Why Are You Doing the Assignment?

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The Ghost in the Shell Team Assignment for

How We Know What We Know

IDS 3309 Villar

February 5, 2015

Due: Start of class, February 12, 2015
Why Are You Doing the Assignment?
The purpose of this assignment is to view some of the issues in the film through the lens of Critical Theory, Marshall McLuhan, and the article on solitude by Deresiewicz. Specifically, the assignment will allow you to:

  1. Explain the use (and misuse) of information in the world depicted in the film, The Ghost in the Shell, using Critical Theory as an analytical tool.

  2. Explore the concept of solitude and its relevance to a modern information society.

  3. Expand your understanding of the impact of emerging media on the access and use of information

How You Will Do the Assignment
The assignment will be done by your team in a wiki format on Wikispaces. After viewing the film, you will spend the remaining time in class working with your team on the assignment.
A wiki is collaborative. It is highly recommended that you do not “divide” up the questions, giving each team member 1 or 2 to answer. The questions are not easy; they are designed to require careful thought, discussion, and consensus. Remember that with a wiki, everything you create, write, and edit will be recorded and reviewed by your professors. The best way to approach this assignment is to work together as a team.
One approach (but not the only one) is to give editorial control of each question to a team member. All members can (and should) contribute to discussion and writing, but the editor will have final say over their question, and may even do the final writing of the answer. Teams can use any approach they want, provided it is clear who did what (i.e., if you aren’t actually writing on the wiki, indicate your responsibilities, or there will be no way to evaluate your individual contribution).
Try to use some of the multimedia features of Wikispaces: embedded videos, web sites, pictures, etc. The assignment should be about 1,500 words long. Remember to cite (give credit) to any quotes or specific information you use. Try to use MLA format
The assignment is due at the start of class on February 11th.
If you have any questions, ask your instructors!
The Assignment

Released in 1991, Ghost in the Shell was originally a science fiction manga, or Japanese comic. The manga is lighter in tone, more free-wheeling, rambling, and funny, and deals with a dizzying variety of serious and interesting issues. The 1995 film focused more on the question of identity, and the way technology and information shape the human experience. Highly influential (Ghost was a primary influence on such movies as the Matrix trilogy), the complex film provides an insightful vision of information technology in the post-modern age. Using the team assignment, you will address some of the issues in the film through the lens of Critical Theory, the ideas of Marshall McLuhan, and William Deresiewicz’s article, The End of Solitude. Each answer should be about 150 - 200 words.

1. Public Security Section 9 is an anti-terrorism arm of the government, operating on the edge, or sometimes beyond, the boundaries of the law. Citizens are kept in the dark of the activities, and even the existence, of section 9.
a. In its covert activities dealing with the Puppet Master, does section 9 go too far? Explain.
b. Is a government ever justified in violating its own laws to ensure the safety of its citizens? If not, why not? If so, what examples can you provide, either from the film or real life?
c. Is a government ever justified in keeping secret its violations of the law? Explain and give an example.
2. The sophistication of many technologies in the film is futuristic; their existence is not. Bionics, the Internet, and artificial intelligence are today relatively commonplace. One of the most disturbing scenes in the film is the garbage man with false, implanted memories. This is not all that far-fetched. Studies show that even so simple a technological artifact as a photograph can be used to create false memories that people are certain are real.
a. How is information technology used in the world of Ghost in the Shell to influence and control behavior and perception?
3. In his essay, Deresiewicz argues “…that solitude enables us to secure the integrity of the self as well as to explore it.”
a. How does Major Kusanagi utilize solitude? What insight does it give her?
b. Is Deresiewicz right when he says we are approaching a time when information technology makes solitude socially undesirable, or even impossible? Has that time already occurred in the world of the film?
4. The movie was based on a manga originally published in 1989.
a. Various forms of media (using McLuhan’s definition of a medium as “an extension of ourselves”) have had an impact on the way people use, create, store, access, and communicate information. Give 3 historical examples of such media and describe their impact.
b. Select the one medium that has appeared since 1989 which has had the greatest impact on the information landscape.
c. How might that technology have affected the story?
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