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Stuart Moulthrop, with a delightful lack of irony, takes great pains to deconstruct Xanadu’s sales pitch for us. Like a sobered and jaded gatekeeper, he stands at the threshold of Nelson’s democratized and decentralized media production to tell us how the “Vision in a Dream” is no more than a vision in a dream. If we look back at Jackson and Bush, who are championing Memex and Hypertext, they believe these media technologies have the power to augment hegemonic structures of consumption and production. They’re not wrong, but they’re crucially speculative.

So we have Moulthrop on one end of the ring along with Agent Smith flexing their neoliberal/dystopian power structures and Jackson/Bush/Nelson on the Neuromancer side imagining fantastic ways for the individual to burst forth into a technology empowered command of knowledge/knowledge production. As our resident post-structuralist simultaneously standing betwixt ensnarement in ideology and sovereign acknowledgement of it,  I want Barthes to umpire the match. Let’s see if we can find a way to straddle these power dynamics.

Our Neuromancers Jackson, Nelson, and Bush, by arranging and curating texts, purport to visualize the invisible process of intertextuality. The ELF, the Memex trail, and the hypertext do—in a manner—make discourse concrete. Their operator, acting within a nexus of information is in the privileged position of mapping their relationships onto post-structuralist confusion. Barthes might struggle with this idea, seeing as there is already a quiet process of ubiquitous intertextuality operating in our interpretations, but in collusion with Neuromancian rhetorics of control and empowerment we give them a point.

But what of the Gatekeepers. Where is Baudrillardian or Pynchonian paranoia reminding us of our Matrix-like existence. I’ll supply it with the question of, where do our Neuromancers fit into the marketplace? Well the book answers that quite well. They don’t—except as vigilantes (same with the crew of Nebuchadnezzar). But let’s not rely on fiction, let’s look at today. How do we monetize our webtopia? Not very successfully. Social media services aren’t incredibly empowering. Blogs are a waste of everyone’s time. The mass media machine to end all mass media machines effaces itself. Our web presence is an impotent homunculus. Yes. The new age of literacy is here, and it has swept through the internet like a perfect storm of banality.

Ok it’s time to cut this short. Moulthrop gets a couple big hits right in the jaw of Neuromancer for his points on the reluctance for capital to give up the ghost with media technologies developed by corporations. He’s also spot on with his withering comments about the new age of literacy and its resemblance to Murakami’s “Sh*tty Island”. BUT MOST OF ALL, I began by disparaging Moulthrop’s all-too predictable poo-pooing of Xanadu. And that is because he took Hype (capital ‘h’) seriously. But it was just Hype. If there ever was a Utopian online it existed simply for the marketplace. And if we believe that the Memex or the ELF or the computer is capable of re-enchanting our global community, perhaps we need to look past the sales pitch and into the potentially unfavourable reality of trying to make technology a cultural prosthetic.

At this point Baudrillard’s retention of secondary symbols as the reign of symbolic misery causes my eyes to roll in their sockets a little less than it used to.