Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Revolutionary Media in 'The Hunger Games' Trilogy

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."
 (Albert Einstein) 
Although this posts' contents are a complete u-turn from my usual interests, I could not resist sharing my insights into the use of Digital Media in The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I was quite skeptical about reading these books, automatically categorizing them within the ranks of tween literature series' such as The Twilight Saga. There's nothing wrong with that franchise of books and films. I have read all of the books and watched all of the films; but I wasn't quite convinced of the hype, or the standard of writing (cough, cough!). However this particular series of books offer a departure from the traditional love story motif, by weaving a discourse on the over-saturation of digital media and the effects that technology can have on society.

The books are set in the dystopian world of Panem, in which an uprising has led to society being re-arranged into districts labelled one to twelve. Every year these districts must participate in a reality televised competition known as the Hunger Games. This reality tv show consists of a 'fight to the death' formula, in which two tributes from each district are chosen each year for the entertainment of 'The Capital'. The books developed an argument on the decay of morality which results from the over-saturation of media and technology upon society. The fact that the upper echelons of society in the books watch the suffering of others for entertainment, highlights this challenge to our interpretations of the power of media. The main character, Katniss, acts as a symbol throughout for the fight against this decay of media and technology.

These books carry a heavy political message on our responsibilities to use technology properly. After all, media can be the most manipulative weapon that we have in society. These three books, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, are categorised as Science Fiction, which I would have to agree with, considering the heavy emphasis on technology throughout. The Independent's review of the books by Paddy O' Doherty describes them as follows:

The Hunger Games is a hybrid comprising many modern cultural references. It has the voyeuristic magnetism of the original Big Brother TV show, the deprivation and reward system of I'm a Celebrity ... get me out of here, the glamour of Next Top Model and the harshness and the tragedy of a war documentary.
The misuse of media throughout these three novels has contributed to the decay in society, which leads to a further uprising in the final novel and the abolishment of the dictatorship regime overseen by President Snow. The books are inspired by contemporary and antiquarian elements, which Collins talks about in interviews which she gave on the books. The classical inspirations are drawn from the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. On an annual basis, Athens has to send seven young women and men to Crete, who are put into the Labyrinth with the minotaur, to try and survive. The Contemporary inspiration for these novels is drawn from various reality tv shows. Collins talks about our "fascination with reality television", which she employs in the books to draw attention to the desensitization which is emerging due to our over-exposure in this mass digital media culture.

(Clay Shirky's talk on how the internet could one day transform the government, if handled properly of course!)

My main argument for these books is that they create a powerful dialogue upon modern issues in the use and abuse of technology and media tools, which could be detrimental to how we approach our future. Collins advocates a mindful approach to the use of media as a platform, instilling a belief through these books that in order to retain our humanity, we need to reinforce the real, and see the value in moral technology, rather than  demoralized technology for entertainment. The careful, monitored use of digital tools is something which I believe is essential to the prevention of their detrimental effects upon our perceptions of culture. However, this is not to day that media should be censored, rather it should be used for it's true purpose, to communicate and educate, rather than for mindlessness. These books have eluded to the fact that mass media consumption through technology is creating a sense of de-socialization and de-sensitization, which could in theory be a threat to how the social progresses. This is turn could effect how our cultural identity is formed.
Part of us is immersed in world culture, but, because there is no longer a public space where social norms could be formed and applied, another part of us retreats into hedonism or looks for a sense of belonging that is more immediate. . . both individuals and groups are therefore less and less defined by the social relations which until now defined the field of sociology, whose goal was to explain behaviour in terms of the social relations in which actors were involved (Public Connection Through Media Consumption, 251). 
While I recognise the perils of the influx of digital media, it also has had many rewards. I believe that navigation is a key issue, and the education of younger generations upon the navigation of this media is essential. Now to the comments. What are your thoughts upon this view purported by Collins? Have you read the novels or seen the film adaptation of the first novel? If so, what are your own views on them? Is social media our new society?

Works Cited

Couldry, Nick and Tim Markham. "Public Connection through Media Consumption: Between Oversocialization and De-Socialization?", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Vol. 608 (2006). 251-269. Jstor. Web.


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