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Sci Fi YAL Presentation

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Sci Fi YAL Presentation

  1. 1. Being Human and Working Towards Justice in the Digital Age Through the Study and Teaching of Young Adult Literature Amy Piotrowski, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Utah State University Twitter: @piotrowskiamy Website: amypiotrowski.com
  2. 2. The Issue NCTE’s Definition of Literacy in a Digital Age (2019) calls on teachers to have students: ● “Participate effectively and critically in a networked world” ● “Examine the rights, responsibilities, and ethical implications of the use and creation of information”
  3. 3. The Issue One way to think about ethics and responsibilities is through science fiction, a genre that is “a literature of possibilities and alternatives.” (Mendlesohn)
  4. 4. The Issue What does it mean to be human in a world of the Internet, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, social media, smart devices, and data collection many places we go offline and online?
  5. 5. The Issue “Books that provide fictional representations of a future that involves technological advancement play a unique role in introducing children to issues that are relevant to scientific and technological progress, as in the moral and ethical implications of such developments” (Flanagan, Tech and Identity in YAL, 2014, p. 6)
  6. 6. The Issue “Literature possess the power to imagine a future and, in so doing, engage readers in questions of ethics in otherwise unthought-of scenarios. Through reading and critical discussion, English teachers offer students emotional and social questions, enabling them - we hope - to face their future dilemmas with intelligence, empathy, and autonomy” (Lindblom, Rivera, & Radice, 2020)
  7. 7. The Issue Posthumanism examines technology’s impact on humanity and society, from Haraway (1985) and Hayles (1999), in which the boundaries between the human and the technological are blurred, to recent work examining depictions of technology in YAL (Flannagan, 2014; Hervey 2018)
  8. 8. The Issue Flanagan discusses how in posthumanism agency is “collective and networked instead of being based purely on individualism” (2014, p. 5). So, how do we act ethically when agency is “collective and networked” online?
  9. 9. The Novels YA science fiction provides readers with a look at the ethics of Internet technologies, online spaces, and artificial intelligence. These texts demonstrate how technologies aren’t neutral, reflect the biases of the people who make them, and come with ethical issues.
  10. 10. The Novels
  11. 11. The Novels
  12. 12. The Novels
  13. 13. Feed (2012) Titus and friends have the connective capabilities of the Feed, but the way the Feed works is designed to distract them. (Flanagan points out how the first person narration brings the reader into Titus’s “fragmented” and interrupted lived experience.) The technology that connects them also separates them. Example: as Violet slips away, all Titus can do to cope is order pants and more pants obsessively. “Maybe, Violet if we check out some of the great bargains available to you through the feednet over the next six months, we might be able to create a consumer portrait of you that would interest our investment team.” - Nina from Feed Tech
  14. 14. Feed (2012) “[T]he main tension is whether achieving a sense of self is even possible when being connected, both biologically and virtually, to so many outside stimuli mean being constantly influenced and having our choices made for us” (Hervey, 2018, p. 28). “Anderson actually refuses to cordon youth off as the ‘dumbest generation’; both Titus and his father are intellectually stunted by the feed, and all culture is presented as both hyperstimulated and vapid” (Bell, 2020).
  15. 15. Lifelike Trilogy (2018, 2019, 2020) In the aftermath of a devastating war, Eve Carpenter lives with her grandfather in what is left of California, a place known as Dregs. Two corporations vie for control: one specializes in cybernetic and robotic technologies, the other specializes in genetic engineering. Eve pilots machina in WarDome fights that pit machines against each other. During one fight, she takes down a logika by just looking at it. As she flees from a cult that sees this ability as deviant, she sees a plane crash and discovers that the pilot is not a human, but a lifelike - an A.I. being made to be just like a human, except faster and stronger. Lifelikes were banned years ago after they led an uprising that killed their creator and his family. What is this lifelike doing in Dregs?
  16. 16. Lifelike Trilogy (2018, 2019, 2020) Kristoff’s series asks what might happen if artificial intelligence designed to be better than humans rebels against their makers. The lifelikes are supposed to be bound by Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, but when they are not bound by the Three Laws, they turn to Milton’s Paradise Lost to justify their uprising. The lifelikes see themselves as the next stage of human evolution.
  17. 17. Scythe Trilogy (2016, 2018, 2019) The Thunderhead, the A.I. that runs the world, is a benevolent presence. The scythedom, which is run entirely by humans without Thunderhead intervention, has corruption problems. Scythe’s power to kill: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” - Lord John Dalberg-Acton “However, the sycthedom is not bound by my laws, or my sense of ethical propriety. Which means that I must endure any abomination that it inflicts upon the world.” - the Thunderhead
  18. 18. Scythe Trilogy (2016, 2018, 2019) The Thunderhead manages to find loopholes around the laws governing its behavior in order to influence events that it cannot directly intervene in. Many seem to follow the Thunderhead’s guidance without question or accept what the Thunderhead says and does is what is for the best. How do humans make choices and act on their own agency, and how does A.I. shape human behavior?
  19. 19. Warcross (2017) and Wildcard (2018) Everyone uses NeuroLink glasses, which provides virtual reality and augmented reality. Emika is a bounty hunter and hacker who ends up in the big Warcross tournament. The game’s creator, Hideo, hires Emika to go after someone planning to disrupt the tournament. Turns out someone seeks to use the NeuroLink to control people so they cannot commit a crime. “You’re taking away something that makes us fundamentally human!” - Emika
  20. 20. Rebelwing (2020) Prudence Wu is a prep school student in what was Washington, D.C., one of the few oasis of democracy in a continent taken over by a heartless corporate conglomerate. She unexpectedly finds herself the chosen pilot of a cybernetic dragon powered by sentient A.I. that can win the war against the corporate conglomerate. A story about the power of connection over brutality. “Wars are nothing more than a means to sell a product. And I sold.” - weapons dealer
  21. 21. Girl of Flesh and Metal Trilogy (2020, 2021) Lena Hayes is the daughter of the leaders of CyberCorp. When Lena loses her arm in a car accident, she gets a cybernetic arm from CyberCorp. She hates the idea of the new arm and its artificial intelligence. She hates it even more when the children of CyberCorp employees start turning up dead. Lena knows that she was sleepwalking at the time of the murders. Did she commit these horrible killings? This series is a hybrid of science fiction and mystery. Lena is skeptical of technology, yet finds herself with a cybernetic arm. She has serious doubts about the new androids her parents’ company is about to sell, and those doubts may be well founded.
  22. 22. Hard Wired (2020) Quinn is a fifteen year old boy who mourns the loss of his father. Then Quinn is told that he isn’t a boy, but rather an artificial intelligence. The man he believed was his father is really a university professor running the experiment that is Quinn. Quinn sets out to determine if he can run his own life, without his father. Quinn wonders who he is and how he can connect with others. He tries to make friends with other computers as well as humans. He sues his father for the chance to make his own decisions. Vlahos’s novel asks if A.I. robots should have rights.
  23. 23. Teaching Applications ● Examine issues of privacy online, especially data collected to run A.I. that targets advertising to us. Example: Apple latest iOS update lets users turn off the ability of apps to track them, much to Facebook’s dismay. ● What data do the websites and apps we use collect? How is that data used? Read the privacy policy for a website or app - really read through the entire document. Get your data from Google, Facebook, or Twitter. See what they have and how they can use it.
  24. 24. Teaching Applications ● How will AI affect how we buy things, our health care, our jobs? ● PBS’s Frontline documentary “In the Age of AI” (November 5, 2019) ● W. Kamau Bell’s United Shades of America episode “Black to the Future” (May 9, 2021) which discusses techno-racism
  25. 25. Teaching Applications ● Discuss use of AI in schools: ○ “Schools Are Deploying Massive Digital Surveillance Systems. The Results Are Alarming” - Education Week, May 30, 2019 ○ “District's Plan to Use Facial Recognition Tech for Safety Raises Big Privacy Concerns” - Education Week, May 30, 2019
  26. 26. Questions? ● Email: amy.piotrowski@usu.edu ● Twitter: @piotrowskiamy ● Website: amypiotrowski.com

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