I’m going to share a story with you about Technology, Entertainment and Design that began in 1984 at Loras College in Dubuque Iowa -- where I was privileged to take an honors class that did nothing but analyze George Orwell’s 1984. There was only one book required and this was the Book Cover.
For a quick 1984 refresher –The Ghostbusters were helping residents of the Big Apple deal with the evil Mr. Staypuft Marshmallow Man, Kevin Bacon was Footloose, Huey Lewis was looking for a new drug and Tina Turner wanted to know, “What’s Love got to do with it? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tina_turner_21021985_01_350.jpg
Although 1984 would prove to be a break out year for personal computing -- this is what a typical computer looked like in the mid 80s.
When I decided to take the 1984 honors class, I got a nice warm feeling from the DESIGN of the Book Cover.
It had a friendly vibe and it reminded me of Schoolhouse Rock. As a child in the 70s Schoolhouse Rock used ENTERTAINMENT to teach me multiplication tables, conjunction junction, how a Bill becomes Law,…
… three is a magic number, and that when you turn a figure 8 on its side it becomes the symbol for infinity.
To this day I can SING the exact words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution from memory. As a matter of fact, for my Entertainment portion of this talk, I will sing “We The People” from Schoolhouse Rock. Just kidding.
I was due for a rude awakening, 1984 was NOTHING like schoolhouse rock.. thankfully I knew how to use interjections…
After the first couple of weeks in this class I discovered 1984 was the antithesis of schoolhouse rock, … it’s pretty grim stuff.
If you perform a google image search for “George Orwell’s 1984” You will find most of the book cover designs, Bleak … Dark … ominous.
Over 90% of thedesigns I reviewed matched the world Orwell describes.
the Omniscient Scary eye is a persistent theme. Big Brother is always watching. He’s behind every eye you encounter. Even the children become the eyes of Big Brother.
Big Brother knows what’s best for you, so it’s in your best interest to give him total control over your life… even what you think. Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948, it was published in 49 and in 56 the BBC aired a televised version which can be viewed on YouTube
Winston, the protagonist, works at the Ministry of Truth.
In this scene Winston, the protagonist, receives a message from the Inner Party and it is delivered via Pneumatic tube. This is what a computer looked like in the mid 50s.
Hollywood made a movie the same year. In the credits it claims to be “Freely adapted from 1984”
The Hollywood version had more of a Nazi Germany feel, with cleaner streets and …
… sexier main characters – PLUS a love story befitting pulp fiction. This was the DESIGN of the bookcover in 1955. Credit:zenandjuice.comthe website of chris bray
This image is from the Two Minutes of Hate scene in the ‘56 Hollywood version.
And so is this -- A member of the inner party is holding up 4 fingers and Winston is being tortured because he can only see the truth. Months before Winston had written in his diary, “freedom is the ability to say 2 + 2 = 4 “.
This is the face of the News Media from the movie released in 1984. A totalitarian regime must maintain absolute control over news and information --- and yet very few book cover designs portray this key theme - even though Winston’s job was to amend history to suit Big Brother. Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.
Winston was also working on a Newspeak dictionary which contained dramatically fewer words. If Big Brother controlled information AND language, it would be easier to control thoughts and expressions. Winston states, “By 2050 …The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they'll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed .., but actually contradictory of what they used to be. .…”
“… Even the SLOGANS will change. How could you have a slogan like "freedom is slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now.”
Orwell would be pleased to learn that rather than pruning the English language -we are adding new words at an alarming rate. In Shakespeare’s time there were approximately 60,000 words. According to Merriam-Webster, we now have roughly 1 million and we’re adding new word all the time.
Orwell would be rolling over in his grave to learn about the voyeuristic TV show meme that turned his cautionary tale into pop-culture fluff using a groovy diamond-like eye.
Let’s move away from that unpleasantness and return to the story that matters. Here is the cover of Time Magazine-- November 1983 – celebrating Orwell as Big Brother’s Dad.
Two months later in January of ‘84- Steve Jobs introduced the era of personal computing by flying in the face of the establishment. In the now famous commercial -- Big Brother is IBM.
Steve Jobs was later vilified as Big Brother -- among geeks-- as being a totalitarian tyrant who demanded fullcontrol over all his devices.
It got to be that anybody of note was a candidate for Big Brother.
Even Hillary Clinton made an appearance as Big Brother in this Campaign ad for Obama’s first term.
When Orwell graced the cover of TIME Magazine - and I was reading 1984 in Loras College with the Schoolhouse Rock Book Cover … Surveillance Cameras began emerging as the latest all-seeing scary eye of Big Brother. <div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" xmlns:dct="http://purl.org/dc/terms/" about="http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/03/17/11/3171133_53faa52c.jpg"><span property="dct:title">A new Big Brother?</span> (<a rel="cc:attributionURL" property="cc:attributionName" href="http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/47623">Neil Owen</a>) / <a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a></div>
And it was reflected in the DESIGN of newer book covers… but who is watching whom?
And for a bit of Irony -- Here is the surveillance Camera that monitors tourists who visit George Orwell’s home today.
It was about this time during my research when paranoia crept in. I realized Google was tracking every search and I wondered how the government would interpret my current online behavior.http://www.americanmadness.com/2006/01/30/googles-price/
While Google keeps track of my online search Marc Zuckerburg is now the Omniscient Big Brother to over 1 Billion Facebook users.
Whoever Big Brother is now I’ll bet he’s also watching YouTube.
For me - Big Brother always felt like a Governmental agency until the #IranElection debacle in 2009 when ….
Tweeters from all over the world championed the Iranian Student’s cause and did little things to show support -- like changing the local time in their twitter settings to show Tehran’s time zone so that government officials would not be able to track down locals. In one tweet @sadenshi posted, “Do not take advice on action from NEW people on Twitter. Many are govt agents trying to trap. Lives are at stake. #Iranelection”
@ardentvox tweeted, “Watching the #iranelection tweets. Never before have we seen technology combine with purpose to create this much unity.”@_lindley… posted, “ Many governments worry about guns in their people's hands, Iran fears computers in theirs! #IranElection #NetRevolution”
An accidental reporter happened to be walking by as this young woman was gunned down by militia. Just a random passerby – who now fears for his life -- captured Neda’s horrific death. Moments later the footage was uploaded to facebook -- and within minutes – Neda’s video spread globally like wildfire on twitter.
Aljazeera and other news organizations covered the #IranElections by broadcasting interviews with some of these accidental reporters. The footage was captured by cell phones and uploaded to social media platforms.
One amazing accidental reporting incident comes from a micro blogger living in Pakistan named Mr. Athar. He accidentally LIVE tweeted the Capture of Osama Bin Laden. From the Huffingtonpost online -- Quote.. “After … speculating for several hours over what happened, it dawned on Athar --- and those FOLLOWING him -- that they were witnessing the end of a worldwide manhunt…” President Obama addressed the nation a full seven hours after Mr. Athar’s 1st tweet about the helicopter.
It is impossible to redact information, or change history, when an event is downloaded to a million different mobile devices within a half hour. There are 7 Billion people on the face of the earth and FIVE Billion cell phone subscriptions. Hot stories can easily reach a million devices within a matter of moments.
Winston felt humanity’s salvation would come from the Proletariat class or the unwashed masses. The Proles represented 85% of the population in 1984. With a concerted effort they could reverse Big Brother’s course with sheer numbers alone. As Winston watched this Prole washing clothes and singing he stated, “I believe it’s people like her who will overthrow Big Brother and all he stands for.” But WInston had little hope of this happening because the Proles were unorganized and had no way to collaborate on a grand scale.
Among all the book cover designs reviewed, the Slovakian Edition of 2009 comes closest to the current environment. I think Orwell would be happy to see NO big scary eyes – actually there are no eyes at all – just cell phones in the hands of the unwashed masses. It would appear the Proletariat finally have a way to collaborate and wrestle control away from Big Brother.
I will end my story with a quote from a BBC documentary about Orwell’s final days in which they claim he said, “The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one, Don't let it happen. It depends on you" I wonder how our digitally connected youth will handle this awesome power.http://guestofaguest.com/washington-dc/inauguration-2013/photo-round-up-inauguration-2013&slide=1
Who is Big Brother now?
The Look of 1984http://www.holster.co.uk/blog/the-look-of-1984