What’s true for the group is also true for the individual. It’s simple: overspecialize, and you breed in weakness. It’s slow death.
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?
I chose a process to shortly introduce Pattern Recognition by William Gibson, a novel about underground footage, advertising dissemination, industrial espionage, video art, and self expression. A cocktail that takes the reader to a paranoiac quest to find out who and why is producing a strange series of video material and distributing it on the Internet. The “footage” has attracted a large flock of followers, and some suspect are a cunningly new form of viral marketing campaign.
History is raw material to mould the truth. The control over the media is a fundamental element in the permanent writing of what is perceived and therefore accepted as the reality. In this novel Gibson looks back to Orwell, his characters are less interested in what it was than they are in what is now. The future is made up by the present, not by the past events that made up the present. The past is a process permanently having been written.
‘The future is there,’ Cayce hears herself say, ‘looking back at us. Trying to make sense of the fiction we will have become. And from where they are, the past behind us will look nothing at all like the past we imagine behind us now.’
‘I only know that the constant in history is change: The past changes. Our version of the past will interest the future to about the extend we’re interested in whatever past the Victorians believe in. It simply won’t seem very relevant’ [1, p.57]
An open hive
Again, the current mantra: openness, free circulation, collective and participatory creation. In the close media, if you position yourself outside the structure, you can always assemble others material via remix, but never disassemble them. This last is only possible by giving away the structures of a given work as happens in open source. Disassembling is a quasi effortless process in the open media, because it pretends to lack of hierarchy, to be the continuous process of writing, not a book.
‘Musicians, today, if they’re clever, put new compositions out on the web, like pies set to cool on a window ledge, and wait for other people to anonymously rework them. Ten will be all wrong, but the eleventh may be genius. And free. It’s as though the creative process is no longer contained within an individual skull, if indeed it ever was. Everything, today, is to some extend the reflection of something else.’ [1, p.68]
Nevertheless the amount of creations, as in a hive there is nothing distinct just resemblances. All falls under the similarity. In the vast but homogeneous variety of outcomes that constitutes the open media, we have then a different challenge: the recognition of patterns, not of instances, and that needs a different kind of effort, even if those are empty and meaningless patterns.
HI, a post just right before X-mas, Chris Marker La Jetée (1962).
Posted thinking of my good friends Javier and Hugo and our unforgettable times together.
Merry Xmas to all of you for kindly stopping here to read.
Update 26 May 2015:
This website is dedicated to Maker’s work https://www.artsy.net/artist/chris-marker It is worth looking at it.
recently for n-time I watched again (yeah I know) Blade Runner. I cannot stop finding meanings and inspirations, being awed and getting scared by this film. A couple of sequences made me think again about the nature of the images and its artificiality. Images, in Blade Runner attested both authenticity and proof. In this fictional world there is concern about what is authentic and the humanity of artificial beings is under question. The replicants are perfect simulations of living creatures, they simulate everything at the more finest details, but as simulations they are meant to be something they are not, to possesses something they were denied to have. However, paradoxically they want desperately to be.
The Voight-kampf test.
[…]you are talking about memories
Images, memories, self-imposed references of a source. The production, circulation and consumption of images is a kind of paranoia. Just by looking at my hard drive I came to discover the amazing amount of pictures, images, memories I’ve stored. Some of them are so far away in the time and the space they simulate, that they have become something totally different from my memories, they have life by themselves. Even though I know I’m doomed to continue producing and consuming images. I have to recognised that after a while they are any longer about me and my selfish attempts to save imperceptible moments to live my past again. They replicate themselves and threat me.
A world constructed of images is the final triumph of a chain of simulations to separate ourselves of the alien nature surrounding us. The more clean, immaculate, pure the images the better, this is very well known by Roy Batty, his (its) entire world is an outside-imposed image. Why do we identify much more easier logos, trademarks, people’s images than trees, flowers or mountains? Why do we want to frame everything? Why do we continue believing about the actuality, reality, and neutrality of images? Images are any longer about reality, the world is not the images. Why do we, with anxiety, follow the beauty impose by the generators of images? The meaning-machines are doing a great job, ruling the meanings. We are not away from the images, we are trapped in the images, they one of the new gods. Even worst, as in a Huxleyan nightmare we are happily filling in our world with millions of images every millisecond, all the same, all with an endless replicated selfish meaning(less). The person of the year is you! screamed a big machine, but the picture was empty, nothing in there just a mirror and we looking narcissistically at ourselves, this is our brave world, just a mirror we are too afraid to look beyond it. All these framed moments, are dying like flickrs under a rain of images…
[…] it’s time to die.
[…]you won live, but than again, who does?
We wanted to give you a shave like no other you ever had. We said, It’s about time a man’s face got a little loving. We said, With Ubik’s self-winding Swiss chromium never-ending blade, the days of scrape-scrape are over. So try Ubik. And be loved. Warning: use only as directed. And with caution.
HI, the sentence opening this post correspond to one of the most strange, delirious and provocative novels I ever read: UBIK by Philip K. Dick. It is enough to say that I was severed influence by this author during my university years.
Regression and restoration
UBIK (lat: ubique) makes us to think about the nature of reality and how we perceive it, a recursive theme in Dick’s work. Besides aspects related to limits between live and death (half-life); in UBIK Dick explores one interesting aspect: the obsession with consumerism and the influence of technology and advertisement in this game. Coloured with control mind exerted by psychics who influence our desire for a certain product.
In UBIK there is a group of people with psychic powers which suffered an attack while working for Rucinter’s organisation. As a consequence every consumable seems to rotten faster and reality to suffer a regressive state, the only wait to scape or delay this process: a magic all-mighty and ubiquitous product: UBIK. It has reminded me briefly a series of post my friend Cesar has dedicated to talk about publicity and design and the forces in both practices towards making something desirable and the standardisation of consumption. Dick used a SF metaphor to explore the smoke-walls of our society and in doing so UBIK appears as a complex and delirious book but on the other hand Dick points to the deeply rooted believe that consumption is a magic wand to solve all matters and consequently the ones with power over that image are the ones that rule. Something my good friend Cesar is overlooking.
This is time for: “IT WAS A PLEASURE TO BURN”.
Fahrenheit 451 was written by Bradbury in 1953 and is one of his master pieces next to The Martian Chronicles. In F-451 is depicted a weird future where firemen don’t put out fire but burn books. It happens in a hedonistic society where all intellectual work is suppressed, it is said that books make one thinks, and because of that one gets sad. Anyone caught reading book is taken to mental facilities and books are burned, in contrast a television-driven entertainment is everywhere. This society-description is related, in my opinion, to the one found in the works of Huxley and Orwell, and is not too far away from today’s entertainment culture and gives some hints to criticise our current model of values.
An excerpt from its beginning.
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and change. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history.
In 1966 Truffaut directed a film version of Fahrenheit 451 here two short clips.
451 is the temperature at which paper autoignites.
What a daring and challenging novel!. It is one of my SF favourite books, I read it years after playing Shadowrun and watching The Matrix and Ghost in the shell, and anyhow still caused a strong impression on me.
I was aware of the term Cyberpunk through other stories, but never went direct to the source. Though that term appeared slightly for first time in Burning Chrome, it was in Neuromancer were Gibson gave birth to a new topic in SF literature.
As excerpt, I would like to share just its beginning, it is in my opinion one of the most hallucinating sentences I ever read in SF, coming from a TV culture and 8-bit video games consoles:
“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”
Neuromancer was the first novel to win the three most important prizes in SF – Hugo in 1985 , Nebula in 1984 and Philip K. Dick awards in 1984- It just burst into the field opening new narratives and styles. Neuromancer has a techno-poetic prose not easy to read and to follow, fragmented and plenty of not finished sentences that remember the tv-zapping or surfing in a global see of information; most likely one of the most influential SF novel during the last times, that has encouraged several discussions about our relation with technology.
Here it can be read in an on-line version.
Here an interesting analysis I recomend.
Finally: a movie based on Neuromacer is coming soon.
I’ve been a big fan of Asimov since I can remember, he was probable one of the first authors in science-fiction I read and always his stories lured and excited my mind. In fact I managed to convince my good friend Javier, around the 98, to do our Design thesis based on one of his Books, I should add here that we succeeded in doing an astonishing work.
I want to introduce one of his favourites short stories: The last question published in 1956. As in many other of his tales, we find a super-intelligent-computer: Multivac, which purposes are to answer any question stated by a human being and to help mankind to solve its more complex problems, in this case the questions is about the end of the universe or better: Can entropy ever be reversed?, at the same time the all-mighty Multivac finds out new ways to provide energy to mankind, in that way are described different stages of human civilizations based on the Kardashev scale. Definitely a worth-reading story.
Here at the multivax website, can be read an on-line version.