Monthly Archives: November 2015

Do Astronauts Dream of Cosmic Humor?

As with every week in ASTU 100A, we’re continuing on our discussions of life narratives. This week, we took a look at Facebook and the different ways we utilize the social media platform and how that results in our own engagement of the site such as advertisements being tailored personally for the user. However, I won’t be discussing Facebook in this post, I will be looking at the novel, The Martian by Andy Weir and the fictional life narrative of astronaut Mark Watney.

In the novel, Watney is marooned on the planet Mars after a storm causes his crew to believe he is dead. He miraculously survives and is faced with an even greater issue than death; surviving on Mars. The reason why I’m choosing this is because of the unique way that the character looks at his own morality as well as how he handles being alone on a planet that is 225 million km from his home. The way Weir portrays Watney is something reminiscent of Monty Python or Ryan Knighton in his memoir, Cockeyed. Watney’s opening lines are laden with vulgarities regarding his situation and can be arguably regarded as dark humor. We’re invited into his own thoughts and he routinely thinks not grimly regarding his situation, but in a jovial manner, determined to find the next puzzle to fix.

Notably in a parallel between Earth and Mars, Mission Control wonders “I wonder what he’s thinking” to which Watney thinks “How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.” (Weir) The way that Watney approaches the issues he faces, from explosions to having to create water tell us something about ourselves. Weir designed a character that not only remains unwavering in his plight to make it home, but he is lighthearted and humorous.  It has been stated by Oscar Wilde that  “Art imitates life” but I don’t believe in that. I believe that Weir created a character who is inventive and headstrong when it comes to solving his own problems so that the reader or viewer can adopt that mindset in their lives. The world currently is volatile and full of different issues that require not only cool heads in order to negotiate, but require different ways of thinking. Watney in the novel was a defining example of that ability; from the cool head to the inventive thinking. Do you think that Weir’s character was made so that others can negotiate their problems similarly? Is our own art beginning to take a position of values that we wish others to embody? I’m certainly hoping that it is, because we need that in our world.

Modern Aestheticism on Social Media

In our ASTU100A class, one topic that continually comes back to the forefront of my thinking is that of social media and the portrayal of individuals on social media. A common theme that occurs is the creation of profiles and feeds where they represent ourselves in such a way that is more indicative of what we aren’t rather than what we actually are. In this blog post, I’m going to look at the idea of a “aesthetic” and how it relates to an individual’s own life narrative.

On social media networking site such as Instagram or Twitter, a common theme  is that of an “aesthetic”. An aesthetic in everyday vernacular is a particular set of principles guiding the work of an individual or group, but only recently has been attributed to internet culture a slang meaning a form of acknowledgement on the common themes of one’s profile or page. An example of this can be a minimalist feed where little is posted, or one where posts about one’s life revolves not on what they see, but what they take part in.This can be linked to the creation of many Instagram accounts about certain topics, such as fitness, fashion and sports oriented sites which still highlight the individual, but have a focus on a certain aspect of the individual’s life. If an aesthetic by definition is to curate an guide a form of work, does that make those who focus on a certain topic in their lives artists demonstrating their craft?  In essence, many individuals treat their feeds as a piece of art, and carefully curate it to satisfy not only what they want it to be, but to how they wish to be perceived according to other people, which in some cases can be maladaptive.

To many this slang will pass over their heads but to a younger demographic this term is passed around often. We often define ourselves by our “aesthetic” directly linking the way we view ourselves to how others judge us, this has been found throughout human history. However, this term signifies the direct change of how we represent ourselves and our stories online to make them more of either an art form or how we wish to be perceived. This slang is fairly recent, so it was fairly difficult to find research and news articles related to it online, however in the future this might not only be a excellent topic for a research paper, but could be applicable to other disciplines such as marketing and sociology. This change of life stories to fit others and our own preferences in a way speaks not only to what we are, but what we want the most. Everyone wants an idealistic life and the changing and modifying of one’s life narrative to be more of what they wish rather than what it is, is possible with social media and the idea of aestheticism today.