The Utopian Code: Cyberspace as a Democratization of Technology
thesisposted on 11.06.2021, 18:07 by Cole Bisson
[Introduction] William Gibson’s 1984 novel, Neuromancer, declared cyberpunk as a fully realized science fiction subgenre that reverberates into the current time. The text follows a hacker, Case, who was recruited by an artificial intelligence program, Wintermute. The AI plans to release itself into cyberspace or the matrix; a virtual reality separate from the cruel outside world of the novel. Case joins a veteran solider, Armitage, an assassin-like agent, Molly, and other morally ambiguous individuals in a novel that pushes the boundaries of the 1980s culture. In addition to this, Neuromancer also represents postmodern architecture in the form of the text’s urban cityscapes, but also through the virtual reality of cyberspace. Each location relays a strained relationship between humanity and technology. The development of the 1980’s information technology along with the growth of the personal computer was believed to be a harbinger of a shifting paradigm. Paweł Frelik’s article, “Silhouettes of Strange Illuminated Mannequins: Cyberpunk’s Incarnation of Light,” examines the ocularity of light pertaining to cyberspace’s visual aesthetic. Frelik defines Neuromancer’s technological equipment as a gateway to cyberspace which is where global information is made concrete in the form of neon light. I will take up this technological gateway as defining cyberspace to be an information utopia. The construction of data into concrete light establishes the freedom a tangible identity can occupy in a world where physical limitations have no relevance. I will integrate this with a postmodern architectural and literary theory. Sabine Heuser’s text, Virtual Geographies: Cyberpunk at the Intersection of the Postmodern and Science Fiction¸ examines the representation of postmodern architecture in relation to cyberpunk. She defines “double coding” as communicating not only with the public, but with a concentrated minority consisting of learned professionals working in the industry. Heuser’s text declines to apply this theory to Neuromancer as she explains double coding is too binary to be useful, but Gibson’s spatial descriptions allow for a coded interpretation into the purpose of each temporality: cyberspace and reality. By using double coding, I will utilize this architectural concept to examine Neuromancer’s representation of neon lights as concrete fixtures of data which liberate a person’s identity. Therefore, this situates the dichotomy of cyberspace as a utopia and the cityscape as a dystopia in order to capture the zeitgeist of the democratization of technology (the relinquishment of computers from the elite to the masses).