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06.06. mark dery "metaphor as illness"

06.06. mark dery "metaphor as illness"
-------------------------------------------------------19:00 media~space!

Watch your Language!

We live in a moment when the membrane between metaphor and materiality is
increasingly permeable: force-feedback virtual reality enables us to reach
out and touch neo-Platonic hyperrealities fashioned from shaded polygons,
for instance.  At the same time, the growing realization that the
industrial boilerplate in which we've sheathed our metaphors for the wired
world around us is inappropriate to an age of ever-smaller, ever-smarter
"soft" machines has given rise to a vogue for feminine and "neo-biological"
metaphors for the polymorphous perversity of digital technologies.
Stranger still, Marvin Minsky's ever-popular biocybernetic metaphor--the
neo-La Mettrian notion of the brain as a computer, voguish among AI
theorists and cyberpundits--has engendered techno-eschatological visions of
the Net as an emergent hive mind. "Metaphor as Illness" offers a
fast-acting antidote to millennial cyberbole of this sort.  Beginning with
an exploded view of the metaphor as Ur-technology (language itself being,
after all, an elaborate network of metaphors), it rains deconstructive
hammerblows on received metaphors of the brain as a meat machine and the
global telecommunications network as (your choice) a) a numinous Gaian
Mind, b) a collective consciousness, or c) an emergent "super-organism."
Finally, it ponders the liberatory possibilities of _useful_ metaphors, and
considers the larger moral of our millennial fables about mind over matter,
examples of which include John Perry Barlow's declaration of the Net as the
"New Home of Mind," the Progress & Freedom Foundation's proclamation that
"the central event of the 20th century is the overthrow of matter," and the
Heaven's Gate cultists' saucer-eyed visions of a millennial Rapture,
underwritten by a manifest contempt for the meat as an obsolete "vehicle"
(a world-view shared by ubernerds such as Hans Moravec, the Extropians--a
California-based posthuman potential cult--and, in more mainstream form, a
representative sampling of Netizens, digerati, and New Age mutant ninja
Mark Dery is a cultural critic.  He wrote _Escape Velocity:Cyberculture at
the End of the Century_ (Grove Press), and  edited the essay collection
_Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture_ (Duke University Press).  He
also wrote _Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire
of Signs_ (Open Magazine Pamphlet Series), a monograph on guerrilla
semiotics and information war.  His byline has appeared in various critical
anthologies and numerous newspapers and magazines, among them The New York
Times, Rolling Stone, The
Village Voice, Wired, The Web, Mondo 2000, The Discovery Channel Online,
Suck, Salon, Semiotext(e), Adbusters, 21.C, and World Art. 
"A strange, unsettling, often provocative tour through fringe computer
cultures." - Publishers Weekly

"Escape Velocity is extraordinary--a rare book that is both scholarly and
compulsively readable... Stimulating, perceptive, and a hell of a lot of fun."
-- Pat Cadigan, author of Fools and Synners