Assignment thoughts

August 29, 2008 3 Comments »

So, one of the assignments I have at the beginning of my Communications Production Technology class is to ask the students to imagine a world with no higher tech communications (no internet, phones, TV, GPS, etc.).  Many students confuse the assignment and picture a world with no technology, which is kind of interesting, but beside the point.  Some students, however, grasp the concept quite well, and are able to imagine consequences I hadn’t thought of until they wrote it (no weather reports… hmm).

It is an interesting thought exercise, given how widely we rely on communications in our day-to-day lives.  Even the removal of a part of that network would be disastrous (imagine the internet going down, or an ionizing event in the atmosphere preventing radio-based communications).  I read a couple years ago a book by Kevin Anderson called Ill Wind (it’s now enjoying a resurgence because of high gas prices).  The premise of the book is that an oil tanker spills its cargo into San Francisco Bay, and the oil company, in an effort to limit the damage, unleashes an oil-eating bacteria on the slick (this has actually been proposed as a possible solution to the environmental disasters caused by supertanker spills).  The bacteria is a huge success, but in the process of consuming the spill, it mutates into a form that devours all petrochemical-based products: plastic, Styrofoam, gasoline, etc.  The novel follows the breakdown of the modern technological society as much of the underpinnings are taken away.  The major conflict is between those who have a “might makes right” attitude (including a US army general who imposes martial law in an attempt to solve many of the problems) and those who have an “if we all work together, this will turn out okay” attitude.  Decent book.  Anyway…

On the whole, the class seems to think the loss of all communications technologies would ahve both positive and negative effects, with the negative outweighing the positive.  Given how much this generation is surrounded by communication, is it any wonder that picturing any other kind of life makes it out to be inferior.

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  1. Benjy August 31, 2008 at 12:47 am -

    It seems to be similar to the possible communication problem in the future, if mankind somehow travels to the stars. Interactions between planets will still be limited to the speed of light, and that may take years.

  2. Kayla October 17, 2008 at 1:53 pm -

    That book actually sounds rather fantastic, would you recommend it?

    Why didn’t you give my CPT class that project? Razz

  3. Ian Hecht October 17, 2008 at 6:05 pm -

    The book is above mediocre – I have a copy if you’d like to borrow it. That assignment is one of the first ones I give in CPT 10 at the beginning of the semester. I’ve done it every time, but it’s really quick, so you could miss it if you were absent for a day.