Lit 80, Fall 2013
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I was having trouble figuring out how to read the “.epub” file that was posted on Sakai for “Who Owns the Future.” I looked it up and I’ve seemed to find a way to read it on a mac or PC using this Adobe program. Hopefully it helps everyone else too.

 

http://www.adobe.com/products/digital-editions/download.html

 

After installing it, you just have to import the .epub file into your library

Google NGram/ Wordle

September 15th, 2013 | Posted by Joy in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

 

Here are my results for the tools I explored for class discussion last wednesday:

GoogleNgram

 

For my first tool, I used  Google Ngram, as pictured above. I chose the word “cyberspace”, because I wanted to see how Gibson’s use of the term may have influenced its’ use in literature. I had initially expected the word to be used more consistently during the 80’s, due to  the popularity of Neuromancer and his subsequent cyberpunk novels, but the use of the term actually declined after 1984 until the 1990’s. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that there was a sharp upward trend in its’ use, peaking in the year 2000. My speculation for this is the internet and what it entailed did not become widely-discussed in the U.S. until the Y2K scare – it created a frenzy that seems to coincide with increased usage of “cyberspace”. Interestingly enough, after the threat of Y2k passed, there was a sharp decline in the use of “cyberspace” shortly after.

 

 

 

wordle

The second tool I explored was Wordle  (http://www.wordle.net/). I inserted text from Neuromancer – more specifically, a quote defining “cyberspace” – into the program, and this was the end result ( I did change the colors to reflect my personal color preferences, haha).  Although sometimes the word clouds created take on a shape relevant to the text it brings to life, mine was amorphous, which I thought was kind of interesting.


 

Maps of Early Modern London PPT

September 13th, 2013 | Posted by Xin Zhang in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

MoEML presentation by Xin Zhang

References:

1. Web page of MoEML:  http://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/

2. Seminor about MoEML: http://dh2013.unl.edu/abstracts/ab-180.html

3. Google-style map: http://lettuce.tapor.uvic.ca/~london/imap/htdocs/

4. About literary-geospace: http://chronicle.com/article/Literary-Geospaces/12442

5. TEI (Text Encoding Initiative): http://www.tei-c.org/index.xml

6. Evaluating Multimodal Work: http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-4/evaluating-multimodal-work-revisited-by-shannon-mattern/

 

World Cloud / Tag Cloud Examples

September 11th, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Here’s a word cloud created from the entire text of Neuromancer by William Gibson. Its interesting to see the large and most frequent words that pop up, and how they coincide with some of the main themes we discussed in class. Its also interesting to think about what tag clouds like these assume from the reader and from the media, in the sense that they assume that the number of times a specific word occurs in the text is directly related to importance.

This word cloud was created on tagxedo.com

This word cloud was created on tagxedo.com

 

This is another tag cloud, showing President Bush’s speech following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2011. Again its interesting to see the main points of the speech visualized by “importance.” It also could give us a visualization and fast way to view the main points and periods of history the United States have gone through, through the eyes of the Presidents.

 

These tag clouds can be found at http://chir.ag/projects/preztags/

These tag clouds can be found at http://chir.ag/projects/preztags/

 

 

Neuromancer Response

September 6th, 2013 | Posted by Joy in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

One of the  most intriguing questions that  Neuromancer implicitly invites the audience to ask is: What does it mean to be free? What impact do technological advancement and increased interaction with the “cyber world” have on our definition of freedom? Gibson insinuates that the notion of freedom  extends far beyond the tangibility of one’s human body. Moreover,  as society continues to integrate the abstract “realities” of cyberspace with the natural world,  and as technological advancements burden  us with new sources of confinement, true freedom becomes more and more elusive.

The Oxford Dictionary has several definitions for the word case , including  ” an instance of a disease or problem”, and  ” a container designed to hold and protect something”. Ironically enough, Case – Neuromancer’s protagonist- seems to view his body in this light. After he was poisoned with mycotoxins that affected his nervous system, he transitions from having a “contempt for the flesh” , to feeling imprisoned and entrapped in his physical body, and therefore, unable to find true freedom in the cyberworld like he used to. The incident seems to be more psychologically damaging than physically, and that it is his own conscious that is truly hindering him from experiencing freedom. Even after his body is repaired, he is still being  confined externally by those around him in and out of cyberspace, and internally. He is also not able to break his fleshly drug habit, despite having the physical means of doing so. Another striking example of this narrative on freedom is when Case says, “None of this was real, but cold was cold”. His psychological response to the pseudo-reality of cyberspace transcends his physical inability to experience the cold.  The virtual aspect of his existence – at once a source of escape –  becomes a place of entrapment and confinement when Case is under the influence of  Wintermute.

 

 

 

 

 

http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/case–2

http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/case?q=case

Neuromancer, Life, and Identity

September 6th, 2013 | Posted by Matt Hebert in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

A recurrent theme within Neuromancer is the nature of life. Can a program be alive? What provides a being with its identity? Does identity demand a body?

Case resents his physical body, and is plagued by its shortcomings. He suffers from a physical dependency on stimulants, SAS when arriving in space, and all the natural limitations of a corporeal body. He resents this “meat” that he is contained within, suggesting that his identity is defined by his mind, and his body is an accessory. And yet, for most of the novel, Case cannot escape from his body. He is still affected by adrenaline, still feels the aftershocks of his stimulant hangovers, still risks critically damaging his brain. No matter how he dissociates, he remains tied to his body. It is, after all, the vessel his brain was built to fit.

But what about a being which has no body? Neuromancer exists only as a sea of information, yet he insists that he has developed his own identity. He and the personalities he cultivates are able to grow and develop, to think independent of the parameters established around them. They are certainly closer to human than the Dixie Flatline, who cannot create new ideas or store long term memory. Even the Flatline is on the cognitive level of some humans following serious injury. We dismiss him as a program because we know why he cannot create or remember, but he appears by all rights to have a sense of identity just as a human would. He thinks, he remembers, he even desires to be erased. Whether or not these things are human, it is obvious that they are cognizant entities, discrete from the world around them. That could be justification enough to call them life.

And indeed they appear to be as real within their world as the flesh of ours. It is while trapped in cyberspace with Neuromancer’s Linda that Case rekindles ties with “the meat” which he so often dismissed.

“It was a place he’d known before; not everyone could take him there, and somehow he always managed to forget it. Something he’d found and lost so many times. It belonged, he knew– he remembered–as she pulled him down, to the meat, the flesh the cowboys mocked. It was a vast thing, beyond know- ing, a sea of information coded in spiral and pheromone, infinite intricacy that only the body, in its strong blind way, could ever read.”

As he is rekindling these feelings, supposedly unique to flesh and bone, his physical body is in fact dead. It is unlikely, then, that Case’s physical body is reacting to this at all. Neuromancer built his world from people’s memories, so it stands to reason that what Case is feeling originates from something he once felt in the physical world. But if an AI can recreate even these most “human” aspects of life and emotion so convincingly that Case himself cannot tell the difference, then what, if anything, differentiates these entities from humans? Would an existence in that world be any less fulfilling than the physical world we inhabit? Perhaps the entities are simply new life, with new minds housed within new bodies of data. Who are we to judge?

 

Black Mirror of the Future

September 6th, 2013 | Posted by Xin Zhang in Uncategorized - (3 Comments)

As a seminal work in the cyberpunk genre, Neuromancer shows its negative attitude towards the digital age in the future. The cyberspace or Matrix makes me think of the movie Matrix, as they both shows a picture that in the future human can send his/her into the cyberspace to do all the things we now can do in reality and also things we cannot do in reality. I believe this is possible as what we the world is just what we feel. Our brains get signals from the outer world by our eyes, ears, noses and so on to and it is these signals that make us feel that we live in the reality. For example, the feel of our breath makes our brains know that we are still alive. However, for a dead man, if we can keep his brain alive and give the brain all the signals a alive man can get, then the brain will still believe that he is alive. Even someone told the man the truth, he may not believe he has dead just as Neo in Matrix cannot believe that he is just a virtual man in the beginning. So I agree with the opinion in the article “There is Only Cyberspace”. What we live in is just cyberspace consists of our signals our brains receive.

In my opinion, Neuromancer is an alert to tell us to take care of the social problems coming with the development of technologies such as hacking, AI, privacy protection etc. There are many of these movies that shows that advanced technologies could be disasters without control just like Terminator. But the AIs in Neuromancer very far from us as what we can do now to AIs is just make them do what we have write in the codes. Now we know little and almost nothing about how our brains works. So it is impossible to create AI like Wintermute in several thousands of  years as nature spend billions of years to create the intelligence of human. What I believe is that things like terminator will not happen but they are an alert to make us keep thinking about the relationship between technology development and human.

Neuromancer: Novel Response

September 6th, 2013 | Posted by Mithun Shetty in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Aside from its bizarrely accurate foresight, Neuromancer is an interesting novel because of the questions and ideas that it brings up regarding the relationship between humans and technology. In a mere set of decades, our society has transformed from a largely disconnected, isolated set of communities to a thoroughly interconnected digital network; in some way or the other, we are constantly transmitting or receiving data in our daily lives. Whether it is the infrastructures of our cities (traffic, navigation, consumerism, etc.) or keeping ourselves updated on our array of electronic devices, urbanized areas are almost completely dependent on technology. Additionally, the technology we are using is tending towards a more profound integration into our biological systems; new inventions are changing the way we perceive information from our environments. The implementation of QR codes, “Google Glasses,” and other marvels that augment reality are steps toward the complete unification of man and machine.

This is an idea that Neuromancer focuses on for the majority of the novel. Where exactly is the delineation between human and technology?  As we become more dependent on our devices to orient ourselves in our changing environments, will we lose the characteristics that we currently consider makes us “human?” The characters in Gibson’s novel all feature some sort of technological miracle; they have been able to cure their drug addictions, develop veritable superpowers (fingernails, cybernetic implants), and even achieve immortality. Additionally, Gibson introduces characters who are able to willfully suspend their consciousness or jack into an alternate form of reality, “the matrix.” Such examples represent the extremes of technological integration – it is understandable that Gibson chooses to represent the characters’ reliance on technology similar to drug dependence.

The reader may find it very difficult to classify certain characters as human or technology. Most notably, Dixie Flatline – who is deceased but has his mind and consciousness stored onto a ROM – is able to interact with Case and Molly and the other characters of the novel. Would we consider him a human? Though he is not the physical manifestation of McCoy Pauley, he is still able to access his mind. Perhaps he is not human because he cannot create or learn new thoughts. This distinction could be a vital part of the definition of a human being. Additionally, characters that have serious prosthetics (Molly, for example) cause readers to wonder how much technological additions/replacements would be necessary to cross the threshold of man to machine. When does a character like Molly cease being human and become a super intelligent bio-computer?

We probably will not have such drastic technological advances as presented in Gibson’s novel in the foreseeable future. However, these examples illustrate important phenomena that are occurring in our present lives: we are co-evolving with the technology that we produce at an alarmingly fast rate, which has both useful benefits (such as increased perception and function) and dangerous risks of total dependence on technology and a lack of a separate, human identity.

Neuromancer Novel Response

September 6th, 2013 | Posted by David Hemminger in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Throughout Neuromancer, William Gibson plays with a theme of the dissociation of mind from body.  Enabled by futuristic technology, characters can remove their consciousness from their bodies in a number of ways, simply by taking them out and storing them somewhere else for a while (as we see with the “puppets”), entering a completely digital world Gibson calls “cyberspace” (whenever Case “jacks in”), or even entering the body of someone else (whenever Case “flips” into Molly’s body).  The theme raises the natural question of whether a body is even required in order for a consciousness to exist.

Gibson addresses this question a number of times throughout the novel, but with mixed answers.  Certainly Dixie’s construct can act, think, and respond to his environment much like the original Dixie, but he also has no will to live, repeatedly requesting an erasure that he finally receives.  In page 231* of the novel, Case reflects on how sex requires the body, thinking:

It was a place he’d known before… It belonged, he knew—he remembered—as she pulled him down, to the meat, the flesh the cowboys mocked.  It was a vast thing, beyond knowing, a sea of information coded in spiral and pheromone, infinite intricacy that only the body, in its strong blind way, could ever read

A commentary made even more interesting by the fact that the sex in question was taking place not in the “real” world, but the one constructed by Marie-France.  A world so so lifelike that, Neuromancer claims on page 249, it contains the independent consciousness of Linda Lee:

‘But you do not know her thoughts,” the boy said, beside him now in the shark thing’s heart.  ‘I do not know her thoughts.  You were wrong, Case.  To live here is to live.  There is no difference.’

So while the body may be a fundamental part of the human experience, in the world of Neuromancer both body and consciousness can in some sense be fully absorbed into the digital.  Whether this will one day be possible for us is a question nobody knows the answer to, but we can always imagine.

 

*I’m using the Ace Trade Paperback Edition from July 2000

Neuromancer-Novel Response

September 5th, 2013 | Posted by Zhan Wu in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Computers and digital media as we see them nowadays were uncommon during the early 1980s. Many people struggled at concepts such as the personal computer (PC), the internet, networking etc. Thus it was not odd at all that William Gibson’s science fiction novel “Neuromancer” was met with huge fanfare and gave people the opportunity to glimpse into the world of digital technology they have never experienced before.

When Neuromancer first came out, it was undeniably the avant-garde in the digital science fiction genre. Although novelists before Gibson’s time were talking about similar thoughts in their writings, their ideas were bound by factors such as politics and economic depressions. For instance, although the book “1984”, written in 1932, does talk about possible technological advances in its future, its general atmosphere is majorly shrouded in political oppression and people’s fear of democratic socialism. Neuromancer is a true science fiction novel in that readers can genuinely appreciate the high-tech world and all of its consequences (if not aftermaths) without being limited by the social and political context as is in the real world.

Furthermore, the book also introduced brand new terminology that we now seem to be especially familiar with. One of Gibson’s breakthroughs with Neuromancer was the introduction of the word “cyberspace”. In fact, the word would have a long-lasting impact on the entertainment industry around the globe even decades after it was introduced. Movies series such as “The Matrix”, “The Terminator” etc. not only heavily relied on “cyberspace” as a world surrounded by artificial intelligence (AI), but also extended the boundaries of the word into virtual reality etc.

The cyberpunk genre seeks to combine “high tech and low life” [1], a phenomenon which was prevalent in the 1980s. Neuromancer itself, with a lucid story, provokes questions that people eventually had to answer as more and more technological advancements at that time period came into being. Will people eventually misuse the advancements of science? (i.e. Case, despite having implanted organs that stop him from metabolizing drugs, uses new organs to get back into his drug life.) Will people get punished in unusual ways in the future? (Case gets his CNS damaged after stealing from his employer.) Do AI’s ultimately become much smarter than mankind? (The superconsciousness as a result of the merge between WIntermute and Neuromancer.) Can AI’s possibly overpower people? (Wintermute kills Armitage/Corto.) Though it seems that the book is answering yes to all these questions, the author’s main intention is to lead the reader into reflecting how life in the 1980s can coexist with emerging new technologies, and how this coexistence can develop in a positive way.

In a nutshell, Neuromancer was a stunning novel, “an archetypal cyberpunk work” [2] that not only includes an entertaining plot, but also reflects upon its time of new technological inventions.

Sources

[1] Anonymous. (2009). What is cyberpunk? Cyberpunked: Journal of Science, Technology, & Society. Retrieved from http:\\www.cyberpunked.org/cyberpunk

[2] Seed, David (2005). Publishing. Blackwell. p. 220.