This page contains materials
intended to facilitate class discussion
(excerpts from readings, outlines of issues,
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Gibson: . . .
A lot of the language
and Count Zero
that people think is
so futuristic is probably
just 1969 Toronto dope
dealers' slang, or biker
In short, the perspective of the
"Street," of the marginalized
populations who live in the shadow of
the great corporate arcologies of knowledge
work and play out a unique, subversive
version of that knowledge work:
where technology is bent to new
ends: Gibson, "the street finds
its own uses for things"; quoted
in Bruce Sterling, Mirrorshades,
where knowledge work is hacking
All presented from the first in the "look
and feel" or stage setting of the
novel (mise en scène).
But Neuromancer does more than
just give us a (kinked) view of the scene
of postindustrialism in the background.
It also sets in motion on that scene a
foreground story with characters.
Plot and character précis:
An AI (Wintermute) owned by a decadent
family-controlled corporation (Tessier-Ashpool,
assembles an outlaw team (Armitage,
Molly, Case, the Finn, Dixie Flatline,
to hack into corporate headquarters
(Straylight Villa, in Freeside)
to remove the hardwired limitations
that prevent it from merging with the
other corporate AI (Neuromancer)
in order to form an entity that is
smarter and bigger than the Turing laws
quick, montage of jumps from scene
to scene and character to character
naturalized or made "realistic"
within the story itself through the
combined cyberspace and simstim virtual-reality
technologies of "jacking in,"
The full "meaning" of the novelwhat
it is "about"emerges when
we read this foreground story and its
characters against the postindustrial
Identity in the Postindustrial Age
(An Interpretation of the Novel)
Remember that the NGOs we looked at protest
the business view that IT is all about
business by saying that IT is about social
justice. Remember, too, that the cyberlibertarians
we looked at protest by saying that IT
is about individual freedom.
Neuromancer has a simpler, much
more minimalist "cause."
It is hardly about IT as social justice
And it is only partly or in some
baroquely complex way about IT as individual
freedom (as its entire psychology of
addiction, of need and dependency, suggests).
Neuromancer is instead about
the little, minimalist thing there at
the stub of social justice and individual
freedom: basic human identity.
The true purpose of information technology,
the novel says, is to provide humans with
just a little bit of identity—and
thus also dignity—that is their
own and that is not part of some great,
This belief in the dignity of human identity
is articulated through character development.
Who am "I"?, the novel asks
through the example of its characters.
What does it mean to be an individual
in this postindustrial world? Can
one be an individual in this world?
The novel's examples of how not
to live in the postindustrial age: people
who do not hold together as individuals
sarariman" or "organization
man" (they do not have individuality;
they have positions)
Armitage/Corto, the ultimate organization
man who either has no individual
identity or only a schizo identity
(cf., Pierce Inverarity, Mucho Maas,
or Dr. Hiliarius in Crying of Lot
Tessier-Ashpool clones, who either
have no individual identity or (as in
the case of the senior Ashpool or Lady
3Jane) only perverse individuality (cf.,
nest as symbol of corporate identity
(p. 126) vs. the shuriken as symbol
of focused identity
How to live in the postindustrial age?
Choice. The characters in the
novel who are deficient in individuality
exercise no choice in the face
of the system in which they live, or
they flaunt gratuitous, trivial choice.
True individuality in the novel means
making a "choice" (pp. 51,
79, 167, 192, 244)
Commitment. But also, true
individuality means accepting that one's
freedom is limited. Choice is not unlimited
freedom but commitment. It means rejecting
the transcendence of the "transhuman"
or "posthuman" and remembering
The False Freedom of Virtuality:
Case's views on the "prison"
of the "meat" (pp. 6) (cf.,
Oedipa Maas's "tower")
Gibson: . . .
By the time I was writing
I recognized that cyberspace
allowed for a lot of
characters can be sucked
into apparent realitieswhich
means you can place
them in any sort of
setting or against any
backdrop. In some ways
I tried to downplay
that aspect, because
if I overdid it I'd
have an open-ended plot
premise. That kind of
freedom can be dangerous
because you don't have
to justify what's happening
in terms of the logic
of character or plot. . . .
DJ: The Internet
is one way to communicate
with lots of people without
using the body, you just
use your mind. Is cyberspace
a better place to be than
this physical world?
Gibson: Well, I
don't think so. There
is a tendency in our culture,
in a broader sense the
to reject the body in
favor of an idea of the
spirit or the soul. I
have never been entirely
sure that that's such
a good thing, and in an
interesting way this technology
is pointing in that direction.
One could imagine a very
ascetic sort of life growing
out of this, where the
body is ignored. This
is something I've played
with in my books, where
people hate to be reminded
sometimes that they have
bodies, they find it very
slow and tedious. But
I've never presented that
as a desirable state,
always as something almost
pathological growing out
of this technology.
Molly as "meat puppet"
(pp. 147-48). But also Molly's
sense of the way she is "wired"
(pp. 25, 50)
Case's journey of self-discovery
(pp. 56, 152, 239-40, 262-63)
Corporate Identity in the Postindustrial