Respond to chapters 5 and 6.
Some resources that might help you make sense of Patchwork Girl
- Stitch Bitch: The Patchwork Girl (Shelley Jackson reflects on her hypertext novel)
- Patchwork Girl (a marketing page for the hypertext novel, which is sold as a commercial product by Eastgate Systems)
- Brief YouTube sample of a reader reading/accessing/using Patchwork Girl
- A different work by the same author, exploring some of the same themes: “my body: A Wunderkammer“
- Hayles presents her analysis of Patchwork Girl in the context of 18th century copyright legislation, that argued an author’s right to a work extends beyond the pages and print, so that the pages and print do not matter as much as the ideas, that only happen to be embodied in a particular book as an afterthought. Throughout her book, Hayles argues that a philosophy that sees information as being naturally free, as somehow becoming less when it is embodied in a physical form, ignores the embodied, physical act of reading. As humans, we physically interact with texts, having emotional responses that are rooted in the body. Her exploration of the fragmented body of the female “monster” illustrates her over-arching claim that even digital texts remain embodied texts, because we are embodied creatures who form emotional responses to the texts.
Resources for Cryptonomicon
- This chapter explores ownership. If you control wealth — whether in the form of gold or information — what good is that control if you cannot access it? (Think of buying a DVD, but not being able to purchase a DVD player that will play it, or not having power in your house.) If you can access wealth, what good is that access if you can’t control it?
- How does a simplified computer interface — which gives you a limited set of choices — exist on the access-control scale? What about a complex interface, such as that required by coding HTML by hand? What good is access to HTML code if you don’t actually know how to use it?
- There are passing references to an Enigma Machine, which is a real encoding device used by the Nazis in World War II. It was a mechanical device with a complicated set of gears; if you set the gears a certain way, you would get a letter-for-letter encrypted version of the message. A person with an identical machine set up in the identical way could input the encrypted message and get the original message. The only way to break the code was by rote trial and error. Once the Allied forces managed to capture an Enigma machine, they used computers to break the code. (This was one of the first heavy duty uses for these very primitive electronic computers.)
- Hayles refers to In the Beginning Was the Command Line, an essay in which Neal Stephenson advocates taking control of the technology before it takes control of you. Excerpt: “It follows that if Microsoft sells goods that are aesthetically unappealing, or that don’t work very well, it does not mean that they are (respectively) philistines or half-wits. It is because Microsoft’s excellent management has figured out that they can make more money for their stockholders by releasing stuff with obvious, known imperfections than they can by making it beautiful or bug-free. This is annoying, but (in the end) not half so annoying as watching Apple inscrutably and relentlessly destroy itself.”
- “Through the complex enactment of linking structures, both within the text and within the distributed cognitive environment in which the text is read, Patchwork Girl brings into view what was suppressed in eighteenth-century debates over copyright.” (Hayles sees those debates as profoundly gendered, with the assumption that a male author would privilege texts that aim for lofty, abstract goals, while such mundane things as making money or touching the emotions would be the realm of the feminine… thus, a masculine form of writing aims to erase the body, while a feminine form would emphasize the limitations and possibilities of the body.)