Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cyberspace: a Cartesian territory?

Moulthrop starts his paper with an optimistic analyzation of hypertext. In his envision, with the power of techniques, hypertext allows users to “explore and construct links,” instead of “passively rehearsing or receiving discourse.” (6, Moulthrop)

Moulthrop brings the voice of the skeptic into notice later. “A revival of literacy?” “Not in a million years.” We too often don’t know the technologies we ourselves invented and become controlled by the Frankenstein of our own creation. The enslavement of modern people to mass media is a good example and a prophecy. “Radio, for instance, begins in interactive orality (two-way transceiving) but decays into the hegemony of commercial broadcasting, where "talk radio" lingers as a reminder of how open the airwaves are not. Television too starts by shattering the rigid hierarchies of the Gutenberg nation-state, promising to bring anyplace into our living rooms; but its version of Global Village turns out to be homogenous and hegemonic, a planetary empire of signs.” (Moulthrop, 12)

Levi actually made this prophecy in his Multimedia: “Interactive multimedia must inevitably decay to its lowest common denominator, ‘hyper-MTV”. Moulthrop analyzes that “According to this analysis, the linear and objectifying tendencies of any print content in a multimedium text would be overwhelmed by the subjective, irrational, and emotive influence of audio/ video. This being the case, hypertext could hardly claim to represent "a cure for television stupor." (Moulthrop, 9)

According to what the worldwide web illustrates now, however, the ultimate homogeneity of the content of hypertext is rooted in its very nature of “connection, linkage, and affiliation” (Moulthrop, 6), rather than the possible audio/video domination of hypertext. The convenience brought by the instant external linkage comes side by side with the homogenized source of information. The “new politics of knowledge and expression” must come side by side with the pervasive influence of public opinion on individual thinking. The “information franchise” (Moulthrop, 12) will not necessarily change the people from passive recipients of information into active participants; this “digital revolution” (Moulthrop) might end with the control of those who are in possess of the power of discourse. As Gibson describes in Neuromancer, cyberspace is a “consensual infosphere (Moulthrop, 13)”. “ ‘They control the vertical, ‘they’ control the horizontal (Moulthrop, 13)”, yet we have no idea who “they” are. “Cyberspace as Gibson and others define it is a Cartesian territory where scientists of control define boundaries and power lines.” We are subject to “social reality” without being conscious of it, and that is a more dangerous kind of hyperreal.

It seems that Nelson’s ambition that Xanadu transcends hyperreal is not easy to be realized after all.

At the end of his paper, Moulthrop proposes a question:

“Well, you know…
we all want to change your head.

The question remains: which heads do the changing, and which get the change?”

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