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Flatline Constructs: Gothic Materialism and Cybernetic Theory-Fiction

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Donna Haraway's celebrated observation that "our machines are disturbingly lively, while we ourselves are frighteningly inert" has given this issue a certain currency in contemporary cyber-theory. But what is in- teresting about Haraway's remark - its challenge to the oppositional think- ing that sets up free will against determinism, vitalism against mechanism - has seldo Donna Haraway's celebrated observation that "our machines are disturbingly lively, while we ourselves are frighteningly inert" has given this issue a certain currency in contemporary cyber-theory. But what is in- teresting about Haraway's remark - its challenge to the oppositional think- ing that sets up free will against determinism, vitalism against mechanism - has seldom been processed by a mode of theorizing which has tended to reproduce exactly the same oppositions. These theoretical failings, it will be argued here, arise from a resistance to pursuing cybernetics to its limits (a failure evinced as much by cyberneticists as by cultural theorists, it must be added). Unraveling the implications of cybernetics, it will be claimed, takes us out to the Gothic flatline. The Gothic flatline designates a zone of radical immanence. And to theorize this flatline demands a new approach, one committed to the theorization of immanence. This thesis calls that approach Gothic Materialism.


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Donna Haraway's celebrated observation that "our machines are disturbingly lively, while we ourselves are frighteningly inert" has given this issue a certain currency in contemporary cyber-theory. But what is in- teresting about Haraway's remark - its challenge to the oppositional think- ing that sets up free will against determinism, vitalism against mechanism - has seldo Donna Haraway's celebrated observation that "our machines are disturbingly lively, while we ourselves are frighteningly inert" has given this issue a certain currency in contemporary cyber-theory. But what is in- teresting about Haraway's remark - its challenge to the oppositional think- ing that sets up free will against determinism, vitalism against mechanism - has seldom been processed by a mode of theorizing which has tended to reproduce exactly the same oppositions. These theoretical failings, it will be argued here, arise from a resistance to pursuing cybernetics to its limits (a failure evinced as much by cyberneticists as by cultural theorists, it must be added). Unraveling the implications of cybernetics, it will be claimed, takes us out to the Gothic flatline. The Gothic flatline designates a zone of radical immanence. And to theorize this flatline demands a new approach, one committed to the theorization of immanence. This thesis calls that approach Gothic Materialism.

30 review for Flatline Constructs: Gothic Materialism and Cybernetic Theory-Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lily

    Mark submitted this thesis to the University of Warwick in 1999 and earned his PhD. In it, he explores a radical plane of immanence, namely "the Gothic flatline" on which the anthropocentric tendency to give agency to inanimate objects is subverted, so that everything —animate or inanimate —is seen as 'dead'. Following Donna Haraway’s remark that "our machines are disturbingly lively, while we ourselves are frighteningly inert", Mark sets out to pursue this notion to its theoretical cybernetics Mark submitted this thesis to the University of Warwick in 1999 and earned his PhD. In it, he explores a radical plane of immanence, namely "the Gothic flatline" on which the anthropocentric tendency to give agency to inanimate objects is subverted, so that everything —animate or inanimate —is seen as 'dead'. Following Donna Haraway’s remark that "our machines are disturbingly lively, while we ourselves are frighteningly inert", Mark sets out to pursue this notion to its theoretical cybernetics limit: "What if we are as ‘dead’ as the machines"? As with his later published work, Mark adorns his theories with familiar media. This thesis contains his explorations of cybernetic themes in postmodern approaches and terms within the language of Horror [Deleuze-Guattari] such as vampirism, zombification, etc., Baudrillardian notions of "Science Fictional" body and what makes cyberpunk Gothic Materialist with its departure from an instrumental view of technology and the organs, analysis of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, J. G. Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition, Samuel Butler's Erewhon and Gibson’s Neuromancer in lieu of Deleuze-Guattari's reconstructive arguments in Anti-Oedipus. The final chapter of the thesis focuses on the meaning of hyperfiction and establishes its position as a plane of radical immanence. While it is an enjoyable read —especially as it portrays a primary sketch of what later became Mark's signature prose and style of writing—it is not always easy and smooth, and gets quite technical at times; this is a thesis, after all. Being at least familiar with the numerous works of philosophy and literature that Mark draws from is helpful, if not necessary, for following his colorful train of thought.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aung Sett Kyaw Min

    Are you fan of cyberpunk fiction? Do you read contemporary theory? This book might be for you. Here Fisher (re)constructs a geneology of a kind of materialism that is radically indifferent to bifurcations (organic/inorganic, vitalism/materialism, subject/object, life/death) that are increasingly losing their ontological and cultural purchase in the age of cybernetics and feedback circuits, no longer able to contain the subterrean complicities swarming and teeming underneath. This materialism, acc Are you fan of cyberpunk fiction? Do you read contemporary theory? This book might be for you. Here Fisher (re)constructs a geneology of a kind of materialism that is radically indifferent to bifurcations (organic/inorganic, vitalism/materialism, subject/object, life/death) that are increasingly losing their ontological and cultural purchase in the age of cybernetics and feedback circuits, no longer able to contain the subterrean complicities swarming and teeming underneath. This materialism, according to him, is anticipated, theorized, and fictionalized by and in the works of Philip K. Dick, Gibson, Ballard, Burroughs, Weiner and Baudrillard and Deleuze-Guatarri. Baudrillard recognizes the stakes at hand, namely, the liquadation of the boundary between the fictional and the Real (the monstrous proliferation of what he calls third order simulacra--copies without originals), but lapses back into primitivism at the final instance, whereas Deleuze-Guattari celebrate this dissolution as heralding everywhere a metaphysics of immanence. Cyberpunk fiction best exemplifies this feedback loop between theory and fiction. While that being said, this work is largely an exercise in literary criticism. Fisher overquotes authors in several places. However, insofar as the basic thesis is concerned, the book is meticulously researched and competentely argued.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Yaniz Sebastian

    El algoritmo Nunca sabrá Lo que es el amor Pero a nadie le importa El fin del mundo tampoco es una opción.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    Some of the best theory I've read in a while. RIP, Mark. Some of the best theory I've read in a while. RIP, Mark.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Henry Foster

    so dense I almost flatlined

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brendan McKay

  7. 5 out of 5

    Linartas

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nina

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sean Davidson

  10. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin H

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gediminas

  12. 4 out of 5

    La Morgan

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brennan Utley

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Delos reyes

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dino Lončar

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nick

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Thornton

  18. 4 out of 5

    Manuel

  19. 5 out of 5

    Conrad

  20. 4 out of 5

    Domas

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  22. 4 out of 5

    vi macdonald

  23. 4 out of 5

    dipandjelly

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anika

  25. 5 out of 5

    Adam Benden

  26. 4 out of 5

    Paul Vittay

  27. 5 out of 5

    Drew

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ben Marler

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Kunzelman

  30. 5 out of 5

    [辟邪]

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