelligent computers, mass-market psychedelic drugs, politics conducted by assassination, scientists who burn incense to appease volcanoes ... all the hysteria of a dangerously overcrowded world, portrayed in a dazzlingly inventive style.
Burgess, Anthony. (1962). A Clockwork Orange.
The conflict of free will is a main theme in Clockwork Orange, both in the use of the application of Ludovico Technique on Alex and and by the socialist state in which he lives. Burgess is making the point that even the most unsavory of characters should have the right to free will and choice. For the purpose of exploring aspects of information ethics in this book, the limitation of free will in the name of security through the use of technology.(Security)Synopsis:
Set in a dismal dystopia, it is the first-person account of a juvenile delinquent who undergoes state-sponsored psychological rehabilitation for his aberrant behavior. The novel satirizes extreme political systems that are based on opposing models of the perfectibility or incorrigibility of humanity. Written in a futuristic slang vocabulary invented by Burgess, in part by adaptation of Russian words, it was his most original and best-known work. Alex, the protagonist, has a passion for classical music and is a member of a vicious teenage gang that commits random acts of brutality. Captured and imprisoned, he is transformed through behavioral conditioning into a model citizen, but his taming also leaves him defenseless. He ultimately reverts to his former behavior. The final chapter of the original British edition, in which Alex renounces his amoral past, was removed when the novel was first published in the United States.
Dick, Philip K. (1968). Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The retirement of the androids (who are arguable more human the most of humanity) in the name of Security. This particular theme is perhaps even more pronounced in the film adaptation, Blade Runner.Synopsis:
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was published in 1968. Grim and foreboding, even today it is a masterpiece ahead of its time. By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn't afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans.
Émigrés to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn't want to be identified, they just blended in.
Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.
Forster, E. M. (1909). The Machine Stops
Overdependence on technology and a lack of free thought, free will. (Security, Access, Privacy)Synopsis:
In 1909, E. M. Forster published his only work of science fiction, the dystopian fable, 'The Machine Stops'. The story portrays a futuristic world-state that exists underground, and in which the inhabitants lead separate lives united only by the Machine, a gigantic technological network that supplies all the citizens' needs. The narrative focuses upon Kuno, who disobeys the Machine and ventures aboveground, and his estranged mother, Vashti.
Gibson, William. (1984). Neuromancer.
The novel examines the concepts of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, genetic engineering, multinational corporations overpowering the traditional nation-state and in a cyberspace computer network called the matrix. Considered to be the quintessential cyberpunk” (a sub-genre of science fiction and dystopian fiction, focusing on advanced technology such as computers or information technology coupled with some degree of breakdown in the social order) novel. The idea that accesses to certain types of information are only available to certain members of society is a key theme. (Access, Security, Ownership).Synopsis:
Here is the novel that started it all, launching the cyberpunk generation, and the first novel to win the holy trinity of science fiction: the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the Philip K. Dick Award. With Neuromancer, William Gibson introduced the world to cyberspace--and science fiction has never been the same.
Case was the hottest computer cowboy cruising the information superhighway--jacking his consciousness into cyberspace, soaring through tactile lattices of data and logic, rustling encoded secrets for anyone with the money to buy his skills. Then he double-crossed the wrong people, who caught up with him in a big way--and burned the talent out of his brain, micron by micron. Banished from cyberspace, trapped in the meat of his physical body, Case courted death in the high-tech underworld. Until a shadowy conspiracy offered him a second chance--and a cure--for a price.
Huxley, Aldous. (1932). Brave New World.
The novel exemplifies the use of technology to control society, primarily through eugenics. The government of Brave New World retains control by making its citizens so happy and superficially fulfilled through consumerism and psychological technologies that they don’t care about their personal freedom. (Community).Synopsis:
"Community, Identity, Stability" is the motto of Aldous Huxley's utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a "Feelie," a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing and senses his relationship with a young woman has the potential to be much more than the confines of their existence allow. Huxley foreshadowed many of the practices and gadgets we take for granted today--let's hope the sterility and absence of individuality he predicted aren't yet to come.
Lewis, Sinclair. (1935). It Can't Happen Here.
The abuse of presidential power and the rise of Fascism in the United States when citizens blindly support their leaders is the main idea in this novel. Underlying themes include censorship, unauthorized searches, and propaganda. (Privacy, Security, Access)Synopsis:
Novel by Sinclair Lewis published in 1935. It is a cautionary tale about the rise of fascism in the United States. During the presidential election of 1936, Doremus Jessup, a newspaper editor, observes with dismay that many of the people he knows support the candidacy of a fascist, Berzelius Windrip. When Windrip wins the election, he forcibly gains control of Congress and the Supreme Court, and, with the aid of his personal paramilitary storm troopers, turns the United States into a totalitarian state. Jessup opposes him, is captured, and escapes to Canada.
Orwell, George. (1949). 1984
A quintessential example of information ethics in fiction as it relates to the denial of privacy and access. The fabricated reality including memory, language, information, and even love under the watchful eye of Big Brother certainly exemplify the denial of civil rights in the name of security. (Security, Access, Privacy)Synopsis:
Novel by George Orwell published in 1949 as a warning about the menaces of totalitarianism. The novel is set in an imaginary future world that is dominated by three perpetually warring totalitarian police states. The book's hero, Winston Smith, is a minor party functionary in one of these states. His longing for truth and decency leads him to secretly rebel against the government. Smith has a love affair with a like-minded woman, but they are both arrested by the Thought Police. The ensuing imprisonment, torture, and reeducation of Smith are intended not merely to break him physically or make him submit but to root out his independent mental existence and his spiritual dignity. Orwell's warning of the dangers of totalitarianism made a deep impression on his contemporaries and upon subsequent readers, and the book's title and many of its coinages, such as NEWSPEAK, became bywords for modern political abuses.
Rand, Ayn. (1938). Anthem.
Anthem explores the dangers of collectivism. Uniquely exemplifies the negative aspect of community, the idea that so much of thought and decisions are shared, individualism is entirely eroded, so much so the word “I’ no longer exists. The pursuit of knowledge in the story is considered a crime so therefore information Access can also be considered a theme here. (Community, Access)Synopsis:
Anthem has long been hailed as one of Ayn Rand's classic novels, and a clear predecessor to her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In Anthem, Rand examines a frightening future in which individuals have no name, no independence, and no values. Equality 7-2521 lives in the dark ages of the future where all decisions are made by committee, all people live in collectives, and all traces of individualism have been wiped out. Despite such a restrictive environment, the spark of individual thought and freedom still burns in him--a passion which he has been taught to call sinful. In a purely egalitarian world, Equality 7-2521 dares to stand apart from the herd--to think and choose for himself, to discover electricity, and to love the woman of his choice. Now he has been marked for death for committing the ultimate sin. In a world where the great "we" reign supreme, he has rediscovered the lost and holy word--"I."
Robinson, Spider.(1985.Melancholy Elephants
Story dealing with the possibility that we will run out of non-copyrighted work(Ownership)
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. (1818). Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus.
Shelley explores the bioethical considerations of “playing god." In what may be the first Science Fiction novel. The idea that Frankenstein creates the monster yet fails to take responsibility for his creation, to nurture it is the dilemma here. As well, society’s reaction to the monster isolates him even further and inevitably turns him from kindhearted naiveté to bitterness and vengeance. (Community, Ownership)Synopsis:
"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion." A summer evening's ghost stories, lonely insomnia in a moonlit Alpine's room, and a runaway imagination--fired by philosophical discussions with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley about science, galvanism, and the origins of life--conspired to produce for Marry Shelley this haunting night specter. By morning, it had become the germ of her Romantic masterpiece, Frankenstein. Written in 1816 when she was only nineteen, Mary Shelley's novel of "The Modern Prometheus" chillingly dramatized the dangerous potential of life begotten upon a laboratory table. A frightening creation myth for our own time, Frankenstein remains one of the greatest horror stories ever written and is an undisputed classic of its kind.
Zamyatin, Yevgeny (1924). WE.
Totalitarianism. Loss of Individuality.(Access, Privacy) Synopsis:
Before Brave New World, before 1984, there was WE. In the One State of the great Benefactor, there are no individuals, only numbers. Life is an ongoing process of mathematical precision, a perfectly balanced equation. Primitive passions and instincts have been subdued. Even nature has been defeated, banished behind the Green Wall. But one frontier remains: outer space. Now, with the creation of the spaceship Integral, that frontier -- and whatever alien species are to be found there -- will be subjugated to the beneficent yoke of reason.
One number, D-503, chief architect of the Integral, decides to record his thoughts in the final days before the launch for the benefit of less advanced societies. But a chance meeting with the beautiful 1-330 results in an unexpected discovery that threatens everything D-503 believes about himself and the One State. The discovery -- or rediscovery -- of inner space...and that disease the ancients called the soul.
A page-turning SF adventure, a masterpiece of wit and black humor that accurately predicted the horrors of Stalinism, We is the classic dystopian novel. Its message of hope and warning is as timely at the end of the twentieth century as it was at the beginning.Films
Films that illustrate information ethical dilemmas.(All Plot Summaries from the Internet Movie Database, www.IMDB.com)Artificial Intelligence
(2001) Directed by Stephen Spielberg. - In this futuristic fairy tale, "David", a highly-advanced robotic boy, hopes to become a real boy so that he can win back the affection of the human mother who abandoned him. Like Pinocchio, he goes on a long journey hoping to find his "Blue Fairy," who can make his dreams come true. (Community)Blade Runner
(1982) Directed by Ridley Scott. – Ridley Scott. In a cyberpunk vision of the future, man has developed the technology to create replicants, human clones used to serve in the colonies outside Earth but with fixed lifespans. In Los Angeles, 2019, Deckard is a Blade Runner, a cop who specializes in terminating replicants. Originally in retirement, he is forced to re-enter the force when five replicants escape from an off world colony to Earth. (Security)Brazil
(1985) – Directed by Terry Gilliam. In an Orwellian vision of the future, the populace is completely controlled by the state, but technology remains almost as it was in the 1970's. Sam Lowry is a civil servant who one day spots a mistake in one of the pieces of paperwork passing through his office. The mistake leads to the arrest of an entirely innocent man, and although Lowry attempts to correct the error, it just gets bigger and bigger, sucking him in with it. (Access, Privacy, Security)Clockwork Orange
(1971) - Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Based on the Novel by Anthony Burgess. In the not-too-distant future, a charming young sociopath named Alex, leads a nihilistic lifestyle of 'ultraviolence' which comes to a head when he is jailed for murder and volunteers for an experimental brainwashing treatment to reform criminals in exchange for a shorter prison sentence..(Security)Equilibrium
(2002)- Directed by Kurt Wimmer. In a futuristic world, a strict regime has eliminated war by suppressing emotions: books, art and music are strictly forbidden and feeling is a crime punishable by death. Cleric John Preston (Bale) is a top ranking government agent responsible for destroying those who resist the rules. When he misses a dose of Prozium, a mind-altering drug that hinders emotion, Preston, who has been trained to enforce the strict laws of the new regime, suddenly becomes the only person capable of overthrowing it. (Access, Privacy, Security)Fahrenheit 451
(1966)– Directed by Francois Truffaut. Based on the 1951 Ray Bradbury novel of the same name. Guy Montag is a firefighter who lives in a lonely, isolated society where books have been outlawed by a government fearing an independent-thinking public. It is the duty of firefighters to burn any books on sight or said collections that have been reported by informants. People in this society including Montag's wife are drugged into compliancy and get their information from wall-length television screens. After Montag falls in love with book-hoarding Clarisse, he begins to read confiscated books. It is through this relationship that he begins to question the government's motives behind book-burning. Montag is soon found out, and he must decide whether to return to his job or run away knowing full well the consequences that he could face if captured. Fantastic Planet
(1973) - Directed by Rene Laloux. La Planète Sauvage AKA Fantastic Planet is a surrealist story based on the Soviet occupation of the Czech Republic. Set in a far distant world human beings or "Oms" have been domesticated by the gigantic Draags. Wild Oms however are a problem and are exterminated by the dozen. One domesticated Om Terr is able to escape his masters with a headset that puts information directly into the brain. Armed now with the Draags technology he leads the Oms in an attempt to make life better for them...But will the deomizing destroy them? (Access, Community)Gattaca
(1997) - Directed by Andrew Niccol. Gattaca Corp. is an aerospace firm in the future. During this time society analyzes your DNA and determines where you belong in life. Ethan Hawke's character was born with a congenital heart condition which would cast him out of getting a chance to travel in space. So in turn he assumes the identity of an athlete who has genes that would allow him to achieve his dream of space travel. (Security)Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
(1994) - Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Based on Mary Shelly's novel. Frankenstein tells the story of Victor Frankenstein(Kenneth Branagh). A promising young doctor who devestated by the death of his mother during child birth, becomes obsessed with bringing the dead back to life. His experiments lead to the creation of a monster(Robert De niro) which Frankenstein has put together with the remains of corpes. It's not long before Frankenstein regrets his actions.(Ownership)The Matrix
(1999) - Directed by the Wachowski Brothers. In the near future, a computer hacker named Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovers that all life on Earth may be nothing more than an elaborate facade created by a malevolent cyber-intelligence, for the purpose of placating us while our life essence is "farmed" to fuel the Matrix's campaign of domination in the "real" world. He joins like-minded Rebel warriors Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss) in their struggle to overthrow the Matrix. Also see The Matrix Reloded
(2003) and The Matrix Revolution
(2003). (Security)Minority Report
(2002) - Directed by Stephen Spielberg. Based on a Philip K. Dick short story, Minority Report is about a cop in the future working in a division of the police department that arrests killers before they commit the crimes courtesy of some future viewing technology. Cruise's character has the tables turned on him when he is accused of a future crime and must find out what brought it about and stop it before it can happen. (Security, Privacy)Nineteen Eighty-Four
(1984) - Directed by Michael Radford. After the Atomic War the world is divided into three states. London is the capital of Oceania, ruled by a party who has total control over all its citizens. Winston Smith is one of the bureaucrats, rewriting history in one of the departments. One day he commits the crime of falling in love with Julia. They try to escape Big Brother's listening and viewing devices, but, of course, nobody can really escape. (Access, Privacy, Security)The Running Man
(1987) - Directed by Paul Michael Glaser. Set in a totalitarian society in the year 2017, the world economy has collapsed. The great freedoms of the United States are no longer, as the once great nation has sealed off its borders and become a militarized police state, censoring all film, art, literature, and communications. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays an innocent man who is sentenced to the Running Man game show, a futuristic audience participation capital punishment television show. While running from champions with Chain saws and sharpened hockey sticks, the host (Richard Dawson) is busy with calls to the network about ratings. (Access, Security)Soylent Green
(1973) - Directed by Richard Fleischer. In an overpopulated futuristic Earth, a New York police detective finds himself marked for murder by government agents when he gets too close to a bizarre state secret involving the origins of a revolutionary and needed new foodstuff. (Security. Community) THX 1138
(1971) - Directed by George Lucas. George Lucas adapted this, his first film, from a short he made at University. THX 1138, LUH 3417, and SEN 5241 attempt to escape from a futuristic society located beneath the surface of the Earth. The society has outlawed sex, with drugs used to control the people. THX 1138 stops taking the drugs, and gets LUH 3417 pregnant. They are both thrown in jail where they meet SEN 5241 and start to plan their escape. (Privacy, Security)Total Recall
(1990) - Directed by Paul Verhoeven. What is reality when you can't trust your memory? Arnold Schwarzenegger is an earthbound construction worker who keeps having dreams about Mars. A trip to a false memory transplant service for an imaginary trip to Mars goes terribly wrong and another personality surfaces. When his old self returns, he finds groups of his friends and several strangers seem to have orders to kill him. He finds records his other self left him that tell him to get to Mars to join up with the underground. The reality of the situation is constantly in question. Who is he? Which personality is correct? Which version of reality is true? Based on a Philip K. Dick short story.(Security)Tron (1982)
- Directed by Steven Lisberger. Computer Classic, one of the first computer generated movies. A hacker is split into molecules and is transported into a computer. In this computer a mean program called Master Control behaves like a dictator. The hacker, who programmed a number of features of the environment he got into, teams up with a book keeping program and his girl-friend and together they try to replace Master Control with Tron. Tron is an honest safety system.(Access, Privacy, Security)The Truman Show
(1998) - Directed by Peter Weir. He's the star of the show--but he doesn't know. Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank in this movie from director Peter Weir about a man whose life is a nonstop TV show. Truman doesn't realize that his quaint hometown is a giant studio set run by a visionary producer/director/creator (Ed Harris), that folks living and working there are Hollywood actors, that even his incessantly bubbly wife is a contract player. Gradually, Truman gets wise. And what he does about his discovery will have you laughing, crying and cheering. (Privacy)Related Books
Carroll, Noel and Choi, Jinhee (2006). Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures: An Anthology.
Malden MA: Blackwell-Publishing.
This anthology presents key selections from the best contemporary work in philosophy of film and motion pictures. Designed for classroom use, the essays that comprise this volume have been specially chosen for their clarity, precision, philosophical depth, and consonance with current cognitive science and psychology. The volume's eight sections, each introduced by the editors, cover topics such as film as art, the nature of film, documentary cinema, narration and emotion in film, film criticism, and film's relation to knowledge and morality. Whether addressing assumptions about the objectivity of documentary film, fear of movie monsters, or moral questions surrounding the viewing of pornography, this text is replete with examples and discussion of moving pictures throughout. (The Philosopher’s Index)
Litch, Mary M. (2002). Philosophy through Film.
New York: Routledge.
Do humans have free Will? What distinguishes morally right from morally wrong action? Does God exist? Does life have meaning? What is the ultimate nature of reality? What are the limits of human knowledge? Philosophy through Film offers a stimulating new way to explore the basic questions of philosophy. Each chapter uses a popular film to examine one such topic- from free will and skepticism to personal identity and artificial intelligence- in an approachable yet philosophically rigorous manner. A wide range of films is employed all of which are readily available through major video rental chains. This unique and engaging introduction provides an exciting new way to learn about philosophy, and connects complicated philosophical questions to the familiar settings of popular culture. (Amazon.com)
Philips, Michael. (1984). Philosophy and Science Fiction.
New York: Prometheus Books. Philosophy and Science Fiction" is a text that introduces students to the central problems of philosophy through science fiction. The book divides into six sections, each representing a major area in philosophy. Each section begins with an introduction that describes some major issues in the appropriate subject area and outlines the major approaches to them. Each section ends with a set of study questions to guide thinking and discussion. Authors include lem, borges, forster, capek and a number of standard american and british science fiction favorites.(The Philosopher's Index)
Pinsky, Michael. (2003). Future Present: Ethics and/as Science Fiction.
FDU Press. Future Present: Ethics and/as Science Fiction fuses contemporary philosophy with cultural texts preoccupied with the future arrival of an other: science fiction. Although Future Present contains a thorough grounding in contemporary philosophy, drawing from the work of such thinkers as Derrida, Haraway, Baudrillard and others, the theory of ethics discussed in the book is easily accessible to non-academics with an interest in science fiction and popular culture. (FDU Press)
Rowlands, Mark. (2004). The Philosopher at the End of the Universe: Philosophy Explained Through Science Fiction Films.
Thomas Dunne Books.
The Philosopher at the End of the Universe demonstrates how anyone can grasp the basic concepts of philosophy while still holding a bucket of popcorn. Mark Rowlands makes philosophy utterly relevant to our everyday lives and reveals its most potent messages using nothing more than a little humor and the plotlines of some of the most spectacular, expensive, high-octane films on the planet.
Learn about: The Nature of Reality from The Matrix, Good and Evil from Star Wars, Morality from Aliens, Personal Identity from Total Recall, The Mind-Body dilemma from Terminator, Free Will from Minority Report, Death and the Meaning of Life from Blade Runner, and much more. A search for knowledge about ourselves and the world around us with a star-studded cast that includes: Tom Cruise, Plato, Harrison Ford, Immanuel Kant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigourney Weaver, Rene? Descartes, and Keanu Reeves.
Rowlands anchors his discussions in easily understood everyday terms and relates them in a manner easy to identify with. Interspersed with a ready joke or two, he wonderfully explains why those SciFi movies we love so much are much deeper than they appear to be on the surface. Mark Rowlands's entertaining and stimulating guide is perfect for anyone searching for knowledge of the world around us.
If Keanu can understand Descartes surely everyone can. (Amazon.com)Related Articles
Csicsery-Ronay, I. (1995, Mr). Antimancer: Cybernetics and art in Gibson's Count zero. Science-Fiction Studies, 22, 63-86.
Fitting, P. (1987, November). Futurecop: the neutralization of revolt in Blade runner. Science-Fiction Studies, 14, 340-54.
Friedman, T. (1999, September). Little Brother. New York Times (Late New York Edition), 17 (Sec 4).
Galvan, J. (1997, November). Entering the posthuman collective in Philip K. Dick's Do androids dream of electric sheep?. Science-Fiction Studies, 24, 413-29.
Hoberman, J. (2001, September). The dreamlife of androids. Sight & Sound, ns11(9), 16-18.
Kirby, D. (2000, July). The new eugenics in cinema: genetic determinism and gene therapy in GATTACA. Science-Fiction Studies, 27(pt2), 193-215.
Knopf, A. (1999, Fall). Privacy and the Internet: welcome to the Orwellian world. University of Florida Journal of Law and Public Policy, 11(1), 79-99.
Lugenbiehl, Heinz C . (1984, Fall) "1984" and the Power of Technology. Social-Theory-and-Practice, 10, 289-300.
The "1984" which has found its way into popular consciousness represents Oceania as a technological superstate. Although this cultural appropriation fails to do justice to the novel’s contents, there are good reasons for holding that a highly technologized society is compatible with the dictatorial impulses warned against. This conclusion is based on consideration of Oceania’s technologies, a comparison of these to technological capabilities in Orwell’s and our own eras and the theme of autonomous technology. (The Philosopher’s Index)
Mcgray, James. (1983, September –December). Negative Utopias and Utilitarianism. Cogito, 1, 151-186.
Dystopian literature has raised interesting objections to utilitarian morality. Either utilitarianism will lead to a constricted model of the good life (Zamyatin or Huxley), or it will lead to abuse of power resulting in misery rather than happiness (Orwell). I argue that utilitarianism can answer these objections. To do so the utilitarian will need a strong theory of moral education as well as a commitment to democratic processes. (The Philosopher’s Index)
Milam, M. (1995, March/April). Science fiction and human nature. The Humanist, 55, 29-32.
Mulhall,-Stephen. (1994). Picturing the Human (Body and Soul): A Reading of Blade Runner. Film-and-Philosophy, 1, 87-104
This essay analyzes the film "Blade Runner" (directed by Ridley Scott) with reference to three canonical philosophers: Wittgenstein and his conception of the mind/body relation; Nietzsche and his vision of the "Overman's" contestation of Christian morality; and Heidegger's critique of contemporary culture as the age of technology and enframing. An implicit goal of the essay is to suggest that film need not be restricted to providing raw material or ornamentation for philosophical argument, but might itself engage in philosophical reflection--on its themes and on the nature of the cinematic medium. (The Philosopher’s Index)
Posner, Richard A. (2000, April). Orwell versus Huxley: Economics, Technology, Privacy, and Satire. Philosophy-and-Literature, 24(1), 1-33.
This article compares Nineteen Eighty-Four with Brave New World as works ostensibly of sociopolitical literature that criticize technology, rationalization, and related aspects of modernity as threats to privacy and liberty. But the article argues that the real significance of the works is literary, and that Nineteen Eighty-Four in particular is best understood as a romantic novel rather than as a warning of the dangers of totalitarianism. (The Philosopher’s Index)
Rainwater, C. (1994, June). Comments on course syllabus: identity and otherness in film and fiction. College Literature, 21, 132-42.
Rehmann-Sutter, Christoph. (1996, April). Frankensteinian Knowledge? Monist, 79(2), 264-279.
A well-known case of a recombinant Drosophila fly is referred to as an example of the wide disparity of perceptions between scientists (the fly was a "test") and the public (the fly was a "Frankensteinian monster"). The article analyzes, how different interpretative patterns are situated in different perceptive contexts and in what way these patterns lead to different moral assessments of the same real event. The myth of Frankenstein is vivid in the two main versions of the story. Both contain a distinct ethical approach to scientific knowledge, responsibility and risk. The popular film versions stipulate an ethic of control, whereas Mary Shelley's original novel from 1818 contains a type of an ethic of care. (The Philosopher’s Index)
Rollin, B. (1990, November). The Frankenstein thing: ethical issues in genetic engineering. USA Today (Periodical), 119, 70-2.
Thornburg, D. (1988, July). Computer viruses use networks to spread the disease of distrust. Compute, 10, 10.
Uhlir, P. (1993, Fall). A parable on science and technology. Issues in Science and Technology, 10, 92.Bibliographies and Guides
Buker, Derek M.(2002). The science fiction and fantasy readers' advisory : the librarian's guide to cyborgs, aliens, and sorcerers.
Chicago : American Library Association.
Sargeant, Lyman Tower.(c1979) British and American utopian literature, 1516-1975 : an annotated bibliography.
Boston : G. K. Hall.
Contento,William. Index to science fiction anthologies and collections.
Boston : G. K. Hall.Web ResourcesStudy guides prepared by Professor Paul Brians of Washington State University
Includes guides for the Handmaid’s Tale, Fahrenheit 451, Blade Runner, Neuromancer and more.Resource guide to Cyberculture and Digitization of Knowledge
from Yale University LibraryThe Failure of Fahrenheit 451 by Jenny Smith
, a weekly web-based magazine of and about speculative fiction.The Internet Movie Database
describes itself as "a HUGE collection of movie information. We try to catalog every pertinent detail about a movie, from who was in it, to who made it, to trivia about it, to filming locations, and even where you can find reviews and fan sites on the web. We then do our best to present this information in a manner that is easy to search and access."Technology, Ethics, and Society
An online pathfinder on cyberethics and the impact of technology on mankind. Includes a huge list of movies on the topic.Visions of Humanity in Cyberculture, Cyberpunk, and Science Fiction
. 2003 Conference Program Abstracts