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Aufgabe 3

Aufgaben
Download als Dokument:PDFWord

TASKS

1
Outline Mercer's view on the abuse of social media.
(30 %)
2
Analyze the ways Mercer attempts to persuade Mae to change her online behavior. Give evidence from the text.
(30 %)
3
Choose one of the following tasks:
3.1
Discuss Mercer's comparison of social media with “snack food” (l. 57).
Refer to your knowledge about how young people use social media.
(40 %)
OR
3.2
Compare Mercer's opinion with that of another character in literature or film who also has a critical view of technology. Assess the way they cope with living in a world obsessed with technology.
(40 %)
OR
3.3
Write a letter to Dave Eggers in which you invite him to take part in a panel discussion on “The Dangers of Social Media”. Explain your reasons for inviting him, reflecting on the criticism of social media in his novel and your own view on the subject.
Address your letter to:
Mr. Dave Eggers
McSweeney's
849 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA
94110 USA
(40 %)
1
Outline Mercer's view on the abuse of social media. (30 %)
2
Analyze the ways Mercer attempts to persuade Mae to change her online behavior. Give evidence from the text. (30 %)
3
Choose one of the following tasks:
3.1
Discuss Mercer's comparison of social media with “snack food” (l. 57).
Refer to your knowledge about how young people use social media. (40 %)
OR
3.2
Compare Mercer's opinion with that of another character in literature or film who also has a critical view of technology. Assess the way they cope with living in a world obsessed with technology. (40 %)
OR
3.3
Write a letter to Dave Eggers in which you invite him to take part in a panel discussion on “The Dangers of Social Media”. Explain your reasons for inviting him, reflecting on the criticism of social media in his novel and your own view on the subject. (40 %)
Address your letter to:
Mr. Dave Eggers
McSweeney's
849 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA
94110 USA
Text: Excerpt from the novel The Circle
By Dave Eggers
Note: Mae Holland works for the CIRCLE, the world's most powerful internet company. Its slogan is ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN. In this excerpt, she is talking to her ex-boyfriend Mercer.




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[…] “All right. Mae, we have to change how we interact. Every time I see or hear from you, it's through this filter. You send me links, you quote someone talking about me, you say you saw a picture of me on someone's wall. . . . It's always this third-party assault.
Even when I'm talking to you face-to-face you're telling me what some stranger thinks of me. It becomes like we're never alone. Every time I see you, there's a hundred other people in the room. You're always looking at me through a hundred other people's eyes.”
“Don't get dramatic about it.”
“I just want to talk with you directly. Without you bringing in every other stranger in the world who might have an opinion about me.”
“I don't do that.”
“You do, Mae. A few months ago, you read something about me, and remember this? When I saw you, you were so standoffish.”
“That's because they said you were using endangered species for your work!”
“But I've never done that.”
“Well, how am I supposed to know that?”
“You can ask me! Actually ask me. You know how weird that is, that you, my friend and ex-girlfriend, gets her information about me from some random person who's never met me? And then I have to sit across from you and it's like we're looking at each other through this strange fog.”
“Fine. Sorry.”
“Will you promise me to stop doing this?”
“Stop reading online?”
“I don't care what you read. But when you and I communicate, I want to do it directly. You write to me, I write to you. You ask me questions, and I answer them. You stop getting news about me from third parties. […] I mean, all this stuff you're involved in, it's all gossip. It's people talking about each other behind their backs. That's the vast majority of this social media, all these reviews, all these comments. Your tools have elevated gossip, hearsay and conjecture to the level of valid, mainstream communication. And besides that, it's fucking dorky.”
Mae exhaled through her nostrils.
“I love it when you do that,” he said. “Does that mean you have no answer?
Listen, twenty years ago, it wasn't so cool to have a calculator watch, right? And spending all day inside playing with your calculator watch sent a clear message that you weren't doing so well socially. And judgments like ‘like' and ‘dislike' and ‘smiles' and ‘frowns' were limited to junior high. Someone would write a note and it would say, ‘Do you like unicorns and stickers?' and you'd say, ‘Yeah, I like unicorns and stickers! Smile!' That kind of thing. But now it's not just junior high kids who do it, it's everyone, and it seems to me sometimes I've entered some inverted zone, some mirror world where the dorkiest shit in the world is completely dominant. The world has dorkified itself.”
“Mercer, is it important to you to be cool?”
“Do I look like it is?” He passed a hand over his expanding stomach, his torn fatigues. “Clearly, I'm no master of cool. But I remember when you'd see John Wayne or Steve McQueen and you'd say, Wow, those guys are badass. They ride horses and motorcycles and wander the earth righting wrongs.”
Mae couldn't help but laugh. […]
Mercer plowed on. “Now the movie stars beg people to follow their Zing feeds. They send pleading messages asking everyone to smile at them. And holy fuck, the mailing lists. Everyone's a junk mailer. You know how I spend an hour every day?
Thinking of ways to unsubscribe to mailing lists without hurting anyone's feelings. There's this new neediness–it pervades everything.” He sighed as if he'd made some very important points. “It's just a very different planet.”
“It's different in a good way,” Mae said. “There are a thousand ways it's better, and I can list them. But I can't help it if you're not social. I mean, your social needs are so minimal–”
“It's not that I'm not social. I'm social enough. But the tools you guys create actually manufacture unnaturally extreme social needs. No one needs the level of contact you're purveying. It improves nothing. It's not nourishing. It's like snack food. You know how they engineer this food? They scientifically determine precisely how much salt and fat they need to include to keep you eating. You're not hungry, you don't need the food, it does nothing for you, but you keep eating these empty calories. This is what you're pushing. Same thing. Endless empty calories, but the digital-social equivalent. And you calibrate it so it's equally addictive.”
“Oh Jesus.”
“You know how you finish a bag of chips and you hate yourself? You know you've done nothing good for yourself. That's the same feeling, and you know it is, after some digital binge. You feel wasted and hollow and diminished.”
“I never feel diminished.” Mae thought of the petition she'd signed that day, to demand more job opportunities for immigrants living in the suburbs of Paris. It was energizing and would have impact. But Mercer didn't know about this, or anything Mae did, anything the Circle did, and she was too sick of him to explain it all.
“And it's eliminated my ability to just talk to you.” He was still talking. “I mean, I can't send you emails, because you immediately forward them to someone else. I can't send you a photo, because you post it on your own profile. And meanwhile, your company is scanning all of our messages for information they can monetize. Don't you think this is insane?” […]
(940 words)
Source: Eggers, Dave. The Circle. New York: Knopf/Random House, 2013, 131-134.
Annotations
Lines
3
wall
here: the part of your website profile where others can post messages
3
assault
here: verbal attack, overwhelming someone in conversation
12
standoffish
cold, unfriendly
28
conjecture
opinion or idea not based on proof or evidence
29
dorky
slang: dumb or stupid in an embarrassing way
39
to dorkify
slang: to turn dorky, to turn something/someone into something/someone stupid
42
fatigues
loose, brown-green pants worn by young men, based on soldier uniforms
42/43
John Wayne
Steve McQueen
classical Hollywood stars who embody macho masculinity in their films
43
badass
slang: tough, cool, awesome
46
Zing feeds
social network like Twitter, Eggers' own invention for his novel; a zing is a short, quick post or response to a post; a feed collects and publishes posts
48
junk mailer
someone who sends unwanted emails, mostly advertising
57
to purvey
to make something available, to supply
62
to calibrate
to measure in an exact way
66
binge
doing too much of something over a short period of time, like eating;
here: overconsuming data or social media
74
to monetize
to convert something into money;
here: to make money off data and personal information
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Teilaufgabe 1

$\blacktriangleright$ Outline Mercer's view on the abuse of social media

In dieser Aufgabe sollst du skizzieren, was Mercer über die falsche Verwendung von sozialen Medien denkt. Wichtig: Es ist keine vollständige Inhaltsangabe gefordert! Schreibe nur über Mercers Meinung und nicht über Maes Standpunkt.

Wichtige Punkte sind dabei:
  • Gerüchte (gossip)
  • fehlende Intimität
  • Verdummung der Menschen
  • Vergleich snack food = social media

Teilaufgabe 2

$\blacktriangleright$ Analyze the ways Mercer attempts to persuade Mae to change her online behavior, giving evidence from the text.

In dieser Aufgabe sollst du analysieren, wie Mercer Mae überzeugen will, ihr Verhalten im Internet zu ändern. Weniger wichtig ist also Mercers Meinung, es geht darum, dass du Mercers rhetorische Strategie erkennst. Halte Ausschau nach rhetorischen Stilmitteln und untersuche Mercers Sprache: In welchem Ton spricht Mercer mit Mae? Achte darauf, wie Mercer seine Kritik verpackt. Dabei ist es auch wichtig, auf Maes Reaktionen zu achten, da Mercer auf sie eingeht. Beweise deine Aussagen stets mit direkten/indirekten Zitaten.

Diese Punkte solltest du am Ende herausgearbeitet haben:
  • Mercers Offenheit und direkte Kritik
  • Rhetorische Stilmittel, darunter Parallelismus, Antithese und Analogie
  • Emotionale Sprache, Schimpfwörter
  • Beispiele und Vergleiche zur Verstärkung von Argumenten

Teilaufgabe 3.1

$\blacktriangleright$ Discuss Mercer's comparison of social media with “snack food” (l. 57). Refer to your knowledge about how young people use social media.

In dieser Aufgabe sollst du Mercers Vergleich von sozialen Medien mit Snackfood diskutieren. Beurteile, was du an diesem Vergleich treffend findest und wo du widersprechen würdest. Du sollst dein eigenes Wissen über das Thema miteinbringen, deine Erfahrungen aus dem Alltag sind gefragt. Hier gibt es kein Richtig und kein Falsch, solange du deine Thesen gut begründest. Achte aber darauf, auch immer auf Argumente einzugehen, die deinen Thesen widersprechen könnten bzw. verschiedene Standpunkte zu beachten. Wichtig: Beziehe dich nur auf die Zeilen 55-66, der Rest des Texts ist für diese Aufgabe unwichtig.

Gute Fragen/Diskussionspunkte sind u. a.:
  • Machen soziale Medien süchtig?
  • Sind soziale Medien wertlos?
  • Kann man in ihnen Freunde finden?
  • Welche Chancen bieten soziale Medien?
  • Sind soziale Medien „ungesund“?

Teilaufgabe 3.2

$\blacktriangleright$ Compare Mercer's opinion with that of another character in literature/film who also has a critical view of technology. Assess the way they cope with living in a world obsessed with technology.

In dieser Aufgabe sollst du Mercers kritische Meinung über Technologie und den Technikhype in der Gesellschaft mit der Meinung eines anderen Charakters aus einem Buch, einer Erzählung oder einem Film vergleichen. Wichtig: Dieser Charakter muss 1. in einer Gesellschaft leben, die verrückt nach Technik ist und 2. diese Technik und die Gesellschaft kritisch sehen. Es muss in diesen Werken nicht um soziale Medien oder Ähnliches gehen, aber das von dir ausgesuchte Werk sollte den Konflikt zwischen einem „altmodisch“ eingestellten Charakter und einer technikverrückten Gesellschaft beinhalten. Im Vergleich spielt daher Mercers konkrete Meinung über soziale Medien eine weniger große Rolle. Wichtiger ist, dass du herausarbeitest, was er der Gesellschaft und Mae vorwirft und wie er sich beiden gegenüber verhält. Vergleiche dies mit der Meinung und dem Verhalten eines anderen Charakters.
Anschließend sollst du bewerten, wie (oder ob) es ihnen gelingt, in einer technikverrückten Gesellschaft zu leben. Gehe hierbei der Frage nach, ob sie immer noch Teil der Gesellschaft oder bereits Ausgegrenzte sind.

Diese Punkte solltest du in deinem Vergleich bearbeiten:
  • Meinung des Charakters über die neue Technik
  • Negative Auswirkungen/Gefahren der neuen Technik
  • Meinung des Charakters über die Vorteile der neuen Technik
  • Gefühle des Charakters über die neue Technik – sachlich-kritisch oder wütend-emotional?
  • Strategie des Charakters, andere zu überzeugen
  • Ausgrenzung von oder Teilhabe an der Gesellschaft

Teilaufgabe 3.3

$\blacktriangleright$ Write a letter to Dave Eggers in which you invite him to take part in a panel discussion on “The Dangers of Social Media”. Explain your reasons for inviting him, reflecting on the criticism of social media in his novel and your own view on the subject. Address your letter to:
Mr. Dave Eggers
McSweeney's
849 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA
94110 USA

In dieser Aufgabe sollst du einen Brief schreiben und darin Dave Egger zu einer Diskussion mit dem Namen The Dangers of Social Media einladen. Im Brief sollst du vor allem begründen, wieso du ihn einlädst und dabei über seine Kritik an sozialen Medien im Roman The Circle reflektieren. Du hast also im Grunde genommen zwei verschiedene Hauptaufgaben.
1. sollst du die formale Briefform beachten. Oben rechts steht deine Adresse, darunter steht links die Adresse des Empfängers. Weiter unten folgt wieder rechts das Datum. Beginne mit der Formel “Dear Mr Eggers”. Achte auf einen angemessenen Stil. Ganz unten schreibst du “With regards” und nach einer Leerzeile deinen Namen.
2. sollst du seine Kritik des Themas bewerten. Nutze dafür den Auszug aus seinem Roman, verwende aber keine Zitate. Es geht darum, aus dem Auszug zu begründen, wieso seine Meinung wichtig für die Diskussion ist. Sage, was du selbst über das Thema denkst. Du kannst ihm dabei auch widersprechen, denke aber daran, dass du ihn trotzdem einladen sollst.

Mögliche Punkte, die du diskutieren kannst, sind:
  • Datenschutz
  • Privatsphäre
  • Internetsucht
  • Chancen sozialer Medien
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Themen:

The impact of the media on society
Personal relations in their social context
Science and technology

Textgrundlagen:

Eggers, Dave: The Circle. New York: Knopf/Random House, 2013, S. 131-134.

Teilaufgabe 1

$\blacktriangleright$ Outline Mercer's view on the abuse of social media

Tipp

In dieser Aufgabe sollst du skizzieren, was Mercer über die falsche Verwendung von sozialen Medien denkt. Wichtig: Es ist keine vollständige Inhaltsangabe gefordert! Schreibe nur über Mercers Meinung und nicht über Maes Standpunkt.

Wichtige Punkte sind dabei:
  • Gerüchte (gossip)
  • fehlende Intimität
  • Verdummung der Menschen
  • Vergleich snack food = social media

In the excerpt from Dave Eggers' novel The Circle, published 2013, Mercer argues with his ex-girlfriend, Mae Holland, who works for the most powerful internet company, about social media having a negative impact on people's relationships and social behaviour.

On Mercer's opinion, social media has destroyed all intimacy between him and Mae. According to him, they do not have direct personal contact anymore, because every time they talk, other people are involved in their conversation. He is very upset about the fact that Mae judges him through the assertions of other people on social media platforms, thinking that the latter were a tool for sharing gossip. Mercer complains about people being made stupid by social media and using internet slang in their everyday lives. Comparing social media with snack food, he claims that social media makes people addicted by generating social needs without being able to satisfy them. At the end of the excerpt, Mercer voices criticism of social media destroying all privacy between people, because Mae shares all private content.

Teilaufgabe 2

$\blacktriangleright$ Analyze the ways Mercer attempts to persuade Mae to change her online behavior, giving evidence from the text.

Tipp

In dieser Aufgabe sollst du analysieren, wie Mercer Mae überzeugen will, ihr Verhalten im Internet zu ändern. Weniger wichtig ist also Mercers Meinung, es geht darum, dass du Mercers rhetorische Strategie erkennst. Halte Ausschau nach rhetorischen Stilmitteln und untersuche Mercers Sprache: In welchem Ton spricht Mercer mit Mae? Achte darauf, wie Mercer seine Kritik verpackt. Dabei ist es auch wichtig, auf Maes Reaktionen zu achten, da Mercer auf sie eingeht. Beweise deine Aussagen stets mit direkten/indirekten Zitaten.

Diese Punkte solltest du am Ende herausgearbeitet haben:
  • Mercers Offenheit und direkte Kritik
  • Rhetorische Stilmittel, darunter Parallelismus, Antithese und Analogie
  • Emotionale Sprache, Schimpfwörter
  • Beispiele und Vergleiche zur Verstärkung von Argumenten

In the given excerpt from Dave Eggers' novel The Circle, published 2013, Mercer uses various strategies to make his ex-girlfriend Mae realise that her online behaviour impairs their relationship.

Mercer directly addresses the issue of Mae avoiding a personal relationship between them at the beginning, trying to get straight to the point (l. 1-6). To demonstrate Mae how impersonal she behaves, Mercer makes use of parallelisms: “You send me links, you quote someone talking about me, you say you saw a picture of me on someone's wall” (l. 2-3). The syntax of his sentences becomes more and more complicated, hinting at the irritating and confusing nature of social media. When Mae reacts gruffly, he tries to appease her, saying that he wants to solve problems instead of just arguing with her, yet he still voices criticism (l. 8-9).

Mae denies Mercer's accusations, so he gives specific evidence for her behaviour (l. 11-12). As Mae does not think she has behaved any wrong, Mercer tries to wake feelings of guilt in her, making use of an antithesis to stress her actions' absurdity: “You know how weird that is, that you, my […] ex-girlfriend, gets her information about me from some random person […]?” (l. 16-18). He then again tones down his criticism a bit by proposing to write directly with each other, showing his ex-girlfriend a different way of how they could communicate (l. 23-25). Immediately after that, he brings forward the argument that her way of gaining information about him is merely collecting gossip and lies (l. 25-28), implicating that her behaviour is pointless, anyway. To stress his arguments, Mercer shows his emotions directly, even using swearwords for this purpose (l. 29, 38, 47).

In the later half of the text, Mercer tries to make social media look ridiculous. In order to achieve that, he relies on two comparisons. First, he compares the behaviour of social media users to their behaviour in high school (l. 31-39). Afterwards, he compares social media to snack food, trying to persuade Mae about social media's uselessness (l. 55-62).

Mercer's strategy to persuade Mae is to address Mae's problematic use of social media openly while making clear that he does not want to offend her but to restore their relationship. Through the use of rhetorical devices such as parallelisms and comparisons and a very expressive language, he demonstrates that their argument is highly emotional to him.

Teilaufgabe 3.1

$\blacktriangleright$ Discuss Mercer's comparison of social media with “snack food” (l. 57). Refer to your knowledge about how young people use social media.

Tipp

In dieser Aufgabe sollst du Mercers Vergleich von sozialen Medien mit Snackfood diskutieren. Beurteile, was du an diesem Vergleich treffend findest und wo du widersprechen würdest. Du sollst dein eigenes Wissen über das Thema miteinbringen, deine Erfahrungen aus dem Alltag sind gefragt. Hier gibt es kein Richtig und kein Falsch, solange du deine Thesen gut begründest. Achte aber darauf, auch immer auf Argumente einzugehen, die deinen Thesen widersprechen könnten bzw. verschiedene Standpunkte zu beachten. Wichtig: Beziehe dich nur auf die Zeilen 55-66, der Rest des Texts ist für diese Aufgabe unwichtig.

Gute Fragen/Diskussionspunkte sind u. a.:
  • Machen soziale Medien süchtig?
  • Sind soziale Medien wertlos?
  • Kann man in ihnen Freunde finden?
  • Welche Chancen bieten soziale Medien?
  • Sind soziale Medien „ungesund“?

At some point in the conversion with his ex-girlfriend Mae, Mercer from Dave Eggers' novel The Circle (published 2013) compares social media to snack food, stating that it were not a substitute for real social contact. While this statement holds some truth, it is important to say that Mercer voices his opinion in a very emotional context. A more reflective point of view will demonstrate that Mercer is only partially right.

Mercer's thinks that social media created needs for social interaction while not being able to offer real social contact. Just as snack food, social media was not nourishing, being designed to make people addicted. He states that social media had no positive impact on relationships. Although Mercer omits that social media platforms, such as facebook, offer more functions than these,his analogy fits to the behaviour of many facebook-users.

Just as snack food may create an extreme need for eating more and more, facebook does change people's social needs or what they think social needs were. For quite a lot of especially young users, social interaction through facebook may become so important that they feel irritated whenever someone chooses to take no part in the facebook-community. Instead of being content with having a good friend offline, they feel offended when their friends do not want to be friends with them on facebook. Likewise, they become angry when their online friends do not comment or like their activities. This is comparable to someone craving so much for snack food that a normal meal does not satisfy him (or her) anymore. Just as snack food does not substitute healthy meals, social media does not substitute social interaction in real life. It is not healthy, either. The need to know everything about others may result in stalking, searching for embarrassing posts and photos. For many young people, facebook is not a platform for interaction but rather for the consumption of information. Likes and short comments are being held for sociability, but no one really remembers them the day after.

The most unnecessary interaction on facebook may be becoming friends with people you hardly know. With most people having more than 100 friends on facebook, it is impossible to hold contact to even the half of them regularly. Like those “endless empty calories” Mercer speaks of (l. 61), having many of those friends on facebook is completely useless and the only thing you could possibly satisfy with that is your ego. You do not get to know many of your facebook friends very well, since many behave differently when they are online. Most of one's facebook activity consists of viewing the activity log of others, real discussions or longer conversations are rare. Like nutrients in snack food, true social contact is avoided, longer posts are often dismissed or read in a hurry.

Another thing social media and snack food have in common is their addictive potential. For many people, it is nearly impossible to eat only half a bag of crisps, they cannot stop eating more and more. As facebook can be accessed through an application on a smart phone, too, especially youths show sings of addiction, reading the newest feed on the way to school, in recess or secretly in class. Some even spend most of their day online, searching for new content to like and share. Facebook's formula of success is that it does not satisfy. The more “friends” you have, the more time you can spend of facebook.

Some people, however, do not use facebook to like and share their time away. As youths are experienced with being online, many of them also know that facebook cannot be a substitute to meeting your friends offline. As it is with snack food, most people are not addicted to it, using it as a tool to get rid of one's boredom. Also, it is possible to satisfy social needs (but not all of them) through facebook. It is also possible to write private messages on social media platforms, so you can hold longer conversations. And it is easier to speak openly about embarrassing subjects online than doing so face to face. Long and intimate chatting sessions can improve friendship – in this way, social media is just like writing letters. And nobody would say that Goethe's letters to Schiller were social snack food from the 18th century. The internet gives us the chance to communicate with people we could hardly talk to in real life. Even if they are rare, there are friendships that developed over social media. The chance to be friends with anybody offers the possibility to get to know people from other continents and to learn about their culture. Of course, if you spend your time on facebook just liking and sharing content, you do not make these experiences. But this is only partly due to the nature of social media, this is mainly due to one's own behaviour.

In conclusion, social media can be like digital snack food when you use it wrongly. Likes and short comments do not improve any relationship and can lead to addiction. But if you use social media responsibly, it is a great way to communicate with other people.

Teilaufgabe 3.2

$\blacktriangleright$ Compare Mercer's opinion with that of another character in literature/film who also has a critical view of technology. Assess the way they cope with living in a world obsessed with technology.

Tipp

In dieser Aufgabe sollst du Mercers kritische Meinung über Technologie und den Technikhype in der Gesellschaft mit der Meinung eines anderen Charakters aus einem Buch, einer Erzählung oder einem Film vergleichen. Wichtig: Dieser Charakter muss 1. in einer Gesellschaft leben, die verrückt nach Technik ist und 2. diese Technik und die Gesellschaft kritisch sehen. Es muss in diesen Werken nicht um soziale Medien oder Ähnliches gehen, aber das von dir ausgesuchte Werk sollte den Konflikt zwischen einem „altmodisch“ eingestellten Charakter und einer technikverrückten Gesellschaft beinhalten. Im Vergleich spielt daher Mercers konkrete Meinung über soziale Medien eine weniger große Rolle. Wichtiger ist, dass du herausarbeitest, was er der Gesellschaft und Mae vorwirft und wie er sich beiden gegenüber verhält. Vergleiche dies mit der Meinung und dem Verhalten eines anderen Charakters.
Anschließend sollst du bewerten, wie (oder ob) es ihnen gelingt, in einer technikverrückten Gesellschaft zu leben. Gehe hierbei der Frage nach, ob sie immer noch Teil der Gesellschaft oder bereits Ausgegrenzte sind.

Diese Punkte solltest du in deinem Vergleich bearbeiten:
  • Meinung des Charakters über die neue Technik
  • Negative Auswirkungen/Gefahren der neuen Technik
  • Meinung des Charakters über die Vorteile der neuen Technik
  • Gefühle des Charakters über die neue Technik – sachlich-kritisch oder wütend-emotional?
  • Strategie des Charakters, andere zu überzeugen
  • Ausgrenzung von oder Teilhabe an der Gesellschaft

A comparison between Mercer from Dave Eggers' novel The Circle (published 2013) and police officer Del Spooner from the film I, Robot demonstrates that standing in opposition to a society obsessed with technology can lead to bitter hardships.

Mercer's and Spooner's situations are similar, yet distinct. Mercer witnesses a society becoming addicted to social media, while privacy and intimacy do not seem to matter to most people anymore. Thus, Mercer fights against changing social surroundings, relationships and friendships, he is critical of the company the CIRCLE, but primarily worried about his private life. Also, he does use social media himself, criticizing mainly the abuse of social media.
Spooner's situation is more serious, because he suspects the robots of the mighty company U. S. Robotics of being able to kill – he is not worried about his private life, but about the world itself. His opposition to current technology is more dangerous, too, because it threatens his job as a police officer. His attitude being a result of a personal trauma (a robot saved him instead of a young girl after a car accident), he despises new technologies and strictly refuses to use them. In sum, Spooner is much more unwilling to come to terms with society than Mercer.

In spite of thinking that society was insane and feeling isolated as well as alienated (l. 38-39), Mercer does not urge Mae to give up using social media. Instead, he only demands her to change her online behaviour. He thinks that earlier times were clearly better times (l. 42-44), but still, he takes part in social media platforms. His opinion is thus marked by ambivalence. On the one hand, Mercer criticizes society for abusing social media for gossip, having “unnaturally extreme social needs” (l. 56) and being utterly silly (l. 37-39). On the other hand, he himself consumes the “digital-social equivalent” (l. 61) of snack food, even if he does not share Mae's habits. His very emotional plea for Mae to quit her habits, which includes a variety of swear words, and his strongly negative view on social media do not outweigh his wish to reconcile himself with Mae and other people: Reducing his use of social media, he is careful not to hurt anyone's feelings (l. 49).

Spooner's critique of robots and new technology is more consequent. Just as Mercer, he thinks that society was insane and that he was the last sane person on the planet. He knows that this opinion alienates him from other people, but he does not feel all too lonely. Spooner does not use any robots, even if he possesses a mechanic arm that was constructed by the inventor of the new types of robots. During his everyday life, he reacts hateful towards robots, “humiliating”, insulting and even beating them. Therefore, he is also critical of people who use these kinds of technologies and provokes advocates of robots on purpose, even if he hurts other persons' feelings doing so. He does not want to reconcile himself with society, neither does he stop investigating after being suspended from the police. Knowing that he is obliged to fight against the threat of uncontrollable robots, giving up is not a possibility for him. Whereas Mercer is emotional and tries to be friendly, Spooner does not care about his own status in society and fights back even more stubbornly. Spooner's actions are more extreme, but he also faces a bigger threat than Mercer.

Mercer's and Spooner's ways of coping with society are somewhat similar. Both are nostalgic about the past, compensating their disdain for current technology by emphasizing the “good old times”: Mercer dresses himself antiquatedly and stresses the quality of old movies, Spooner also favours old fashion and uses only manual technology, which is outdated at his time. Both try to change their situation, but Mercer's attempt at doing so is to persuade his ex-girlfriend, whereas Spooner tries to change society itself by revealing the crimes of a big company.
Mercer's way may be more sensitive for other person's feelings, but it results in a failure. In spite of trying to reconcile with Mae, she is clearly annoyed by him, not being open to Mercer (l. 69-70) and even laughing at him (l. 52-53). Mercer underestimates Mae's unwillingness to change her behaviour, so he cannot persuade her. In the result, he is likely to become even more isolated. His arguments cannot outdo the attitude of social media users such as Mae. Thus, Mercer fails to cope with the situation.
Surprisingly, Spooner does not fail to cope with a society obsessed with dangerous technology in the end. He may be isolated in the half of the film, being treated as a mentally ill and paranoid person for his violent behaviour towards robots, his attitude towards society may be self-destructive and may show an unwillingness to reconcile with his surroundings. In the first half of the film, he may fail to cope with the situation, misunderstanding the nature of robots and compensating personal trauma with unjust behaviour towards robots which results in his social isolation. But finally, he succeeds in giving evidence for the dangers of the new robots and even saves the world from a robot-dictatorship.

Although sharing many similarities, Mercer and Del Spooner are totally different persons. The great threat Spooner has to face demands extreme means to fight back against a dangerous obsession with technology. Spooner is not just a character, but the movie's hero, so his success in coping with society is almost a necessity. Mercer, though, is a character that could easily exist in real life. His way of coping with society are not very extreme, but as he does not understand the developments of his time, he fails to overcome his conflict with Mae.

Teilaufgabe 3.3

$\blacktriangleright$ Write a letter to Dave Eggers in which you invite him to take part in a panel discussion on ”The Dangers of Social Media”. Explain your reasons for inviting him, reflecting on the criticism of social media in his novel and your own view on the subject. Address your letter to:
Mr. Dave Eggers
McSweeney's
849 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA
94110 USA

Tipp

In dieser Aufgabe sollst du einen Brief schreiben und darin Dave Egger zu einer Diskussion mit dem Namen The Dangers of Social Media einladen. Im Brief sollst du vor allem begründen, wieso du ihn einlädst und dabei über seine Kritik an sozialen Medien im Roman The Circle reflektieren. Du hast also im Grunde genommen zwei verschiedene Hauptaufgaben.
1. sollst du die formale Briefform beachten. Oben rechts steht deine Adresse, darunter steht links die Adresse des Empfängers. Weiter unten folgt wieder rechts das Datum. Beginne mit der Formel “Dear Mr Eggers”. Achte auf einen angemessenen Stil. Ganz unten schreibst du “With regards” und nach einer Leerzeile deinen Namen.
2. sollst du seine Kritik des Themas bewerten. Nutze dafür den Auszug aus seinem Roman, verwende aber keine Zitate. Es geht darum, aus dem Auszug zu begründen, wieso seine Meinung wichtig für die Diskussion ist. Sage, was du selbst über das Thema denkst. Du kannst ihm dabei auch widersprechen, denke aber daran, dass du ihn trotzdem einladen sollst.

Mögliche Punkte, die du diskutieren kannst, sind:
  • Datenschutz
  • Privatsphäre
  • Internetsucht
  • Chancen sozialer Medien
Max Mustermann
Karlstraße 64
609783 Feldheim
Germany
Mr. Dave Eggers
McSweeney's
849 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA
94110 USA

08th of August, 2015

Dear Mr Eggers,

I, as a partaker of the upcoming discussion ”The Dangers of Social Media“, have the honour to invite you to join our debate. We would highly rejoice over your expertise, which you demonstrated sublimely in your novel The Circle.

As we were searching for potential participants for our discussion, I immediately thought of you and your smart novel, since its subject is perfectly apt for the issue. The Circle may be a science fiction novel, but the fictional future you have drafted disturbingly resembles current developments in technology and the use of (social) media. Trough outlining the horrors of a society that does not respect the right for privacy, you harshly criticise our here and now, being apparently well informed about patterns of behaviour of social media users. I especially remember the deeply impressive dialogue between Mercer and Mae, in which he compares social media to snack food. I, too, think that social media is less a tool for communication than a commodity which is consumed. Your combination of knowledge and whit would be a big asset to our debate.

What is most striking about your novel, though, is its very sinister view on the topic. The mentioned dialogue between Mercer and Mae is minimalist, yet alarming. It shows how social media takes influence on human interactions, relationships, their language and even the way they think, which are good points to the issue of our discussion. Social media is supposed to improve friendships and to bring people closer together, but your novel holds the opinion that it has a negative impact on us instead. Mercer's and Mae's friendship is a perfect example for the possible dangers of social media with Mae demonstrating the prevalent thoughtlessness of most people about the subject. Your novel is not pure fiction, as I and many other partakers of the upcoming discussion have met and talked to many men, women and teenagers who possess an attitude similar to Mae's.

As of today, people are already expected to be part of the omniscient community that constitutes social media websites. Most social media users do not care about the lack of data protection and the selling of one's own data by big companies, saying they do not want to hide anything in the first place – a bad argument, regarding that no company has the right to know all about our social relationships and to read our not so private conversations. It is not that a big step from the CIRCLE to the likes of google, apple and facebook. In times where the importance and the impact of the internet increase, it is necessary to discuss the dangers of the power of big companies, which is exactly what you do in your novel. The dialogue between Mercer and Mae demonstrates how subtle a company can influence the users of its social media website. People tend to ignore these subtle dangers, and the more do we need an eloquent discussionist that is able to bring his critique across in a memorable and expressive language.

Also, your book demonstrates how our communication habits might worsen because of social media abuse. The internet's capability of spreading gossip almost at the speed of light is commonly known, and yet do we still believe most of what we read on the internet. Especially on social media websites, intended to connect hundreds of people and with its feeds and likes, gossip can destroy lives, and with the lack of privacy on these websites, almost everything can lead to endless gossip. With thousands of posts of doubtable reliability, who can tell us what is right and what is wrong? I think that social media is able to impair our concentration, as most of us waste their time browsing for the activities of our friends and the profusion of information could lead to a digital burnout. Mercer seems to be aware of this problem, and I do not doubt that you have still more to say about the issue.

However, as we want to organize a discussion, different opinions will be needed. We cannot stop at a condemnation of social media, as it has its big assets, for example being able to connect people from all over the globe. I do not think that there is a tendency of increased exposition, either, because big companies are afraid of public outrage, even if many people do not worry much about data protection. The dystopian view on the topic, as displayed in your novel, is a splendid satire, but I do not think that people want to make their lives worse and spend their time on websites where they only gossip about others, as gossip will strike back at them. I am honestly less pessimistic about our future than your novel is. But this is a perfect starting point for a necessary and enlightening discussion, for a good attitude towards the issue must regard several opinions. Your expertise, humour and artistic talent would enrich our debate, I am very sure about that.

If you would like to join our discussion about the dangers of social media, you are most welcome! You will not find partakers who are as indifferent towards a real debate as Mae is. Aside from researchers and specialists, it would be an honour hear the opinion of a contemporary and well informed-author. In case that I have awakened your interest, I would be most pleased about a positive answer.

With regards,

Max Mustermann
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