Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Paradise Preserved

I want to expand on Shelina's and Rhiannon’s posts to address the specifics of our dependence on computers and the internet. While we often couch conversations of life shifted to the internet in terms of social networking, social interaction is not the only thing that has moved online. My roommate spilled soda on her computer and had to give it up for a week, and no one understood how she was getting work done. Granted, she has the internet on her phone and access to campus computer clusters, but it’s not that much of an exaggeration now for people to think of their personal computers in terms of “my whole life is on that thing.”

I was initially struck by the fact that Case’s disconnect from cyberspace was related to “the Fall,” (6), but I think playing out the metaphor provides some interesting complications to the question of what we stand to lose based on our reliance on computers. For Case, it seems disconnect from cyberspace really does mirror Adam’s own loss of Paradise. Tempted into breaking one big rule he's been given in his world, he loses access to it, in the process becoming hyper aware of the “prison of his own flesh,” and understanding misery and work in a new light for some time (6). From there of course the story changes – he’s granted new access to his personal Paradise and doesn’t lose it this time, and Molly’s not exactly Eve. But this idea of paradise is what I want to dwell on. Because, as Rhiannon noted, the internet can certainly serve as a haven for people. But it’s not paradise, or at least not just paradise. Increasingly, it’s everyday life. It’s where we keep our calendars and photographs, where we learn assignments and hand them in. It’s where we do our taxes, and while it isn’t yet where we perform that other certainty in life, death, that’s not that far away either. Because once your whole life is on that thing, you can lose your whole life on it too. And yes, this doesn’t apply to everyone. I still have a planner that I write things down in, and the technological advancements we have access to are not at all universal. But once we do transfer information to the internet, we become dependent on that information. Apocalypse stories so often center around a disruption in technology at this point because it’s hard to imagine life without technology. It’s hard to live life without technology, but still entirely possible. But the more dependent we are on the world of computers, the more traumatic the loss of that world if it ever occurs. Our own great Fall.

In response to Seth’s post, if we’re considering life lived online, I guess we can consider afterlife as well. The idea of coming back to life recurs throughout the novel, not just in Dixie as disembodied consciousness, but also in cases like the cryonic preservation of the Tessier-Ashpool family. There are a million versions of me on my computer and online – cover letters, creative work, pictures, personal information, everything. They’re not cognizant, but they’re me preserved, frozen in a moment in time and ready to represent me to others when called upon to do so. Facebook pages and other websites can live on even if their owners have died. If we think of Dixie as a projection/ghost, it’s not hard to make a jump to already existing technology. One final note. I've noticed as I wrote that I was repeatedly conflating computers and the internet. I guess it's because life lived and preserved on both so often overlaps.


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