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A Man with Five Children Essay

Prescriptions Statement

In this elective students explore a variety of texts that deal with the ways in which individuals and communities experience and live in a global context. Students consider the positive and negative aspects of the global village and the consequences of these on attitudes, values and beliefs. Students also consider the role and uses of media and technology within the global village and different attitudes people may have towards them.

Students respond to and compose a range of texts to investigate how and in what ways living in a global village may influence the ways we communicate, engage and interact with each other.

Elective 1: The Global Village

Background to term “The Global Village”

The phrase “global village” was first used by Marshall McLuhan, a media theorist in the 1960s, to describe a world that has been “shrunk” by modern advances in communications. McLuhan likened the vast network of communications systems to one extended central nervous system, ultimately linking everyone in the world.

McLuhan wrote that the visual, individualistic print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called “electronic interdependence”: when electronic media replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a “tribal base.” McLuhan’s coinage for this new social organization is the global village, a term which has predominantly negative connotations in The Gutenberg Galaxy (a fact lost on its later popularisers). (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan)

Information on text

Backcover Blurb

“I want your child, and yours, and yours. What do I want from them? One day out of their lives. One day a year, till they turn twenty-one. One day for the camera to follow them.”

Gerry is a documentary film-maker who, on day each year, follows five children around with a camera. He shows the results annually on television. Yet for the children who grow up under Gerry’s (and the nation’s) watchful eye, the experience creates its own dynamic.

Are the participants his subjects, his children or his creations? What responsibility does a story-teller have to his subjects, his audience, and himself? How much does Gerry take? Does the presence of the camera distort the lives it is supposed to be capturing?

Spanning more than twenty years, A Man With Five Children invites you into a world of fractured celebrity and distorted vision.

Links to syllabus within the core text

Students explore a variety of texts that deal with the ways in which individuals and communities experience and live in a global context.

technology providing a window into people’s lives
private lives in public space
the cult of “ordinary” celebrities
the connectedness among strangers

Students consider the positive and negative aspects of the global village and the consequences of these on attitudes, values and beliefs.

manipulation of both subject and representation of subject by media leads to manipulation of public opinion public misrepresentation of character leads to private questioning of identity loss of privacy

Students also consider the role and uses of media and technology within the global village and different attitudes people may have towards them.

attitude of media creators and their agenda
various attitudes of subjects reflect different reasons/needs attitudes of consumer in the global village
consider: the global village fills a gap in people’s lives

Key Concepts

Private Realm, Public Sphere

How private is private? A personal blog on Myspace is regarded as “published” in the public realm. YouTube can project images of a girl dancing in her bedroom to millions around the world. What rights does an ordinary citizen have to privacy? What rights does a famous individual have to privacy? Habermas’ theory on the public sphere is based on the belief that a public sphere is “an accessible and independent realm in which each voice is equal to one.”1 To this end, many may regard the function of mass media as a public sphere, representative of the citizenry and accessible to all. But is this the case? Is every voice equal? Is mass media really reflective of democracy? Who controls the public sphere of mass media, if anyone?

Manipulation by Media

In a society growing increasingly dependent on media and technology to inform and express ourselves, how reliable can the medium be regarded? How open to manipulation are we as an individual and as a society? Who is manipulating us? The media subject? The media maker? The media distributor? How is this information further warped by our own perceptions of the world? Who or what can be trusted? What may be considered credible or authoritative? Will we believe only talking images, i.e. words coming out of a mouth that we can see? Can even this be misrepresented?

The Unknown Celebrity

McLuhan, in coining the phrase “global village”, was referring to a world whose borders of communication have effectively disappeared. Even now, what we see on TV can be immediately transferred to distribution via the internet, reaching an audience far greater than that which was originally intended. As a result, ordinary people become ‘celebrities’, transiently or long term, to the extent that, despite never having personal knowledge of these people, we feel that we ‘know’ them. To what extent can these people be known? Is knowledge of their lives and thoughts public property due to their fame or infamy? Is there a public right to know? Has the ‘celebrity’, willing or not, forsaken their right to fair representation or privacy? To what extent do celebrities control their public image?

No Moral Bent

McLuhan argued that technology has no per se moral bent – that it is a tool that profoundly shapes an individual’s and, by extension, a society’s self-conception and realization.2 Is the media and technology a forum devoid of moral values or moral discourse? Does the public right to information exceed a person’s individual rights to privacy? There are laws to protect an individual from slander and defamation, but none to protect a person from misrepresentation through editing or omission.

The Positive Power of Media and Technology

Mass media is a very powerful weapon in the right hands: it can unify and arouse a whole populace to action; it provides even access to information for all who seek it; it provides knowledge of the world of which we might otherwise remain ignorant; it provides a voice for the ordinary individual who chooses to speaks up or speak publicly; it allows understanding of minorities, the underdog and the disadvantaged, it also provides a forum for the exchange of goods and services.

Possible Theses

The global village brings knowledge of the world into your living room; however, you are always consuming someone else’s perspective.

Media and technology may be powerful tools for information and exchange, but come with a hidden cost to society.

Suggestions for introductory activities

Dependence on technology

Students could keep a log over a 24 hour period or longer, recording every instance of use, engagement or interaction with technology. This activity leads into a discussion/exploration of our dependence on technology on a daily level. Students conduct a survey of those that have recently communicated with someone in another country via the web, phone, fax or email.

How do we inform ourselves?

In groups, students conduct a survey to establish all the ways that we inform ourselves as individuals and a population. What information do we rely upon to form opinions about what is occurring here and overseas? What kind of information and format do we regard as credible? What don’t we regard as credible? How do we know what information we can trust?

The global village as strength and as a weakness

Students in groups brainstorm all the ways in which we benefit from being so closely and immediately connected to other individuals around the world. Do all individuals benefit, or is there inequality in the global village? What are the pros and cons of this kind of global network?

Students should also consider the more complex questions of:

Who controls the global village?
How does living in or participating in the global village affect our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us?

Text-Related Activities

Students respond to and compose a range of texts to investigate how and in what ways living in a global village may influence the ways we communicate, engage and interact with each other.

Looking at Gerry’s opening speech. Short answer questions.

What is the effect of the direct address to the audience of this speech? What does Gerry promise about how the project will be conducted? What benefits does he offer the parents of these children?

What reason does he give for the public benefit of the project? What is the symbolism of Gerry meeting the kids at the zoo?

Would these arguments persuade you? Would you have liked to have been part of a project like this one, or Seven Up?

1) Write a letter to Gerry as a parent responding to his request for your child. Outline your feelings, concerns, objections, reasons for agreement etc. 2) Write a letter to Gerry as a one of the five children in the play at age 21. What do they have to say to Gerry in response to this speech he made to their parents at the beginning of the project?

***
Gerry says in the opening speech: “You know that old maxim? ‘Give me a child at seven, I’ll show you the adult’. I don’t buy that. I say, give me a child at seven and let’s see where he goes, where she goes.”

Compare the five children as you meet them at seven to the adult at the end of the play. To what extent can you see the adult they would become at the age of seven? To what extent are the adults these children become a product of Gerry’s role in their lives? To what extent does the media scrutiny affect their development and the perspective of themselves and the world they hold as adults? Select ONE of the children then write two short interviews, firstly, with a former teacher of the child and, secondly, with a spouse or friend of the child as an adult. Explore the character’s development throughout the play.

***

Reverse the gaze of the camera. Write a short film scene of Gerry talking to the camera at the end of the play. Have him reflect on his actions throughout the project and the lives of the children. If possible, video tape the enactment of this scene.

***

You are responsible for marketing the box set of Gerry’s Five Children documentaries. How will you promote it? What aspects of the children’s lives do you focus on? Produce a brochure and a print advertisement for distribution at the point of sale.

Assessment Task

Course: Standard English
Module C: The Global Village
Task: Viewing and Representing
Weighting: 15%

Syllabus Outcomes

2. A student demonstrates understanding of the relationships among texts. 6. A student engages with the details of text in order to respond critically and personally. 7. A student adapts and synthesises a range of textual features to explore and communicate information, ideas and values for a variety of purposes, audiences and contexts. 8. A student articulates and represents own ideas in critical, interpretive and imaginative texts from a range of perspectives.

Viewing and Representing Task

Technology brings the world closer together. Who does it serve and what impact does it have on society?

Respond to the above statement and question in a visual representation based on your prescribed text The Man with Five Children and at least one other text of your own choosing. Your visual representation can be presented in any medium of production such as: Power point, flip chart or smart notebook

Diorama
Model
Poster
Slide show
Short film
Story board
Dramatic monologue
Free choice

Your visual representation must contain:
Visual images and graphics
Text from the play and at least one other text of own choosing Connections between the texts and the positive and negative impact of technology on the global village

You will be assessed on how well you:
Represent the concept of the global village through graphics and text Represent the ideas of the play and at least one other text of own choosing Represent the positive and negative impact of technology on the global village Make integrated connections between the texts

Module C: Standard English Texts and Society
MARKING GUIDELINES
Criteria
Marks
Skilful representation of the concept of the global village through graphics and text Perceptive representation the ideas of the play and at least one other text of own choosing Skilful representation of the positive and negative impact of technology on the global village Skilful integrated connections between the texts

15 – 13
Effective representation of the concept of the global village through graphics and text

Thoughtful representation the ideas of the play and at least one other text of own choosing

Effective representation of the positive and negative impact of technology on the global village

Effective integrated connections between the texts

12 – 10
Sound representation of the concept of the global village through graphics and text

Sound representation the ideas of the play and at least one other text of own choosing

Sound representation of the positive and negative impact of technology on the global village

Sound integrated connections between the texts

9 – 7
Limited representation of the concept using graphics and text

Limited representation the ideas of the play and at least one other text of own choosing Limited representation of the positive and negative impact of technology on the global village

Limited connections between the texts

6 – 4
Elementary representation using graphics and text

Elementary representation the ideas of the play and at least one other text of own choosing

Elementary representation of the positive and negative impact of technology on the global village

Elementary or no connections between the texts

3 – 0


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