Higher Education

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Film Clips, Chapter 16

Part I

Why We Love, Why We Cheat: Helen Fisher (2006)

TED talk, 23:31

Fisher is focuses on cheating as part of our “biology of love.” She describes how MIR scans associate three areas of the brain with this biology of love: those linked to the sex drive, romantic love, and our need for attachment (p. 46). Social conditions are unexpectedly changing this biology, specifically the increase of women in the paid labour force and the aging population. These can ultimately have positive outcomes (p. 51) but Fisher also predicts that some of the technologies we are using to alter our brain chemistry—anti-depressants in particular—might have detrimental effects for our biology of love. She warns that “A world without love is a deadly place.”

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Which of the four methods of prediction about the future of the family (Eichler, pp. 327–329) is Fisher using in this TED talk?
  2. Do you agree with Fisher’s prediction that the growing use of anti-depressants will change our patterns of intimacy and love? How will this affect family life in the future?
  3. Do you agree that marriages are becoming more stable with an aging population and women’s increased labour force participation? Does this apply to monogamous marriage (pp. 323–324) or perhaps to another form?

Part II

Why We Will Rely on Robots: Rodney Brooks

TED talk, 9:56

Cynthia Breazeal: The Rise of Personal Robots

TED talk, 14:04

Breazeal and Brooks predict how our changing demographics (Eichler, pp. 325, 327, 332–333) will compel us to use robots in our future daily care. Breazeal looks at robotics in terms of how they can interact with people and draws examples from her experiences in developing Kismet, a social technology that “push[es] our social buttons” by using body language and non-verbal cures. Brooks presents “Baxter,” a robot with common sense which can interact with people on a daily basis. As our population ages, robots can replace ordinary tasks that become increasingly difficult, allowing people to stay in their homes longer.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. These researchers are using predictions about the family to justify the technologies they are developing (or vice versa). Explain how.
  2. How has the idea of using robotics for personal care been an element of books, movies and television shows? What is the difference between these fantasies and the reality of robotics presented by Brooks or Breazeal?
  3. Would you use a robot to assist in your daily care or the care of a loved one? Would you have any reservations? Explain.

Part III

Sherry Turkle: Connected, but Alone? (2012)

TED talks, 19:48

Previously a booster for online technologies, MIT professor Sherry Turkle now advises us to reflect on the extent that social media is affecting our relationships with others and our sense of self. She reconsiders whether or not the promise of social media in the 1990s was real or realistic. Social media are changing the essence of what solitude feels like, which in turn changes how we engage with the self, and then with others. Turkle suspects that social media heightens “the Goldilocks effect” in which we search for closeness and intimacy while at the same time distancing ourselves from others. Sharing takes on a new meaning in social media, with consequences for family and all other relationships.

Eichler speculates on the impact of reproductive and genetic technologies (pp. 331, 333–334) for family life: Turkle takes a closer look at media technologies that appear more innocuous but might really be having far-reaching effects for family life.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Do you agree with Turkle that we are “setting ourselves up for trouble” with the growing prevalence of social media technologies in our lives? Provide supportive details for your opinion, either from the text, the works of others, or your own experiences.
  2. How are social media affecting your sense of self? Your sense of loneliness? Of solitude? What is the difference between these feelings? Have you learned to live with solitude? Is there solitude in sharing and the connection offered by social media or can social media offer something other than what Turkle is proposing?
  3. From your experiences or observations, how are social media affecting family relationships? Can you see any evidence of Turkle’s predictions that robot technologies will change child and elder care, or solve our personal problems of loneliness?
  4. Explain how Turkle’s predictions draw on any of the four methods described by Eichler (pp. 327–328). Can you see any solutions in how we harness the effects of technology on our family relationships?

Part IV

Generation Jobless (2013)

CBC Doc Zone, 45:13

This documentary begins with predictions (Eichler, pp. 327–328) of what the labour market will look like in the near future for today’s jobless, underemployed and highly educated youth. It goes on to examine the dysfunctions in our strategies for launching the next generation. While not directly related to family policy, it provides an examination of the “lack of a comprehensive national policy” (Krull, p. 293) with respect to the institutional interrelationship of government, education and work in Canada. Young adult students will find it compelling because it echoes many of their concerns: high student debt, precarious and poorly paid jobs after graduation, the lack of alternatives. We all need to attend to the expert critiques of higher education in Canada that keeps turning out graduates in unemployable fields while failing to develop “quality education” (p. 302). The European comparison with the social democratic state (pp. 294, 307) of Switzerland provides one possible alternative strategy.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. This documentary makes predictions about the future of work for today’s young adult Canadians. Which of the four methods of predicting the future (pp. 327–329) were being used?
  2. Create your own prediction of how the current circumstances described in Generation Jobless will affect the family lives of this generation in the near future.
  3. How are the circumstances described in Generation Jobless affecting gender, family, and marital roles (pp. 322–326) in Canadian families now?

Part V

Sext Up Kids (2012)

CBC Doc Zone video, 45:12

Sext Up Kids begins with warnings of sexually explicit material.

The hypersexualization of childhood is a growing concern throughout the world as access to internet pornography and “sexting” in social media spreads. We see the fall-out every day in news stories of children driven to self-destruction. This documentary reveals how it is affecting all children, before and during puberty, and into adolescence. Concepts of sexuality and “fitting in” are changing, and the expert prognoses for childhood and family life in the near future is not good (Eichler, pp. 327–329). Those first- and second-year university students who are less than a decade away from childhood themselves are often shocked at how quickly it has changed. This documentary can be used in conjunction with lectures on the social construction of childhood and intimacy, as well as on predicting family change.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. This documentary makes predictions about the future of intimacy for today’s children exposed to hypersexualized media. Which of the four methods of predicting the future (pp. 327–329) were being used?
  2. Create your own prediction of how the current circumstances described in Sext Up Kids will affect the family lives of this generation as they grow into adults?
  3. From your own observations of children, is there anything countering the hypersexualization of children’s culture described in Sext Up Kids? What social policies might help in changing the negative effects of this trend?