The interactions between the computer (which, in this scene, reveals the existence of the Matrix) and Neo apply a series of codes that could only be combined in conversation through the cinematic medium. While the computer communicates with Neo through text, Neo reacts verbally and through a series of keyboard shortcuts.
COMP(text): Wake up, Neo…
COMP(text): The Matrix has you…
NEO(spoken): What the hell?
NEO(touch): CTRL + X
COMP(text): Follow the white rabbit…
NEO(spoken): Follow the white rabbit?
NEO(touch): ESC + ESC
COMP(text): Knock, knock, Neo.
[Sound: Knock, knock.]
The screen, in this case, becomes a physical barrier that requires mediation between the human and the programmed. It is the computer ‘typing’
and perhaps specifically the slight clicking sound produced as text appears on the monitor, that causes Neo to rouse from his sleep. Although it is may be unlikely that such slight noise would wake up the protagonist, the text (and its accompanying sound effects) is posed, not merely as such, but also as the closest thing to having a conversation on screen. It’s symbolic status asks the audience to suspend their perhaps instinctive disbelief.
Neo responds verbally: “What? What the hell?” It is a queue not for the computer (the supposed object of his disbelief, and the other entity in dialogue), but more likely for the audience. It emphasizes the limits of computer screens in interacting with humans and distances the two.
Another code is applied to facilitate two-sided communication. An extreme close-up of Neo’s keyboard shows him enter: CTRL+X (cut). Although it seems to not have any effect, the use of distinct computer language in an attempt to enact programmed responses demonstrates the adoption by humans of new codes to account for the technological proliferation. He continues this code, attempting to ‘escape’ the dialogue with: ESC+ESC. This interaction also makes reference to the early stages of Nigel Thrift’s account of the role of touch in interacting with technology: “In a qualculative world the hand will take on some different styles of haptic inquiry: it will reach out and touch in different ways…” In this case, through the typed code interactions, touch serves as talk.
The punctuation of the text also applies Barthesian codes. The persistent use of the ellipsis ‘…’ in the text produced by the machine applies the proairetic code (ACT) by pointing at the continuation of the action and in developing expectancy in the viewer. The unknown nature of the entity behind the text, and their explicit knowledge of Neo’s situation, develops a hermeneutic code (HER) – a sense of mystery that drives the narrative of the film. Who is behind the computer? How do they know? How is their timing immediate?
The sound immediately following the onomatopoeia draws a strong connection between the knowledge of the computer and Neo’s reality within the diegesis. The semantic code in the use of onomatopoeia also develops a short-lived mystery (HER) and points towards the sensory extension of technological influence. Beyond touch, the computer is able to relate and participate in the sound experience of reality.
The specificity of the conversation, their knowledge of Neo’s immediate situation – “Wake up, Neo” – also suggests surveillance. It points to a conflation between the public and the private, the screen as a window into the inner life of the protagonist. Keenan on ‘windows’:
“The window implies a theory of the human subject as a theory of politics, and the subject’s variable status as public or private individual is defined by its position relative to this window. Behind it, in the privacy of home or office, the subject observes that public framed for it by the window’s rectangle, looks out and understands prior to passing across the line it marks; the window is this possibility of permeability into the public. Behind it, the individual is a knowing—that is, seeing, theorizing—subject.”