David Ellis '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

In the world of William Gibson's Neuromancer, the evolution of technology has changed the way humans interact to an extent that renders certain media obsolete. Here, writing is an almost occult practice.

A few letter-writers had taken refuge in doorways, their old voiceprinters wrapped in sheets of clear plastic, evidence that the written word still enjoyed a certain prestige here. It was a sluggish country. [Gibson, 84]

But long after the printed word has fallen into disuse, it still affects the way humanity thinks.

"Can you read my mind, Finn?" He grimaced. "Wintermute, I mean."

"Minds aren't read. See, you've still got the paradigms print gave you, and you're barely print-literate. I can access your memory, but that's not the same as your mind." [Gibson, 165]


1. How do older ways of communicating affect new media, and can a medium exist without incorporating part (as in form, technique or pattern) of another?

2. Is written language (symbols to represent sounds) likely to become obsolete?

3. Verbal interactions with AI and other technology in Neuromancer are primarily oral. Is there no text involved in the "jacked in" environment? Do people code by manipulating objects in virtual space?

4. If so, how might the semantic processing (or semiosis) of this programming "language" compare to today's compilers? Would computers no longer use a binary machine code?

5. Can communication take place without media? Can intention be transmitted directly (perhaps through mind-reading)?


Gibson, William Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books, 1984.

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 13 February 2005