Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century

Mark Dery, Author
Mark Dery, Author Grove/Atlantic $23 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1580-5
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
Paperback - 376 pages - 978-0-8021-3520-9
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Freelance cultural critic Dery takes readers on a strange, unsettling, often provocative tour through fringe computer subcultures. We meet cyber-hippies and ``technopagans'' who use the personal computer in New Age mystical rituals via echomail, a technology that links discussion groups into a communal conference. California roboticist Mark Pauline stages spectacles in which robots and humans are menaced by heavy machinery or remote-controlled weaponry, while Chico MacMurtrie's puppet-like robot musicians, acrobats and warriors enact ecotopian dramas. Australian cybernetic body artist Stelarc, plastered with electrodes and trailing wires, embodies the human/machine hybrid all of us are metaphorically becoming. Dery also profiles online swingers hooked on virtual sex, cyberpunk rockers, cyberpunk novelist William Gibson and D.A. Therrien's performance ensemble Comfort/ Control, which dramatizes popular anxieties over the autonomy of intelligent machines and the nightmare of humanity's obsolescence. Dery closes this adventurous inquiry with an appraisal of the ``posthumanist'' visions of novelist William Burroughs, techno-mystical SF author Vernor Vinge and Carnegie-Mellon roboticist Hans Moravec. Illustrated. (Feb.)
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