Plan for the Day
- Registration is next week–starts 11/04 (but your specific time will vary)
- ENGL 4275 “Rhetoric and Technology” (MW 2:30-3:45, FRET 219)
- I’m 99% sure I’ll be assigning William Gibson’s Neuromancer
- I’m 50% sure I’ll be assigning Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (aka. Blade Runner)
- The rest of the readings are non-fiction and related to technology
- ENGL 6166 “Rhetorical Theory” (M 6:00-8:45, FRET 219)
- More reading than humanly possible to get through unless you start over winter break…and winter is coming!
- Know any graduate students who’d like this course…
- Watch The Matrix and Inception for Reality Questioning Films
- Björk’s “All is Full of Love” (Probably more relevant for Autonomous)
- Tron (1982) Trailer
- Today’s readings
Want another 1980s video? How about Billy Ocean’s “Loverboy” (1984)…I dare you to finish it. Try to finish Asia’s “Go” (1985). The “character” in the video reminds me of Samus Aran from Metroid (1986).
William Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” (1982)
Before we discuss the pseudo-love story, let’s consider the time period and some of the themes in the text. The editors in the “Preface” to the entire Anthology point out that Gibson “expanded the sf universe by challenging readers to imagine radically intimate relationships between human beings and increasingly pervasive cybernetic technologies. The impact of Gibson’s fiction lay in its revisionary use of familiar figures such as the cyborg to reveal the degree to which contemporary techno-scientific culture has itself become science-fictionalized” (p. xiv). Consider that statement for a bit.
- Even if you don’t remember 1982, you most likely can think about the pervasive technologies in your life today.
- How many technologies do you have that you never turn off?
- Currently, California has been have blackouts, causing customers to lose power–no TV, cell phone charging, Internet, etc.
- PG&E claims this is to reduce the chance of fires due to faulty equipment.
- Others claim the blackouts are due to PG&E not wanting to spend money on infrastructure repair.
The Anthology editors also claim, “Gibson’s language conveys a melancholy nostalgia for lost affections at the same moment it expresses awe at technological transformations of the human condition” (p. 548). As you read, pay attention to what seems to be lost by considering what the characters might lament not having or what they long for. Also, think of the role of technology in their lives. Without cyberspace, they wouldn’t have a means of getting income. How might that be interpreted when considering technological literacy and the Labor Market?
Consider the following passages from the text:
- 1980s early amateur IT separation of Hardware vs. Software people: “Bobby’s software and Jack’s hard; Bobby punches console and Jack runs down all the little things that can give you an edge” (p. 550).
- “[Chrome] was one of the boys…a member in good standing of the local Mob subsidiary” (p. 557).
- Simstim: “simulated stimuli” (p. 559).
- What possible media phenomenon parallels this entertainment?
- Jack tells himself a lie to try to create a reality: “I tried telling myself that it was a good idea to burn the House of Blue Lights because the place was a creep joint, but I just couldn’t buy it” (p. 561).
- The above quotation relates to the Anthology editors claim that “Gibson’s influential early cyberpunk style” has characters that “are mildly antiheroic, with technical and street skills to manipulate the corrupt system, but lacking in higher ideals” (p. 548).
- Jack doesn’t have any moral or ethical qualms with the cyber-brothel.
- Similar to this criticism is the attacks against Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. Zuckerberg is a very good programmer and envisioned the commercial potential of facebook,* but some claim he didn’t have the appropriate background (humanities) to envision the way the technology could harm users and entire nations.
By the way, I really wanted this story to be the inspiration for Google Chrome…but it isn’t.
*Of course, we all know Zuckerberg was following in the footsteps of Guglielmo Marconi, father of the wireless (the early radio).
This is a bit more of a “traditional” love story: boy meets girl, boy puts girl on pedestal, boy tries to win her, and boy’s friend tries to win her over, too. Bobby Quine is infatuated with Rikki, but it appears to be a surface infatuation–she’s just the current object of his desire. Jack is much more interested in her and seems to want to protect her. The term paternalism is important here because Jack tries to keep her out of harm’s way, but he does so from a position of benevolent male protector (think knight in shining armor…). Patriarchy and paternalism aren’t synonymous, but they go together: a paternalistic perspective is often from the point of view that an authority has the subordinate’s best interest in mind.
Consider the instances where Bobby and Jack use the ideal of Rikki to justify their actions:
- “Bobby read his future in women; his girls were omens, changes in the weather, and he’d sit all night in the Gentleman Loser, waiting for the season to lay a new face down in front of him like a card” (p. 552).
- Serial monogamy…or just flavor of the week
- Remember, if you’re under 25–one year and done!
- “Rikki…something to aim for….a symbol for everything [Bobby] wanted] and couldn’t have, everything he’d had and couldn’t keep” (p. 554).
- Jack was annoyed at hearing Bobby go on about Rikki and that he actually believed that he was in love with her (p. 554).
- “[Bobby] just kept telling me he loved her, where they were going to go together, how they’d spend the money” (p. 561).
- Jack sees something in the distance: “I see her far out on the edge of all this sprawl of night and cities, and then she waves good-bye” (p. 565).
- Compare to his earlier image of Rikki: “I see her sometimes when I’m trying to sleep, I see her somewhere out on the edge of all this sprawl of cities and smoke, and it’s like she’s a hologram stuck behind my eyes….and I see her wave good-bye” (pp. 552-553).
- This parallel vision almost bookends the short story.
Why did Gibson make Chrome a women hooked up with the Mob? Consider these book covers:
- Chrome Cover 1
- Chrome Cover 2
- Chrome Cover 3
- Chrome Cover 4
- Chrome Cover 5
- Matrix Cover or this version
- Pyramid Cover
Maybe for next semester: At the end of Neuromancer when Case sees the image of Neuromancer, Linda, and himself. What interpretation can we make about what we project into the world (our realities)?
Illusion of Love
Think about all those love songs and romantic comedies out there. It’s easy to sing about “love” for 3-4 minutes or watch a grotesque love story for 90-120 minutes. Songs, films, TV shows, etc. are just short pieces of relationships that can easily show love exists. However, they usually don’t get into the difficult parts or contradictory issues of love. In fact, love stories are often used as a psychological release and indulgence into a fantasy of a construct–both social and self–that readers or viewers enjoy. If the reader/viewer can’t have ideal love, they can, at least, have the fantasy to get them through.
What other genres or media allow audiences to indulge in cathartic experiences? Catharsis is the theory that we can purge negative emotions through art or indulging in entertainment.
Philosophy of Illusion
Two things make it difficult to accept (or, at least, consider) the argument I’m making about stories and myths: 1) we don’t want to think we’re being bamboozled, and 2) we don’t often scrutinize our core assumptions–they’re just givens. For your Friday class (11/01–do Halloween on Friday night and not the night before) you may be reflecting on core assumptions you have (your assumptions of reality).
The great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche noted that people live under a “tissue of lies” (he most likely didn’t coin this phrase). Members of a culture have to “buy into” the stories and myths circulating in society just like they buy into the value of currency, which is a representation of value. The texts we’re reading relate to this theme because they have characters entering alternate realities and questioning what’s real and what’s not. Cyberspace isn’t just a technology that acts as a setting for a text; it’s also a metaphor for our being immersed in Information Technologies we use everyday. Do those tools shape our realities?
To continue on the theme of love, what are the “tissues of lies” surrounding Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” (1980)? One stanza is particularly important:
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true /
Or is it something worse
Whoa! Let’s listen to the song and try to understand it’s meaning and how it can complicate ideal(ized) illusions of love–especially young love.
Finally, in the words of Axl Rose (Guns and Roses “Locomotive”):
You can use your illusion /
Let it take you where it may.
Get ready for more games reality plays for Friday. We’ll be covering Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale,” which is the basis for the film Total Recall. Start Salt Fish Girl before Monday (definitely by next Wednesday). Go Niners!