Terminal Constructedness and the Technology of the Self in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky

By Wilson, D. Harlan | Extrapolation, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Terminal Constructedness and the Technology of the Self in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky


Wilson, D. Harlan, Extrapolation


The Technological/Self

Arthur Kroker and David Cook have said that the postmodern body is "a power grid, tattooed with all the signs of cultural excess on its surface, encoded from within by the language of desire" (Postmodern 26). A product of late capitalism, this language of desire's foremost task is to uphold and perpetuate a community of consumers whose cyborg bodies bear the brightly colored marks of the media. These marks warn us not to be less than avid (if not rabid) consumers lest we fall short of being adequate, functional social subjects. The postmodern body, in other words, is a desiring-machine whose contours are defined by the technetronic mediascape of late capitalism, which equates adequacy with excess. This dynamic has been most effectively represented and mapped out by the science fiction genre, as Scott Bukatman indicates in Terminal Identity: "It has fallen to science fiction to repeatedly narrate a new subject that can somehow directly interface with--and master--the cybernetic technologies of the Information Age, an era in which, as Jean Baudrillard observed, the subject has become a 'terminal of multiple networks'" (2). By means of technology, the real world has seen the actualization of what sf narratives of old only imagined. The result is the terminal or blip subject, a conflation of the human and the technological distinguished by a new, oppositional subjectivity that is as transcendental as it is submissive.

Much postmodern sf can be read as social and political theory, particularly that which represents the oppositional nature of the terminal subject. Istvan Csiscery-Ronay Jr. says sf "is not a genre of literary entertainment only, but a mode of awareness, a complex hesitation about the relationship between imaginary conceptions and historical reality unfolding into the future" (388). Such an unfolding into the future almost always involves some form of innovative or extrapolated technology that manifests itself as a boon, a bane, or both. Cyberpunk narratives, for instance, which Frederic Jameson calls "the supreme literary expression if not of postmodernism, then of late capitalism itself" (419n), feature technophilic universes in which the theme of body invasion is rampant. Widely regarded as the definitive cyberpunk novel, William Gibson's Neuromancer (1984) is set in an imploded, urbanized world of infoterrorism where the human is technologized in various ways, namely by being wired to the computer; subjects are able to interface with a cyberspatial realm called the matrix (1) by jacking out of their bodies and roaming through a virtual reality mainframe as an incarnate mind's eye. This experience evokes feelings of ecstasy as well as dread. The novel's protagonist, Case (as in basket case, among other things), uses the act of disembodiment, of freeing his mind from his body, as a drug. In this capacity technology functions as agency. At the same time, Case develops an aversion to the flesh. He becomes addicted to the matrix and its transcendental powers, and his own body becomes a source of fear and loathing. Technology functions as an affliction, too. This tension indicates a raw anxiety about how the body and ultimately the self is increasingly spoken by the technological. Critical theory stems from some form of anxiety about a subject, event or condition. It is the anxiety about the of the mechanization of the self that makes Neuromancer and other postmodern sf theoretically savvy.

Some sf, however, fails to realize that the self has always been mechanized, that the human is always-already spoken by the technological. In the words of Marshall McLuhan, technology is an "extension of man," (2) and today's "high" technology is merely the most recent, most expansive manifestation of that extension. Thousands of years ago, primitive cultures extended (and in so doing defined) themselves by means of images, tools and ultimately language, just as we do today. The difference is that our extensions are simply more advanced.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Terminal Constructedness and the Technology of the Self in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.