What Have Been Your Favorite and Worst Readings from Class?

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In English 1102: "Reading Cyberpunk/Being Cyberpunk," we have read various articles, short stories, and novels that have challenged us to explore many themes relating to the cyberworld, technology, cyborgs, and etc. What are your opinions on our readings this semester? What was your favorite reading and why? What was your worst reading and why? Share your thoughts below under each category.

Contents

Readings

1. The Winter Market
2. Hackers
3. Flesh Made Word
4. Selections from Sherry Turkle
5. The Girl Who Was Plugged In
6. Unmarketable
7. Neuromancer
8. Schismatrix
9. He, She, and It


Favorite Readings

Thoughts on The Winter Market

Even though it was our first reading, I truly enjoyed reading The Winter Market. The suspenseful plot, the dystopian future, and the concept of what is human make it an exciting read. I highly recommend it as it serves as a good introduction to cyberpunk and our themes in general.


I feel that even though this was the first reading and have we have had far more dramatic themes in our other readings, most of the themes that were seen in the hacker convention projects and throughout class discussions were seen first in this story. The street finding its own uses for things was a theme that I thought could be seen in the majority of the final projects and in the collection of readings this was one of my favorites.

The Winter Market was one of my favorite readings, and I really enjoyed reading it. The exciting plot made me wanna keep reading it, and it was interesting when we were talking about what "the streets finds its own uses for things" really meant. I would recommend this book if you want to read about cyberpunk, and I definitely think that Professor Famiglietti should keep this reading for next semesters class.

Thoughts on Hackers

I thoroughly enjoyed hackers simply because it was a non-fiction story. It was the first non-fiction piece we read, and it dealt with the first hackers in the late 50's. What could a tech student enjoy more? I think it is important for this class to include selections such as this one because it gives us knowledge about actual events in the history of cyberpunk and hacker culture. It also allows us to put the more imaginitive stories (such as Schismatrix) in perspective with "actual reality". Personally, I did not know about the first computers using punch cards with holes in them, and in addition, the entire idea of that seems absurd to me. This selection enabled me to realize that lightning fast computers and laptops are actually a very recent technology and my generation is the first to grow up on such things.

Thoughts on Flesh Made Word

This is my favorite reading in the class.

The entire story is center on how the software affect those characters. We see Wescott, Lynne and Carol how their feelings and relationships got changed. The technology program ruins and suffers them and break their relationships at the end. Computer software that simulates human personalities, allowing personal relationships to exceed the limits of human bodies. In the story “Flesh Made Word”, Simulation to Wescott meant loss, he lost his love, his personalities and his feelings, things suffer him to the end that he want to delete the program. Simulation to Lynne meant end of a relationship, she test her boyfriend but at last she lost everything including their relationship. To Carol, simulation meant sorrow, her lives in torment, lost in communication and love.

I also agree that this was one of the better readings. One of the many reasons I enjoyed this short story was because of Watts' writing style. The conversation between characters in this story seemed very authentic and real. When the main characters were arguing, Wescott and Lynne, they say one thing but mean another. As readers, we  pick up on this and it makes the text significantly more readable. It's this subtlety in the writing that makes Flesh Make Word more like an actual story and less like a scripted play. Furthermore the criticism Watts' is making on the inability of machines to be at a "human level" is an interesting one, which he defends strongly in his story.

This was definitely the most interesting reading in the class for me. It was written in a way that makes the reader almost want to hate Wescott for the things that he does but also feel sorry for him for what he has been through. It does a good job of conveying the story from a point of view that the reader might not normally have. The story poses important questions about the authenticity of artificial personalities, morality, and life itself that are closely related to class themes.

Thoughts on Selections from Sherry Turkle

MIT professor Sherry Turkle sees the way we use computers for communication as providing new ways of conceptualizing individuality in terms of a kind of inner multiplicity, or multiple subjectivity in which the individual is seen as an amalgamation of distinct "selves," rather than an easily identifiable whole.

First, as background, she sees computer technologies as providing us with new--as she calls them-- "objects-to think-with." An "object-to-think-with" is a framework for our perception of ourselves and others.

Turkle gives the example of the popularization of Freudian psychology. In Computational Technologies and Images of the Self, Turkle writes, "the popular appropriation of Freudian ideas had little to do with scientific demonstrations of their validity. Freudian ideas passed into the popular culture because they offered robust objects-to think-with." In other words, Freud’s ideas gave us ways of looking at ourselves that were at first intuitively satisfying, and later came to define--for many--a large part of social reality. Freud’s ideas have greatly shaped our world, our social interactions, as well as our conception of "self," or "who we are."

Thoughts on The Precession of Simulacra

While this was probably the most difficult to read piece of the entire semester, I also found this piece to be the most thought-provoking once Dr. Famiglietti explained it. It is the only piece that I have continued to think about for the entire semester. I have actually re-read the piece several times since then, and I have found myself to agree with Baudrillard's thesis: that the world and its symbols have melded into some sort of hyperreality. Thinking along the same lines as Baudrillard, I find it hard to come up with an argument for why we should not consider everything to be a symbol.

Thoughts on The Girl Who Was Plugged In

Thoughts on Unmarketable

Thoughts on Neuromancer

This is a novel whose author took more cues from Raymond Chandler, William S. Burroughs, and Rene Descartes than from The Werwile of the Crystal Crypt. Though this was a book I had to get in the public library’s young adult science fiction section (as reported earlier), it is certainly not young adult – if you’ve read it you’ll know there’s more kinky sex, graphic violence, and rampant drug abuse than in a Chuck Palahniuk bedtime story.

Thoughts on Schismatrix

This novel was such an intriguing science fiction novel to me that I have recommended it to at least ten other people since reading it for class. I certainly think it was an excellent choice for the class as it fits perfectly under the genre of cyberpunk. Additionally, what is a better example of a hack than a hack on the human body, and in two different ways. Even before reading this novel I had often thought and day dreamed about the possibilities contained in altering ones genetics and this novel did not even let down my already high expectations. I really feel that Bruce Sterling did a great job in establishing the world of Schismatrix and all the while including aliens!

I truly enjoyed the world that was so skillfully weaved by Sterling. I had no idea what to expect and initially, I thought I was going to hate it. But I had no idea just how wrong I was. I have always been a fan of stories that pit a man and his intellect against the world, but this story sets Lindsay up against galaxies. Lindsay's triumphs over and creation of new galaxy-wide issues were simply astounding. In the end, I could not help but to reflect upon the plethora of questions that Sterling brings up about technology and humanity as a whole. I am very glad that I was exposed to this novel, and I hope future students will enjoy it as much as I have.

Schismatrix was my favorite novel of the course; it had a lot of action, and even more mystery woven into it. It will probably be one of the few books that I keep from this semester. It managed to hold the reader's attention very well, creating a realistic environment. Basically, it was probably the best book we worked on-- while the others were great books, they didn't have quite the same living world.

Thoughts on He, She, and It

I actually thought that this was possibly the best reading we had this entire semester. While I felt that the hacker culture wasn't as prevalent as in other novels, I felt as though the story was in a way easier to get into and sympathize with the characters more easily than in the other readings. This novel was far easier to follow than the other novels and rarely found myself bored with it.

Worst Readings
Worstreading.jpg

Thoughts on The Winter Market

Thoughts on Hackers

Thoughts on Flesh Made Word

Thoughts on Selections from Sherry Turkle

For me, Sherry Turkle's selections were not my favorite reading. Most of the other stories, I could follow and somewhat relate to. But her works were just not entertaining enough, and I just couldn't follow it as well as some of the other readings we've had.

I feel just the same as the person said before me. I enjoyed most of the class readings, they were entertaining and I had no problem reading them (except that I thought we got too little time to read them). The selections from Sherry Turkle on the other hand was not entertaining to me at all and I didn't enjoy reading it. I'm a slow reader and I really need to be interesting or curious about my reading for it to not be a struggle. 

Thoughts on The Precession of Simulacra

It was the selections like this and the Sherry Turkle readings that I had no interest in. While the philosophy aspects of our themes were interesting and important, these papers that reflected entirely on the philosophical beliefs of some person did not seem important. I realize that all of our novels and short stories were philosophical arguments, but at least those had some sense of purpose, rather than standing on a soapbox belittling us for our use of technology. Yes, I do realize that is a grotesque misrepresentation, but that's how I feel about it.
I feel like this was the weakest of all of the literature we read. While the presented ideas were relevant and important, it stood firmly on one side of the argument. While the selections from Turkle also had a definite standpoint, each selection presented a different view from the other. All of this, combined with the increased difficulty involved in trying to decipher its underlying messages, made this my least favorite reading of the class.

Thoughts on The Girl Who Was Plugged In

Thoughts on Unmarketable

Thoughts on Neuromancer

To be perfectly honest I absolutely just did not like reading Neuromancer. The story line was okay, but I found myself constantly getting lost in what was happening and having to re-read many page over again. I'm not saying that it was a bad novel by any means; I simply think that it was extremely confusing because many of the scene changes were hard to keep up with, and many scenes were so descriptive of the surroundings that I couldn't remember what the plot was about.

I was surprised by the choppiness and jarring nature of Gibson's prose. Though the plot was interesting, certain aspects of it seemed arbitrarily thrown in and ill-communicated (such as the space Rastas and the description of the space station toward the end). Gibson's rushed, jerky style detracted from my enjoyment of the novel and made this one of my least favorite readings of the class. His unnecessary jargon made the plot line quite difficult to follow without reading many passages two or three times. The upside to his rich language is that it makes subsequent read-throughs more enjoyable.

Thoughts on Schismatrix

Thoughts on He, She, and It

I am not sure if I would label it the worst reading of the class, as that seems harsh and it was actually an alright novel well intermixed into Cyberpunk. However, I just did not enjoy characters or the perspective of a female author. This could simply be due to the fact that I am a man, and I just could not handle the new perspective, but when I read science fiction I just expect male characters and a male perspective. It is always good to be diverse and at least see what the other perspective is like in science fiction, but male characters just seem to always be these cool, skillful masters of which I am often jealous.

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