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Major Motoko Kusanagi

Ghost in the Shell

The overarching story of the manga concerns Major Motoko Kusanagi’s hunt for a cyber-criminal, The Puppeteer (known as The Puppet Master in the film), whose real identity is unknown. The Puppeteer commits a large number of crimes by the act of breaking into and taking control of human minds known as “ghost hacking”. As the agents of Public Security Section 9 start investigate, they discover The Puppeteer is a unique autonomous artificial intelligence project known as Project 2501 created by another government agency, the Treaty Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), also known as Section 6. The Puppeteer escapes Section 6’s control in pursuit of its evolution through merging with Kusanagi. Kusanagi, although initially skeptical, finally agrees to allow the Puppeteer to merge with her own consciousness, sharing her body, in what is no doubt intended to raise even more questions about the nature of human identity in a world where human consciousness is no longer individual.

Cyberpunk is a postmodern and science fiction genre noted for its focus on “high tech and low life.”[1][2] The name was originally coined by Bruce Bethke as the title of his short story “Cyberpunk,” published in 1983.[3][4] It features advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.[5] Cyberpunk works are well situated within postmodern literature.[6]

Cyberpunk plots often center on a conflict among hackers, artificial intelligences, and megacorporations, and tend to be set in a near-future Earth, rather than the far-future settings or galactic vistas found in novels such as Isaac Asimov’s Foundation or Frank Herbert’s Dune.[7] The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but tend to be marked by extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its creators (“the street finds its own uses for things”).[8] Much of the genre’s atmosphere echoes film noir, and written works in the genre often use techniques from detective fiction.[9]

“Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body.” – Lawrence Person[10]

Social impact

Architecture and urban planning

Some real life places have been described as cyberpunk, such as Japan, the Sony Center in the Potsdamer Platz public square of Berlin, Germany, and Shanghai.

Society and counterculture

Several subcultures have been inspired by cyberpunk fiction. These include the Cyberdelic counter culture of the late 80s and early 90s. Cyberdelic, whose adherents referred to themselves as “cyberpunks,” attempted to blend the psychedelic art and drug movement with the technology of cyberculture. Early adherents included Timothy Leary, Mark Frauenfelder and R. U. Sirius. The movement largely faded following the dot-com bubble implosion of 2000.

Cybergoth is a fashion and dance subculture which draws its inspiration from cyberpunk fiction, as well as rave and gothic subcultures.

In addition, a distinct cyberpunk fashion of its own has emerged in recent years which rejects the raver and goth influences of cybergoth.

Arts and aesthetics

Literary subgenres and connected genres

As a wider variety of writers began to work with cyberpunk concepts, new sub-genres of science fiction emerged, some which could be considered as playing off the cyberpunk label, others which could be considered as legitimate explorations into newer territory. These focused on technology and its social effects in different ways. One prominent subgenre is “steampunk,” which is set in an alternate history Victorian era that combines anachronistic technology with cyberpunk’s bleak film noir world view. The term was originally coined around 1987 as a joke to describe some of the novels of Tim Powers, James P. Blaylock, and K.W. Jeter, but by the time Gibson and Sterling entered the subgenre with their collaborative novel The Difference Engine the term was being used earnestly as well.

Another subgenre is “biopunk” (cyberpunk themes dominated by biotechnology) from the early 1990s, a derivative style building on biotechnology rather than informational technology. In these stories, people are changed in some way not by mechanical means, but by genetic manipulation. Paul Di Filippo is seen as the most prominent biopunk writer, including his half-serious ribofunk. Bruce Sterling’s Shaper/Mechanist cycle is also seen as a major influence. In addition, some people consider works such as Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age to be postcyberpunk.

Music

“Much of the industrial/dance heavy ‘Cyberpunk’ – recorded in Billy Idol’s Macintosh-run studio – revolves around Idol’s theme of the common man rising up to fight against a faceless, soulless, corporate world.”

—Julie Romandetta

Some musicians and acts have been classified as cyberpunk due to their aesthetic style and musical content. Often dealing with dystopian visions of the future or biomechanical themes, some fit more squarely in the category than others. Bands whose music has been classified as cyberpunk include Psydoll, Front Line Assembly, Atari Teenage Riot and Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Some musicians not normally associated with cyberpunk have at times been inspired to create concept albums exploring such themes. Nine Inch Nails’ concept album Year Zero fits into this category. Billy Idol’s Cyberpunk drew heavily from cyberpunk literature and the cyberdelic counter culture in its creation. 1. Outside, a cyberpunk narrative fueled concept album by David Bowie, was warmly met by critics upon its release in 1995. Many musicians have also taken inspiration from specific cyberpunk works or authors, including Sonic Youth, whose albums Sister and Daydream Nation take influence from the works of Phillip K. Dick and William Gibson respectively.

Industrial music can be seen as cyberpunk, as well as various electronic body music acts. Post-Industrial group Electric Caves grabs a lot of its ideology from the cyberpunk views of Timothy Leary, specifically his book ‘Chaos and Cyberculture’. Other musicians which seem to bring forth a utopian technological take over are alt-country musician, Shooter Jennings with his release of ‘Black Ribbons’ which is a step in the area of 70’s psychedelic rock & industrial textures.

References

  1. Anonymous. (2009). What is cyberpunk? Cyberpunked: Journal of Science, Technology, & Society. Retrieved from http://www.cyberpunked.org/cyberpunk/
  2. Ketterer, David (1992). Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Indiana University Press. p. 141. ISBN 0253331226.
  3. The Etymology of “Cyberpunk”
  4. Bruce Bethke at The Cyberpunk Project
  5. Hassler, Donald M. (2008). New Boundaries in Political Science Fiction. University of South Carolina Press. pp. 75–76. ISBN 1570037361.
  6. McHale, Brian (1991). “POSTcyberMODERNpunkISM.” in Larry McCaffery, ed., Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, pp. 308–323
  7. Graham, Stephen (2004). The Cybercities Reader. Routledge. p. 389. ISBN 0415279569.
  8. Gibson, William from Burning Chrome published in 1981
  9. Gillis, Stacy (2005). The Matrix Trilogy:Cyberpunk Reloaded. Wallflower Press. p. 75. ISBN 1904764320.
  10. Notes Toward a Postcyberpunk Manifesto – Person, Lawrence first published in Nova Express issue 16, 1998, later posted to Slashdot

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