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At the Richard Dawkins wobsite, we are presented with this lucid remark from Dawkins himself:

You can buy any number of books on ‘quantum healing’, not to mention quantum psychology, quantum responsibility, quantum morality, quantum aesthetics, quantum immortality and quantum theology. I haven’t found a book on quantum feminism, quantum financial management or Afro-quantum theory, but give it time.

A Devil’s Chaplain (p. 147)

Unfortunately, it looks like enough time has been given.

Connectivity has been called the genius of feminism by theorist Robin Morgan (53), and this genius is being realized in electronic spaces and texts in more complex ways than in any other medium to date. Connectivity’s key position in the quantum feminist universe is reaffirmed by VNS Matrix’s choice of the image of the matrix–the cosmic womb–as its symbol as much as by the OBN defining its local chapters as “nodes” that “collide, disintegrate, regenerate, engage, disembody, reform, collapse, renew, abandon, revise, revitalize and expand” (OBN FAQ 7). These structural and mechanical concerns are not accidental. Quantum feminisms do not inhabit a network; they are the network of feminist discourse in virtual space. In the archival text, this dynamic connectivity, interconnection and disconnection is both narratological structure and the means of navigation in space and time. The lurch and the jump of a browser’s deterritorialized journey through a hyperlinked text simultaneously problematizes connectivity, perspective and the nature of multidimensional space even as it explores them. The tendency is always to speak of and visualize the tangible rather than what lies in between joining one artifact, page, or space to the next. Carolyn Guyer dubs this no-place between screens a “buzz-daze state,” that is a feeling of dis/orientation in “being split among places” (n.p.). Luce Irigaray has asked, “What do we call a gap that is full?” (qtd in Joyce, 1995, 207) and in the webbed space of hyperlinked fiction the pregnant gaps between the nodes are at least as important as the textual nodes themselves. The nodes exist in conjunction with the dynamic space of the journey and cannot be discussed in isolation. This information gap can only be travelled through and never visited directly because it is the interpolation of space and nonspace. It is mnemonic space: the fleeting space between the moment of remembering and forgetting. This is not the white space of the printed page, but instead the full, noisy gap of the cyberspatial leap through sensual and perceptual space. These gaps are felt, not seen.

Ah, the “pregnant gaps between the nodes”. . . yes, that gap between a URL and its target out of which is born headless cyber-fetuses, bastard offspring of </a> and <a href>. I actually took some classes on hypertext fiction, luckily enough. To summarize, back in the late 1980s a bunch of lit-crit types got really excited about what computers could do to fiction. By breaking up a story into lots of little pieces and making the reader click through them, you could disassemble the stodgy old linear order of narration and move into a brave new p*r*d*gm of, er, nonlinearity, deconstructing the division between author and reader, creator and consumer.

Of course, none of that actually happened, and the list of canonical hypertext works basically stops after Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, Michael Joyce’s Afternoon and Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden. In order to have anything to talk about, hypertext theorists have to go back to Borges and Pynchon. It’s interesting to look at the history of such things and figure out why they didn’t become what they were promised to be. . . however, in the seamy underworld of quantum feminism, the fact that the ideas didn’t pan out doesn’t matter at all! The mere fact of their publication suffices.

I keep finding people online who invoke the word quantum as a kind of mantra to justify freewheeling nonsense. It gets to me, after a while.

I wonder: how do people who rhapsodize over the “deterritorialized journey” through the Network square their thinking with the plentiful evidence that people on that Network still manage to be misogynist, violently bigoted, duplicitous liars?

5 Comments

  1. The lurch and the jump of a browser’s deterritorialized journey through a hyperlinked text simultaneously problematizes connectivity, perspective and the nature of multidimensional space even as it explores them.

    Ok, this is clearly just bullshit at this point. I mean, even more clearly than the rest of it. None of these words have any actual meaning, and put together they mean even less. You’d have to drink a lot of The Kool-Aid to believe otherwise.

  2. OH GOD IT GETS WORSE

  3. Are you sure that quoted text isn’t just spam you forgot to delete?

  4. Mollishka,

    Actually, the writer of that text showed up at the Richard Dawkins wobsite forum to defend herself! I quote:

    I tried to post this several days ago, but seem to have been blocked. The conspiracy theorist types who are in such abundance here will find significance in that, I’m sure.

    Yes, I expect a few pages cut and pasted from the middle of any 600-page work, even a work by the illustrious Mr Dawkins himself, would become cryptic when cited out of context to people working in another field. No literary scholar would undertake such a decontextualized analysis; clearly the standards are considerably lower in the sciences. Why bother to read the 300 odd pages that precede this section set out to establish the framework for these same complex concepts as they apply to three particular examples of digital narrative when you can leap to outrageous conclusions? Do I really need to point out that this was a dissertation written for specialists working in my field and not a work for general publication? If it were the latter, it would indeed be a different text and worthy of critique—although not this kind. What any of this has to do with the frequency of my sexual activity is a mystery.

    Imagine my surprise when I had to agree to these terms to join your elite group:
    “You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening, sexually-oriented or any other material that may violate any applicable laws. Doing so may lead to you being immediately and permanently banned (and your service provider being informed). The IP address of all posts is recorded to aid in enforcing these conditions. You agree that the webmaster, administrator and moderators of this forum have the right to remove, edit, move or close any topic at any time should they see fit. … By clicking Register below you agree to be bound by these conditions.”

    No doubt Mr Dawkins will be saddened to see so many ‘enlightened’ minds get the boot from his list. I thought scientists were supposed to be impartial. How pathetic.

    My thanks to those of you who were willing to look deeper.

    Carolyn Guertin
    Director, eCreate Lab
    Department of English
    University of Texas

    P.S. Lots of people initially said Marshall McLuhan was a crackpot too, but to have the website of the most celebrated research unit at the University of Toronto declared a hoax! That’s really funny.

    You can judge for yourself the depth of this reply. Personally, I am reminded of a couple bits of free-floating wisdom from the memetic sea. First is the old adage, “They laughed at Einstein, they laughed at the Wright Brothers — but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” Second is a line from Kurt Vonnegut, or Kilgore Trout to be more precise. My copy of Breakfast of Champions is on the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon to be any use right now, but the passage goes roughly like this:

    Having been asked to be guest of honor at the Midland City Arts Festival, prolific yet morose writer Kilgore Trout finds himself rather at a loss. Worse yet, he’s expected to speak at a panel which is purported to investigate the “role of the novel in the age of McLuhan”, or some such. Now, almost everything Trout has ever written has been published in pornographic magazines, stuck there by the publishers to provide a little filler between the lurid, formulaic photographs.

    So, Trout finds himself wondering what he can possibly say to the people attending the Arts Festival. He decides to explain what it’s like to spend the night in a movie theater, after which he will ask, “I don’t know who this McLuhan person is, but what does he have to say about the relationship between wide-open beavers and the sales of books?”

    By the way, Mollishka (if that is your real name), it looks like it looks like our paths have crossed before.

  5. The worst crackpots are the ones who don’t seem crackpotty all of the time.

    And, yes, Blake, our paths have crossed before. You’re a memorable one, and I’m glad you’ve finally gotten your own blog. And, no, mollishka is not my real name. I’d prefer for a Google search of my Real Name to lead to science instead of the blagosphere, see.