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3.1 Are we alone at the wheel? The self-knowing individual and free will

3.1.1 Reading

Pre-reading activity 

Before you read the text below, discuss the following in pairs:

  • What do you think 'self-knowing individual' means?
  • What is free will?
  • Can you think of some advertisements you have seen on television recently that emphasise the idea that people are free to make their own choices? Discuss the advertisements and how much choice the participants actually have. 
  • From the title 'Are we alone at the wheel? The self-knowing individual and free will', predict what you think the text may be about.

THE SELF-KNOWING INDIVIDUAL AND FREE WILL

A dominant idea in Western democratic societies, including Australia, is that we are largely free to determine our own futures. This idea of individual free will is an idea that is so accepted that we hardly notice it is there anymore. It just seems to be 'natural', 'common sense' or the 'way things are'. 

Most people in our society today are not going to stop to question the idea that they possess individual free will because now it is so much a part of the language we use and the texts we consume. For example, in Hollywood blockbuster movies it can be seen in the way that a lone, heroic individual will bravely face whatever hurdles, dangers and threats may come their way. and Inevitably triumph.

The mass media commonly feature stories about individuals who are successful in their field, having overcome otherwise  insurmountable barriers to success by resourcefulness and determination. Advertising is constantly telling us to 'just do it!' or to 'chase the dream'. 

The 'moral' and messages of these storylines are very clear: our actions are our own. As we control what we might achieve and become in life, so we need to know who and what we are and what we want. 

Of course, there are people or institutions that influence our behaviour (parents, the police, schools) or pressure us to act in certain ways (for example, the influences of our peer group and social trends or 'fashions'). If we are not reflective and thinking about ourselves and our lives, we will not be able to recognise the social forces and influences that help us to achieve our individual potential. We must also rcognise those which must be resisted because they are likely to hinder us. 

When considering how meaning is made in the texts you have been studying as part of this unit, you will also need to consider how each text encourages the reader or viewer to be self-knowing and to believe that they have free will.

3.1.2 Questions for reflection and discussion

  1. What positives for society might come from the idea that the self-knowing individual largely determines their own future?
  2. What negatives for society might come from the idea that the self-knowing individual largely determines their own future?
  3. What are some other thoughts you have had while thinking about these questions?

3.1.3

Texts: Heaven and hell suite of television advertisements Drink drive brain television advertisement

Introductory activity

Watch the three television advertisements in the series Heaven and hellwhich highlights the human, criminal and social consequences of speeding. Discuss the following statements with a partner and decide whether each is true or false. Be prepared to explain and support your response.

A. The open road and the countryside in the first advertisement symbolise freedom.
B. The speed of the car in the first advertisement indicates that the driver has little control.
C. The fact that the driver is alone in the first advertisement indicates he is pleasing himself and following his own desires.
D. The fast editing of the first advertisement suggests the driver is bored.
E. The fact the viewer does not see the driver in the second advertisement suggests to the viewer that this sort of accident could never happen to them.
F. The editing of the third advertisement as it cuts between the young driver and the older emergency services officer indicates that 'hell' is the negative judgement of other people.

Analysis

  1. Consider the series of three television advertisements Heaven and hell, which highlights the human, criminal and social consequences of speeding. In your answers, make supporting references to visual techniques and, as required, other processes that make meaning such as dialogue, and diegetic and non-diegetic sound.
    1. The first advertisement in this series appeared on television with musical backing. What music would you choose to suggest the freedom of the open road?
    2. Play versions of the advertisement with different musical backing to decide which is the most effective for a target audience of young men and why. Use this version for all activities relating to this advertisement.
    3. In what ways does this first advertisement emphasise the role of free will in our actions?
    4. How does the second advertisement suggest that each of us must become self-knowing as drivers, and to reflect on the potential consequences of our actions before it is too late? 
    5. How does the third advertisement reinforce the message of the second?
  2. Write a letter to the editor of a major daily newspaper, in which you comment on your understanding of the purpose and likely impact on the target audience of this series of advertisements. In developing your argument, comment on the 'style' of the advertisements and whether you believe this heightens their impact. Explain how the narrative in the advertisements draws on common cultural understandings (eg 'heaven' and 'hell') and other familiar narratives. 
  3. Consider the television advertisement Drink drive brain, which deals with the physiological effects of alcohol on the brain. In your answers, make supporting reference to visual techniques, aspects of mise-en-scene and voiceover. 
    1. Do you believe that the emphasis given on the physiological effects of alcohol on the brain in this advertisement supports or detracts from the emphasis the Heaven and hell series places on self-knowledge and free will?
    2. Having watched the advertisement is it possible to make the argument that it is our brain, rather than our free will, which controls our behaviour? (Explain why or why not).
    3. In what ways is it possible to 'read' this advertisement as being about social forces that might lead an individual to not appropriately exercise free will?

3.1.4 Composing

Imagine you are a marketing expert with an excellent record of creating successful advertisements for young women. You have been asked to write an evaluation of how Drink drive brain would have to be redesigned and re-shot in order to appeal to professional women between the ages of 18 and 30. 

Write a memo to the head of marketing at the TfNSW in which you outline your suggestions for further consideration.

CRITERIA GRADE/MARKS
  • Composes a sustained, coherent and sophisticated text
  • Demonstrates a highly developed understanding of how the ideas, values, and cultural understandings of a text may be reshaped for a different audience
  • Demonstrates knowledge and understanding of how meaning is conveyed through different language forms and features
  • Uses language appropriate to audience, purpose and context in an effective way.

A:
15
14
13

  • Composes a sustained, coherent and effective text
  • Demonstrates a developed understanding of how the ideas, values, and cultural understandings of a text may be reshaped for a different audience
  • Demonstrates developed knowledge and understanding of how meaning is conveyed through different language forms and features
  • uses language appropriate to audience, purpose and context in an effective way.

B:
12
11
10

  • Composes a sustained and coherent text
  • Demonstrates understanding of how the ideas, values, and cultural understandings of a text may be reshaped for a different audience
  • Demonstrates knowledge and understanding of how meaning is conveyed through different language forms and features
  • Uses language appropriate to audience, purpose and context in a competent way.
C:
9
8
7
  • Composes a text that is not always coherent and/or inconsistent
  • Demonstrates limited understanding of how the ideas, values, and cultural understandings of a text may be reshaped for a different audience
  • Demonstrates limited knowledge and understanding of how meaning is conveyed through different language forms and features
  • Uses language that is generally appropriate to audience, purpose and context.
D:
6
5
4
  • Composes a rudimentary text
  • Demonstrates little or no understanding of how the ideas, values, and cultural understandings of a text may be reshaped for a different audience
  • Demonstrates little or no knowledge and understanding of how meaning is conveyed through different language forms and features
  • Uses language that may not be appropriate to audience, purpose and context.
E:
3
2
1

 

Last update: 1st December 2014