Sunday, February 19, 2012

Questions on Gibson/Haraway

Post your questions as comments to this thread.


RJ said...

I was surprised by how optimistic the ending of the novel seemed. Case chose to go through with Wintermute/Neuromancer's plan so that "at least things will change" but it's sort of ambiguous what change exactly is going to happen as a result of the AI becoming liberated. The exact ramifications of Case's weird Zen Enlightenment experience in the matrix are up in the air, as well as the meaning of his new relationship with 'a girl named Michael.' The ending seemed to completely flip everything that happened so far on its head and I'm left here amazed at how uplifting it felt to experience and yet unsure at how I should really take it. In other words I found the end of the book aesthetically beautiful but don't know how much of it was a ruse!

Caia Caldwell said...

I am fascinated by the character of Molly, and a spot in the novel that really sticks out in my mind is when she admits to Case about her past as a "meat puppet" (pg. 147). Basically, to raise enough money for her artificial implants, she becomes a prostitute. Although she is not really "present" when she is having sex with clients, it still left a large impact on her life. This is the only point in the novel where she seems at all vulnerable to me. Even when Molly is injured during the novel (one example being her leg at the end of the story) she never seemed particularly vulnerable. I'm trying to think of some particular reason why she chose to tell Case this personal detail about her life, but I find no other explanation other than she's fond of him. This makes her seem less like a cyborg, and much more like a human.

Brandon said...

I noticed a contrast between Molly and the two AI that seemed to be present throughout the second half the novel. Molly has all these body modifications, from razor nails to surgically-attached sunglasses to make her stronger and less emotional (like her redirected tear ducts), but she is still incredible vulnerable. She breaks a leg and it never seems to heal completely and is still heavily traumatized by some of her experiences with prostitution.

She spends most of the second half of the novel broken and incapable of doing particularly much due to her injuries, which is ironic considering the fact that her body modifications are expected to help her be better at fighting.

On the other hand, Wintermute and Neuromancer both rely entirely on mental power, controlling others and tricking Case into allowing them to unite, making them both completely successful in their goal to reunite. Neuromancer kills efficiently (like the police officers scene) and Wintermute embodies a human being (the Finn) to manipulate Case. The overwhelming power of mentality seems to be incredible dominant in this world, with the "body as meat).

Amy Friedenberger said...

I thought this moment was interesting because Case was realizing his connection to working for the unseen bosses, with being hired by Armitage, who actually works for Wintermute. Case takes Armitage has a construction of Wintermute's, and Case finds himself trapped in the political power that is intertwined with corporate.

"Case had always taken it for granted that the real bosses, the kingpins in a given industry, would be both more and less than people. He'd seen it in the men who'd crippled him in Memphis, he'd seen Wage affect the semblance of it in Night City, and it had allowed him to accept Armitage's flatness and lack of feeling. He'd always imagined it as a gradual and willing accommodation of the machine, the system, the parent organism. It was the root of street cool, too, the knowing posture that implied con nection, invisible lines up to hidden levels of influence." (202)

This appeared to suggest a dependency on the larger society system, which they sort of isolate from, even though they want to connect with that larger system.

(Still found the book very difficult, but a little easier after talking about it in class.)

Kira Scammell said...

Going along with Caia's comment. I too find Molly fascinating. I think there is one other time in the novel where she is vulnerable. It's in the fourteenth or fifteenth chapter, and she is telling Case about her relationship with Johnny. It seemed like he was the one person that Molly ever came close to loving, and when he was gone, she couldn't find it in her to open up like that again. Much like her experience as a "meat puppet" I feel that this event very much explains why Molly is as distant and cold as she is.

This is completely unrelated, but I am still having trouble really visualizing the whole flatlining thing.

Dana Edmunds said...

My question this week refers to the last chapter, after Wintermute/Neuromancer return to talk to Case. He asks the superintelligence how things have changed:

"'I talk to my own kind.'
'But you're the whole thing. Talk to yourself?'
'There's others. I found one already. Series of transmissions recorded over a period of eight years, in the nineteen-seventies. Til there was me, natch, there was nobody to know, nobody to answer.'"

WM/NM then explains that he found another superintelligence/matrix in the Centauri system. I am wondering if this is a reference to radio transmissions coming from Voyager, launched in the 1970's and heading towards Proxima Centauri.

This is such a confusing and open-ended ending for the novel. If Gibson is referencing Voyager, does this mean that Wintermute is accessing what is already mankind's technology, meaning that the universe will always be one-dimensional, the matrix leading the show...
does it mean that the superintelligence has found other forms of super AI (no reference to Sagan's Voyager), and will continue to, meaning more dimension in a previously one-dimensional society? If this is the case, then it leads me to ask where humans would fit in this picture. I am wondering what others thought of this ending.

Patrick Kilduff said...

When talking about the character Molly, one can make the argument if she is really a cyborg or not. There is of course the physical aspects of her being, the razors under the fingernails and the "sunglasses" implanted in her head, but if we look at Haraway's definition in her paper, I see something a tiny bit different. Her definition states: "A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well a creature of fiction". Molly has a personality, she does not act like the typical definition of a cyborg, and has demons in her past. She only got the modifications to her body to aid her in her profession. Haraway really reinforces this distinction, and makes a very clear and feministic approach to cyborgs and society.

Scott Sauter said...

No one asking questions about Haraway?

I'll be the first to admit that I do not fully understand the Haraway essay. For instance:

"The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism" (Haraway).

How is this supposed fit into the blasphemy theme? Is it blasphemous because the author expects me to be offended by its pretenses? Or is it blasphemous because it's an overly romanticized sentence in a feminist essay? A truly interesting, yet puzzling read that I can't wait to discuss.

Margaret Julian said...

I think the thing that I'm really stuck on is Wintermute's ability to manipulate things in the matrix. I'm not sure if I quite understand how it is set up. Does Wintermute need permission to tap into the workings of the world or is this something is he always capable of doing? I'm struggling with his position as a "godlike" figure as well. He's a lot more direct than what people consider God to be so I"m not sure what to make of his specific use of power over people.

Ben Fellows said...

Upon completing Neuromancer, I find that the comparison of demons to Artificial Intelligence to be very interesting. It seems to match, piece for piece with the Japanese mythology. "to call up a demon you must learn its name". In calling the AI demonic, Gibson seems to be emphasizing that they are inhuman, as a demon is.

Their merger to create superintelligence also seems to support this idea that they are very inhuman, as the level of intelligence they are capable of attaining when their bounds are released is incomprehensible.

I also found it interesting how so many people and things in this novel had many multiple names. Case=Henry Dorsett Case, Molly=Rose Kolodny, Neuromancer=Rio, Armitage=Corto, etc... The idea of multiple identities is all over this novel. I suppose this could be parallel to the multiple worlds Case experiences throughout the novel.

Julia Carpey said...

Like Caia and Kira, I too noticed Molly's humanistic elements at several points in the novel. The one that stuck out to me the most was the situation in which she was describing her relationship with Johnny and the aftermath that did the most long term, subconscious emotional damage to her. Haraway says
"The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism," and I know that Scott had trouble with this, but when put in context with Molly's character I understood it much easier than when I read it mutually exclusive of Gibson (which obviously was not meant to happen because they were paired this week for a reason). I think that Haraway is distancing patriarchal capitalism and militarism from any emotional aspect which creates a human element for anything. The language he uses is clearly demeaning and negative towards these philosophies and he doesn't really try to hide his opinion here. To contextualize this, Molly is portrayed for the better part of the novel. She is cold, distant, robotic, emotionless for the most part and embodies very little to almost no human qualities other than her physical features and the extremely limited instances already discussed. She is everything that militarism and capitalism embodies; she is rigidly structured, focuses on her material items that impact her and her alone, maybe because of her emotional traumatic experiences (however few), or maybe because she was simply programmed this way (maybe both). However, when we place this Haraway quote in context of Molly, especially the two vastly different lights we see her in, I personally was able to understand it better.

Pat Kelly said...

I, like Margaret, am also very intrigued and kind of confused by Wintermute's ability to interfere with virtually anything in the Matrix.

I'm also pretty confused by Riviera's character. I can't recall a particular point in the novel where he switches his loyalties against Case and Molly. He goes to the Straylight house following his performance at the Vingtième Siècle, and we don't hear or see much from him until Molly encounters him and 3Jane in the house. Does he betray Molly because of his need to "[betray] the object of desire" (Gibson, 96)? Or am I missing an important plot development here?