I came across this last night and it reminded me about the discussion in class re: the particular aesthetic of the dark room with the neon lights or the harsh glare of the computer screen when dealing with hacking and/or cyberpunk:
[Edited by AG on 11/28: I moved my comment down into a comment, so that rathiri’s post wasn’t crowded by my words.]
Cyberspace. What is it exactly? Wikipedia ascribes a Dr. Don Slater as describing it as a “social setting that exists purely within a space of representation and communication”. I don’t know how reliable this quote is or if this dude actually wrote this in a paper. What I do know is that this phrase sums up to me quite elegantly a cyberspace which exists today and which I can comprehend (though perhaps I can only really comprehend it because it exists). What are web pages but the translation of code into color and shape? Just as the meaningless syllables we string together somehow constitute a deep and complex communication, a chunk of letters, dashes, and squiggles can convey information that is more than the data itself (or rather very few people can see the result from the hard data itself, and to most it is quite magical that a few keystrokes here can transform itself into a unicorn leaping across the page every ten seconds).
[“The matrix is an abstract representation of the relationships between data systems.” Gibson]
But while this kind of cyberspace exists, and we interact with it everyday, I don’t think we exist within it. To be in cyberspace involves a third dimension to what we have that just does not exist yet. What I think of is something more along the lines of the Metaverse from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (the book was truthfully the first thing that came to mind when I read the heading for this section of the class). In “Burning Chrome” there are strong visual analogs for technical happenings that give me this feeling of immersion much like the Metaverse, though not quite. In fact the narrator explicitly compares it to a 3-D chessboard, giving coding, something we know of as purely 2-D, a much more tangible impact in a physical sense. It reminds me of cartoons when a character falls into the television or the computer or a video game; a very Matrix like scene generally follows where the new existence is pure data, composed of binary bits, ones and zeros, stretching in all directions.
Anyways sorry if my ramblings were a bit unintelligible, I am half asleep at this point in time.
In Gibson’s “Burning Chrome”, I found the references to replacement body parts to be very interesting. Although not quite advanced, in recent years there have been developments in many prosthetic devices. This includes, of course, the arm which was referred to during many parts of the story. The arm is mentioned to be extremely high-tech, with connections to nerves of the user’s body, for direct control; arms, like this are being perfected everyday now, to improve the life of the one who needs it.
We are not yet in “cyberspace”. The world is not yet ready to enter technology the way it is in Gibson’s work. We may not be cyberpunk, but we might get there in a few years. With the way technology develops now-a-days, we might reach that point in fifty years or so. Even then, I don’t think the world is yet ready for such endeavors. When is it too much?
The passage that sticks out to me is the second sentence of the story “Out in the malls and plazas, moths were batting themselves to death against the neon, but in Bobby’s loft the only light came from a monitor screen and the green and red leds on the face of the matrix simulator” (Gibson, 548). What frustrates me about Cyber Punk stories is the over emphasis of darkness and light being expressed only in shades of neon. There is no contrasting natural light which presents life with computers as completely artificial separate from nature. Why is there a stereotype that hackers only hack late at night in a pitch dark apartment with only the light from the screen illuminating a face; more like a batted moth? Why is technology always contrasting with nature, wouldn’t be more interesting to see some natural light through technology? Maybe the reason why the characters in Gibson’s stories always need new eyes is because they ruined their old ones by staring at a screen in the dark. Gibson fails to emphasize a wide enough spectrum of color, simply emphasizing neon, leds, and chrome isn’t enough of a color palate. What’s unrealistic about the image that Gibson paints in his short story “The Burning Chrome” isn’t the ICE, the towers, and the holograms, it’s the complete lack of night and day.
The matrix is an abstract representation of the relationships between data systems. Legitimate programmers jack into their employers’ sector of the matrix and find themselves surrounded by bright geometries representing the corporate data.
Towers and fields of it ranged in the colorless nonspace of the simulation matrix, the electronic consensus-hallucination that facilitates the handling and exchange of massive quantities of data. Burning Chrome, page 549
This passage stuck out to me in particular because I have no idea what it’s talking about. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be visualizing here. Maybe, like, Tron? “Bright geometries” and “towers and fields” seem to suggest some sort of actual physical dimension to the representation of data, like cyberspace really occupies space. Except it doesn’t in real life, at least not in that sense of space, but then it would probably be a lot less interesting to try to describe a bunch of big electronic rectangles sitting around. I guess having some implication of cyberspace as an actual location (even though it’s “nonspace,” it’s just an agreed-upon digital visualization of data) makes it more probable as the setting for the action of hacking it? To me this is the most jarring, unfamiliar thing about the story. There’s that weird omnipresence to technology, the scary-but-exciting idea of cyberspace existing somewhere other than inside the computer.