Promotie – Thijs van den Berg

Op vrijdag 7 december verdedigt Thijs van den Berg zijn proefschrift getiteld: ‘A History of Our Connected Future: Dystopia, Telecommunication Technology and Space’

Promotor/Begeleider: Prof. dr. C. Lindner, mw. dr. J. Goggin
Datum7 december 2012
Tijd: 10 uur stipt
Locatie: Agnietenkapel, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231, Amsterdam

(Very) Short summary
The subject of my dissertation is the relationship between dystopian narrative and telecommunication technology. Communication devices, such as the telegraph, television and the Internet often serve as inspiration for literature and movies that seem to present a diegetic world that is “worse” than contemporary reality. For example, television informs George Orwell’s dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). The dystopian qualities of this novel are to a great extent the direct consequence of the “telescreen”: a television that is not just watched by citizens of Oceania but that also allows Big Brother to constantly observe his subjects. In dystopian film, communication devices also often create such—seemingly—nightmarish environments. For example, The Matrix (1999) refers to the Internet to create a fictional world in which users are no longer able to separate “natural reality” from technological mediation.

 This dissertation is principally concerned with the question of why telecommunication devices can so effectively call to mind “dystopianness”. Why are such technologies so characteristic for this genre, and how did the “cinematophote” in E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” (1909), the “telescreen” from Nineteen Eighty-Four, HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969) and cyberspace become dystopian symbols?