Next week, we’ll explore Neuromancer from a number of perspectives: why the novel is considered one of the founding documents of the cyberpunk science fiction sub-genre, Gibson’s theory of science fiction as a form of history, what the novel might have to tell us about the close bodily relationship we have with technology and how these relations shape our ideas about what the “self” is, about technology as both a mental and physical prosthetic, and about how access to technologies (or the lack therof) establishes relations of power. This week, Gibson’s novel will offer us our first opportunity to do a close textual reading, while engaging with the essays we’ve already read by Hayles and Ong.
Before proceeding to write your blog entry for this week, watch this lecture on Neuromancer.
Blog Prompt #1
Pick one of the following prompts to which your first blog post will respond:
1. Reread pages 79-81 of Neuromancer and then explore in your blog post both what Walter Ong’s essay enables us to understand about the impact that the hypothetical technologies in the novel (and those contained on these pages in particular) have on how language is processed and understood, as well as how the novel helps us to better understand Ong’s essay and its arguments. You might consider, for instance, assumptions about language that printing press technologies encouraged, some of the consequences of post-typography and secondary orality, and how one or all of these topics (as they are represented in this passage of the novel) reinforce Ong’s arguments, open new or different issues for consideration, or invite questions that Ong does not consider in his own essay.
2. With the distinction that Katharine Hayles makes between hyper attention and deep attention, we have additional critical vocabulary at our disposal. Pick a passage in the novel that makes explicit the connection between technology and the mode of engagement with the world that Hayles would characterize as hyper attention. What aspects of the world Case and Molly inhabit encourage hyper attention over deep attention? How do they “read” the world through these modes of engagement? What aspects of the passage you’ve selected link with other parts of the novel and the context of the era in which Neuromancer was written?
In both cases, you are welcome to make comparisons with our own contemporary situation, but remember that all arguments must be focused on the novel and its language. Please use MLA formatting for your citations when referencing the essays or the novel.
Because you’ll be evaluated in this course based upon the close reading and writing exercises (you can read this and this for more information on close reading, and this for a specific example of close reading) we’ll perform, you’ll need to deploy deep attentional modes of thinking to achieve successful outcomes.
The tendency toward hyper attention that digital technologies have encouraged us to participate in can make close reading and careful, critical writing more difficult. Try to find a quiet space and even unplug from other forms of media. This scenario from Portlandia, for instance, is probably a less-than-ideal one for reading carefully, thinking deeply, and writing cogently.