Bodies in Cyberspace

From Clockworks2
Jump to navigationJump to search

Landon, Brooks. "Bodies in Cyberspace." Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 12.2: 201-212.[1]

Claims that the new SF film genre, "post-SF film," is composed of production technologies and techniques that may be more important than the narratives actually presented. Questions the ontological status, specifically disembodiment, of bodies in cyberspace. (Maly, 27/06/02)


Considers carefully and with great appreciation the source of his title and one starting point, Annette Michelson's essay on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (film), "Bodies in Space: Film as Carnal Knowledge."[2] Landon holds that in one way at looking at Michelson's essay we are reminded "that what is most striking and most significant in Kubrick's film is precisely what a narrative summary of the film would leave out, the part that is realized by the technology of the cinema" (p. 207).

Part III of Landon's essay raises the question (in boldface), "What Comes Next — or, if the next generation of wireless technology will change the way we communicate with the world, how will the next generation of science fiction technology change the way we think of science fiction?" (p. 207). The section deals with commercials as an artform, including one from "Agilent."[3] The commercial

opens with a big finned 50s style rocket ship landing in a contemporary city. The rocket looks like the vision of space travel promised to my generation by Willy Ley [...] and others in unforgettable picture books such as The Conquest of Space. Appropriately reminding us of the 50s SF movies which made this kind of rocket so familiar to us, the rocket is in black and white, while the cityscape into which it lands is in color. [...] A hatch opens and out peers an archetypal 50s spaceman, also in black and white. [207] [... Given his appearance,] this spaceman will remind some of us of Rex Reason in This Island Earth, but of course, now he reminds more of us of Buzz Lightyear, the computer generated Toy Story character. Our spaceman climbs down the ladder and begins to wander through the cityscape, trying to get his vacuum-cleaner-sized communicator to work. All around him, kids and business people are nonchalantly using their credit card sized cell phones, PDAs [Personal Digital Assistants], laptop computers, and other now commonplace wireless electronic devices. These digital denizens of the twenty-first century take no notice of the anachronistic spaceman and his ludicrous large futuristic communicator. "The next generation of wireless communication is here," intones the voiceover, adding, "we've taken the fiction out of science fiction." (pp. 207-08)

Landon adds that this is "only one of a spate of recent commercials suggesting that advertising has now completely colonized a future once pioneered by SF" (p. 207); cf. Ridley Scott's 1984 (Apple commercial).

See also for comments on David Blair's WAXWEB[4] as a deconstruction and hypertexting of David Blair's WAX, OR THE DISCOVERY OF TELEVISION AMONG THE BEES. "In the new spaces of electronic textuality, hypertext narratives can be advanced by multimedia and interactive strategies that blur distinctions between reader and text as well as between film and print," as Landon has discussed in his essay "Diegetic or Digital" in the critical anthology Alien Zone II: The Spaces of Science Fiction Cinema. Landon mentions also in this regard Erik Loyer's Chroma, "a web-based hypermedia novel (2001f.)[5] that "uses motion graphics to continue the kind of technologies narrative experiments previously seen in Stuart Moulthrop's Hegirascope," a hypertext (p. 209) we could not find on the web but which may reappear.

Landon suggests that simultaneous with other media for SF, "post-SF film" probably will or at least "may include more rather than fewer attributes of SF literature" which "invites our interrogation of the ontological status of bodies not in space but of [sic] cyberspace" where "the obvious state of the body in cyberspace is actually disembodiment" (p. 210). The implications here include

that a consideration of bodies in cyberspace must start with Katherine Hayle's observation that electronic texts all require cyborg reading or viewing practices, splicing the reader or viewer into an integrated circuit with one or more intelligent machines.
Secondly, bodies in cyberspace particularly invite our interrogation not of motion, but of morphing. [...] The morph argues [Vivian] Sobchack, is at once science fictional and realistic, threatening to disrupt traditional categories of "the realistic" and "the fantastic," taking SF film a step further away from its grounding in the concerns of the body and moving it ever closer to a new aesthetic of disembodiment (Meta Morphing 152).[6]
Finally, the rapid evolution of CGI[7] characters into synthespians [...] already disrupts our traditional modes of identification with human characters and human bodies, leading some critics to suggest we have already entered an era of posthuman cinema. (p. 201)

— With CGI characters/"virtual humans" functioning even now as much "as a realization of technological prowess as [...] a representation of human beings" (p. 201).

Augmented RDE, 28Ap19f.