O is for Orwellian

| May 4, 2014

I first read George Orwell’s classic 1984 when I was a senior in high school. It is amazing to think about the influence of this novel, as well as its commentary on society. Although it was published back in 1949, the themes and ideas within it are perhaps more relevant than ever.

With the ways technology has advanced, it’s undoubted that humans are more connected than ever before. We have the ability to instantly communicate, to access worlds of information within a matter of seconds, and to consume and produce in endless ways thanks to computers, the internet, cell phones, and all that comes with them. While no one would argue against the many benefits of technology, there always is a slight price to pay.

Our internet searches and messages are archived, our location can be tracked via cell phone GPS, and with social profiles, we are more visible to more people than ever before. Our language is transforming down to abbreviations and acronyms or initialisms. There is a constant possibility of being monitored or watched in ways not unlike Big Brother. People can be stigmatized based on what they say Given the big NSA scandal, the issues surrounding Wikileaks, and countless viruses and hacking groups, it is safe to say that the questions Orwell raised in his classic are perhaps more relevant than ever. I would love to have an opportunity to have students engage with this novel and what it might say about our own world today.

In other senses, it is also interesting to note the impact Orwell’s story has had on the art world. Recalling to mind my post on Transmedia storytelling, it’s amazing to see the pieces of art or music that have been inspired by the story. Muse’s 2009 album, The Resistance, drew from the novel; the movie Equilibrium is based on a similar premise; a new “romantic” film remake is coming this year possibly (although the quality may be questionable); and there are countless other references in song, comics, books, film, and television.