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William Gibson And The Internet Essay, Research Paper

William Gibson and The Internet


The words “Internet” and “world wide web” are becoming everyday use these

days, it has exploded into the mass market of information and advertising. There

are bad points about the “net” as well as good points, this relatively new

medium is growing at such a rate that the media have to take it seriously.

This new form of communication was mainly populated by small groups of

communities, but now that it is getting much easier to access the web these

groups are growing.

The word Cyberpunk is nothing new in the world of the “net” and to science

fiction readers , and it is this term which names most of the online

communities . Within the Cyberpunk cultures there are sub cultures such as

hackers, phreaks ,ravers etc.. all have a connection with new technologies. The

term Cyberpunk was originated in Science Fiction Literature, writers such as

William Gibson tell stories of future worlds, cultures and the Internet.

it is William Gibson and the cyberpunks who have carried out some of the

most important mappings of our present moment and its future trends during the

past decade. The present, in these mappings, is thus viewed from the persceptive

of a future that is visible from within the experiences and trends of the

current moment, from this perpscetive, cyberpunk can be read as a sort of social


Chapter 1

Internet history

The Internet is a network of computer networks, the most important of

which was called ARPANET(Advanced Research Projects Agency NETwork), a wide area

experimental network connecting hosts and terminal servers together. Rules were

set up to supervise the allocation of addresses and to create voluntary

standards for the network. The ARPANET was built between October and December

1969 by a US company called Bolt, Beranak and Newman (BBN), which is still big

in the Internet world. It had won a contract from the US Government’s Department

of Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency , or ARPA, to build a network that

would survive a nuclear attack. Only four government mainframe computers were

originally linked up, Unfortunately, ARPANET was also dependent on the

involvement of hundreds of US computer scientists. Because the ARPANET was a

military project, it was managed in true military style – the project manager

appointed by ARPA gave the orders and they were carried out. It was therefore

easy to tell who “ran” the network. By 1972 it had grown to 37 mainframe

computers. At the same time, the way in which the network was being used was

changing. As well as using the system to exchange important, but boring,

military information, ARPANET users started sending e-mail – to each other by

means of private mail boxes.

By 1983 ARPANET had grown to such an extent that it was felt that the

military research component should be moved to a separate network, called MILNET.

In 1987 the system was opened up to any educational facility, academic

researcher or international research organisation who wanted to use it. As local

area networks became more pervasive, many hosts became gateways to local

networks. A network layer, to allow the inter operation of these networks was

developed and called IPA (Internet Protocol). Over time other groups created

long haul IP based networks (NASA, NSF, states…). These nets too, inter-

operate because of IP. The collection of all of these inter operating networks

is the Internet.

Up until 1990 the Internet was only a complicated and uninteresting text

format of communication and most of the people using the net were either

Computer programmers, students, Hackers, Societies, Governments officials and a

few artists interested the digital media.

Everything changed in 92 when a British programmer came up with “Mosaic”,

a text and graphic based window (web browser) into the net, this programme was

simple to use. The basic structure was in simple page form, Just click on a

button, word or picture and you could cross half the world in seconds, it was

also simple to construct a page. Over the last couple of years, anyone who had

a computer and Internet account has created their own “Web page”.

The growth of the Internet, those machines connected to the NSFNET

backbone has been extraordinary. In 1989, the number of networks attached to the

NSFNET/Internet increased from 346 to 997, data traffic increased five-fold. The

latest estimate, is that 200,000 to 400,000 main computers are directly

connected to NSFNET, with perhaps a total of eleven million individuals able to

exchange information freely. The Internet is still growing and companies are

developing new tools and programmes to speed up the communications so that

immense amounts of data can be transferred in seconds.

“The future of the 20th century, of the 21st century, will be the net.

Its awesome. But on the net, you still have to have someone on the

other side. The poor nerd who sits in front of the computer just

talking to themselves – that’s kind of sad. It’s the contact that’s important,

interpersonal, interactive communication.” [T.Leery (observer

29/5/94) p16]

Internet Cultures

Over the years since the Internet first began, many clubs, organisations,

cultures and societies have grown and congregated on the net. This is probably

because to many users it is a cheap form (even free) of world wide communication,

the new technology has link with their ideas and also because of the freedom of

expression the Internet gives. No single government body or organisation owns

the net and because of its size, no one can fully govern and censor the


So called “hackers” also part of the “Cyberpunk” group, were one of the

first groups of individuals known on the Internet, these were mostly male

students studying computer science, trying to break into government computers or

anywhere they were not supposed to be. Most hackers live by this set of rules,

First, access to computers should be unlimited and total: “Always yield to the

Hands-On Imperative!”. Second, all information should be free. Third, mistrust

authority and promote decentralisation. Fourth, hackers should be judged by

their prowess as hackers rather than by formal organisational or other

irrelevant criteria. Fifth, one can create art and beauty on a computer. Finally,

computers can change lives for the better.

One group i came across in an article call themselves the “Extropians”,

they want to be immortal and travel through space and time. They are also

libertarians who want to privets the oceans and air. One member Jay Prime

Positive wants to upload his consciousness to a computer “I’d probably want to

spend most of my time in data space……i imagine having multiple bodies and

multiple copies of myself. I have problems with gender identification, so I’d

definitely have a female body in there somewhere”.

The group have many idea’s of the future. You perhaps never considered

the idea of setting loose molecule-sized robots in your body to clean out your

arteries.(see nanotechnology).

A floating free state banged together out of old oil tankers (similar to

the sprawl described in Gibson’s “Mona Lisa overdrive”, a place where freedom

and unrestrained intellect could reign and you could finally get the government

and tax man off your back. the Extropians want to go beyond the limits of

nature and biology and move on up to the stars, they believe that computers have

kick started the human evolution.

Chapter 2


The term “Cyberspace” was first coined by the sci-fi writer William

Gibson in his 1984 novel “Neuromancer”. Gibson first identified the emergence

of Cyberspace as the most recent moment in the development of electromechanical

communications, telematics and virtual reality. Cyberspace, as Gibson saw it,

is the simultaneous experience of time, space, and the flow of multi-dimensional,

pan-sensory data: All the data in the world stacked up like one big neon city,

so you could cruise around and have a kind of grip on it, visually anyway,

because if you didn’t, it was too complicated, trying to find your way to the

particular piece of data you needed.

Cyberspace. “A con sensual hallucination experienced daily by billions


legitimate operators, in every nation… A graphical representation of

data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system.

Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non space of the

mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights,


– William Gibson, Neuromancer.

At the core of Cyberspace is the Internet.

The psychologist/guru Timothy Leery interviewed by David Gale in 1991, is

very clear about Cyberspace :

“What were talking about is electronic real estate, a whole electronic

reality. The problem we have is to organise the great continents of

data that will soon become available. All the movies , all the TV ,

all the libraries, all recordable knowledge… These are the vast natural

crude oil reserves waiting to be tapped, In the 15th century we explored the

planet, now we must prepare once more to chart, colonise and open up a

whole new world of data. Software becomes the maps and guides into

that terrain”.

The interesting thing about Cyberspace is the way it creates the idea of a

community. Every subculture needs an image of an outsider’s community to cling

to, to run to. For the Cyberpunk, this community doesn’t actually have a place.

It can be accessed everywhere by modem, but its the nearest thing on earth.

Cyberpunk subculture is the first subculture which doesn’t have a particular

place of congregation . There are now hundreds of bulletin boards around the

world which have a Cyberpunk style, where young cyberpunks discuss the latest

hardware and software. It is familiar to most people as the “place” in which a

long-distance telephone conversation takes place. But it is also the treasure

trove for all digital or electronically transferred information, and, as such,

it is the place for most of what is now commerce, industry, and human


Cyberpunk History

Cyberpunk literature, in general, deals with unimportant people in

technologically-enhanced cultural “systems”. In Cyberpunk stories’ settings,

there is usually a “system” which dominates the lives of most “ordinary” people,

be it an oppressive government, a group of large, corporations, or a

fundamentalist religion. These systems are enhanced by certain technologies ,

particularly “information technology” (computers, the mass media), making the

system better at keeping those within it inside it. Often this technological

system extends into its human “components” as well, via brain implants,

prosthetic limbs, cloned or genetically engineered organs, etc. Humans

themselves become part of “the Machine”. This is the “cyber” aspect of Cyberpunk.

“Cyberpunk hit the front page of the New York Times when some young

computer kids were arrested for cracking a government computer file.

The Times called the kids “cyberpunks” From there, the

performers involved in the high-tech-oriented radical art movement

generally known as “Industrial” ” [ R.U Sirius (Mondo 2000) 64 ]

In the mid-’80s Cyberpunk emerged as a new way of doing science fiction in

both literature and film. The first book “Neuromancer”; the most important film,

“Blade Runner”.

“what’s most important to me is that Neuromancer is about the present.

its not really about an imagined future…..” [William Gibson (MONDO

2000) 68]

William Gibson is widely considered to be the father of “Cyberpunk”, dark

novels about hi-tech computer bohemians and underground renegades. His first

novel, “Neuromancer”, bears the distinction of winning the Hugo, Nebula, and

Philip K. Dick awards. The first to win all three.

William Gibson parlayed off the success of his first SF ‘Cyberpunk’

blockbuster Neuromancer to write a more complex, engaging novel in which these

two worlds are rapidly colliding. In his novel Count Zero, we encounter teenage

hacker Bobby Newmark, who goes by the handle “Count Zero.” Bobby on one of his

treks into Cyberspace runs into something unlike any other AI(artificial

intelligence) he’s ever encountered – a strange woman, surrounded by wind and

stars, who saves him from ‘flatlining.’ He does not know what it was he

encountered on the net, or why it saved him from certain death.

Later we meet Angie Mitchell, the mysterious girl whose head has been

‘rewired’ with a neural network which enables her to ‘channel’ entities from

Cyberspace without a ‘deck’ – in essence, to be ‘possessed’. Bobby eventually

meets Beauvoir, a member of a Voudoun/cyber sect, who tells him that in

Cyberspace the entity he actually met was Erzulie, and that he is now a

favourite of Legba, the lord of communication… Beauvoir explains that Voudoun

is the perfect religion for this era, because it is pragmatic – “It isn’t about

salvation or transcendence. What it’s about is getting things done .”

Eventually, we come to realise that after the fracturing of the AI

Wintermute, who tried to unite the Matrix, the unified being split into several

entities which took on the character of the various Haitian loa, for reasons

that are never made clear.

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