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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gazing Into the Infinite Neuroelectronic Void of the Matrix

While at first glance it may appear that Neuromancer is simply a fictional future dreamland that has no bearing in relation to the present, but upon further analysis it seems that Gibson is reacting to anxieties already manifesting themselves in the present. Gibson relates to the already occurring compression of time, place and culture and takes it to its logical extreme. The way that he depicts places, such as BAMA in the U.S. and the relationship between the various cities Case goes to shows the ways in which the world has become flattened. In chapter 7 he writes “Their room might have been the one on in Chiba where he’d first seen Armitage” (88). The differences between cities in an increasingly globalized world become more and more blurred. It’s only when you go outside that you notice differences based on climatic changes. Molly says in the same scene that if you go outside “You get agoraphobic” (88). 

Technological advances are not presented as the saving grace of society, certain traditional hierarchies are exacerbated by society’s transformations. For example the forms of patriarchy endemic to the Middle East are played out in an even more open fashion, “In Turkey there is disapproval of women who sport such modifications” (89). The technological advances can become just as much a tool of oppression and control as they are liberating. The relationship between emotions and rationality are also problematized. The characters that express the least emotion seem to be the least endearing and “tended to submerge their personalities” (96); for example the descriptions of Armitage’s “blankness” and smile “that meant as much as the twitch of some insect’s antenna” (97). Furthermore, the use and regulation of drugs is a constant issue, yet the novel is somewhat ambivalent about their moral status. It is evident however that they are used as an escape vessel in an increasingly complex world.

The novel speaks to the increasing fragmentation of lived experience. The word fragments is repeated to describe both physical/virtual objects and experiences over and over again throughout the book. Stylistically the novel is written in a fragmented form; I continually have to go back to look for the line break to realize that it has cut to a new scene. This is a disconcerting experience yet a more accurate depiction of the way in which people experience the world around them. This effect is also aided by the way in which long descriptions of visual or sensory stimuli are vividly characterized in juxtaposition to short and choppy dialogue. 

 There is an increasingly large gulf between the amount of perceived phenomenon in the world and the ability to relate to it with other people. Yet this aspect of experience is coupled with a world which is becoming increasingly homogeneous. Language barriers are breaking down, for example “he began to whisper to a Sanyo transceiver in a strange salad of Greek, French, Turkish, isolated fragments of English. The transceiver answered in French” (91). Through the aid of technology and the coercion of compression people are forced to assimilate their cultures into one another. Freeside represents a cultural melting pot, 
Freeside is many things, not all of them evident to the tourists who shuttle up and down the well. Freeside is brothel and banking nexus, pleasure dome and free port, border town and spa. Freeside is Las Vegas and the hanging gardens of Babylon, an orbital Geneva and home to a family inbred and most carefully refined, the industrial clan of Tessier and Ashpool (101).
It is the contradictory capital of the world. Everything exists simultaneously in this Rasta Mecca. Yet it also is able to take on a life of its own. While many aspects of what it means to be a human or cyborg are increasingly problematized it’s still possible for each person to retain a sense of self or individuality based on the peculiar or unique assemblage of parts or experiences they contain.

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