Connected, or, What It Means to Live in the Network Society

Connected, or, What It Means to Live in the Network Society

Connected, or, What It Means to Live in the Network Society

Connected, or, What It Means to Live in the Network Society

Synopsis

In the twenty-first century, a network society is emerging. Fragmented, visually saturated, characterized by rapid technological change and constant social upheavals, it is dizzying, excessive, and sometimes surreal. In this breathtaking work, Steven Shaviro investigates popular culture, new technologies, political change, and community disruption and concludes that science fiction and social reality have become virtually indistinguishable. Connected is made up of a series of mini-essays--on cyberpunk, hip-hop, film noir, Web surfing, greed, electronic surveillance, pervasive multimedia, psychedelic drugs, artificial intelligence, evolutionary psychology, and the architecture of Frank Gehry, among other topics. Shaviro argues that our strange new world is increasingly being transformed in ways, and by devices, that seem to come out of the pages of science fiction, even while the world itself is becoming a futuristic landscape. The result is that science fiction provides the most useful social theory, the only form that manages to be as radical as reality itself. Connected looks at how our networked environment has manifested itself in the work of J. G. Ballard, William S. Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, K. W. Jeter, and others. Shaviro focuses on science fiction not only as a form of cultural commentary but also as a prescient forum in which to explore the forces that are morphing our world into a sort of virtual reality game. Original and compelling, Connected shows how the continual experimentation of science fiction, like science and technology themselves, conjures the invisible social and economic forces that surround us. One of our most exciting thinkers explores thelook and feel of our cultural moment.

Excerpt

Donna Haraway writes that in a world marked by rapid, startling innovations in information technology, electronic communications, and biological engineering, “the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion” (149). Our lives are increasingly transformed in ways, and by devices, that seem to have come out of the pages of speculative fiction. At the same time, the largest tendency of these changes seems to be to transform the world itself into science fiction, or at least into a virtual-reality game. As Jean Baudrillard, among others, has remarked, under the reign of mass media and long-distance communications, reality itself has been turned into “its own pure simulacrum” (2001, 173). One need not share Baudrillard’s Manichaeanism or his nostalgia for a supposedly lost Real in order to appreciate the cogency of his observations. Today, the technosphere, or the mediascape, is the only “nature” we know.

In this book, I try to write cultural theory as science fiction to come to grips with a world that itself seems on the verge of being absorbed into the play of science fiction novels and films. I have several precedents for this approach. In Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze suggests that philosophy ought to be seen, in part, as “a kind of science fiction” (xx). This is because philosophy, like science fiction, can “make present the approach of a coherence that is no longer ours,” no longer that of our familiar humanistic certainties. Philosophy is like science fiction in that it deals with concepts that have not yet been worked out; both genres work “at the border which separates our knowledge from our ignorance, and transforms the one into the other” (xxi). Or, as Michel Foucault similarly writes, the . . .

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