TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction Stefan Herbrechter Section One: Cultural Phenomenon “So Tonight I’m Gonna Party Like It’s 1999”: Looking Forward to The Matrix Jon Stratton Revolution in The Matrix: A Cue Call for Reflexive Sociology Kimberly Barton Enter the Matrix: Interactivity and the Logic of Digital Capitalism Christian Krug and Joachim Frenk Section Two: Virtualities Philosophy and The Matrix Chris Falzon Simulacra, Simulation and The Matrix Sven Lutzka Is There an Exit from “Virtual Reality?” Grid and Network – From Tron to The Matrix Elie During Section Three: Embodiment Technofantasies and Embodiment Don Ihde Queering The Matrix: Hacking the Digital Divide and Slashing into the Future Aimee Bahng Sexing The Matrix: Gender and Sexuality in/as Cyberfiction Rainer Emig
Section Four: Theory Matrix – The New Constitution Between Hardware, Software and Wetware Denisa Kera The Matrix Trilogy and the Triumph of Virtual Reason – Territorialized Topoi, Nomadic Lines Salah el Moncef bin Khalifa The Posthuman Subject in The Matrix Stefan Herbrechter “New Theory?” The Posthumanist Academy and the Beguilements of the Matrix Trilogy Ivan Callus Contributors
INTRODUCTION THEORY IN THE MATRIX STEFAN HERBRECHTER
The Matrix trilogy continues to split opinions widely, polarising the downright dismissive and the wildly enthusiastic. This includes reactions within academic circles and from film and cultural critics who have been all too eager to pronounce themselves on all kinds of issues relating to the Matrix.1 Significantly, some kind of uneasiness quickly surfaces in most contributions to the debate. For some it may still be a question of “serious” academics having to be apologetic about delving into “low” popular culture and indulging in some form of compromising but ultimately “immature” and therefore embarrassing “pleasure.” For others it might just be even more evidence of (cultural) theory’s or cultural studies’ weakness to take blockbuster culture – produced for quick consumption and short-term profit – too seriously. How can “serious” thinkers, even philosophers, sink so low as to find their inspiration in facile, superficial and largely incoherent, eclectic mass media franchises? Who forces them to be “cool” or even speak “cool” to get their message across to a seemingly ever more disenchanted, disconnected, radically hedonistic, intellectually ill-prepared generation of students? Is it the market? The Matrix itself? The university in ruins? Should one not rather resist or even try and reverse the trend by deliberately ignoring “populist” culture and instead return to the more “serious” stuff’? Is theory or cultural studies, in allying itself to, and in reading “culture” as a mere “way of life,” not becoming part of the problem it nevertheless seeks to describe, comment upon, analyse and even criticise? In short, is theory today (in) the Matrix? Is the increasing desire for “post-theory,” for leaving the theory, culture, science etc. wars legacies behind, not a sign that people in English and other “serious” departments are wishing for a Morpheus to turn up and offer them the red pill? Others who are not so ready to let theory slip might 1
A little note on usage: we have tried to be as consistent as possible throughout the volume in differentiating between The Matrix (the first film of the trilogy), Matrix (everything that refers to the Wachowski “brand,” e.g. the Matrix franchise, the Matrix trilogy, etc.), Matrix (the “programme,” SF “concept” or “topos”) and matrix (general usage, as in “biological matrix,” or Judith Butler’s “heterosexual matrix”).
instead be waiting for some kind of theoretical Neo to lead them in the fight against the machines. Captured in the virtual reality of theorese some may be looking for a Neo to unplug them from postmodernism,...
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