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 Well, my ambition caught up with me and while it isn’t everything that I was planning on, its decent, unpolished, but decent, especially considering the approximate 48 hours of my computer crashing (@#$@ you Blue screen of death).  I recommend watching it before reading and then maybe after. Enjoy!









My reach extends indefinitely and interacts with the similarly extended reaches of others to produce a global system of transfer, actuation, sensing, and control.  My biological body meshes with the city; the city itself has become not only the domain of my networked cognitive system, but also – and crucially – the spatial and material embodiment of that system.  (Mitchell 19)


After reading Atrocity Exhibition, The City and the Stars and Neuromancer in class, I became fascinated by the interface with the technological/virtual and the actual.  Cars extending the human body, a computer program haunting a man across physical space, and a non-corporeal constructed being, all jostle on the line between a thing and a being, cognition and computing, or just subject and object.  But the emphasis on the abstraction of “virtuality” in Clarke’s and Gibson’s novels, as something removed and separate from the actual world is false and misplaced.  As if to ignore the material systems and processes that sustains the abstraction of “Virtuality”.  Even wireless systems use physical transfers of energy through physical space. There is no virtual space.  Or rather virtual space exists because of the physical systems in place.  It is not above, transcendent, or greater than the physical wires, tubes, radio waves, nodes, plugs, or sockets (although certainly less celebrated).  Once the virtual and the actual planes are levelled as existing materially, human thought, notably abstract or virtual, becomes physical, just like the functions of virtuality; and the comparisons between computers and humans ensues.  What are the differences between cognitive thought and the processes of computers? What is intelligence? Ultimately intelligence comes down to observing external input and reacting to the external environment. Physically there is very little difference between a human and a computer or network.  Through my video I hoped to convey an overlapping of subjectivity of both man and technology to erase the division between the two – effectively (hopefully) discrediting the myth of virtuality.  

 And virtuality is a myth. Digital technology can be so ubiquitous that it comes to be seen as “transparent, and then inevitable” (Gitelman 199) – it becomes abstract.  While some have argued “the ways in which digital technologies make the means of communication ‘virtual’, freeing information from the limits of physicality, from tangible things like paper, books, and files” (Gitelman 200), forgotten is that, like Vanamonde and Wintermute from The City and the Stars and Neuromancer, their origins, as immaterial abstract creations, is in materiality.  “Virtual reality produced by modern computing [is] the broad range of technologies from cell phones to mainframes” (Mitchell 3). This is why I chose to represent all visual elements as taken directly from physical spaces – “the metaphor for “virtuality” has long outlived its usefulness” (Mitchell 4). 

The freeing from the limits of the physical is not new to recent communication technologies.  Beckett’s Murphy was trying to get rid of the “physical fiasco” and Descartes elevated thought to identity.  This dualism is widespread and fierce throughout history and today. So where’s the rub of this mortal coil?  Just like digital technologies, human thought is also valorized as immaterial.  As Alexander Reid states, “While we conventionally conceive of thought as abstraction, cognition is clearly a material event taking the form of energetic interactions within an embodied brain, in concert with a material-information environment accessed through the senses” (99).  He goes on to describe the physical process of human thought.  “Consciousness is an emergent psychological effect of the intersection of multiple cognitive routines functioning throughout the body and into the external environment and becomes secondary to sensory inputs” (Reid 73).  Man is described as a complex organizing system, an intelligent system, or an information-processing machine (Reid 60), where intelligence is based upon processing information and information seen as decontextualized to noise and structure.   The decontextualization of noise and structure as information to be observed and interpreted is represented in my video, and reinforces the notion of human cognition as machine and vice versa.  

There are minimal differences between the cognitive-virtual (human thought) and technological-virtual. The cognitive-virtual ideas of abstraction, thought and “words destroys in-betweenness, and puts me in your consciousness and you in mine” (Ong 290), creating cross-connected subjectivities, whereas, the technological-virtual as Mitchell describes creates “simultaneous, cross-connected subjectivities [or the] Electronic Present Continuous” (Mitchell 104, emphasis added). This Electronic Present Continuous was my goal in the video, layering different mediums of thought and observation (text, voice and visual) as simultaneous subjectivities.  The end of the video features the text “the metaphor for “virtuality” has long outlived its usefulness” (Mitchell 4), the digitized rendering of human forms transported through a tunnel, a computerized voice saying “simultaneous, cross-connected subjectivities”, and a television screen displaying “no signal.”  The city, “where electronic information flows, mobile bodies, and physical places intersect” (Mitchell 3), is as a network, and the subjects of that network divided between man and technology.   

        The video is a reflection of the city’s “consciousness” reflected in both digital and material means and the simultaneous cross-connected subjectivities of humans and technology.  Cyberspace and meatspace (Gibson) are both bound to the materiality of space.  The extended network or cybernetics should not be seen as the stalking doppelganger, but rather a partner in expanding observation, understanding and intelligence of external noise and objects.  The virtual and the actual overlap and intersect more than conventionally acknowledged.  Humans are systems, and exist alongside and a part of technological systems.  





Works Cited


Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books, 1984.


Gitelman, Lisa. “Media, Materiality, and the Measure of the Digital”. Memory 

        Bytes. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.


Mitchell, William. Me++:The Cyborg Self and the Networked City. Cambridge:          MIT Press, 2003.             


Ong, Walter. “The Literature Orality of Popular Culture”. Rhetoric, Romance and

Technology. London: Cornell University Press, 1971.


Reid, Alexander. The Two Virtuals. West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2007.

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