Michael Wojcik on Tue, 15 Jul 2008 20:25:46 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Dreaming of Molly Millions, the Panther Moderns and Body Hacking

lotu5 wrote:

> Looking back at William Gibson's Neuromancer, I wonder, why has so much 
> geek energy and time gone into creating one aspect of his vision in the 
> book, cyberspace, and not others, like body hacking? Yes, I know that 
> Vernor Vinge came up with the concept of Cyberspace before Gibson, but 
> Gibson's book is the one most often cited as the huge cultural influence 
> at the root of contemporary cyberculture.

I think that's a convenient fiction. I don't believe Gibson's work was 
really very influential in the development of "cyberculture" (an 
odious neologism, IMO, with no meaningful relationship to Wiener's 
cybernetics). It's a handy pop-culture referent, because of its 
faddish popularity, but I don't see any evidence that much serious 
work used it as a blueprint or even a vision.

For example, many professional software developers - I suspect most - 
find Gibson's vision of VR hacking / programming impractical and 
undesirable. If memory serves, Stephenson has a short bit on this in 
_Snow Crash_. Stephenson, unlike Gibson, is an engineer, and 
understands why Gibson's fantasy doesn't play well in the real world.

Consequently, VR remains a niche field, and even shared interactive 
multimedia environments are mostly used for playing games. Despite the 
hype and corporate endorsements, Second Life is still a second-string 
player in Internet culture, with somewhere around a quarter-million 
regular users.[1] eBay has around 84 million.[2]

Body modification, on the other hand, is a robust industry with a 
steadily-growing public profile. How many tattoo reality shows are on 
TV these days? While crazy elective plastic surgery may still be a 
small counterculture, I think its chances look at least as good as 
those of wacky VR cyberspace.

So I don't think the question is "why has Gibsonian cyberculture 
caught on, while Gibsonian body modification hasn't" - I think
it's "why hasn't the Gibsonian vision caught on in general". And I 
think the answer is that it's more interesting as fantasy than as 
reality. People prefer to do other things with their resources.


[2] http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/4/ebay_ebay_q1_earnings_live_analysis

Michael Wojcik
Micro Focus
Rhetoric & Writing, Michigan State University

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