Immanence, autonomy and integral anomalies

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'Human kind cannot bear very much reality.' Countless versions of this statement have been used, often in radically different ways, to underwrite condemnations of inauthentic life. Plato was the first, in his grim, unforgiving allegory of the cave (Republic 255-64). Karl Marx's declaration that 'Religion ... is the opium of the people' revised the notion, whilst counteracting excuses for political apathy (1992:244). And Oscar Wilde made use of a similar idea, from still another direction - a tribute to the creative imagination, artfully disguised as a defense of 'lying'. Coined by T.S. Eliot in Four Quartets (1936), the phrase has been renewed in the digital age, quickened by the new technologies of escape. One of the main feats of the Matrix trilogy is not just to refract these meanings through the hypnotic glow of the monitor, but to offer detailed speculations as to what lies on the other side of that glow. To help define the nature of those speculations, I will start with a simple proposition: cyberspace, and the 'consensual hallucination' (Gibson 1984:12) that sustains it, is a form of imaginary space not unlike the stage, the screen or the pages of a novel. To use a metaphor like 'space', even in an imaginary sense, is to invite a particular kind of fantasy. What would it mean to 'inhabit' this space - not at one remove via code manipulation and program protocols, which control and regulate the hallucination, but internally, inherently? How would it be to experience the cyber-world from the inside? Or to put it in philosophical terms: what is the experience of immanence in the fictional realm of cyberspace, and what are the ontological implications of that experience?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Matrix trilogy
Subtitle of host publicationcyberpunk reloaded
EditorsStacy Gills
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherWallflower Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)1904764339
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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