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A short video discussing the absorption of technology in contemporary society

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The Matrix: A Textual Analysis

This analysis explores the tropes and underlying messages within the movie The Matrix, and the proximity that contemporary society has to this alternate reality. Does this movie unfairly villainies technology and cybernetics, or is it a real danger that we should be wary of as technology evolves at an increasing speed?

 

The Matrix, written by the Wachowski brothers, is a movie set in the future in the year 2199. The narrative is based on the concept of a post-apocalyptic world that has been overrun by machines, which have created a world in which humans are used as an energy source to power the machines. To keep humans under their control, they have created an alternate reality in which the humans live in, similar to the world as it was in 1999. This alternate reality is in the form of a computer program, named the matrix. The protagonist in the story, who goes by his online hacker nickname ‘Neo’, is awoken from this alternate reality by an army who are revolting against the machines. The story explores Neo’s awakening from the false reality he has lived, into the horrifying reality of the post-apocalyptic world, and his importance in the revolt against the machines.

 

The Matrix is has incorporated the subculture of cyberpunk, which can be explained as the story of an antihero who is caught up in a post-apocalyptic and dehumanised world (Encyclopaedia of Britannica 2013). Cyberpunk can generally be described as low-life characters living in a high-tech world – and draws upon the negative and sinister affects that cybernetics could have on the world. There are many tropes within the film that display this use of cyberpunk and the negative connotations of technology that the subculture implies.

 

The technological aspect of the film is visually demonstrated with the use of the computer coding that is used numerous times throughout the film. This is a representation of the coding used to write the programme of the matrix. It is written in green on a black screen, as it would be on a computer. This colour scheme of green and black is used throughout the movie, to reinforce the technical nature, mixed with the grimy feel that is often used in cyberpunk movies. There is also a large reference to industrial metal music throughout the film, which is another collaboration of technology and metal music, which represents the grungy grimy feel to the movie. This, combined with the film noir imagery that is often used in cyberpunk movies to demonstrate the destruction of humanity and rise of technology that has occurred (Butler 2001, p. 14).

 

Because Neo has been pulled out of the Matrix and forced into the real world, he feels a connection to Morpheus, the leader of the rebellion who chose to show Neo the truth about the destruction of the earth. This confronting truth is initially difficult for Neo to comprehend, however Morpheus proves to be his support and moral compass as the movie progresses. The concept of Neo being reborn into this new reality could also suggest to the audience that Morpheus is a father figure for Neo. This ides is portrayed in the way that the humans are being produced by the machines, grown in sacks of fluid that resemble wombs. Neo is awakened by Morpheus and bursts out of his sack, with poor eyesight and muscle activity, much like a new born baby. This suggests to the audience that Neo is not only being reborn physically, but also mentally in light of this newfound reality. It is difficult for Neo to comprehend which reality is the ‘real world’, the matrix being so life like and the only thing he has ever known. This similarity depicts the blurred line between the real world and simulated world that technology is advancing towards.

 

There is also significance in the use of Neo’s name. All of Morpheus’s army go by their online alias, completely dropping the name that they have been given within the Matrix. Neo’s matrix name is only used by the ‘Agent’ – who is a machine projected into the Matrix to catch Neo and the rebels. He uses his real name ‘Andrew Anderson’ multiple times throughout the film, a generic name, reinforcing the uniformity and control that the Matrix has over humanity. 

 

The narrative continues to explore the Matrix and the machines who have managed to humanise themselves into the Matrix as a way to catch Morpheus and his army. Morpheus, under the assumption that all humans would want to overthrow the machines control and restore humanity to its organic reality, does not realise that one of his soldiers is trying to get back into the Matrix. Preferring to be complacently happy in the matrix, he makes a deal with the machines so that he can live in denial that is the Matrix once more, with no memory of his short lived taste of reality. He would prefer to live in a simulated world than deal with the horrors of the real world.

 

 Whilst there is no artificial intelligence today that has the ability to take over the world, the cybernetics that are available to people still allow some of us to escape reality. In the western world, there are people who would prefer to absorb themselves in cyberspace rather than face the real world. However, at this stage, technology does still have its limitations. People who have access to the internet use virtual reality to immerse themselves in video games, role-play, and social networking websites. However with the speed at which technology evolves, there is always the potential for this alternate reality to develop into something more powerful and potentially controlling, as portrayed in The Matrix. According to Kurzweil’s book ‘The Age of Spiritual Machines’ (198 p.388) he predicts that the future will allow us to engage in relationships with virtual personalities, computers will be able to exceed our human abilities and the lines between man and machine will be so blurred that we will appear as one. There are also philosophers who follow the theory of extropianism, which is based on the ability for humans to evolve with no limits, and with the aid of technology moving humankind into the age of cyborgs and transhumans. These philosophers state that the uploading of consciousness to an online medium is possible in the future (Harle 2002 p. 1).

 

 While there is scientific debate as to whether or not this will ever be possible, the fact that we have come such a long way in the field of cybernetics is an indication that anything is possible. The notion of cybernetics dates back to the 6th century BC, when Pythagoras first explored the mathematical modelling that would be the foundations of cybernetics (http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/timeline.htm). The first attempt at creating a cybernetic machine was in the Second World War, by Norbert Weiner, and whilst it was unsuccessful at the time it set a benchmark for further studies to come. (Hendricks, Olsen, Pedersen & Andur 2009, p. 589).  William Burroughs predicted the AIDS epidemic and plastic surgery in his novel ‘Naked Lunch’ (1959), of which things are regular part of our life in contemporary society. When he first published his ideas they seemed as incomprehensible as the ideas of uploading consciousness that sceptics disregard today. This is proof that while the idea of artificial intelligence and a virtual reality becoming part of humanity sounds impossible, anything is a possibility for the future.

 

If we do eventually grasp the ability to completely submerge ourselves into an alternate reality, would we choose to do so rather than face what we now perceive to be as the real world? A woman in Australia has been sentenced to jail for the fatal malnutrition of her twin toddlers. Recent reports in The Sunday Mail (Baskin 2013) have uncovered that to escape her severe depression and dissatisfaction with her life; she was addicted to an online game, aptly named Second Life, which she would play for days on end. A study conducted to explore the correlation between virtual relationships in this particular game and marriage break ups that found that the majority of participants viewed their online relationships as real. One quarter of participants stated that they had considered leaving their real life partner for their cyber partner (Gilbert, Murphy & Avalos 2011, p. 2039 – 2046). This is an example of the extreme negative effects that virtual reality can have on the western society, where online escapism is at our fingertips.

 

Cybernetics, and specifically transhumanism has the potential to revolutionise the world and overcome genetic and biological disadvantages that humans have, however we need to consider whether this powerful technology can be trusted in the hands of humans who by nature have moral and ethical flaws.  There is a closing gap between man and machine that may eventually morph into one, which has the potential to rob humanity of its organic nature and to be dangerous for mankind. 

 

 

References

 

http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/timeline.htm viewed September 2013.

Baskin, B. 2013, Starved twins mother’s cries for help went unheeded, The Sunday Mail, viewed September 2013 at http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/starved-twins-mother8217s-cries-for-help-went-unheeded/story-fnihsrf2-1226694819366

Burroughs, W. 1959, Naked Lunch, Grove Press, New York

Butler, Andrew M ,2000, Cyberpunk, Pocket Essentials, Chicago

Cyberpunk 2013. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 18 September, 2013, from http://www.britannica.com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/EBchecked/topic/147816/cyberpunk

Gilbert, R. Murphy, N., Ávalos, M. 2011, Realism, idealization, and potential negative impact of 3D virtual relationships, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 27, Issue 5, , Pages 2039-2046, viewed September 2013 ISSN 0747-5632, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2011.05.011.

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563211001063)

Harle, R. 2002, Cyborgs, uploading and immortality – Some serious concerns, Sophia, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 73-85

Hendricks, Vincent F. Olsen, Jan Kyrre Berg Pedersen, Stig Andur 2009, Companion to the Philosophy of Technology ,Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ, USA. viewed at http://site.ebrary.com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/lib/griffith/docDetail.action?docID=10303758&lpg=118

Kurzweil, R. 1999, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, Viking, New York

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVEUWfDHqsU

 Image

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Diigo!

In preparation for my assignment, I used an online organiser for the references that I researched.

Diigo is really helpful in regards to organising all of my references so that I can keep them in one place (which is helpful when using so many!) 

I used Diigo to organise my references as follows:

http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/timeline.htm viewed September 2013.

Baskin, B. 2013, Starved twins mother’s cries for help went unheeded, The Sunday Mail, viewed September 2013 at http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/starved-twins-mother8217s-cries-for-help-went-unheeded/story-fnihsrf2-1226694819366

Burroughs, W. 1959, Naked Lunch, Grove Press, New York

Butler, Andrew M ,2000, Cyberpunk, Pocket Essentials, Chicago

Cyberpunk 2013. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 18 September, 2013, from http://www.britannica.com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/EBchecked/topic/147816/cyberpunk

Gilbert, R. Murphy, N., Ávalos, M. 2011, Realism, idealization, and potential negative impact of 3D virtual relationships, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 27, Issue 5, , Pages 2039-2046, viewed September 2013 ISSN 0747-5632, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2011.05.011.

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563211001063)

Harle, R. 2002, Cyborgs, uploading and immortality – Some serious concerns, Sophia, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 73-85

Hendricks, Vincent F. Olsen, Jan Kyrre Berg Pedersen, Stig Andur 2009, Companion to the Philosophy of Technology ,Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ, USA. viewed at http://site.ebrary.com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/lib/griffith/docDetail.action?docID=10303758&lpg=118

Kurzweil, R. 1999, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, Viking, New York

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVEUWfDHqsU

 

https://www.diigo.com/user/alysep27

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Week 7 – Assignment topic

 I have decided to write my next assignment for this course based on topic number 7:

“Choose a cyberpunk story or movie. Compare the economic and social world it conjures with the real world today. How close is this imagined world to our world and are we moving towards the imagined world or away from it?”

I’ve been thinking I would love to structure this essay around the first movie in the Matrix trilogy. I was hoping to expand on the topic by referencing some of William Gibson’s work as well as some other sources that I can find on the topic of cyberpunk. I am going to angle this essay towards the fact that I think this is the way that society is headed not only in a technological sense, but also morally.Image
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Week 5 – Social Networks

I created a survey to collect information regarding my friends and the social networks they use:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WWRD23K

In this survey, I asked participants which social networking site they used most often, how often they used it, how many friends they had on this website, how many of them they had met in person, and finally if they would move to a different social networking website if it provided more features and capabilities.

My findings from this survey confirmed my thoughts about social media websites, particularly in the demographic that I was exploring. Seven people aged 20 – 30 completed my survey. Facebook proved to be the most commonly used social networking site by all participants in the survey. More than half of these people said that they would move to a new social networking website if it could offer better features.

This supports my viewpoint on churn in the media. My blogs have revolved around a common theme, that technology advances and morphs at lightening speed. Over the past decade we have come so far, with smart phones, iPads and wireless devices. Our communication technologies have evolved so quickly.

This also, unfortunately, means that for social networking websites – their glory can only be shortlived. I believe that as a consequence of churn- the ever evolving internet, social networking sites like Facebook will soon be on the decline, and people will be turning to the next best product available.

As consumers we grow tired of the same product quickly and are adapting to the fast paced speed at which technology advances. This combined with the bad press that Facebook has been getting in regards to privacy and the sharing of our information means that if a better products, with more capabilities and one that can offer privacy, consumers will be jumping off the Facebook bandwagon.

Sources:

Sheehan, Paul (2012) “Internet giants can earn with ease, it is churn they must fear” SMH, 7 June, page 15

boyd, danah, & Nicole Ellison (2007). “Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship“. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1).

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Week 6 – Politics and the Internet

I have a fairly strong viewpoint on Austrnalian Politics, particularly considering the upcoming election.

I think that the Vote Compass is such a great tool!

The reason that I think the Vote Compass is such a great online tool, is because so many people that I know, have no idea who they would like to vote for, or what policies each party has to offer. I am opposed to shoving my ideals down someone elses’s throat, but I do think that it is so important for someone to make an informed decision, based on facts and not on what their parents or boss has told them.

I think that if enough people use this Vote Compass, our voting system is going to be so much more accurate, with less informal vote’s being placed by people who ‘don’t care’, and more accurate votes places by people who are armed with the facts.

When it comes to censorship on the internet, I think that there is a very fine line that must be monitored. The ‘Clean-Feed’ in theory is a good idea, however it has been largely protested and has many negative sides to it. The arguments are, that not only will this filter on the internet potentially filter non-harmful websites (as there is always going to be a margin of error), but also that it is not going to tap into the area that most harmful information is distributed.

For example, most child-pornography is distributed and published on forums between peers – the clean feed will not be able to stop this. So not only are we risking our freedom of speech and giving the Government more power over our rights, but it is not even going to fully accomplish what it is supposed to.

Whilst I support the labor government fully, this is one policy that I do not agree with.

Sources: http://nocleanfeed.com/learn.html

 

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Week 4 – Cyberpunk

A History of Cyberpunk

badass-cyberpunkery

I personally find the concept of Cyberpunk really interesting. I have always enjoyed sci-fi movies , in particular the Matrix Trilogy. Something about the idea of an ‘alternate reality’ both intrigues and disturbs me a little. I think that this is because most Cyberpunk materials are based on the idea of a post apocalyptic world – one in which the remaining humans are dominated or brainwashed by technology. This is disturbing because it is something that could quite possibly happen in the future, based on the fast paced rise of technology.

I don’t believe that technology is the problem, it is more likely that something like this could happen when advanced technology gets into the wrong hands. We as humans are our own worst enemy.

 Below is a brief timeline of the history of Cyberpunk that I have created on Timetoast. I sourced a lot of this information from http://project.cyberpunk.ru/idb/timeline.html

TimelineText view

Event Date: Event Title: Event Description:
Timeline_small_square  1960 The word “cyborg” was coined by Manfred Clynes
Timeline_small_square  1976 The Ramones release first album; punk begins
Timeline_small_square  1979 First report of a robot killing a human http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-9000/first-human-to-be-killed-by-a-robot/
Timeline_small_square 1981 Sterling introduces Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” to the writer’s workshop in Austin
Timeline_small_square  1982 ‘Blade Runner’ Released
Timeline_small_square  1983 The short story “Cyberpunk” by Bruce Bethke published in Amazing Science Fiction Stories Alledgedly this is the first use of the term ‘cyberpunk’ anywhere
Timeline_small_square 1987 Robocop released
Timeline_small_square  1993 Time Magazine “Cyberpunk” cover story ‘Real’ cyberpunks outraged
Timeline_small_square  1997 US Supreme Court rules Communications Decency Act unconstitutional
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