Class Discussion: “The Machine Stops”

Just a reminder that you should make your at least one comment (just hit “reply,” either to my original post or to another comment on it) by Sunday (3/16).

Then go back/read through all comments and extend the conversation by making at least two more comments (of course, more are always welcome!) in response by Tuesday (3/18). 

The goal is to have some good virtual discussions here to help you think critically about this short story. Therefore, your comments need not be very long: for example, you can provide a quote/citation and a few sentences of explanation of how/why it functions in the context of some larger issue/question (or you can raise questions, complicate issues, extend discussions, analyze a character, or setting, etc.).

Class Discussion: “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

Just a reminder that you should make your at least one comment (just hit “reply,” either to my original post or to another comment on it) by Sunday (3/2).

Then go back/read through all comments and extend the conversation by making at least two more comments (of course, more are always welcome!) in response by Wednesday (3/5). 

The goal is to have some good virtual discussions here to help you think critically about this short story. You can respond to one of my “discussion-starter”prompts/questions below, or you can discuss any other aspect of the text that isn’t mentioned there.

Your comments need not be very long: for example, you can provide a quote/citation and a few sentences of explanation of how/why it functions in the context of some larger issue/question (or you can raise questions, complicate issues, extend discussions, analyze a character, or setting, etc.).

Here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Discuss the initial imagery of Omelas (3-4).
  • Discuss the varying ways happiness is described in the text.
  • Who is the narrator?
  • How does the narrator invite the reader (“you”) to imagine the utopian city of Omelas (2-3)? Why does the narrator want the reader to co-create this utopia? What purpose might it serve in the context of what happens later in the text?
  • Why does the narrator keep asking the readers if they believe him/her (middle p. 4; bottom p. 6)? How have things changed in the story (and the readers’ perception of it) by the time the questions are asked the second time around towards the end of the story?
  • Discuss the characterization of the child in the room (and perhaps compare it to the boy flute player at the top of p. 4).
  • Why does everyone in the city have to be aware of the existence of the child? (5)
  • Is it possible to have a happy/good/just society at the expense of someone else?
  • Is ignorance bliss? Would the people in the story be better off not knowing of its existence? What would be gained from this ignorance? What would be lost?
  • Can you think if any analogy of the child in the room in our society? If so, who is the child, and who suffers at its expense?
  • Why do some people walk away from Omelas? Who are these people? Where do they go?
  • Explore how an element of fiction (or multiple ones) plays out in the text.
  • Explore one (or more) of the items on the Utopian/Dystopian Framework within the context of this short story.

HW for next class (Th 2/27)

Just a reminder that we do not have class this Th 2/20, because it is a CUNY Monday. Therefore, the next time we will meet in person is Th 2/27.

Since a number of you missed class last Th (2/13) due to the snowstorm, that means that many of us will not have seen each other in 3 weeks by then! While we will still move forward with the new reading (we are moving from short stories to novels, and you should have already started to read Brave New World … I hope that you’re enjoying it so far!), in the meantime we will continue our conversations online about the three short stories, because they are an important foundation for our future conversations about utopias/dystopias (and also because they will be on the Midterm exam!).

As a result, we have a number of things due for next week (please pay particular attention to due dates, as they vary), which will count for your OpenLab composing and Participation course grades. For our next class, on Th 2/27, you should do all of the following:

1. Read chapters 1-5 of Brave New World and post a reading response.

Don’t forget, as you read, to annotate the text, to take note of the Elements of Fiction (characters, setting, plot, point of view, conflict, theme, imagery, etc.), and to consult the Utopian/Dystopian Framework and answer its questions in the context of the novel. Come to class prepared to discuss all of the items on the framework in relation to the first part of this novel, as we work together to get a handle on what type of world the World State is (and what it values).

As always, your response post should incorporate specific details/scenes/quotes (with correct citations, in MLA format) from the text. Categorize appropriately. And, as always, this reading response is due the night before class (W 2/26).

2. Create a “My Utopia” post.

Perhaps it would be best if you imagined as your own fancy bids, assuming it will rise to the occasion, for certainly I can not suit you all (2).

What else, what else belongs in the joyous city? (3).

In the above excerpts from Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” the narrator speaks directly to the readers, asking us to participate in creating this “perfect” city (and perhaps therefore to be complicit in the child’s suffering as well). Now, it is your turn to imagine your own “utopia,” to describe what your ideal world would be like.

  • Make a post in which you describe your own “utopia” (your ideal world), in as much detail as possible. Your post may take any form you find conducive to conveying your utopian vision (e.g. it could be a description of a place, a story that shows us the values in action, dialogue between characters, etc.). I encourage you to make a multimedia post (add images, videos, music, links, etc.), if you need more than just words to communicate your ideal society.
  • Minimum of 500 words (though it will likely be longer!), categorize appropriately, and post by Su night (2/23).
  • Before class, o back and read/comment on your classmates’ utopian visions. What is your reaction to your classmates’ ideal worlds? Are there elements there that, to you, are not utopian? Perhaps even dystopian? Why? Look at the Utopian/Dystopian Framework, and try to apply it to their utopian visions. What values can identify lurking beneath the surface of the vision?
  • Come to class prepared to discuss these visions (yours and your classmates), and to provide a rationale for your own utopian vision.

3. For those of you who missed class on Th 2/13, contact a classmate who was there to get their notes/find out what we covered.

We spent all of class last Thursday (2/13) writing about and discussing “The Machine Stops” according to its central “conflicts” and the Utopian/Dystopian framework. Therefore, if you missed class, make sure to contact a classmate who was there to get notes/find out what we covered (as stated on the syllabus, you are responsible for that material, even when you are absent).

Reminder: Le Guin reading response posts due tonight, W 2/5

Hi everyone:

Many of you have joined our OpenLab site and made your Introductory posts already … that’s great! Keep them coming, and don’t forget to read/comment on one another’s posts!

Just a friendly reminder that, as we discussed in class and as is listed on our Schedule (where you should always go to find all reading/writing assignments), all reading responses are blog posts (minimum of 500 words) to the readings for that week, and are due the night before class (so on Wednesdays, by 11:59pm). The content, length, grading, expectations, requirements (etc.) for these blog posts are explained, in detail, in the OpenLab Composing section of our course site.

Blogs should not be summaries of the readings, but rather should be your critical analysis of the texts (you can use the elements of fiction and/or the utopia/dystopia framework to help you ask questions about the text, dig deeper, and start to generate critical responses).

Don’t forget to categorize this week’s reading response post as “Le Guin,” and to print out the PDF of the two short stories and bring them (annotated with your notes, comments, questions) to class.

See you in the morning!

Professor Belli

‘We’ and ‘Brave New World’ available now at City Tech Bookstore

The two texts you need to purchase for this class, Zamyatin’s We and Huxley’s Brave New World, have been available at the City Tech Bookstore since last week. We will be starting to read those novels fairly soon, so please go buy your copies of them now (they have limited copies there, so if you go to buy it and they are out of it, please just “reply” here and post a comment letting me know and I will get them to order more copies).

A little bit about Professor Belli :)

As promised, I’ll introduce myself here as well. So … I’m Professor Belli … hi!

That's me, last winter break, in front of a big ol' rubber ducky (part of an art installation for a big festival) in Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia!

That’s me, last winter break, in front of a big ol’ rubber ducky (part of an art installation for a big festival) in Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia!

I did my doctoral work at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and my current research interests are in utopian studies, happiness studies/positive psychology, composition and rhetoric, digital humanities, American studies, and the scholarship of teaching and learning (feel free to ask me what any of these areas are!).

I played ice hockey in college (right wing), and have played the violin since I was two years old (and currently play in the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra). I love Thai food (the spicier the better!), kale, & tzatziki as well as watching old sitcoms from the 70s and 80s (some of my favorites are Maude, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, Soap, All in the Family, The Golden Girls, The Facts of Life, & Family Ties)!

This summer I spent a few weeks wandering Scotland, and it was absolutely wonderful! I even visited Loch Ness, but didn’t get to see Nellie, the infamous Loch Ness monster …

I look forward your reading your Introductions and getting to know you, first virtually and then in person, as the semester progresses 🙂

Introductions; How to Add Images to Posts

“Introduction” Posts (HW for Th 2/6)
In order to start exploring the site, getting comfortable with posting/adding media (blogging), practicing reflective writing, and getting to know one another, please make sure to create an initial post that introduces yourself to the class.

*This Introductory Post is due no later than the night before our next class on Th 2/6, but I encourage you make this initial post as soon as possible to become comfortable with OpenLab and to give others a chance to learn a bit about you).

Content of Posts
Tell us a bit about yourself … what are your interests, hobbies, desires? Your year/major at City Tech? Career goals? What you did over summer break? What you plan to do this semester/winter? Share some photos of you (you can either pull a photo from the web if you have one up there, upload one from your computer, or … you can even take one with photoshop right now!) and your family, friends, neighborhood, etc.

At the end of your post, please address (in at least a paragraph) the following questions (not necessarily in this order):

  • What your strengths/weaknesses as a reader & writer in general?
  • What do you enjoy/dislike most about reading & writing (in general)? What is your favorite type of reading to do?
  • What is your background with using technology (it’s OK if you don’t have any!)?
  • What do you know about utopias, dystopias, science fiction?  Don’t do any research for this … just state what you think it is, prior to entering the course.
  • Why are you taking this course (it’s OK to say that it is required for your degree)? What are your expectations for this course (what you think you will learn and what you hope you will learn)? Any questions?

Categorizing/Commenting on Posts
Don’t forget to categorize your post as “Introductions” (and uncheck “Uncategorized” if it is checked already by default). If you forget to do so before you “publish” you post, you can go back and edit/update it after the fact.

I am about to make an Introductory post about myself (if I’m asking you to share some of your personality/background with the class, it’s only fair that I do the same!), so you can get to know me a bit better as well and also so you get a sense of what this type of post might look like/include.  Browse through everyone’s posts (if you choose the “Introductions” category for the right side of the homepage, you will be taken to all of these posts) and drop comments to get some conversation going!


*Here’s a quick tutorial about how to do add images:

1.  When you decide you want to add an image to a post, click either on the button with the camera/music notes and the words “Add Media” that is on the top left of the editing box. Remember that your image will show up within the post wherever your cursor is when you click “Add Image.” So if you want to insert the image in the middle of your post, make sure to put it there.

2.  If you are choosing a file from your computer, you can then browse for it (the same you would if you were uploading an attachment to an e-mail) by clicking “Upload Files” (if you add to the Media Library first, you can also select your image from there).

3.  Once you find the image you want, click “Select.”

4.  You can then edit the image (e.g., to rotate it) … make sure to click “save” after editing it.

5. You should re-title the image to make it easier to manage/find later on (ex: Jill Belli, Introduction Photo). If you wish, you can also add a “description” and “caption.”

5.  At the bottom of the screen you can change the “alignment” and “size” of the image.

6.  Don’t forget to click “Insert into Post” (NOT “Save Changes”) at the bottom.  If you don’t click “Insert into Post,” the image won’t show up in your post when you publish it (it will just be added to our site’s “Media Library” … more on that later in the semester).

7.  You can always click “Preview” before you click “Publish” to see what the post will like like after the images are added. Make sure, however, once you are satisfied with your post, to click “Publish” (you can also click “Save Draft” to continue to work on the post later, but no one else will be able to view the post–and I won’t be able to give you credit for it–until you hit “Publish”).

*Remember, if you don’t like something (either the post or the image), even after it is published, you can go back and change it (just click “Edit” and work away).  That’s the nice thing about blogs … you can keep revising 🙂

Blogging, Categorizing, Commenting

If you’re unsure how to get started posting (blogging) on our OpenLab course site, here’s a quick overview:

Once you’re logged into OpenLab and on our course site, you can easily make a post. Simply click the plus sign (+) on the grey menubar (the admin bar) at the top of the screen, and from the dropdown menu that appears, choose “Post.”  You can also go to your “Dashboard” from the same grey menubar, and this will take you to the “back end” (the control panel) of the site.  From there, you can post (in the lefthand menu, click “Posts” and then “Add new”) and do a number of other things.

Don’t forget to “Categorize” your post before submitting it (see below for more details on that), and then to “Publish” your post (if you only click “save” or “preview” it won’t be public).  Happy blogging 🙂


*A quick note about categorizing blog posts:

Just a friendly reminder to “Categorize” your posts so that it will be easier to navigate our site later on.  To do this, after you finish typing your post up, choose the appropriate “Category” from the right side of the screen.  For example, after you type up your “Introduction” blog, you should make sure to check off “Introductions.”  Otherwise the post will simply show up as “Uncategorized” (we don’t want that because it will just dump eveyone’s posts into one general place and our course site will become very disorganized/chaotic as we produce a lot of content throughout the semester).  You may have to uncheck the “Uncategorized” category (which is the default).

Oh yeah … and you should chat one another up!  How do you do this? By commenting on your classmates’ posts:

One of the great things about the blog is its interactive, networked nature … people post, others read and make comments, and then conversations happen and ideas get exchanged!  Please read through everyone’s posts and drop comments if you feel so inspired (you can comment in reply to another comment also).  To do this, simply type in a short comment in the “leave a reply” box at the bottom of the post.

Please note that you can respond either to the original post or a specific commenter!

Getting Started on OpenLab

To sign-up for an OpenLab account, create your profile, and become familiar with the system:

  • Sign in to your City Tech email account via the City Tech website link or
  • Sign up for an OpenLab account ASAP (no later than Monday, 2/3)
  • If you have trouble clicking the confirmation link in the email from the OpenLab, try cutting and pasting it into the address bar of Firefox or Chrome
  • Log in to the OpenLab
  • Join our course, ENG 2000, by requesting membership on its Profile
  • Browse through the OpenLab, noticing how people use it and what kind of materials they include
  • Click on People to see OpenLab members
  • Browse through a few pages of members, looking at the avatars and reading about the members in their profile sections
  • Now create your own profile, uploading an avatar and including a bio/profile

Questions? If you need technical support, you can always contact the OpenLab Community Team.