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Thread: Fictional culture and technology

  1. #31
      Ghostman is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfrazierjr View Post
    While technology may have a hand in helping dispel belief in a myth for some, for many no amount of mumbo jumbo("proof") will change their mind(I liken this to political divisions.)
    You make a point, but I think most people will at least start to doubt their beliefs if presented with credible arguments and evidence.

    Rather than a matter of technology, I think the haunted forest example is more a matter of education. Karro, if you want to try and determine a 'realistic' level of superstition in an area, it may be useful to consider the following questions:
    • What kind of education is available for the upper classes? How common is it for an upper-class person to have received such education? How much resources are they able/willing to expend on education?
    • What kind of education, if any, is available to the lower classes? How many people of lower classes have received any education at all?
    • Are there prevailing attitudes or prejudices against teachers?
    • Who provides the education? Is it controlled by clergy, some political faction, local aristocracy, state, or can anyone become a teacher?
    • Are there many charlatans posing as teachers?
    • Is there enough interaction between the lower and upper classes to allow for the latter's presumably higher education to influence the beliefs of the former, or will social stratification hinder this?
    • Does the area contain any institutions or organizations that promote learning? (Think along the lines of Plato's academy, the early universities, or even just a library made available for local scholars.)
    • How well connected is the area with the rest of the world? Can scholars engage in correspondence with colleagues abroad? Are there political/scholastic/religious reasons to disregard foreign ideas and knowledge?
    Last edited by Ghostman; 10-27-2008 at 01:38 PM.

  2. #32
      jfrazierjr is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghostman View Post
    You make a point, but I think most people will at least start to doubt their beliefs if presented with credible arguments and evidence.

    Rather than a matter of technology, I think the haunted forest example is more a matter of education. Karro, if you want to try and determine a 'realistic' level of superstition in an area, it may be useful to consider the following questions:
    • What kind of education is available for the upper classes? How common is it for an upper-class person to have received such education? How much resources are they able/willing to expend on education?
    • What kind of education, if any, is available to the lower classes? How many people of lower classes have received any education at all?
    • Are there prevailing attitudes or prejudices against teachers?
    • Who provides the education? Is it controlled by clergy, some political faction, local aristocracy, state, or can anyone become a teacher?
    • Are there many charlatans posing as teachers?
    • Is there enough interaction between the lower and upper classes to allow for the latter's presumably higher education to influence the beliefs of the former, or will social stratification hinder this?
    • Does the area contain any institutions or organizations that promote learning? (Think along the lines of Plato's academy, the early universities, or even just a library made available for local scholars.)
    • How well connected is the area with the rest of the world? Can scholars engage in correspondence with colleagues abroad? Are there political/scholastic/religious reasons to disregard foreign ideas and knowledge?

    Those are all EXCELLENT points! Back in the 1800's(and even up into the 1900s) many children in the US were barely educated due to their parents needing them to work on the farm to maintain the families already meager income level.

    There is also a factor of self worth involved where someone with a lower self worth will usually be more ready to accept someones talking points as facts without verification(which leads to myths/legends.) I expect(though I have no evidence to prove!) that a group of people who are essentially slaves will be more open to believing things without verification than those who are allowed to earn and keep the fruits of their labor. I believe that a sense of accomplishment pushes one to more readily question the status quo, which is a prime motivation for dispelling myths (or attempting to anyway.)
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  3. #33
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    These are excellent points (and repped).

    I'd also like to add a few more comments (I know I've already had my fair share on this one). Myths tend to live in areas of ignorance - either because people haven't been educated about the true reasons for a phenomenon, or because the educators have got it wrong, or don't know the answer.

    In the current world people still believe in ghosts. This persists because they can't be disproved by current scientific method. You can't perform detailed scientific studies of ghosts really. There's a joke that a truly malicious ghost would appear to a scientist whenever he was on his own and had no means of recording its existence. No one could say whether what the scientist was seeing was real, a figment of his imagination or him telling lies.

    Equally with your wood, the phenomena that everyone believes to be ghosts could just be beyond the ken of current knowledge - strange pressure vents under the ground causing wailing noises and intermittent gusts of steam. Equally, there could be such vents and also real ghosts. That would give rise to a hotly contested mystery that would run for ages.

    This is especially true if they have no means to prove that ghosts do exist within their culture. Its certainly true that whatever standard you set for proof, there will be phenomena that are existent and true that lie outside the reach of those standards. As an extreme example, we all know that the world outside ourselves exists, but there is no way to prove this without presupposing the existence of the outside world. We tend to take that as meaning that our chosen methods of evidence gathering are badly chosen rather than that the world outside doesn't exist.
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  4. #34
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    Joe: I think the reason that the better off are more likely to question the status quo is because they have the luxury to do so without endangering their well-being. Someone who has to farm the soil all day doesn't have much time to worry about the fundamental nature of being.

    Equally I guess they are less likely to rock the boat. Say they worship a God who says they must sacrifice someone every season to ensure the crops grow. Do you want to be the person that says that's wrong only to find the crops failing on you? You just can't afford to get it wrong so its safer not to make any changes at all.
    Last edited by torstan; 10-27-2008 at 02:24 PM.
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  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghostman View Post
    You make a point, but I think most people will at least start to doubt their beliefs if presented with credible arguments and evidence.

    Rather than a matter of technology, I think the haunted forest example is more a matter of education.
    You present a very thought-provoking list there!

    Quote Originally Posted by jfrazierjr View Post
    Those are all EXCELLENT points! Back in the 1800's(and even up into the 1900s) many children in the US were barely educated due to their parents needing them to work on the farm to maintain the families already meager income level.
    ...
    More good points!

    Quote Originally Posted by torstan View Post
    I'd also like to add a few more comments (I know I've already had my fair share on this one).
    But more comments = more better!

    Certainly, I must agree with these points, and maybe this is what drove my initial inquiry. It seems perhaps I equated the advancement of technology with improvements in education. But there are a lot of factors that affect what people think and believe and technological developments in a society are only a single and imperfect measure of a culture's affinity for general education.
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  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by torstan View Post
    Joe: I think the reason that the better off are more likely to question the status quo is because they have the luxury to do so without endangering their well-being. Someone who has to farm the soil all day doesn't have much time to worry about the fundamental nature of being.

    Equally I guess they are less likely to rock the boat. Say they worship a God who says they must sacrifice someone every season to ensure the crops grow. Do you want to be the person that says that's wrong only to find the crops failing on you. You just can't afford to get it wrong so its safer not to make any changes at all.

    I think it's also a question of leisure, which is perhaps related to the luxury of relative safety to question the status-quo. Earlier in history, most probing developments into the nature of the universe, science and philosophy as well as arts and music were made by those who were more highly placed in society--those who's incomes or general livelihoods were not tied to hard, physical or work-a-day labor. These advances were made, essentially, by those who had the free time to contemplate such pursuits.

    Today, many more of us have such leisure as allows us to pursue a greater understanding of whatever specific fields interest us (such as cartography, for instance). Generally, this leads to improvements for all in those fields.

    Essentially, I think I'm saying the same thing you just said, but coming at it from a different direction.
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  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by NeonKnight View Post
    I need to find the case, so I will do the search, but there was a case only a few years back in Budapest I believe where family members broke into a recently deceased relatives grave and cut their head off because they honestly believed the person to be a vampire.
    GOOGLE-FU.........He-YAH!

    Ahhhh, knew I would find it.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/wo...rs-397874.html

    Basically in 2004, in a village in Southern Romania, a man died, the family believed him to be a Vampire, and set upon 'slaying him'

    As well as here:

    http://www.livescience.com/strangene...4_dracula.html

    http://www.free-press-release.com/ne...210443412.html

    and

    http://exmypar.wordpress.com/2007/10/29/real-vampires/

    Wish I could find the News Footage I had seen last year when they were talking about this on a program on the history of Vampires.
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  8. #38
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    I've rather enjoyed reading through this thread and have to say that a number of good points have been made by those that have contributed. I've pondered this subject several times, myself, and now I'd like to add my two cents, if nobody minds.

    One thing I always try to keep in mind is that the development of culture (and society in general, for that matter) is greatly influenced by the climate (geology, weather, availability of natural resources and level of isolation) in which the people in question have evolved. This influence spans across every aspect of their lives, effecting such things as their religious beliefs, social customs, means of sustenance, transportation, shelter and self-preservation in the face of hardship. It stands to reason, then, that climate would also be a major influence when it comes to the development of technology since cultural and societal needs, more often than not, act as a rudder for technological research.

    The history of our world is rife with examples of how climate effects the development of technology, and one need look no further than such movies as Pathfinder and 10,000 B.C. to see an illustration of this. Of course, there are more recent examples as well, like the early encounters between Native Americans and European Settlers. But getting back to the original question, here are a few more thoughts to consider;

    What defines renaissance for a culture? For instance, could we say that the Native Americans were at their own "renaissance" level of technology when European explorers first "discovered" the Americas?

    What physical obstacles does the culture in question need to overcome and how strong in their desire to overcome such obstacles? (i.e. if the people don't need to expand because of low population levels, why would they bother exploring beyond their needs)

    What means of record keeping does the culture use? Is it a written alphabet or more hieroglyphic? Do they use paper, stone, wood or papyrus? How long would it take them to make a detailed map of their world versus a crude map?

    How inquisitive is the culture? Even if they don't need to expand, are they curious enough to explore beyond their local community?

    Do they actively pursue "foreign" commerce, or are they self-sufficient?

    Are they compelled to conquer other lands or are they content to live out their lives in their own little corner of the world?

    These are just some of the questions I ask myself when developing fictional cultures and, in the end, it all comes down to who (in their society) is making the maps for them. As for the influence of foreign technology, my best suggestion would be to look at what has happened in our own history and compare cultures of varying technological levels for an answer.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greason Wolfe View Post
    snip.
    Thanks for your thoughts. It's an interesting take. I think you're right that environmental concerns definitely affect both cultural and technological development. They say that "necessity is the mother of invention", and the environment is probably one of the primary sources of necessity in humanity's quest to make life easier for itself.

    I'd also say that how the environment helps or hinders food production is part and parcel with that. In areas where the environment is very conducive to farming and mass food production, populations grow very quickly, which influences all kinds of cultural developments. Meanwhile, in a harsher climate, new means of obtaining foods need to be developed (i.e. new technology) in order just to survive, and this also influences cultural developments. The interaction of the two is probably a third factor.
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  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karro View Post
    Thanks for your thoughts. It's an interesting take. I think you're right that environmental concerns definitely affect both cultural and technological development. They say that "necessity is the mother of invention", and the environment is probably one of the primary sources of necessity in humanity's quest to make life easier for itself.

    I'd also say that how the environment helps or hinders food production is part and parcel with that. In areas where the environment is very conducive to farming and mass food production, populations grow very quickly, which influences all kinds of cultural developments. Meanwhile, in a harsher climate, new means of obtaining foods need to be developed (i.e. new technology) in order just to survive, and this also influences cultural developments. The interaction of the two is probably a third factor.

    Absolutely.

    And, of course, there are other natural resources besides agriculture. What about heavy and precious ores or wood?

    Mortality rates also play a big role in the development of technology. Shorter life-spans don't always lend themselves well to new discoveries on an individual level, but if several people are working together across generations, it is certainly possible. It might just happen a bit slower.

    IMHO, there are just so many factors that influence the development of culture and technology that it sometimes seems impossible to consider them all. More often than not, what I end up doing is selecting one or two major factors, a few minor factors and then play Twenty Questions with them to see how they influence one another. It doesn't always work out perfectly, but sometimes those imperfections are exactly the thing that is needed to make the settings unique.

    Oh, and you hit it on the head. I'm not sure why I used Climate when I meant Environment. But thanks for the subtle correction.
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