08 09/09

The cyberpunk

HI, it’s been a long time without writing here. Many things have happened during the last month, I’m back in Colombia and I’ll be here most likely for some months. Today, I want to get back to a topic I just mentioned before, the cyberpunk. This is a portmanteau that mixes a prefix with a word. The former means control and the latter refers to aggression. The cyberpunk has been the icon of freedom, anarchy and response that the computer culture has championed since the 1980s. However the cyberpunk term is quite contradictory, at first glance the cyberpunk seems to be in control due the access to certain technology but soon we discover that indeed is the punk who is being controlled by that technology, similarly as in a Greek tragedy.

The prefix cyber, is taken form an ancient Greek word meaning steersman. It connotes an individual with a clear destination in mind and a planned route to get there. Cyber refers to an individual that acts upon the world, rather than one being acted upon. An individual that exerts action on the world and therefore to control. From the 1970s on Punk is a term used to characterize young subcultures that are brutalized and marginalized by a dominant society. Punks usually externalize and re-present such abuse by disfiguring them selves or their look. A punk acts as an aggressive surface to the external social pressure by hitting back the dominant society.

The classical example of the cyberpunk is Johnny Mnemonic. In the eponymous novel, Johnny’s personality is been erased because of the overload data he carries on his brain. He is a cyborg, a being with artificial implants that enhance certain features of his body. Johnny’s tragedy is that ultimately he is not in control of his own brain because the data is taken over and his fight is to keep himself save by getting rid of the excess of data. Cyberpunks must behave according to their program, a cyberpunk has no choice but to follow her/his instructions. The control, though internal is away of the cyberpunk. When seen in that way a cyberpunk looks closer to a character of a Greek tragedy, like Ulysses, in which her/his fate was predetermined by the capricious of gods and deities, and not to the liberation promoted by the access to information and therefore knowledge as for instance in Frankenstein.

Are we after almost 30 years of cyber-culture, controlling our lives by accessing large data banks or rather have they taken over every aspect of ours lives, with no space and no time to ourselves than to fill them up? Is our program to fill up these large data banks?