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Picturing creation

fawei's picture

 The Creations and Creators of Frankenstein, Conceiving Ada, Teknolust and Tron: Legacy


In an attempt diverge from the habitual research/thesis papers, here is a picture representing some scenes and elements that stood out to me from the three films and one novel we have looked at in the duration of this Gender and Technology course.

At the top, Frankenstein, On the right, Conceiving Ada, on the bottom, Teknolust and on the left, Tron: Legacy.



Admittedly more abstract than expected, but the distribution of dark and light areas were mainly intentional. At this point near the end of the course, we have been reflecting a lot on the connections between what have looked at previously. These four in particular clearly share the idea of creating a new being through technology and this image is meant to show the links or ‘entanglements,’ between them. Specifically, it is based on this diagram of ways in which these works are similar:

The diagram roughly charts the beginning to the end of the stories, from the center moving outwards. The groups that shared similarities between categories shared the red section in that respective ring. The white sections were those that did not group. If one of them partially fit into a group, it has a blurred border between the red and white. To elaborate on each section:


Creator: A broad category for comparing the characters who utilize technology to create new life in the movie. Emmy of Conceiving Ada and Rosetta of Teknolust quite clearly share a gender, but Victor Frankenstein was also included for two main reasons. Firstly, we discussed extensively how Frankenstein could serve as a metaphor for a female figure, the mother of the monster or a woman afraid of childbirth. Secondly, Frankenstein, Emmy and Rosetta all have academic aspects to their characters and motivation for their experiments – all have interactions with universities or literal teacher figures. As such, the elder Flynn of Tron was the odd one out of this group, performing distinct stereotypical masculine roles and simply missing the academic aspect.

Intention: The original intention of the created being, it could also be seen as the possible benefits for the creation, as the intentions were almost always positive. Frankenstein and Conceiving Ada were grouped for the more personal nature of their research. Frankenstein created his ‘monster’ in hopes that it would respect him. Conceiving Ada’s Emmy feels a strong bond with Ada Lovelace and implanting Lovelace’s genes into her child certainly implies a personal link. In Tron and Teknolust the intentions were much more business or entertainment oriented. Rosetta says that the Self Replicating Automatons were originally intended to provide labor with ease, and the virtual world seems to have been, at least initially, for entertainment and exploration. However, all borders are blurred in this ring because Rosetta and Flynn did eventually become personally invested in their creations, with Rosetta seeing hers as children and Flynn losing his friends to the Grid.

Creation: The method in which the ‘created’ came to be. This one is grouped mainly on the extent of which digital technology was used over more ‘physical’ science such as biology. Conceiving Ada and Teknolust state that they utilize biotechnology to create a new, physical being, whereas Tron features beings that are born and live strictly virtually, although they do attempt to get out into the ‘real’ world (only one succeeds, Quorra, who in fact did not anticipate leaving). Frankenstein is a bit harder to assess as much of the more abstract technology in the three films were not available at the time of Victor Frankenstein, so it is assumed he was restricted to biological means only. However, his methods are intentionally left ambiguous throughout the text, so the boundary is blurred here, for the sake of possibility.

Appearance: The appearance of the creation. Again, it is easy to group them by gender (coincidentally, the genders of the female creations roughly match those of their creators), or by appearance in which case Frankenstein is the odd one out, as the monster’s hideous appearance is a major problem which eventually motivates him to cause harm. However Tron is a difficult one to clarify, as there are many human-like ‘programs’ living on the Grid that are of varing in genders and appearances. So instead, I based this category around the variability of the creations, where the creations in Tron and Teknolust have the most potential for variation, where the individual creations in Frankenstein and Concieving Ada do not. Concieving Ada has a blurred border only because, in comparison to Frankenstein, the method for creating new ‘historical clones’ does not seem to be made purposely unavailable.

Cause for conflict: The problems that arise between the creator and their creation. In Tron and Teknolust the creations rebel when they become aware of the concept freedom and the presence of another world, the ‘natural’ or ‘human’ world that seems to be restricted to them. This is the main driving force behind the conflict and tension of their plots. In Frankenstein, there is similarity, but the creature seems to wish for the social relations rather than freedom of human society. Meanwhile Conceiving Ada lacks conflict between creation and creator altogether because the new, child Ada is only revealed in the final minutes of the movie. The main problems within the movie take place before the birth of the child, which differs it from the others where there things are mostly positive in anticipating the creation.

Communication: The way in which the creation interacts with the outside or human world. This is important as it often causes the creation’s desire to experience that world, and the anxiety of the creator that something disastrous will happen to the creature or the people they come to interact with. Again, in Concieving Ada it is difficult to tell how the child Ada will come to interact with the world, and what ways Emmy will allow her. Frankenstein’s monster has distinct difficulty interacting with people because of his appearance. However Ruby in Teknolust and Clu in Tron easily pass as any other person with their appearance and behavior – and use of technology. Ruby maintains a website where nobody suspects she is not a natural human, and Clu fools Sam Flynn into believing he is father through a text message, and by speaking like him. The way in which the creations use technology to further themselves as human is interesting considering it is their technological background that separates them initially.

Ending: How the stories end. There are two endings apparent here. The first is that the creation and creator both ‘die’ or cease to be relevant: in Tron, Kevin Flynn and the Grid are left behind when Sam Flynn leaves, and in Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein passes away on a ship headed North and the monster leaves to die soon after. The other is that the creation and creator come to terms and continue to live in cooperation in a way experiencing a ‘new beginning’: Emmy no longer pursues Ada through history because she has implanted Ada’s genes into her daughter, and Rosetta’s SRAs are implied to become free to live as they wish, one saying with excitement ‘She doesn’t need us anymore.’ Coincidentally the creators and creations that result in a mutually beneficial and peaceful ending were female (and these movies shared a director.) To reflect on an early reading of Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, this could be implying further the cyborgic nature of modern women, the mixing of machine and nature, but to integrate in ways rather than further separate from society.


These pictures show how the resulting diagram sections matched up to the final image:

Overall, Conceiving Ada grouped the least with the others, while Tron grouped the most, so the Concieving Ada section of the picture is light while Tron’s (thankfully, considering the visuals of the movie!) ended up dark. This could be because of the more commercial nature of Tron, incorporating more tropes normally seen in stories of this kind. It was surprising that the oldest and most well-known piece, Frankenstein, did not have the most overlap, but that could be due to the limited nature of this diagram. Broader categories (settings) or more specific categories (nuances of the creators) could be added to this diagram which would result in a different model.


There are some difficulties when graphing something non-quantitative and them turning that data form into back into something non-quantitative. The creation of 'categories' to sort data further separate things that might have initially seemed alike. However, for all the difficulties in transitioning between types of information, the entanglements between things are always present, in some way. 



Anne Dalke's picture

Visualizing film

you have done some utterly remarkable work on-line this semester, in "figuring" our texts in various inventive ways. Like Liz, who said "wow" to the first of these "events," I say "wow" to this one: it's a very striking way of illustrating, visually, the overlap --and lack thereof-- between the four films we discussed in this course. Experimenting in this way with forms of analysis that are alternatives to what you call "habitual research/thesis papers" really gives a fine response to Hayles' challenge to us to teach our children to be "bittextual/multitextual" They should be able to read and analyze flexibly, in different ways, via (for example, and yours is a great one!) "visualization, storyboarding, simulation, or game design," using "tool kits for text analysis, visualization, mapping, social-network diagramming"--thereby making close reading only one of many methodologies they are able to use to interpret texts and films. What you have done here is clearly an example of close reading, but what makes your reading distinctive is your ability to "map" it visually, so that the similarities and differences are clearly highlighted. I like this exercise enough that I'd like to use it the next time we teach this class; it would be fun to see what different "visual maps" different students might produce, of the intersections among various texts or films, and what their explanations would be. Thank you for the inspiration!