From Flame Wars: The Discourse on Cyberculture edited by Mark Dery. Duke University Press. Durham and London, 1994.

New Age Mutant Ninja Hackers: Reading Mondo 2000 by Vivian Sobchack

Techgnosis, Magic, Memory, and the Angels of Information by Erik Davis

Gibson's Typewriter by Scott Bukatman

Feminism for the Incurably Informed by Anne Balsamo

Sex, Memories, and Angry Women by Claudia Springer

Black to the Future by Mark Dery

Compu-Sex: Erotica for Cybernauts by Gareth Branwyn




New Age Mutant Ninja Hackers: Reading Mondo 2000 by Vivian Sobchack

Hiding under the guise of populism, the liberation politics touted in the pages of M2 are the stuff of a romantic, swashbuckling, irresponsible individualism that fills the dreams of 'mondoids' who, by day, sit at computer consoles working for (and becoming) corporate America. The Revenge of the Nerds is that they have found ways to figure themselves to the rest of us as sex, hip, and heroic, as New Age Mutant Ninja Hackers. (18)

Historical accounts of virtual reality tell us that one of the initial project's slogans was 'Reality isn't enough anymore,' but psychoanalytic accounts would more likely tell us that the slogan should be read in its inverse form -- that is, 'Reality is too much right now.' (20)

Envisioning themselves as individual and idiosyncratic (at the same time that they are apparently incorporated), as cowboy hackers (there aren't too many cowgirls), most M2 readers must dream not only of electric sheep, but also of bucking corporate systems, riding the electronic range, and cutting through the barbed-wire master codes to keep information free, available to all (that is, all who have computer access and skills). Promoting future utopian "networks" in which everyone at every level of society is connected and plugged in to everyone else, the New Age Mutant Ninja Hackers, in the midst of this communitarian dream, have no real idea of how to achieve it. instead, they privilege the individual... (23)

Consider the following description of cyberpunk 'attitudes that seem to be related' (according to one of M2's regular writers, Gareth Branwyn):


Information wants to be free.

Access to computers and anything which may teach you something about how the world works should be unlimited and total.

Always yield to the hands-on imperative.

Mistrust Authority.

Do It Yourself.

Fight the Power.

Feed the noise back into the system.

Surf the edge.

[She calls this "bumper-sticker libertarianism".] (24)


Techgnosis, Magic, Memory, and the Angels of Information by Erik Davis

By superimposing the notion of information on the vast arcana of esoteric, religious, and mythological traditions, curiously resonant stories, images, and operations emerge. (31)

[draws a comparison between the opening lines of Adventure and Dante's Inferno.] Dante's underworld and a computer game resonate because both inhabit the peculiar environment of coded space. As Fletcher notes, allegory is 'a fundamental process of encoding our speech.' Allegory's coded levels of meaning are not distinct from its surface; rather, the two levels interpenetrate each other. Neither reading is fully realized; both are held in ambiguous tension that Fletcher believes creates the frequently enigmatic, surreal, and magical quality of the mode. (37-38)

Angels are immaterial beings composed of intelligent light; they have human form, yet are voiceless. Because they have no soul and are motivated by neither will nor passion, angels... are 'fated' to reproduce mechanically their mode of being.... These agents mediate the complexity of supercelestial information. They are the original images of artificial intelligence -- not the sentient AIs of SF, but the text-based expert systems, independent software objects, and audiovisual interface agents we are so keen to develop -- passionless entities made of intelligent light. (46)

Gnosticism anticipates cyberculture.... The whole encyclopedic space of thought, juiced up by technology, becomes the ultimate example of artificial life. (51)


Gibson's Typewriter by Scott Bukatman

The [typewriter] was to make it possible to process information despite a loss of vision and/or visibility. A similar desire operates through the metaphor of Gibsonian cyberspace: a space in which the invisible processes of information circulation are recast in visual and tactile terms. (74)


Feminism for the Incurably Informed by Anne Balsamo

Electronic discussion lists are governed by gendered codes of discursive interchange that are often not hospitable to female participants. This suggests that on-line communication is structured similarly to communication in other settings and is overtly subjected to gender, status, age, and race determinations.

This is a case where false denial of the body requires the defensive denial of the body in order to communicate. For some women, it is simply not worth the effort. For most men, it is never noticed. (142)

This signals yet another pervasive myth of the information age: namely, that everything that is important to know is transparently accessible with the right access codes. Feminist thinkers know differently. (143)

Synners [a novel by Pat Cadigan, excerpted in Flame Wars] offers a countermythology of the information age -- not that information wants to be free, but rather that access to information is going to cost. (147)


Sex, Memories, and Angry Women by Claudia Springer

Jean Baudrillard has identified this sort of depthlessness as a crucial component of postmodern existence, resulting in human identities as flat as computer and television screens. One-dimensionality extends beyond the individual in postmodernism to encompass society at large. As Frederic Jameson points out, we are experiencing cultural depthlessness in the form of historical amnesia, the inability to remember our culture history. According to Jameson, history has been reduced to a perpetual present; we live surrounded by artifacts salvaged from the past that have been commodified for our consumption but have lost the meanings provided by their original context. With its flattened perspective, the postmodern computer age has generated in humans was Scott Bukatman calls 'terminal identity.' (161)


Black to the Future by Mark Dery

The notion of Afrofuturism gives rise to a troubling antimony: Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible races of its history, imagine possible futures? Furthermore, isn't the unreal estate of the future already owned by the technocrats, futurologists, streamliners, and set designers -- white to a man -- who have engineered our collective fantasies? (180)

[Samuel R. Delany speaking here] The black boxes of modern street technology (or the white boxes of computer technology -- not an accidental distinction, I'm sure) put us in a very different relationship with the inner workings, however. The kids who were the budding electronics repaimen are, today, the computer hackers. And if you are having a software problem, yes, often they can help you. but when the hardware goes -- when one of those chips gets a crack or a scratch -- they're just as lost as anybody else. And that means, at the material level, our technology is becoming more and more like magic -- with a class of people who know the incredibly complex spells and incantations needed to get the stuff to work, but almost none of whom can get in there and fix it. (192)

[Mark Dery] What does the hip-hop catchphrase 'droppin' science' mean?

[Tricia Rose] it means sharing knowledge, knowledge that is generally inaccessible to people, together with a fearlessness about stating what you believe to be the truth. There's also the implication that the information you're imparting is going to revolutionize things because this is the truth that has been deliberately and systematically denied. Science, here, stands in for incontrovertible evidence. Science is understood as that space where the future takes place. [sounds a lot like the Hacker Ethic] (214-215)


Compu-Sex: Erotica for Cybernauts by Gareth Branwyn

Every computer information service... has lurking within its bits and bytes an active subculture of users engaged in text-based sexual exchanges. These encounters rarely carry over into face-to-face meetings. Rather, the participants are content to return night after night to explore this odd brand of interactive and sexually explicit storytelling. Compu-sex enthusiasts say it's the ultimate safe sex for the 1990s, with no exchange of bodily fluids, no loud smoke-filled clubs, and no morning after. Of course, there's no physical contact, either. Compu-sex brings new meaning to the phrase 'mental masturbation.' (224)

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