Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blog 4

Jacob Pavlovich
Narrative and technology

“The conscious transcendence of the alienated existence-a "higher level" or mediated alienation,” this statement from Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man is one that is a central theme in the Neuromancer. The whole novel is about Case’s journey to find himself, from my interpretation of the book. Case is a dynamic character so far in the novel, and I foresee his continual growth throughout the novel.

Starting from the beginning, he is a lowly junkie in the black market world of Japan. As he his paranoia gets to him, he is faced with a challenge, scratch that an opportunity. He can reclaim his old status as a cowboy, an amazing hacker. As we delve into what exactly he experiences in the Matrix, we find a beautiful description on what the hyperspace is. This gave me the biggest trouble when reading the book because at first I was not able to grasp a hold on what exactly this Matrix was. However after I was able to take a hold of this abstract place that he has control in, the novel started to unravel.

“Whether ritualized or not, art contains the rationality of negation,” through this book art is a main theme. When Case enters the matrix he gives the description of: “Fluid neon origami trick, the unfolding of his distanceless home, his country, transparent 3D chessboard.” (p.52). The matrix in itself is a ritualized art form. It creates a vision of glorious colors and representative data structures and securities as beautiful structures. The most interesting thing in the novel is how the matrix represents an artificial intelligence data structure. It is represented as “a simple cube of white light, that very simplicity suggesting extreme complexity. (p.115). I view this as extreme beauty and a perfect art, the fact that something so complex can be represented as something as simplistic as a cube.

The next big artistic being is that of Case and his work as a computer hacker/cowboy. His “virus had bored a window through the library’s command ice”, this is a skill set that not many hold (p.62). Not only is he able to contain himself as a skilled computer hacker, at the same time he is able to hold feelings and care for Molly. He is able to feel “the agony of [the] broken bone” that molly sustains during the Sense/Net break in (p.64). He kept going back to her vision, her pain just so he could make sure everything with her was going to be okay. All of the while he was still having to keep tabs on his computer virus, making sure it wasn’t detected and making sure he could access the right places when he needed to. He keeps transcending through the different events that he has to go through. These challenges transform him from an artist to a person searching for answers; he is willing to risk his “EEG readin’dead.” (p.121).

His transcendence is complete in this half of the novel when he risks dying in the matrix, by reaching out to Wintermute. He started out by ignoring his destiny that he must talk with Wintermute, by ignoring the phone calls that he was getting from the AI. However, due to the fellow people around him he is forced into this transformation. He reaches out to Wintermute, hacking into the AI, and gets thrown back into his own memory. This is when he realizes through his talks with the artificial intelligence, that he needs to stop thinking only of himself and that he is more than just a pawn in some master scheme, however he is the one that Wintermute will “be counting on” (p.121). He is finally becoming a higher dimensional person, he is being forced to no longer just think of himself, but use his artistic abilities to lead. He is the one who must be the prime person soon enough to complete this task and complete the “protest” that is the hacking with his team.


Margaret Julian said...

I think this is a really interesting way to look at "art" in the novel. I guess I just feel like your rationale about are in reference to Marcuse is a little fuzzy. I'm not sure if it is Case's destiny that is wrapped up in Marcuse or if it is the idea as the Matrix as art. I also think this is ignoring a little the biggest theme about art in Marcuse, that is that there has to be some form of serious subversion for it to be "valuable" art. I think there is a lot of room for revision here. Even in its short form I was compelled to read on and find where your question or correlation was going.

Adam said...

Exploring the Matrix as an art form itself is an excellent idea and an excellent approach. I'm not sure that we need to understand Case as a developing, dynamic character in order to do that, in all fairness - so at least at the start, I see you as dealing with two somewhat disconnected topics (also, I'm somewhat skeptical of Case's dynamism, at least at the start - he's a cyberspace cowboy who loses the matrix then tries to regain it, and a junkie who loses his addiction and tries to regain it.

I don't really follow your discussion of Case's attention to Molly. You have my attention, but I'm kind of confused. Do you see him as transendent here? As a good, caring, person? As an artist who deals with the real world (molly) while making art (in the Matrix)? I suspect the root issue here is that this paragraph needs to become several paragraphs before it can really work.

I think in your discussion of transendence, you're jumping too far ahead of yourself. I also think this is a correct or productive approach - just one that is abbreviated and insufficiently theorized.

Here's what I mean by that last comment. Do we know what transendence is? Does Case match Marcuse's understanding of transcendence? Does that make Case-as-artist transcendent, or Gibson-as-artist transcendent, or both? In other words, is Case transcendent within the novel, or is the novel transcendent for us (which is more what Marcuse is talking about, although they are certainly related topics).

This was all interesting, productive, and well-directed. You're trying to do too much in too little space, though, without working hard enough with the thorny questions of what Marcuse means.