website statistics Technologized Desire: Selfhood and the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction - PDF Books Online
Hot Best Seller

Technologized Desire: Selfhood and the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction

Availability: Ready to download

In TECHNOLOGIZED DESIRE, D. Harlan Wilson measures the evolution of the human condition as it has been represented by postcapitalist science fiction, which has consistently represented the body and subjectivity as ultraviolent pathological phenomena. Operating under the assumption that selfhood is a technology, Wilson studies the emergence of selfhood in philosophy (Deleuz In TECHNOLOGIZED DESIRE, D. Harlan Wilson measures the evolution of the human condition as it has been represented by postcapitalist science fiction, which has consistently represented the body and subjectivity as ultraviolent pathological phenomena. Operating under the assumption that selfhood is a technology, Wilson studies the emergence of selfhood in philosophy (Deleuze & Guattari), fiction (William S. Burroughs' cut-up novels and Max Barry's Jennifer Government), and cinema (Army of Darkness, Vanilla Sky, and the Matrix trilogy) in an attempt to portray the schizophrenic rigor of twenty-first century mediatized life. We are obligated by the pathological unconscious to always choose to be enslaved by capital and its hi-tech arsenal. The universe of consumer-capitalism, Wilson argues, is an illusory prison from which there is no escape-despite the fact that it is illusory.


Compare

In TECHNOLOGIZED DESIRE, D. Harlan Wilson measures the evolution of the human condition as it has been represented by postcapitalist science fiction, which has consistently represented the body and subjectivity as ultraviolent pathological phenomena. Operating under the assumption that selfhood is a technology, Wilson studies the emergence of selfhood in philosophy (Deleuz In TECHNOLOGIZED DESIRE, D. Harlan Wilson measures the evolution of the human condition as it has been represented by postcapitalist science fiction, which has consistently represented the body and subjectivity as ultraviolent pathological phenomena. Operating under the assumption that selfhood is a technology, Wilson studies the emergence of selfhood in philosophy (Deleuze & Guattari), fiction (William S. Burroughs' cut-up novels and Max Barry's Jennifer Government), and cinema (Army of Darkness, Vanilla Sky, and the Matrix trilogy) in an attempt to portray the schizophrenic rigor of twenty-first century mediatized life. We are obligated by the pathological unconscious to always choose to be enslaved by capital and its hi-tech arsenal. The universe of consumer-capitalism, Wilson argues, is an illusory prison from which there is no escape-despite the fact that it is illusory.

42 review for Technologized Desire: Selfhood and the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    This review appeared in BULL SPEC #1, March 2010, as well as the New York Review of Science Fiction: TECHNOLOGIZED DESIRE: SELFHOOD AND THE BODY IN POSTCAPITALIST SCIENCE FICTION by D. Harlan Wilson Guide Dog Books Review by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn In its just short of 5,000 words, Eric S. Raymond’s essay “A Political History of SF” brings politics in juxtaposition with science fiction and attempts to develop and defend a straightforward thesis that science fiction is by its nature most compatible with po This review appeared in BULL SPEC #1, March 2010, as well as the New York Review of Science Fiction: TECHNOLOGIZED DESIRE: SELFHOOD AND THE BODY IN POSTCAPITALIST SCIENCE FICTION by D. Harlan Wilson Guide Dog Books Review by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn In its just short of 5,000 words, Eric S. Raymond’s essay “A Political History of SF” brings politics in juxtaposition with science fiction and attempts to develop and defend a straightforward thesis that science fiction is by its nature most compatible with political libertarianism. Amidst a backdrop of the rise and fall of several pushes and movements against this underlying compatibility, Raymond goes on to argue that mainstream—that is to say, libertarian-leaning—science fiction will continue to absorb and de-politicize the stories which comprise such counter-movements, from Cyberpunk to Hard Science Fiction and onto future inroads against “the bedrock individualism of Campbellian SF.” Since the essay’s publication in 2002, the ongoing foreign engagements and crumbling economy around the ultra-capitalist policies of much of the world’s leaders has led to a renewed round of questions about the humaneness of capitalism and the consumer culture which accompanies it. With these societal questions have come several postcapitalist works of note, among them: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Galileo’s Dream, which examines the intersection of science, history, and politics in an imagined far future of solar system-spanning human colonies; a new edition of Terry Bisson’s alternative history Fire on the Mountain, which examines the course of history if John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry had succeeded and led to a socialist movement among the freed slaves of the Confederate south; and Accelerando by Charles Stross, which envisions an “Economy 2.0” of artificial intelligences and augmented and simulated human consciousness. A common accompanying theme, however, of postcapitalist science fiction is dystopian posthumanism: a merging of the biological self with technology with disastrous global consequences. Such stories swarm with clones, cyborgs, and virtual realities. These latter stories have a tendency to dehumanize the human, many seeming to strive to answer the question, “What is humanity?” while characters plug or jack or dial into virtual, highly-technologized existences. With this backdrop of science fiction, along with that of decades of culture, philosophy, politics, and history as its base, and expanding his science fiction data field to include cinema as the prevailing mass medium for such fiction, prolific fiction and non-fiction author D. Harlan Wilson’s Technologized Desire: Selfhood and the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction is an ambitious undertaking, analyzing the currents of all these information flows and examining them for patterns and meaning with a keen, postmodern eye. His success is a resounding and accessible one, though his analysis seems to have been directed toward and apply most specifically to hypercapitalist or dystopian posthuman fiction rather than definitively postcapitalist. Presented in five sections and framed by an introduction and coda, with each section analyzing a particular work or collection, Wilson illuminates a growing consistency in theme, mood and message, aptly captured in the book’s description from publisher Guide Dog Books: that “the universe of consumer-capitalism is an illusory prison from which there is no escape—despite the fact that it is illusory.” He ably defends his central thesis, that the merging of self and technology in a “techocapitalist” future, where the subjectivity of the self has expanded outward through technology, leads inevitably to a loss of self, adrift in a sea of media, information, and consumption, fueled ever more violently by the very production that a highly tech- nologized society demands. That, despite an innate human resistance to the technocapitalist machinery, “free will is a fiction.” He begins with an examination of Cameron Crowe’s 2001 film Vanilla Sky, in which a disfigured man learns through a glitch that his reality is virtual, and is given a choice “between returning to the real world or to another, glitch-free dream.” Wilson argues that this is a typical construct, defining good, wholesome “humanity” as a return to the “real” world, despite the still-functioning capitalist technological and political machinery which reigns there and from which there is no escape. The second chapter analyzes William S. Burroughs’ “cutup” trilogy from the early 1960s (The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express) as illustrating that even the technologies of the 1950s and 60s were used as mediators of social interaction; just another, yet maddeningly large and fast, step on the path that humanity has taken since the wheel, papyrus, and the printing press first started the expansion and dilution of the self into our technological extensions. Wilson particularly uses Burroughs’ work as a representative depiction of the inevitability and inescapability of the self from technology; that there is “no choice but to live as a technopathological extension of the machine.” The most captivating ofWilson’s analyses follows as chapter 3, where he turns his attention to Sam Raimi’s Army ofDarkness. In it, the protagonist Ash, portrayed in the 1992 film by Bruce Campbell, attempts to escape a life of drudgery in service to the modern capitalist world but is thrown back in time into a world of witches and the undead. Reading Ash’s journey to the medieval world as a “schizophrenic delusion of grandeur,” Wilson pits Ash’s experience against postmodern capitalist philosophy and each comes out a bit worse for the wear. Ash “only succeeds in reifying his status as a common postmodern subject” due to his underlying acceptance of the technologized, capitalist reality to which he longs to return. It would have been hard for Wilson to ignore The Matrix, despite the overabundance of overanalysis of its content. After examining the ultraviolent, hyperconsumerist, “global free market” future world of Max Barry’s 2003 novel Jennifer Government, Wilson decodes the Matrix with both a scathing eye for its collection of tropes and clichés and as a map into the collective subjective experiences of its creators and fans. His analysis here is memorable and casts a wide net, beginning by pulling the Spider-Man films into the discussion (the “badness” of both the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus being embodied in their technological extensions), contrasting the issues of choice and enslavement alongside a brief dismissal of Spider-Man’s “good” technological powers as “natural”—“the spider that bit him being a radioactive, genetically tailored mutation.” Wilson uses this illustration to further solidify his concept of the terminal choice, that being whether to give up the self entirely or to, effectively, embrace a schizophrenic existence in the face of dehumanizing technology and choices. Bringing in analyses from writers as diverse as the revolutionary socialist Slavoj Žižek and the cyberpunk and now solidly futurist Bruce Sterling, Wilson exhumes the source material of the Matrix trilogy and brings each, in turn, under the harsh light of his analytical framework. To illustrate the dangers of allowing our fictional realities to become the backdrop to our daily existence, he contrasts the Matrix trilogy with another trilogy, that ofWilliam Gibson’s cyberpunk Sprawl trilogy (Neuromancer and on): “Gibson speaks in the technologized, fractal, jargon-infested language of deterritorialization. But the Wachowski’s speak plainly, as it were, in the common, everyday language of today’s masses, underscoring that our primal desire is to be controlled by our technocapitalist extensions,” implying that the over-jargoned, frenetic vocabulary of Gibson has become, in essence, both our inner and outer monologues. Wilson transitions toward his conclusion by arguing that, particularly as evidenced by the use of advanced technology in the filming of the Matrix trilogy, we are inhabiting a reality which is becoming harder and harder to distinguish from science fiction, leading the elements of often-marginalized science fiction to become the archetypes of daily life and mainstream experience. Capitalist technologies, he argues, incorporate and shape the ideas of science fiction for “unrelenting socioeconomic ends” in an increasingly violent, self-perpetuating cycle of production and consumption. Finally, Wilson argues, within this inescapable cycle the very foundation of science fiction will follow the continuing commoditization of our inner lives in a final shift from “a genre of fancy” to “a genre of capital.” Raymond, as it turns out, might end up having being right, though not necessarily due to a fundamental compatibility or aesthetic of author or audience. Instead, it is the very structure of our current technocapitalist reality which might constrain the stories which can be authentically told. Addressing the accessibility of this critique, it reads quite well to a layperson, here meaning someone with at least a basic interest in philosophy, technology, and science fiction. There is an economy of technical terms from postmodern analysis, and Wilson presents the denser portions with enough background to keep the reader from being left adrift, with the introduction’s setting ofWilson’s starting points for analysis among the more challenging for its references to the prevailing modes of postmodern literary and cultural analysis. At about 200 pages, split into five sitting-sized chapters, it serves well both in its intended purpose as an in-depth survey of the landscape of ideas and culture emerging from science fiction’s intersection with our increasingly technologized future and as an introduction to such topics. In future efforts to expand or build upon Wilson’s Technologized Desire, writers might do well to explore more than the dehumanizing side of fictional worlds which Wilson has engaged here. By including well-imagined and yet fully human postcapitalist worlds, particularly those of postscarcity—even those with a high level of technology—other insights into the paths our future selves may take might be gleaned, as well as beginning to form a more balanced and hopeful picture for technology’s place as an extension of our consciousness and subjectivity. Alternatively or additionally, such analysis could expand to include explicitly anti-capitalist, anti-technology, or primitivist works, explaining how they fit into this picture of inevitable over-technologization and technocapitalist total control of choice. While these may, like Raimi’s Ash in Army of Darkness, end up being properly characterized as reifying the very framework they set out to reject, such missing sister pieces to Wilson’s analysis are intentional, as he has set his sights explicitly on stories of over-technologization of the currently dominant capitalist identity, revealing glimpses of postcapitalist identities “in silhouette.” It remains to be seen, however, whether stories of hope against the inevitability of technocapitalist dominance will be accepted by readers and critics as anything more than as Wilson now characterizes Robinson’s Mars trilogy of the first half of the 1990s: “authentic fantasy instead of an extrapolated potential reality.” From our subjective positions of already over-technologized desire, Wilson concludes, such characters as Robinson’s “colorful, wide-eyed personalities” are simply not believable any longer. Within his framework presented here, further and wider analysis should be encouraged to explore and define these identities; otherwise, as Wilson’s deconstruction here warns, we may find ourselves firmly caught in the cogs of the machines that we ourselves rush, madly, to build.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stan

    First of all, I should state that I was given a copy of this book through first-reads so if I say it was worth what I paid for it, it's not much of a compliment. Wilson does a good job of writing about postmodernism in an accessible way. Readers without much of a background in the field should still be able to follow his discussion and enjoy his writing. One of my favorite terms he uses in the book come up first on page 18 of the introduction where he refers to current American society as a, "co First of all, I should state that I was given a copy of this book through first-reads so if I say it was worth what I paid for it, it's not much of a compliment. Wilson does a good job of writing about postmodernism in an accessible way. Readers without much of a background in the field should still be able to follow his discussion and enjoy his writing. One of my favorite terms he uses in the book come up first on page 18 of the introduction where he refers to current American society as a, "commoditocracy." The first chapter about the film Vanilla Sky was so compelling I almost want to go back and view the film again to see how much of his analysis I agree with. The idea that the power of choice is an illusion is present in this chapter and recurs throughout the book. If one is uncomfortable with fatalistic interpretations of society and the state of the world, this book could be unsettling. Chapter two delves into William S. Burroughs' cut-up novels, not being overly familiar with these works, I am not sure how spot on the analyses are but it is an interesting chapter. The idea that there is no escape from capitalist technologies comes up here as well. Wilson's ability to turn an interesting phrase is certainly present in this chapter, like on page 61 where he talks about, "a linguistic holocaust ignited by technocapitalist flamethrowers." The third chapter deals with the Bruce Campbell masterpiece, Army of Darkness. While I found his interpretation of the movie as a schizophrenic breakdown on the part of the hero Ash to be amusing, I couldn't help but wonder if that really fit considering that it only works with the ending of the film that the studio forced on director Sam Raimi and not the original ending they had filmed. To Wilson's credit, he does address this issue toward the end of the chapter. One cannot help but wonder if the analysis of the film requires the alternative ending, how much of what Wilson sees in the movie is a form of pareidolia, he is seeing patterns that are not really there. Next up is the novel Jennifer Government, possibly better known because of the web browser game NationStates that was designed to promote the book. The analysis of the book as a style of non-conventional cyberpunk is interesting but the chapter holds other insights as well. The book is about postcapitalist science fiction, but so far throughout the text it has been mired in the inescapable nature of capitalist society. On page 119, Wilson clears that up and operationalizes the term postcapitalist, "By postcapitalist, I do not mean that these narratives transcend our current socioeconomic ontology, but that they push that ontology to its outer limits, terminalizing it, just as postmodernism is in some ways a terminal extension of modernity." While that certainly does clear things up, it does show that what Wilson means by postcapitalist and what I was hoping to read about were entirely different things. The last chapter deals with the Matrix trilogy, specifically the second two movies. I have spent the past few years trying to convince myself that the Matrix was a stand alone film, being reminded of Reloaded and Revolutions was not pleasant. No amount of postmodern, cyberpunk influenced analysis can redeem those movies in my eyes. If Wilson was looking for patterns where there were none with Army of Darkness, then he was looking for the silver lining in a train wreck with his analysis of the Matrix trilogy. All in all, Technologized Desire is an accessible, intelligent look at science fiction and how it can help us better understand our society. You do not have to completely buy into Wilson's postmodern interpretations to get a lot out of this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Henrik

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nick Cato

  6. 4 out of 5

    Danny Sillada

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lowed

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jason Rolfe

  9. 5 out of 5

    Piotr Leszczyński

  10. 4 out of 5

    John Lawson

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Muntz

  12. 4 out of 5

    rppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp

  13. 4 out of 5

    Byron 'Giggsy' Paul

  14. 5 out of 5

    Constructionv4

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christy

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mike Kleine

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  18. 5 out of 5

    DoctorM

  19. 5 out of 5

    AER

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marc

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

  23. 4 out of 5

    toria (vikz writes)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Susanne

  25. 5 out of 5

    Najibah Abu Bakar

  26. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nihil

  28. 4 out of 5

    Merzbau

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jaime

  30. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Formosa

  31. 4 out of 5

    Travis

  32. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  33. 5 out of 5

    Jolene

  34. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

  35. 5 out of 5

    Krysta

  36. 5 out of 5

    Frank

  37. 5 out of 5

    Faith

  38. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  39. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

  40. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

  41. 4 out of 5

    Erin

  42. 4 out of 5

    B

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.