Help - Search - Members - Calendar
Full Version: The Cyberpunk Educator
The Other Side forums - suitable for mature readers! > The Other Side forums > Creations
janos
Hello,
I thought you may be interested in this:

"The Cyberpunk Educator" is a documentary analysis of 1980's 'cyberpunk' film, with a heavy emphasis on polticis and literary structure. Composed entirely of tv, commercial, and videogame footage from the 1980's, the film analyzes a movment between punk, techno, and the narrative of the computer-generated 'eve.2.0'. Fun to watch."

The torrent file is now available for download at
www.cyberpunkfilm.com/ce.htm

and the Canadian premier is next week.

Andrew J. Holden
www.cyberpunkfilm.com
Mata
I've set it running to download. I look forward to seeing it. My thesis on William Gibson is coming along well, so it's always interesting to see new perspectives on the 80s cp movement.

Personally I'm finding myself more and more inclined to go Darko Suvin's persective on all this. There was only really one cp novel ever written, and that was Neuromancer. Everything else was propaganda and commercialism.
janos
QUOTE
Neuromancer. Everything else was propaganda and commercialism.


That's exactly what I used to think.

But during the time I spent researching cyberpunk for the film, I completely changed my mind. Not only because I learned that some of the 'cyberpunk' purists I had idealized were already infighting for royalties, etc, at the time,

but mostly because I approached cyberpunk by doing a longterm study of literary movements and their surrounding criticism, and I found Neuromancer, to be, well, fairly unexceptional.

Now don't get me wrong here, I think it's an awesome, kick-ass, book. But basically what I learned is that the imagery and social identification of cyberpunk (and it's preceeding vogue movements) has never been a very good definition.

And because so, they invetiable get viewed through a traditional purist2dillution, pastoral 2 demonic, cycle, whether the agent of the 'reproductive flaws' is conservative or radical.

So after a few months, I had to re-approach cyberpunk using a differrent methodology than say, lamenting Billy Idol...

I traced the structure of literature and theatre through time, as an arrangement of images and a plotwork for the actors. Mostly, that's based on Northrop Frye.

In the end, and I know this is weird, I ended up seeing cyberpunk as far, far, too derivative to deserve a 'genre' label, and I even came to think that Mr. Idol had a surprisingly intricate understanding of what 'cyberpunk' actually is.

So when you watch the movie, keep in mind, I reallly wanted to believe your premise about Neuromancer, but the data I found pointed me elsewhere.

BTW, I think that you're writing a thesis on Neuromancer is pretty cool.
Janos
Mata
'Just a quickie because I have to go out, but I use 'cyberpunk' in the strict sense of it being a very limited set of aesthetic values, all of which were only really ever put into form in Neuromancer.

The irony is that Neuromancer, and Gibson in general, is actually written with many very traditional themes and values, but it was the re-presentation of these as a new alternative intepretation of society that really made it seem new.

After Neuromancer cyberpunk became a label that was attached to many different things, mainly as a result of Bruce Sterling's scattergun approach to identifying what he believed was cyberpunk.

A novel such as Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon has all the qualities of a cyberpunk text, but possesses them in a knowing way. I think the innocence of Gibson's text is what really makes it work.

I'm actually writing about all of Gibson's novels, rather than just Neuromancer. While I could probably write a thesis about it individually, I think that where he went from there may even be more interesting than where he started. Pattern Recognition, his latest novel, is probably the best thing he's written since Neuromancer, and possibly is actually better.

The point of my thesis is twofold, firstly to demonstrate the Gibson wasn't especially revolutionary in many regards, and secondly to show that there are common themes throughout his work that mean the imagery in Neuromancer is usually completely misinterpretted because there is no persepctive on it.

Hmm... That wasn't much of a quick post!

I look forward to seeing your documentary, it should be downloaded later today. It sounds very interesting!
janos
I think what you wrote makes a lot of sense, particuarly about how Neuromancer has been over-imported in cultural discussion.

That said, I'd have to argue that locating 'cyberpunk' by using the decade that the label gained popularity may be a mistake, since after all, the underlying structure previously existed, and aesthetic movements go through all sorts of identifiers..

The era which I see as having created 'cyberpunk' more than any other- to - is the Victorian one. The English Romantics meet all of the normative definitions of cyberpunk, since,

1. Cyber--- They're deeply concerned about the industrialization of the human soul, while at the same time fascinated by it's consequences in excess (Frankenstein, Xanadu, Prisoner of Chillon)

2. Punk--- And they're anarchist-oriented marxists who eschew existing political structures and stylize the foreign (william does this quite a bit), examples would be Byron, Wordsworth, P.Shelley, etc

You probably already noted the 'steampunk' derivative here.

William Blake's 'London' for example, to me, is one of the most 'Cyberpunk' things I've ever read. Like Neuromancer and it's sequels, it concerns itself with the above themes, and in particular, the production of truth, memes, etc. In particular, it notice the paralell structure between the social criticism and the description of London's 'matrix-like' architecture. Note also the narrator is something of an anti-hero.

here it is:

LONDON, by Willaim Blake


I wander thro' each charter'd street.
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse
Mata
Funny you should mention that. I was writing earlier this week about the parallels between Gibson's use of cyberspace and Coleridge's use of the ocean in 'The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner'. I actually try not to talk about Frankenstein too often because the parallels with AIs have been worked over by academics many times already, but they are startlingly strong.

I'm not sure that I'd agree with you on the point about identifying cyberpunk as an 80s thing as being a mistake. There are aspects of it, cyberspace in particular, that I do not believe could have been portrayed in that manner before the silicon chip became widely available. The punk attitude, certainly it has a history, had not occured in that way before.

Rebellion goes back millenia, but punk, in my opinion (that I have formed in the last three minutes smile.gif ) differs in that it was not favoured by the intelligentsia, and that it was massively nihilistic. You mention proto-Marxist ideas, but these always had the purpose of creating a more interesting bohemian and equal world. Punk just wanted to burn it all.

The self-destructiveness of Case in Neuromancer I think is one of the key features of his appeal. He essentially changes very little during the novel, only seeking drugs and a place to sleep, but despite this he still works and produces a monumental event. He achieves hacking nirvana by destroying his sense of external self, but he doesn't do this for the purpose of liberation, it is driven by an intense self-loathing. I don't think that such a degree of hatred for 'the meat' has existed before, not specifically has been succesfully reproduced since.

It's truly quite badly written in many ways, but this innocent style means that Gibson captured the punk anti-aesthetic. By destroying syntax at important moments he captured something more raw and primal in the English language, in the same way that for punks destruction was a creative act.

I really do believe that for Gibson at the time, this was quite an unselfconscious style. Once these features had been identified I think that they were then consciously used, defeating their spontenaeity. If anything changed between Neuromancer and Count Zero then I think that this was it.

BTW, I've tracked down a copy of a play that Gibson wrote 12 years ago. Even he doesn't have a copy of it! Once I get permission I'll put up a webpage about it.
janos
QUOTE
I was writing earlier this week about the parallels between Gibson's use of cyberspace and Coleridge's use of the ocean


Cool. That makes sense.

QUOTE
I do not believe could have been portrayed in that manner before the silicon chip became widely available


I'm not sure of the exact meaning of that statement, so I'll approach it two ways. If you mean a computational system which had a major impact on society, I'll agree but date you back to the 19th century, when the first 'computers' were being used to track criminal histories in Britain.

QUOTE
cyberspace in particular

Well, I think this is interesting, and I'm impressed at your assoicative ability here with Coleridge,

QUOTE
I don't think that such a degree of hatred for 'the meat' has existed before, not specifically has been succesfully reproduced since


Hmm. Well, as in the 'Ancient Mariner', Gibson uses excess as means of defining protagonist and moving the plot forward, and cyberspace is his ocean, and hatred for the meat follows.

This seems more like the works of writers that were moving from Romanticism to Existentialism- Doestoyesky (D, for sp), in his play-essay "On the Eve of the Wet Snow" (the first half of 'notes from underground') sets up the failure of the Romantic character in modernity. In "Notes", he then let's the narrator speak directly to the philosophy of the whole thing, which mostly includes a lengthy attack on the Crystal Palace- which we can interpret in cyberspace as say, AOL.

The irony here is that although D's character is attacking the glorious neo-baroque utopianism of the approaching century- he's a part of it- actively failing to live up to the world of absolutes- but having no recourse. This reminds me somewhat of Case.

When Sartre picks up on D's lines of thought, he applies it to his attempts to eliminate God, or Truth, from his schema- but of course, Sartre went through a progression of this.

His earlier literary works, really show this transition from Romanticism to Existentialism in motion- check out Sartre's short stories "The Wall" or "Erostratus" which definitely have a protagonist who 'hates the meat' in the same manner as Case.

(about the above) I know the 'progression' romanticism2existentialsim isn't normative- but if you look at the politics, actors, and personalities, you may think it's appropriate.

QUOTE
not specifically has been succesfully reproduced since

I can't think of anything since that has, either.

QUOTE
punk, in my opinion differs in that it was not favoured by the intelligentsia


I disagree. It was favored by a small number of voguish intelligensia, as was romanticism. The induction of Basquiat into the New York school with Andy Warhol. When Warhol 'found' Basquiat, he was sporting a huge green mohawk, and living in the streets of the village.

Romanticism was also favored by a fairly small number of voguish intelligentsia as well, although the dominant 'culturalists' rejected it as far too combative and overstressing the poor and disenfrancised, with a tendency towards chaos and nihilism.

It only became accepted later on, after almost all of the romantics had died their young, romantic deaths. The only survivor was Wordsworth, who accepted the Poet Laureate-ship of Britain as an old man, and for it was exiled by the Romantic purist community.

QUOTE
By destroying syntax at important moments he captured something more raw and primal in the English language

I agree, and think that whole thing is pretty cool. To keep with what will eventually turn into a point, I'll mention that the Romantics were chastised for the same thing- using 'common, brute' language in their poems and essays.

What I'm getting at with all this about the romantics and russians is, cyberpunk can't be seen as a purely 'romantic' movement- but it can be understood as the combination of Romantic and Existentialist literature- or in structuralist terms- the combo of tragedy with irony.

Had a chance to see the film yet?
And thanks for this thread, it's a lot of fun, and I like how you think about things.

Janos
Tarantio
QUOTE (Mata @ Oct 19 2004, 12:07 AM)
Rebellion goes back millenia, but punk, in my opinion (that I have formed in the last three minutes smile.gif ) differs in that it was not favoured by the intelligentsia, and that it was massively nihilistic. You mention proto-Marxist ideas, but these always had the purpose of creating a more interesting bohemian and equal world. Punk just wanted to burn it all.


And then again, Punk is seen as one of the great bohemian movements of the world by the -ahem- experts in the field. Which field, you say? certainly not punk, I tell ya.

But it is definitely an interesting idea. For the last five or six years, during my soul searching and philosophy-finding, I've looked into quite a few ways of life and found only a few that actually interested me at all. From a political and psychological point of view, the punk movement seemed to me to be the only one that satified my needs. Granted, I don't go about giving everyone the finger, nor do I have the fashion sense to truly call myself punk, but in the end I probably wouldn't mind if someone were to burn the entire "system". I suppose if I were to be categorised, I would just be put down as a "leftie", and no, I dont mean my handedness, but I enjoy the punk mentality too much not to try and be in on a piece of the action (even if it is twenty years too late already). Besides their music being great and their taste in hair being superb, I also think punk has much to offer the intellectuals of society. It's a mass movement, but at the same time it is diversive, whilst simultaneously being almost certain of what it stands for, which (I think, I may just be getting confused here...) makes it seem to me that it is ultimately very stable. Odd deduction for an anarchist group, huh? I suppose what I'm trying to say is that punk had a message, and that people got that message, whether they were out on the streets shouting it at the tories, bouncing at an illegal concert, or sitting securely in their libraries and mansions, contemplating what it had to give to the world.

Burning it all was just something they said they wanted to do, and of course was just for the masses, but the ideology, in my humble opinion, was sound, and with a bit of thought, can be rather profound. Then again, I could just be chasing ghosts, looking for some sort of security that isn't there. I am, after all, still just a kid of 20, and have a lot to learn about the world.

One final note, but I notice when I read Gibson that I seem to have gone down a few similar brain channels as he has. With my aforementioned divulgence into philosophy and religion, I found myself admiring both Buddhism and, strangely, Bushido, both as valid ways to live out one's life. With a mish-mash of cultures all floating around in my brain, I sometimes wonder if I will ever actually manage to fit in anywhere, only to find that my place in the world was defined already for me by a man on the year of my birth; by Gibson, in Neuromancer. Kinda cheesey, huh?
Mata
Again, just a quick reply to a couple of things because I've really got to get on with some work today.

Janos, I watched your film last night, and it was certainly very interesting. I was interested that you were making a film about cyberpunk in 80s cinema, because it is not a media that I believe has sucessfully ever translated the cyberpunk motifs, with the notable exception of Blade Runner.

Before I go any further with my response to the film, I'd like to know what audience the film is intended for, for example what age group or level of education. I think the success of the film in achieving communication of its points should always be considered in relation to who it was aiming to communicate with.

I actually disagree with your interpretation of Romanticism as having 'a tendency towards chaos and nihilism'. I believe that their understanding of the sublime in nature gave their movement a unity that externally could be interpreted as being negative towards modern culture, but it did offer a replacement in nature. Admittedly, this is a Rousseau-style interpretation of 'natural man', which would be impossible for us to return to, but this fact did not prevent the Romantics from desiring it.

Tara, it's not cheesey to see yourself reflected in a novel written in the year of your birth, it just shows how perfectly Gibson summed up the period. The mish-mash that you talk of is referred to in a critical sense as bricolage and is actually an extremely sensible way of approaching the world. As Sun Tzu wrote over 2,000 years ago, flexibility is strength. If you have many different ways of thinking about things then you will find eventually that all places can be your home, rather than none at all.
janos
QUOTE
although the dominant 'culturalists' rejected it as far too combative and overstressing the poor and disenfrancised, with a tendency towards chaos and nihilism.


I didn't suggest that- that was just me stating the opinion of that powers that be at the time.

Romanticism, and it's glorificiation of marginalized ethnic groups, for example, helped the anti-colonial and ethno-national movements of the 20th-century. It also, of course, helped those ethnic movements turn into determinedly racist nation-states.

What I'm saying is, it's used in all kinds of ways. It certainly does play a very large part role in modern politics- often to justify the sort of state apparatus that Blake, et al, hated so much.

QUOTE
I'd like to know what audience the film is intended for,


Well, me, first, since I'm a big fan of cyberpunk. then,

20-30 something sci-fi lovers, students of cultural anthropology (derrida, foucault, et al), and the ocassional nerdy highschool student. The first time I showed the film, it was to a University of Virginia seminar studying Foucault. One thing important to keep in mind is that although I think the whole 'summer, winter' etc- thing is an excellent predicitve model- I don't suggest that it's rooted somehow in mankind- like Jung would- but rather the result of years of vocabularly-making and power creating truth- like Derrida or F.

QUOTE
this is a Rousseau-style interpretation of 'natural man', which would be impossible for us to return to


Or possibly to come from. I've seen no strong evidence from anthropology, etc, that the 'natural man' ever existed in the terms that the Romantics would have liked to believe. You can see the appeal though- they're from London, metropolis of the world, and they're rebelling against the highly socialized, ritualized patterns of ordinary 19th century English life.

QUOTE
Before I go any further with my response to the film,


Mostly, I just hoped that you found it entertaining enough to justify the 1h40m it took to watch. That would make me happy.

Janos
This is a "lo-fi" version of our main content. To view the full version with more information, formatting and images, please click here.