Cyberculture Course Essay

Pages: 5 (1506 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Literature

¶ … metaphors or concepts of Cyberculture are cyberspace and the cyborg. Each emerges in relation to new technological developments - communication and information technology on the one hand, biotechnology on the other. Cyberspace imagines a place in which humans can circulate, interact, and communicate free from the physical constraints of embodied existence. Cyborgs are embodied creatures who combine natural/organic qualities with technical mechanical enhancements or supplements.

Each of these three novels (William Gibson's Neuromancer, Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, Pat Cardigan's Synners) takes up the questions of cyberspace and the cyborg. Write an essay in which you address the depiction of one or both of these concepts in one of these three novels. Make sure both to define cyberspace or the cyborg in terms of the readings we have done and to develop a thesis about the functioning of these concepts in the novel you choose to discuss, supporting your thesis with analysis of specific passages from the novels.

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William Gibson's Neuromancer presents us with a complex view of the future of human interaction, one that is dictated by one's ability to control physical reality by the manipulation of the hyper-real tapestry of cyberspace. Cyberspace in Gibson's world is more than a communication network designed to unite disparate social elements and groups that are presently divided by ethnicity, gender, or class. It is all these things but it is also something new. It is a place where the divide between life and death are blurred, where new intelligence can scheme, prosper and evolve and where mundane concepts such as love, hate and lust take on a new meaning. It is an entirely new arena that Gibson suggests holds the key to the future development of humankind; even if such progress is as bleak even as it is desired. Overall, Gibson suggests that cyberspace is where a new reality and new consciousness will prosper, even as the mundane world of flesh falls into dystopic brutality.

Essay on Cyberculture Course Assignment

Gibson's vision of cyberspace can be divided to three different areas. The first is what could be called an extension of the mundane. Commerce, entertainment, communication, dealings, crime, gangs, violence and theft, all elements that exist in the 'real' world, find a place in this hyper-world Gibson calls the matrix. In essence, the delivery may appear different the package itself is one that would be familiar to most. While cyberspace may (by some) be considered to have 'Fundamentally new conditions for human interaction' Gibson's narrative is one that, at least on one level, could have been put into any historical period. (Punday 194)

The story's protagonist, Case, is after all a 'coyboy', a gunslinger, for hire to the highest bidder. And while the geography may differ his story is one that is reasonably common to many literary forms. Case is a loner, broken from the abuses of those he greedily betrayed and is close to death. But he is offered a chance at physical and psychic redemption by Armitage - and in more subtle ways by Molly -- before he can die alone and broken in the Sprawl. While Case protests that he did not have '… a lotta choice', he did. He chooses the matrix over a miserable death, because it is the matrix that offers him hope. (Gibson 1986, 67)

Consequently, cyberspace on this level is simply a new arena for an old story. Case and his associates are wrapped in high-tech wonderment and thieving from corporations of unfathomable digital and mundane power yet they are still thieves, and the corporations are still recognizable as such. Indeed, Gibson himself notes that cyberspace was more than anything a narrative device, one he designed to make it easier for his characters to do the impossible (Punday 195). In other words, while there are considerable metaphysical wonders in matrix the hyper-mundane nature of cyberspace should not be overlooked either. Arguably, we as a global society are presently in this stage of digital development. As David Marshall argues the internet is not cyberspace, however, a shift from a 'network of networks' to an autonomous self-aware media is perhaps the next logical step, and one that Gibson explores elsewhere (Marshall 46).

The second level of Gibson's cyberspace is more complex and concerns the nature of consciousness. Much of the narrative in Neuromancer deals with the nature of reality. Questions of what makes a person real, or even what makes a person, are also common themes throughout the novel. The character of Pauley best exemplifies this. The 'flat-liner' is conscious, he can communicate, he can even debate the nature of his own existence, yet we are led to question whether this constitutes actual 'life'. "Me, I'm not human either" argues Pauley during a discussion with Case about the nature of consciousness, "but I respond like one. See?." "Are you sentient, or not?," asks Case, "Well, it feels like I am, kid, but I'm really just a bunch of ROM. it's one of them, ah, philosophical questions, I guess . . ." (Gibson 158-159) Tyler Stevens (416) argues that Gibson is saying 'no', Pauley is anything but human, he is instead "a hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills, obsessions, knee-jerk responses" (Gibson 97). Yet, humanness and consciousness are not mutually exclusive as Gibson himself explores later via the digital constructs Wintermute and Neuromancer. Cyberspace is, Gibson suggests, a vehicle for the development of a new type of consciousness.

Death too, the ultimate in non-consciousness, is in many ways, defeated in Gibson's cyberspace. Pauley and Linda Lee although physically dead achieve the kind of rebirth in cyberspace that would be impossible in a mundane reality. Case himself 'dies' during the narrative too; his encounter with 'brain-death while short opens himself up to a new type of reality, one created by the sentient Artificial Intelligence Necromancer (276-290).

Gibson also suggests that a transfer of fleshy (or 'meat') consciousness to a digital one is something to be desired. The matriarch Ashpool, a member of the Tessier-Ashpool clan of corporate behemoths, chooses digital sublimation over her family's regular method for extending life; cryogenics (304). Case too desires to be free from the constraints of the flesh (68-69), indeed, overall, Gibson seems to suggest that it is the physical world that holds the worst of the human condition -- it is in cyberspace that humankind can finally be free (Punday 200).

Finally, Gibson takes us to the ultimate extreme. Cyberspace moves beyond being a place where the transactions and interactions of the mundane world are simply transferred to a digital arena, and it becomes more than a place that may hold the key to a different type of conscious realty. In the end Gibson suggests that cyberspace will eventually develop its own form of awareness. Wintermute and Neuromancer ultimately transcend their programming, merge, and create "something else" (Gibson 314). In other words, one of the central themes of the novel is the idea that "(a)utonomous technology & #8230; follows its own course, independent of human direction' (Winner 13). Moreover, it is the machinations of Wintermute, not the human characters, which drive the storyline. It is the AI, "a cold cybernetic spider" (315), that enslaves the characters and who ruthlessly sets out to achieve its own ends. and, in the end it is Wintermute who 'wins', transforming itself from an 'it' to a 'he' (314). Indeed, almost every other character dies by the end of the novel, with Case himself the only character that we know of who has anything like a happy ending, and that is only because he returns to his old life as a post-human (Nui 73).

Gibson's vision of cyberspace, while in many ways bleak, even horrific, is ultimately a positive one. He has envisaged a place that at first complements the mundane world but in the end supersedes it. Rather… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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