The Life and Death of Media

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Presentation Title:

  • The Life and Death of Media

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Abstract:

  • Hello, my name’s Bruce Sterling, I’m a science fiction writer from Austin, Texas. It’s very pleasant to be here in Montreal at an event like ISEA. It’s professionally pleasant. As a science fiction writer, I have a deep and abiding interest in electronic arts. In multimedia. In computer networks. In CD-ROM. In virtual reality. In the Internet. In the Information Superhighway. In cyberspace Basically, the less likely it sounds, the better I like it.

     

    These are topics that I dare not ignore. It would mean ignoring the nervous system of the information society. The laboratory of information science. The battlefield of information  warfare. The marketplace of the information economy. As well as one of the strangest areas of the art world. When Jules Verne invented science fiction, Jules Verne was a stockbroker. Almost by accident, Jules Verne discovered that nineteenth century France had a large market for techno-thrillers. Jules Verne discovered and fed the tremendous 19th-century cultural appetite for romantic, futuristic technologies like the hot-air-balloon, the electric submarine, the  airborne battleship, the moon cannon.

     

    Today, at the close of the twentieth century, I feel a great sense of solidarity with my spiritual ancestor Jules Verne when it comes to topics such as virtual reality, and telepresence, and direct links between brain and computer. Even as I stand here before you, I can scarcely restrain my natural urge to inflate some of these big shiny high-tech balloons with the hot air of the imagination.

     

    But ladies and gentlemen, I have seen this done for so long now, and for *so many times,* and to so many different technologies, that I can no longer do it myself with any sense of existential authenticity. I must confess to you quite openly and frankly that I am having a crisis of conscience.