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Justification and illustration of “the fact that they are still within the computer-generated Construct” after the camera zooms through the television into what Morpheus calls the Desert of the Real:

00:32-00:44 in embedded video:

One way to discern that their experience of the desert is, in fact, digitally mediated and still a simulation within the Construct is to focus on the depiction of Neo’s body. The ultimate question being, do their bodies remain “residual self-images”?[1] It is relatively clear upon closer observation that his appearance constitutes residual self-image. The film connotes Neo’s “real world” body by depicting altered physical qualities like muscular dystrophy, scars along his spine and a lack of hair on his body. It is precisely these qualities that Neo lacks in the depicted Desert of the Real and the white landscape of the Construct alike (refer to Figure 1 and 2). That is to say, Neo does not appear to have the weak body of an organic being whose entire physical existence has been confined to a small liquid pod (see figure 2), in which his entire experience of consciousness has been limited to a computer-generated neural-interactive simulation. It must follow then that the two have not somehow left the digital realm of the NIS. What appears in this scene to be an uncanny transition from the digital white landscape of the Construct—something akin to a mute facticity of space (to re-appropriate Judith Butler’s term)—to the Desert of the Real, is actually just a simulation. It depicts precisely the digital inscription of post-apocalyptic conditions onto the mute facticity of space (refer to Figure 1 then 2). But having determined that the so-called Desert of the Real is in fact a simulation, we run into a thought-provoking tension.

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Figure 1

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Figure 2

 

[1] Morpheus defines “residual self-image” as “the mental projection of your digital self.”