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Published:August 22nd, 2008 08:05 EST
Media Is The Masses: Better, faster, stronger

Media Is The Masses: Better, faster, stronger

By Sean Stubblefield

The word "cyberpunk" combines cybernetics (a science of communication and control theory, dealing with the interfacing or integration of computerized information technology with biology) and punk (a youth movement-- or members of-- characterized by a stringent rejection of conventional society or of common mores of social civility).


The typical cyberpunk society derives from a dramatically exaggerated extrapolation of our own tech-pervaded, tech-infatuated and tech-savvy reality, in a complex merging of computer and robotics technology with street culture. The primary theme of cyberpunk is a society saturated by dehumanizing technology, accompanied by a libertarian-ish philosophy.

 

Cyberpunk literature portrays a somewhat morbid fascination for ethically controversial and possibly dangerous effects of science--- such as genetic engineering, robotics, neurological interfaces, bio-mechanics, mind/ body implants, cosmetic surgery, bionics, cloning, designer drugs, cryogenics, artificial intelligence, plus nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry.

 

The cyberpunk subculture is signified and populated by hackers, code crackers, programmers and other computer-technology adepts; including artists, writers, musicians and designers, as well as political radicals, philosophers, and techno-fetishists.

 

Cyberpunk literature typically expresses a post-apocalyptic & dystopian attitude (although it could be utopian), as well as a trans-humanist perspective-- where individuals wish to become cybernetic organisms, as humans are enhanced or augmented with technology, frequently in the form of implants and grafts. Extensive or gratuitous body piercing and tattoos are another common feature, as a form of artistic self-expression, and societal reflection. As with steampunk, the term "cyberpunk" also applies to a visual aesthetic associated with or referring to styles of clothing, music and art. The Matrix engages a backdrop and aesthetic of cyber-punkage.

 

The central aspect in the typical cyberpunk fiction is the slow, but certain, decline of Western society brought on by a corruption of Man by machine: as we become less biologically and socially "human", in these scenarios we become less humane. It is a case of implosion... the social order collapsing under its own weight into disorder. The engine in this doomsday machinery is the crass materialistic and superficial narcissistic mentality of the Western World.

 

Cyberpunk fiction illustrates the potentially dehumanizing effects of technology and a society inundated by that tech. Man is not only surrounded by technology, but fundamentally integrated into the technology-- both literally, as with meshing Man and machine; and metaphorically, as people become exceedingly dependant on tech for daily living, and even as a life style.

Perhaps as people cease to be biologically or traditionally or historically human, usual human values lose their meaning. The cyberpunk genre is an allegory that has much to say about the implications of our own time. Both cyberpunk and steampunk serve as warnings about the future by presenting extremes of technology development and applications. Revealing a longing for a simpler or more pure and "clean" sensibility of the past, steampunk shows a positive sense of technology while cyberpunk skews negative.