Marcuse, in The One-Dimensional Man, discusses the role which art has in a two-dimensional—pre-industrialised, pre-technological— society. He claims that art, part of what he calls “high society” is separate from the mainstream, everyday experience. The opera, a concert, a salon, the theatre; all of these are destinations, and, because ‘Their attendance requires festive-like preparation; they cut off and transcend everyday experience,’ creating another dimension in which people live, a second dimension. The matrix, in Gibson’s Neuromancer, is another dimension, proving that a technological society is not, as Marcuse believes, completely one-dimensional. Marcuse is verbose in his explanations, and more than a bit dense, too. Also, the cyber-techno-whatsit language of Neuromancer is equally baffling. That said, take this analysis with a grain of salt—I may have no idea about what I am arguing.
At the beginning of Neuromancer, Ratz calls Case an ‘artiste.’ So, from this, the audience can infer that, whatever Case’s talent is, he is skilled, and it is creative in nature. Ok, going on, we find out that Case is a thief, that he deals in cyberspace stealing data. Putting this all together creates a picture of a talented, creative thief. But what, you might ask, does this have to do with a second dimension? Ratz goes on to say, `But I suppose that is the way of an artiste, no? You needed this world built for you.’ The ‘this world’ that Ratz is talking about is the matrix—an additional dimension.
The matrix does not work in the same way the theatre or the opera work; the high society factor—at least as we see ‘high society;’ it is possible that those in the novel consider the matrix as special, perhaps elite—does not exist. One does not necessarily go to the matrix for a few hours’ entertainment. While working on the first hack, Case loses hours in the matrix. However, the matrix is literally a second dimension; a new plane on which life can operate. From what I understand of the matrix, it is fluid in time and space. This enables it to, also literally, ‘transcend everyday experience,’ as per Marcuse’s need.
The matrix itself—or perhaps cyberspace itself, I am unable to differentiate between the two, if there even is a difference— is like the opera house or the theatre or the concert hall. It is the everything for the hack: it is the venue; it is the practice rooms, it is the stage upon which the hack is enacted! In this way, too, it is different from how Marcuse envisions art. For him, the specialness of art is in how it creates a time away from everyday society. However, Case is not just an audience member; he is also the one performing, and he is not the only one. Cyberspace is ‘experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators,’ and therefore, cannot be compared to the arts of the early 1800’s and before, where the boxes, be they in the opera house or theatre or elsewhere, were for the elite.
While there are differences between Marcuse’s view that art creates a different dimension and that which is shown in Neuromancer, it is possible to live in a multi-dimensional, technological society. The cyberspace is a physical additional dimension as opposed to Marcuse’s escapist dimension of art. Yes, it can be said that, because cyberspace is so permeated throughout society, —‘experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators’— it is no longer removed from the daily grind. This, though, completely negates everything that I have argued, so it is being ignored. Ok, so I am not really ignoring this fact, but I am saying that it is not important because in this argument, cyberspace is set apart from everyday life in a physical manner as opposed to Marcuse’s psychological, intellectual barrier.