Research Talk by Ms. Vichitra K. S. Godamunne

“Biopolitics in science fiction films”

Date: Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Time: 3 p. m.

Venue: CNM Playroom, AS6 03-38

Abstract:

The purpose of this thesis is to analyse science fiction films from a biopolitics perspective, a distinctive philosophy taking into account how politics function in relation to human biological bodies. Science fiction often deals with issues which are too controversial for other mainstream genres.  In order to critique the prevailing political and economic ideologies of a society, science fiction incorporates certain philosophical ideas into its narratives.  A recent trend in this genre has been an increased focus on the ways in which the biological bodies of human beings exist in relation to power.  The philosophy which explores this connection between human biological life and political power is known as biopolitics.  Influential contemporary philosophers who have written about biopolitics are Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito.  They offer dystopian views and are concerned with the processes through which the biological bodies of humans became an integral part of political power.

The four films that I have chosen to analyse for this thesis – The Island (Michael Bay; US; 2005), V for Vendetta (James McTeigue; UK/US/Germany; 2005), Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron; UK; 2006) and 28 Weeks Later (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo; UK; 2007) – all deal with certain global issues which have underlying biopolitical connotations.  The endings of these films show the triumph of a few individuals over the authorities in power.  It is these humanistic alternatives to biopolitics that I want to problematise.  Even if there were humanist alternatives, wouldn’t this too, descend to inhumanity?  Isn’t this escapism from biopolitics impossible to achieve?  My analysis will focus on the ways in which certain science fiction films explore and critique biopolitics; and I will question the approach taken by these films.

Keywords: Biopolitics, science fiction, Foucault, Agamben, Esposito

About the speaker:

Ms. Vichitra K. S. Godamunne completed her BA (Hons) in Film Studies in London Metropolitan University in UK. After that she moved back to Colombo, Sri Lanka to work as a PR Executive. During this time, she also did some freelance promotional work for Sri Lankan art film directors. She started her MA in CNM in January 2009, and this is her final semester.

Research Talk by Ms. Shobha Vadrevu

“Teachers, identity and Facebook: dilemmas, relationships and strategies”

Date: Wednesday,  20 October 2010

Time: 3 p.m.

Venue: CNM Playroom, AS6 03-38

Abstract:

The institution of the school traditionally defines the roles and relationships of teachers and students. However, the introduction of the social networking site Facebook into the teacher-student dynamic has the potential to change these constructs. “Friending” students is a deceptively simple act on Facebook, when the likelihood of spillover into the real-world setting of the school is strong. To investigate the impact of teachers’ perceptions of identity on their interaction decisions with students on Facebook, as well as the strategies they develop to manage dilemmas linked to these decisions, an in-depth study was conducted of 12 teachers who had varying levels of interaction with students on Facebook. The study employed open-ended individual interviews set in the context of a guided tour by participants through their Facebook profiles, and was informed by group interviews and participant observation in an atmosphere of rapport and reciprocity. A conceptual framework weaving together Turkle’s (1999) theory of identity as multiplicity and flexibility, Altman and Taylor’s (1973) Social Penetration Theory and Livingstone’s (2008) problematization of the risk-opportunity binary was constructed. This framework formed a lens through which data collected from the individual interviews was thematically analysed.
 
Three themes emerged that had a bearing on teachers’ interaction decisions: (1) the roles they chose to play as part of their teacher identity, (2) the level of vulnerability they felt as a result of the tension between competing forces of opportunities and risks of disclosure and privacy, and (3) the technological competence they possessed to manipulate the features of Facebook. The findings indicate that teachers selectively apply strategies in the face of anticipated and experienced dilemmas according to situations and students. It is argued that this has implications for teacher-student relationships in the real-world school setting, the integration of Web 2.0 technologies in the curriculum, and the institutional hierarchies of the school.
 
Keywords: Facebook, teacher identity, social penetration theory, risk, opportunity, online and offline social interaction, teacher-student relationships
 
 
About the speaker:

Shobha Vadrevu has a background in full-time, adjunct and volunteer teaching that spans 15 years. She holds a Masters in Educational and Social Research from the Institute of Education, University of London. Her interest in new media in the educational setting developed from her own experiences communicating via various digital platforms with her secondary school students who introduced her to most of those platforms. On Facebook she has over 750 friends. Almost 500 of them are students.