Thursday, February 16, 2012

Prompt 1

Marcuse, in The One-Dimensional Man, discusses the role which art has in a two-dimensionalpre-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,’[1] 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 saltI may have no idea about what I am arguing. 

At the beginning of Neuromancer, Ratz calls Case an ‘artiste.’[2]  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.’[3]  The ‘this world’ that Ratz is talking about is the matrixan additional dimension. 

The matrix does not work in the same way the theatre or the opera work; the high society factorat least as we see ‘high society;’ it is possible that those in the novel consider the matrix as special, perhaps elitedoes 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 itselfor 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,’[4] 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. 

[1] Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man, (Boston 1964) Chapter 3
[2] William Gibson, Neuromancer, (Kindle Edition 2000) Loc. 25
[3] Gibson (Neuromancer) Loc. 4117
[4] Gibson (Neuromancer) Loc. 1008


Caia Caldwell said...

Robin- I enjoyed your honestly about your confusion with Neuromancer. Don’t worry, I think it is safe to say we are all just as baffled about the book as you are. The rough idea you fleshed out in your piece is an interesting one though: the idea that the matrix adds another dimension to society, making it impossible to be the one-dimensional society that Marcuse warns about.

I believe the best sentence in this piece is “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.” I think this summarizes your argument nicely.

However, I think (though I may be wrong) that it took you until the end of this paper to really figure out what you were trying to say. If you were to revise, I would revise this sentence, making it into a strong thesis, and then present a solid argument about how and why cyberspace and the matrix add another dimension, and are different from the Marcuse example of elitist art.

Adam said...

In the second paragraph, you argue that based on Ratz' commentary, the Matrix represents a second dimension. This is a perfectly reasonable approach - but I think without engaging more deeply with Marcuse (that is, by being clear about what a second dimension *means*), you could show whether this is a second dimension in Marcuse's sense or in Case's sense - because Case experiences life in cyberspace as his true life, that doesn't mean Marcuse would accept it as a second dimension (although it may be a good approach).

Maybe I'm just playing devil's advocate here - but I think I'd be prepared to argue that Cyberspace is primarily a thing of the powerful (corporation, universites, governments, militaries) and that Case's position in cyberspace is that of a thief paid to steal corporate secrets. In other words, I'm not at all prepared to assume that cyberspace is not *primarily* high class, even though Case himself clearly is anything but high class.

Your ongoing discussion of the problematics (sorry for the word) of calling cyberspace a stage is very interesting. But, while being legitimately interested in teh question of whether cyberspace is stage, practice room, performer, or performance, I'm not really sure where you're going with all of it.

You raise interesting questions and issues - but at the end of the day your engagement with Marcuse is weak (although your reading of Gibson is more interesting than you perhaps realize) - to such an extent that I'm not sure that you really are engaged at all with what Marcuse means by a second dimension. You'd need to be clearer on that question before the reading of Neuromancer itslef would really make a lot of sense.