Hinweis: Die Prozentangaben in Klammern zeigt die Gewichtung der einzelnen Aufgaben.
- Outline the way the family in Text A use modern media and how this use influences their family life. (30 %)
- Analyze the cartoon (Text B) and show how it relates to the message of Text A. Give evidence from Text A. (30 %)
- Choose one of the following tasks:
3.1 “Actual life may be duller, and more prone to conflict, than virtual life. But it has this one, signal advantage: it is real.” (Text A, ll. 38-40) Explain the quote and discuss the author’s views on virtual and real life. (40 %)
3.2 Compare Tim Lott’s experiences with modern technology to those of a character from literature or film who is also confronted with the impact of modern technological developments on his/her social surroundings. Assess the way they cope. (40 %)
3.3 Write a letter to the editor commenting on the author’s suggestion that the daily use of computers and smartphones should be restricted, especially in families. Address your letter to: Letters to the Editor The Guardian Kings Place 90 York Way London N1 9GU, UK
The newspaper article "Technology is taking over my family" by Tim Lott, published in The Guardian, January 19, 2013 shows how the use of technology influences everyday family life.
The writer refers to his previously published articles dealing with the decline of his marriage due to the constant use of various new kinds of technological devices, and concludes that as a couple, he and his wife have shared fewer experiences in real life.
In the text at hand, the writer extends this topic to his whole family, including himself, and provides several examples on how the different members of his family are permanently preoccupied with their communication devices and spend less time together. Even while they are in the house together, his daughters are more preoccupied with their mobile phones or e-readers than with having a real conversation with their father. When the author spends some time with his wife, she is simultaneously busy with her mobile phone or her PC, so that she is distracted from sharing a real experience with her husband.
As an appropriate example himself, Mr. Lott, on the one hand, provides positive aspects of the web, and concludes from these that real life in contrast to the web has become uninteresting.
He also mentions that the usage of the internet has taken over the habit of watching TV all the time, but questions if either of these contributes to the well-being of a person's soul.
He has recognized that people are startled when they are talked to in real life, and assumes that people are starting to act more like computers rather than as human beings.
Finally, he demands that the various technological devices should be put away for a period of time; although real life might be more mentally challenging than virtual life, at least it really exists.
The cartoon published on www.brucesallan.com, March 3, 2013 is about the intrusion of media into family life.
It reveals a typical scene in an average family living room at the end of a day. Dad, probably in his 30s and dressed as an office worker, is sitting in an armchair and is reading the newspaper. His young daughter of about 7 or 8 has just returned from school as she is still wearing her school uniform. The speech bubbles reveal that dad wishes to initiate a conversation with his daughter, and he asks about her school day; his is obviously interested in both his daughter and her performance at school. He seems to have a close and loving relation to her, as he calls her "Sweetie".
The viewer expects the daughter's reaction to be kind and happy about having gained her father's attention, and that she will start chatting with him right away.
The viewer's expectations are immediately shattered when the young girl, instead of talking to her father, turns away from him and looks at her blog, in which she has already posted all her experiences from during the day.
The cartoon exactly mirrors the message of the text that technology has taken over family life to such an extent where even easy, nurturing and relation-bonding conversations are dealt with using the help of media devices. In the article, the writer's daughter even texts him from the next room to ask for a cup of tea (see l. 13).
The cartoon points out the widening gap between the generations as well as their habits of using media. Dad is reading old media, the newspaper, and would actually like to talk to his daughter in real life, while his daughter is using new media, the internet blog, to share her experiences with the world.
In the text, the writer admits that he is trapped within the new media himself, but he is still aware of the dangers which might accompany the overuse of these devices, and actively supports the idea of saving some real life family habits for his children; he suggests reading real books instead of using an e-reader.
The author uses various stylistic means to reveal his position on the topic.
The phrase "Kindle fire" in l.6 refers to the double meaning of the word fire that illustrates the hidden danger in supposedly safe devices. On the one hand it refers to a warming source of energy, the energy of entertainment, but on the other hand to a destructive force, in this case the destruction of the common family communication. He also "pleads" for real children's books and using a very strong verb revealing his despair that he might already be fighting a losing battle. This fear is intensified by the use of "avail" and "lost Earth contact" in l.7 to show the reader that his children are mentally and physically already in a different dimension, and he cannot reach out to them any longer. The climax continues in ll.8 and 9 when he admits that for his children, their real family has ceased to exist: "the principal family is the Sims". He expresses a warning that excessive use of communication tools might lead to neglect of real life facts.
The different examples of the various family members show how much they have become estranged from each other and how family life is suffering. They also unveil the different levels of media intrusion of family life, and as the younger children are especially referred to, the author expresses a strong warning that the next generations might not be able to communicate in real life any longer.
The author refers to himself as also having already given in to the use of technology, which makes the text less patronizing and thus meet the reader's own experience in order to create a common basis of understanding. In that way, the author prepares the ground for his final conclusion, a suggestion how to save one's family life - which the reader might take into consideration for his or her own family.
So the text does not only describe the present situation of many families in present-day society in a very light-hearted and entertaining way, but it includes a proposal that might be an easy solution to the problem, and shows the benefits for the whole family.
The family in the text at hand might also be seen as a representative core of society, so that when it is placed in a wider context, real, face to face communication in the whole of society might disappear. The author not only warns us, but shows that the parents' responsibility is to act as a role models themselves, and to understandably limit the impact of technology for their family's sake.
The author prefers real life, as it represents a real challenge to face. There are real persons who express different opinions in various situations; they do not always react in the intended way, which adds an interesting aspect to one's life. This might also create conflicts which have to be tackled and solved, and that means it can be beneficial for one's own development and social interaction; society grows from that.
Social interaction is crucial for human beings, as it is the basis for economic, political, social, and cultural development. The loss of social interaction would mean the loss of society, as it estranges people from each other and makes them prone to the use of violence, which might lead, on a wider scale, to the extinction of mankind.
"It is real" (l.40) also states the contrast between real life, which is full of challenges and hard work and therefore stressful, and virtual life, in which conflicts, unwanted or difficult persons can be easily deleted from the screen according to one's own vision of what the world should look like and how people should behave.
Since each individual sets his or her own moral standards in the virtual world, there is no longer a common understanding of these standards; the common basis is lost so that moral values can easily decline or even disappear. The result is an abundance of dream worlds which might only marginally correspond to each other. These dream worlds cannot foresee the challenges in the real world, such as natural disasters or an economic crisis, and people will be socially unfit to cope with these problems, as they lack basic skills like team work, patience, tolerance, ambition, and endurance in performing. This might result in a devolution of a social togetherness.
On the one hand, the author's view is understandable as technological devices are time-consuming; time usually spent together as a family talking or playing board games is now spent individually with one's device, the smartphone or tablet. These devices also provide many options to adapt to one's own preferences, or to eliminate many problems while, for example, creating ideal surroundings for an ideal family in the Sims world, or to eliminate other unwanted nations in World of Warcraft.
While everybody is individually preoccupied with their own individual virtual worlds, they are separated locally and intellectually as well, as they no longer have a shared space of communication.
Real life not only requires the above mentioned skills to face and to solve problematic situations, but also requires strength to pursue one's goals in conversations, communication skills in general, and the responsibility to handle them. Most of all it requires time to create and maintain relationships, whereas in the virtual world, problems can be deleted simply by pressing keys.
On the other hand, the author's view is not understandable, as it portrays the dangers of these technological tools too extremely.
Technical devices also inspire communication, as multiple conversations are possible at the same time. People can develop a larger sphere of communication with people from different countries, for example in social media, when exchanging different views or learning about new political and cultural events, such as the uprising in various North African countries a couple of years ago. They can call for action to point out environmental issues, like Greenpeace’s call for help to stop offshore deep-sea oil drilling in New Zealand in October/November 2015. In this way, the virtual world does reflect the real world, and interconnects people with real events they can influence even from far away.
Technical devices are not only for playing games or twittering useless information, as the author of the text admits himself in lines 19 and 20; they share information, they interconnect families, especially when they are far away from each other due to work or educational requirements. In conclusion, technical devices place people in the real world.
In summary, it might be stated that it is necessary to assess responsibly when and if technological devices or real human relationships are preferred and necessary in respective situations.
It is the parents' responsibility to teach their children the advantages of both worlds, the real and the virtual. Children have to learn, also by their parents' behaviour, not to give in to the comfort the virtual world offers, even when parents use tablets as babysitters so that they can continue with their own activities without being annoyed by their children's behaviour.
One world does not replace, but complements the other one, although the virtual world must remain a tool to enrich one's real life.
Tim Lott's experiences are exemplary experiences lots of families in the Western societies have to face. So it is more than logical that literary works of the different genres also reflect on this growing tendency, often showing how the value of real human relationships can be undermined or destroyed when technological devices take control.
A first example can be seen in Ray Bradbury's story "The Veldt", about a family in which TV takes control over the family life step by step. The parents have a TV installed that creates very vivid images of the real surroundings, and the programs can be controlled and changed according to one's mood. First, the whole family seems to be content with its device. As the parents recognize that the children are spending too much time inside the TV room and feel as if it is already an important part of their life, they decide to exercise their responsibility again and shut down the room. What's more, the mother is especially frightened that the settings of the TV have been altered so that it does not feel like watching TV any longer, but rather stepping into another reality. Overhearing this and being afraid of their parents denying them their most beloved activity, the children lure their parents into this very room in which a dangerous scene of the African Sahara has been installed in which lions are hunting. The children lock the door, and the parents are destroyed by the too-real animals. Finally, the children are content with the situation, as the TV is now watching over them.
This story, although it was written 50 years ago, completely coincides with the contents of the newspaper article at hand. The story especially focuses on the parents' responsibility to educate their children with respect to media so that family bonds are not sacrificed for technology. It warns parents against using any technological device as a babysitter to relieve them of their natural duties of raising and educating their children. In the story, the parents have become aware of the danger, but decide to intervene too late. They failed with respect to the fact that they only reacted very harshly in switching off TV without any proper talk or explanation to their children. They do not even recognize that they have been replaced by the TV device.
Another example might be the film, "The Truman Show", in which the protagonist unknowingly has been victimized, as each of his actions is broadcasted live. Any citizen can participate in the protagonist's daily life. As soon as Truman becomes aware of this situation, he leaves it, showing that privacy is more important than the entertainment of a greater audience. Unfortunately, the director and producer of this show uses every possible means to stop Truman from escaping the show, even taking his death into consideration. In this case, the protagonist Truman acts very responsibly, taking the decision of freeing himself from the media into his own hands. In contrast to this, the antagonist, the director of the show, acts irresponsibly by displaying his willingness to destroy human life only to keep the media going; he sacrifices human moral standards for the sake of profit.
As a third example, one might refer to Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" or the movie "I, Robot".
In Ray Bradbury's novel, the population is estranged from real life by having books banned; only TVs are allowed. People have become totally dependent on the screen; they even consider shows as a part of their own social life. Mildred, the protagonist's wife, no longer recognizes that the TV program The family is not part of her life, but only a virtual family. In this way, people in this society are easy to control and manipulate; they act like robots, and as TV does not require them to think, they have lost this essential human skill as well. Guy Montag, the protagonist, due to various incidents in his surroundings, becomes aware of the benefits books contain, and starts thinking and questioning the system, for which he is hunted down. Again, technological devices like the Mechanical Hound are used to trace down and kill people who disobey; in other words, they are deleted from the screen.
Taking the above-mentioned protagonists into consideration, one might conclude that it is essential to preserve human characteristics like individual thinking, questioning situations and given facts, working together and being sociable. Otherwise, society as such will surely fail, and mankind will cease to exist. But the responsibility of how to implement technology into everyday life and not to give in to the comfort it provides lies in the hands of each human being, and is not easy to carry.
In yesterday's edition of "The Guardian", I read Tim Lott's article "Technology is taking over my family", in which he describes what and how much influence technological devices have gained in his family recently. The article ends with the author suggesting that the daily use of technological devices like computers and smartphones should be restricted to maintain a functional family life.
In my opinion, this is a brave suggestion when explored in two different directions.
What speaks for the suggestion are the following aspects:
First, these devices are time-consuming and so, logically, there would be less time to be spent together as a family to share traditional experiences like talking, discussing issues, going outdoors, and enjoying time together, so that family bonds that grow from commonly-shared experiences are not so strong any more.
Secondly, these devices distract especially children and students from really important issues like homework. Not sufficiently prepared, they might fail to meet the demands at school or in university. These devices have easy access to the internet, and tempt the student to benefit from someone else's work which has been published on the Net, rather than creating something on their own. Copying and pasting information rather than thinking of solutions on one's own often seems like a quick fix, but in the long run, thinking in different directions might vanish as a result.
What is more, people might become totally dependent on their devices. Wherever you are at the bus stop, in a café, or in the doctor's waiting room, people are constantly checking their smartphones for updated information and would rather contact the virtual world than interact with the real world around them. So generally said, communication and problem-solving skills are declining, as different solutions are always available on the web, but trustworthiness of the respected information is not questioned, as it might postpone the problem-fixing fact.
But there are also aspects that speak against the author's suggestion.
Technological devices connect families, especially those whose members live far away from each other or who are in different locations due to their work or educational requirements, for example. Despite the distance, family members and friends can keep in contact and share and exchange experiences, which strengthens their social bonds as well as their communicational skills. They might even introduce new people into their communication, and in this way widen their sphere of influence.
In conclusion, it might be said that it is difficult to limit the usage of computers or smartphones as Tim Lott suggests. It is difficult to draw a line between when to use them for work or school and when to use them for leisure activities. This might end in total control, and might destroy a trustful atmosphere within the family, the very othing the author is trying to re-establish with his proposal.
In my opinion, it might be better to come to an agreement within the whole family that at certain times, for example when eating together as a family, technological devices should be switched off or set aside to allow family time without interruption. One might even start a game of who might survive the longest without any technological device, and one could in this way rediscover the fun in human relationships.
Most important of all, it is the parents who have to be technologically aware and responsibly teach their children real values like love, trust, honesty, and responsibility, things that cannot be downloaded, and reactivate the joy of thinking and the joy of success that come along with social interaction and overcoming obstacles.
It is my hope that there are and will be lots of readers who are willing to face and tackle this new challenge.
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