Gibson's Invisible City
In William Gibson's Neuromancer, the city is an indiscriminate sprawl of virtual projections and imaginary boundaries. In comparison with Italo Calvino's work "Invisible Cities," Gibson's book presents the urban environment as a topology of signal s and nodes, a design t hat is structured from these nodes internally and then crystallizes as a matrix. We see how the "city" becomes a mental projection of those within it through the creation of virtual worlds, where cyberspace becomes a house of sorts, a house of the mind - -- In its etymological roots, "building" means "to be, to exist, to grow." Insomuch as cyberspace comes to represent human perception in the digital age, we see how Gibson's urban sprawl comes to define Case's coming-of-age in the cyberworld. His growt h, which results in the "self-awareness" achieved by the end of the book, results from his own cognitive mapping of his environment, as he travels through virtual worlds, encounters other human entities, and is psychologically stimulated by these encounte rs.
The architectural construct of cyberspace represents the human structuralization of human consciousness and experience. The fact that cyberspace in Gibson's book involves other entities beyond human understanding demonstrate's Gibson's take o n the shift in power structures in this world from humans to alien entities. In "Literary Architecture" (Frank) we see how humans perceive their environments in terms of boundaries they create in perceptions:
The fact that Gibson's cyberspace stretches beyond the r ealm of human consciousness creates a world of heightened anxieties. The signals and signs that characterize the cyberspace are given and received withouth knowing the "receiver" or "giver" of those signals. In Neuromancer, alien invasion promise s danger and anxiety of uncalculable degree to humans that dwell in this architecture, which becomes throughout the novel, an architecture of fear and despair. Calvino's novel describes the new interactions within these invisible cities:
In a world that has grown out of the human proportion, characters are engulfed by alien encounters and cons tant stimulation from mysterious realms of projection. Perhaps the most poignant of all experiences within this invisible system, is the potential of losing the capability of human interaction and happiness in this connection with others. In Calvino's b ook, he describes Raissa, the city of Sadness:
Gibson's dystopic world is one in which characters are continually isolated from one another, where invisible "thr eads" do in fact exist, though they are untractable. Describing cyberspace as a shared experience, we are equally aware, that the relation of one to the system is isolationist. As millions might read the same novel, and interact wit h the text, these millions are sharing the experience of reading that text at the same time as being isolated from one another. This "invisible thread" binds each participant in cyberspace to similar experience, but it is not shared experience:
"Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphical representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding. [p. 51]
Finally, we see how the system changes the perception of "love i dols" within Neuromancer. It's a pathetic display of the concept of love in this cyberworld, as characters are unable to connect or even conceptualize the objects of their affection. On page 139, where Riviera describes Molly, we see how the act of love or attraction is a solitary act, with love as a mental construct:
The scene ends as Riviera's dreamgirl, his imagined Molly, tears him to shreds with her fingerblades, thus ending with an ironic quote "There was an inverted symmetry: Riviera puts the dreamgirl together, the dreamgirl takes him apart." (p. 141) Though humorous, the scene clearly describes the pathetic nature of these individuals in conceiving and attaining love.
Gibson's cyberspace is akin to Calvino in its implied but invisible connections within th e system. It is interesting to look at the dystopic city in view of character's attempts to connect to other humans, through Case's ghostly sightings of the ever-evasive Linda Lee, through the constantly appearing and disappearing dwellers of these world s. I can see how this book is a modern day version of George Orwell's 1984, where love is scant and individuals lose their private identity to "merge with the system." Besides, in an ever-increasing invisible power structure, or in Gibson's case, inform ation structure, who can we love but ourselves and the images we create?
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