Perception and Consciousness

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

In the world of William Gibson's Count Zero, perceptions are often distorted, and the resulting disoriented or confused individual -- Bobby, in the passage below -- has at best a vague understanding of his situation.

"We need to know about the Virgin, Count." The man waited.

Bobby blinked at him.

"Vyej Mirak" -- and the glasses went back on -- "Our Lady, Virgin of Miracles. We know her" -- and he made a sign with his left hand -- "as Ezili Freda."

Bobby became aware of the fact that his mouth was open, so he closed it. The three dark faces waited. Jackie and Rhea were gone, but he hadn't seen them leave. A kind of panic took him then, and he glanced frantically around at the strange forest of stunted trees that surrounded them. The gro-light tubes slanted at every angle, in any direction, pink-purple jackstraws suspended in a green space of leaves. No walls. You couldn't see a wall at all. The couch and the battered table sat in a sort of clearing, with a floor of raw concrete.

"We know she came to you," the big man said, crossing his legs carefully. He adjusted a perfect trouser-crease, and a gold cufflink winked at Bobby. "We know, you understand?"

"Two-a-Day tells me it was your first run," the other man said. "That the truth?"

Bobby nodded.

"Then you are chosen of Legba," the man said, again removing the empty frames," to have met Vyej Mirak." He smiled.

Bobby's mouth was open again.

"Legba," the man said, "master of roads and pathways, the loa of communication . . ." [p. 58, emphasis and ellipsis in original]


1. Does being confused help the reader connect with Bobby? If so, how?

2. Is this an effective way of introducing new ideas and concepts (like "loa," or voodoo-gods)?

3. In his stunned, jaw-dropped state, is Bobby less conscious than usual?

4. How does his consciousness (and mental state) compare with when he is jacked in?

5. Is consciousness a collection of perceptions, all of which are made through (and affected by) some medium? Is consciousness therefore mediated, like perception? Is the self?


Gibson, William. Count Zero. New York: Ace Books, 1986.

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Last modified 23 February 2005