Informational Infection and Hygiene in Snow Crash, by N. K. Hayles. / by HIGHWAY101

Informational Infection and Hygiene in Snow Crash


"The world that Snow Crash depicts-part virtual, part real-is driven by a single overpowering metaphor: humans are computers. The metaphor underwrites the novel's central premise: that a computer virus can also infect humans, acting at once as an infection, a hallucinogen, and a religion "Snow crash' is computer lingo. It means a system crash -a bug- at such a fundamental level that it frags the part of the computer that controls the electron beam in the monitor, making it spray wildly across the screen, turning the perfect gridwork of pixels into a gyrating blizzard" ( SC pp. 39--40). Disrupting the "perfect gridwork" of a late capitalist America where commerce has almost entirely displaced government, snow crash, signifies the eruption of chaos into this informatted world. As if in response to the cybernetic models of the brain, Neal Stephenson reasons that there must exist in humans a basic programming level, comparable to machine· code in computers, at which free will and autonomy are no more in play than they are for core memory running a program. Whereas Galatea 2.2 traces the recursive evolution of consciousness rising up from this basic level, Snow Crash depicts the violent stripping away of consciousness when humans crash back down to the basic level. Just as inscription and incorporation diverge for Helen as she gains consciousness, so in Snow Crash, they converge when humans lose consciousness. (...)" 

N.K. Hayles in How we became Posthuman, University of Chicago Press, 1999. 

See also

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