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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Colleen Lemos at 5:48PM   |  6 comments
Photo of Colleen Ryan

Colleen Ryan
Television-Radio, Scriptwriting ‘12
Anthropology minor
FLEFF Intern
Lansing, NY


I’ve struggled for several days trying to come up with a succinct definition for “microtopia.”

Don’t ever ask me to write a dictionary, because boy do I like my verbose run-on sentences.

Language seems arbitrary at times.

A soon to be college graduate, and I still confuse the words “utopia” and “oasis.” I see both as a place to flourish. A place of seemingly untouched, uncontaminated beauty, that although possibly surrounded by arid dessert, still has the ability to adapt and prosper.

I’m not good at putting labels on things, and as a screenwriter, I battle with words that would be better expressed as images and emotions.

I think I’ll be better at describing how microtopias makes me feel.

Microtopias makes me excited to be alive. Graduating college ranks highly on the list of “Most Terrifying Things,” yet the idea of microtopias sparks excitement.

Parts of capitalism and corporate America have in a way “incepted” us all, subliminally telling us that the way to live after college is to immediately get a “career.” We’re thriving if we have a job. We’re happy if we have money.

But is that what life’s about? I want a sustainable lifestyle. Not just by contributions to inhabit the world in a better way, but personal sustainability as well. This does not mean spending forty hours a week at an entry-level job that I hate just because I think I should.

Happiness and well-being can also be sustained.

As a constant collector of passions and inspirations, microtopias make me feel at ease and zealous towards not being exactly sure what it is I want to do…yet.

It’s okay that I don’t know.

There are endless ways I can contribute and flourish, and places where I don’t need the label of a job title to make me feel like I’m contributing to society. FLEFF allows me to celebrate myself, and the idea of microtopias: A desire to use our dissimilar yet beautiful strengths to make the world a better place.

I want to know: How do microtopias make you feel?  What about them excites you?  What do you think of them?



Excellent blog, Colleen. I really like how you took a more emotional approach to defining microtopia, and then used that as the framing device for a bigger talk about the expectations of college and what we're here to do.

I think you've also tapped into another reason why FLEFF and FLEFF-like events/organizations are so important: they remind people that part of being in college is about being a student of life; it's not the inevitable preamble to a "career", a word you so cleverly encased in quotation marks.

As for how microtopias make me feel, I think 'invincible' is a good temporary word for it.

Invincible. I like it. I agree that it makes me feel somewhat invincible as well, where anything is possible, and that's a good thing!

Invincible? Hmmm... I'm wondering if the word might be involved...or engaged...based on these posts...or part of something bigger than the self? That's often quite powerful and clarifying...:) Concrete microtopias, anyone? Any examples?

Sometimes confusions can be very fruitful,and I am very intrigued by your confusion of utopia and oasis. Utopias, historically, were conceived as oases, protected spaces, surrounded by the corruptions of the larger world. Utopia and oasis share a conceptual family resemblance.
Also, I like your turn towards emotion or feeling as being central to utopian ideals. Utopias, and by implications microtopias, may turn out to be spaces where the lines between the analytical and emotional, the thought and the felt, are heavily blurred.

Hmmm....blurring is a FLEFF modality to be sure, a way to twist around those nasty binary oppositions between the analytic and the emotional, the industrial and the pastoral. Microtopia is in itself, a blurred and blended concept.

This is a really lovely post- a very personal way into the challenging, but really fruitful idea of the microtopia, that offers us a new way of configuring space, and troubling the binaries and categories that make up so much of academic discourse.

The conversation in the comments is also going a long way to getting me thinking.

I'm also really excited by this idea of a microtopia, having just come out of a conversation with someone who seemed to be asking what regions I focussed on in my research. I may have misunderstood, but area studies still strike me as so problematic in the new flows of people, technologies, and media. The idea of a microtopia can go a long way to resolving some of the limitations of the area, while not getting too wild about fantasies of globalisation that do not account for the other types of social formations that can appear.

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