>My Mother Was A Computer>: N. Katherine Hayles, Philosopher of Cyberpunk & Neal Stephenson, Author of Same

I’m rereading some of this academic book by N. KATHERINE HAYLES for research into my novel:

My Mother Was a Computer:
DIGITAL SUBJECTS AND LITERARY TEXTS

It explores some of the philosophical implications of language, the substance of our communication of ideas and being to each other in many ways, now entering into the realms of coding, html, and otherwise blending with the digital.

CONTENTS Acknowledgments // Prologue: Computing Kin /. Part I. Making: Language and Code // Intermediation: Textuality and the Regime of Computation // Speech, Writing, Code: Three Worldviews // The Dream of Information: Escape and Constraint in the Bodies of Three Fictions // Part II. Storing: Print and Etext // Translating Media // Performative Code and Figurative Language: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon // Flickering Connectivities in Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl // Part III. Transmitting: Analog and Digital // (Un)masking the Agent: Stanislaw Lem’s “The Mask” // Simulating Narratives: What Virtual Creatures Can Teach Us //
Subjective Cosmology and the Regime of Computation: Intermediation in Greg Egan’s Fiction
// Epilogue: Recursion and Emergence // Notes // Works Cited // Index

From The University of Chicago Press, who published this work:

We live in a world, according to N. Katherine Hayles, where new languages are constantly emerging, proliferating, and fading into obsolescence. These are languages of our own making: the programming languages written in code for the intelligent machines we call computers. Hayles’s latest exploration provides an exciting new way of understanding the relations between code and language and considers how their interactions have affected creative, technological, and artistic practices.

My Mother Was a Computer explores how the impact of code on everyday life has become comparable to that of speech and writing: language and code have grown more entangled, the lines that once separated humans from machines, analog from digital, and old technologies from new ones have become blurred. My Mother Was a Computer gives us the tools necessary to make sense of these complex relationships. Hayles argues that we live in an age of intermediation that challenges our ideas about language, subjectivity, literary objects, and textuality. This process of intermediation takes place where digital media interact with cultural practices associated with older media, and here Hayles sharply portrays such interactions: how code differs from speech; how electronic text differs from print; the effects of digital media on the idea of the self; the effects of digitality on printed books; our conceptions of computers as living beings; the possibility that human consciousness itself might be computational; and the subjective cosmology wherein humans see the universe through the lens of their own digital age.

We are the children of computers in more than one sense, and no critic has done more than N. Katherine Hayles to explain how these technologies define us and our culture. Heady and provocative, My Mother Was a Computer will be judged as her best work yet.

The chapter on Neal Stephenson’s novel ‘Cryptonomicon’ examines the relationships between coding and user control vs. surface interface, as in an operating system with command line user interface like Linux, vs. a mostly surface experience like Windows or Mac. This is explored in Stephenon’s non-fiction work ‘In The Beginning Was The Command Line’. N. Katherine Hayles explores this dichotomy and traces it’s development through the plot of Cryptonomicon as a dialectics which puts power and control against autonomy and intention.

The chapter, titled ‘Performative Code and Figurative Language: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon‘ is an incredlble exploration of the novel, and has lots to say about computer coding, societal dynamics, and the coming war of the Eloi vs. Morlocks, for starters. Reminded me that N. Katherine Hayles is brilliant about a lot of cyberpunk issues and I should read her more. I highly recommend this book and her other works.

As well as Neal Stephenson, who tells engaging stories with lots of fun information thrown in, in a combination of geekiness and adventuresome badassery. ‘Snow Crash’ being one of the defining texts of Cyberpunk, and his other novels being consistently very ambitions, and successful in those ambitions.

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