a. description of the original text and its socio-cultural and historical contexts;
Set in the future, Neuromancer by Willam Gibson follows Henry Case speculates a washed-up hacker hired for one last job, which brings him in contact with powerful artificial intelligence. It is one of the earliest and best-known works in the cyberpunk genre, which dates back to the new wave science fiction in 1960-70s.
The relationship between human and machine has been the crucial point in cyberpunk literature and posthumanism. While machines are benefiting humans, the superiority and subjectivity of humans have been challenged, the flaws of the natural human body have been exposed. In Neuromance, the image of a special cyborg crew features a body-machine complex which depicts the deconstruction of the human body by Gilles Deleuze. “During the self production of the body, the parts involved are not unified.” Under the context of posthumanism, the body is no longer about a unified natural entity, but a hybrid of multiple selves.
Cyberspace becomes the stage for this critical insight on mind-body dualism. When consciousness is independently existing outside the body, technology offers the possibility for the deprivation of consciousness. Meanwhile, the existence of humans and machines has been mutually dependent and shared. The creation of humans dissmilates themselves and pushes them towards the dependency of technology as Case’s desire for the connection of cyberspace. Machines have been integrated into human itself, cyborgs implicate the spectrum of the conceptual body.
b. justification for the alternate version that explains the new socio-cultural/historical contexts;
Back to the emerging concept of Cybernetics in the twentieth century, the blurring boundary of definition of human body, the blending of human and machine and the decentralization of humans are the essential points brought by cyborgs in posthumanism. Whereas the deconstruction of humans has been shifting under present context. Instead of being a hacker to get connected to cyberspace, the internet nowadays offers the access to the virtual connections among the crowd which is also called the Metaverse. The corporate hegemony turns into competing for control of the user amount. Metaverse is the commercial gimmick of capitalism by which they are seeking for the benefits from decentralized virtual society somehow out of the range of existing regulations and principles.
During this developing process of metaverse war, there is no only platform acting like the perceived reality of society for a unified avatar for users, which brought us back to the debate of hybrid multiple selves in the context of cyborg. Different online platforms are splitting ourselves by splitting the realities we perceive. Despite the name changes of cyberspace, the expression of hybrid multiple selves has been extended in different formats. Compared with integrating machines into the human body to achieve a better self, the virtual avatars also make up for the human limitations in perceived reality. According to the SDT theory (self-discrepancy) (self-discrepancy) by Higgins, the self can be understood in terms of three domains: the actual self(the attributes that someone-self or other- perceives that the target person actually possesses), the ideal self(the attributes that someone wants the target person to possess) and the ought self(the attributes that someone believes that the target person should possess). Cyberspace offers the opportunity to reconstruct the image of humans in multiple virtual realities.
When the relationship between human and machine can be illustrated in the cyborg more physically, the relationship between human and virtual avatars are metaphorically similar but more psychologically. The machinery part of the cyborg makes up for the physical flaws of the natural body, while the avatar in cyberspace makes up for the limitation of human wills in the real world. We are still contemplating the identity of humans.
c. engagement with relevant theoretical perspectives as they apply to the original work and to the new version;
There are five psychological processes involved in the virtual experience with avatars: detachment, projection, identification, empathy and sympathy. The mutual effect between projection and identification is crucial in the virtual immersive experience with the control over the avatar. The dimension of avatar and perspective also affects the psychological reaction in the experience.
Referring to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, memory can be the essence of soul. If we split ourselves differently onto the avatars in cyberspace, if we completely get rid of the physical body in the future and fully depend on the virtual entities, do these memory-stored avatars contain part of our souls or do we share the same soul?
d. a work plan for the project.
I’m planning to create an interactive narrative experience with a mixture of feeling controllable and uncontrollable over the avatar. I was inspired by the specific text from Neuromancer.
“He suddenly has physical integration. The network is gone, the wave of sound and color hits her. She is walking through a minute lowering into another booth… Baking a screenshot of the music control of different dust. A passive feeling, being a passenger behind her eyes. “
This paragraph was the experience when Case went inside Molly’s mind to observe from the god’s perspective. It occurs to me the experience comparable to identification over the avatar to simultaneously absorb the feelings from another entity.
To critically reveal the blurring boundary between avatar and the experiencer, I want to limit the control over the avatar to restrict the full projection from the experiencer. When the experiencer feels like they are using an avatar as a cursor to explore, what will they feel when the avatar starts to get out of control like having their own consciousness? I’d like to experiment with Unreal Engine or Touchdesigner to see if I can make a hybrid avatar who can absorb the inputs from the experiencer but automatically operate some actions based on the input but out of the experiencer’s expectation.