Escaping Star Trek: Review by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay

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Csicsery-Ronay, Istvan. "Escaping Star Trek." Review of Alan N. Shapiro's STAR TREK: Technologies of Disappearance. Berlin: Avenue, 2004.[1] Science Fiction Studies #97 = 32.3 (November 2005): 503-11.

Csicsery-Ronay finds Shapiro's book "one of the most original works of sf-theory since Scott Bukatman's Terminal Identity (1993)," but delays his review for "this message" on "The Star Trek 'Problem'" from your curmudgeon," i.e., IC-R, who "never succumbed to the attraction of Star Trek." IC-R's curmudgeonly response to Star Trek in its various incarnations is useful in itself, and, when he soon-enough gets to it, his concise and insightful analysis and evaluation of Shapiro's work make for an important review essay.

Shapiro stresses "technology's inherent accident,'" a "'technological trope'" IC-R suggests we might (though Shapiro does not) call "the glitch"[2]: and see as

a figure though which technological systems collude in the breakdown of simulation, and allow the non-operational "real" to be revealed — in the same way that art breaks down the hyperreal[3] by emphasizing its own illusoriness. Star Trek is a central text in this 'defense of the real' in a doubled way: it is built on stories that emphasize the inherent ambiguities and ambivalences of art, and these stories are often about technologies that are also ambivalent, simultaneously constructors of virtual realities, and prone to liberating glitches. The doubled meanings are captured by the term "technologies of disappearance." (IC-R p. 506)

Three meanings of "disappearances" all relevant for the Trek universe and topics on this wiki.

1. Literal: As with Star Trek's "Holodeck, where people disappear from their own physical reality." Also the Transporter, "warp-drive and managed wormholes," "time-portals," and "the Universal Translator." These and other Trekkian (our term) "technologies of literal displacement figure the actual technologies of virtuality at the turn of the twenty-first century, which 'clearly entail the "leaving behind" of corporeal existence to enter an alternative reality, such as an android body or an online VR-environment' (20)."
2. Tech through which "human subjectivity" in the philosophical sense[4] "disappears 'into organ-substituting imaging apparatuses of television, cinema, VR and realtime communications' (20)." 
3. "Finally, there is an affirmative sense: the détournement"[5] — hijacking, appropriation — through which technological objects and subjects" in the philosophical sense of subject: an "I" — "are freed from their determined niches" (IC-R p. 507, on Shapiro 21).

Relevant for Star Trek and here for the devices mentioned above — with a chapter for each — and of high interest for users of this wiki, "the three phases of cyborg identity: the cyborg [sic] Spock, the android [sic] Data, and 'the "Becoming Borg/becoming human" Seven-of-Nine'" of Voyager (p. 507).[6] Cf. Donna Haraway's A Manifesto for Cyborgs and N. Katherine Hayles's How We Become Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics.

Episodes covered in Technologies of Disappearance: 11 from STAR TREK ("classic": TV series), 7 from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, 1 from Deep Space Nine, 5 from Voyager,[7] and one on STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, film from 1996 (p. 508).

RDE, finishing, 25/26Jun22