TELEPRESENCE IN POPULAR CULTURE

A study of portrayals of presence

He, She and It

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ABOUT THE WORK

MEDIUM:

Novel 

YEAR:

1991 

WRITER(S):

Marge Piercy 

OWN COPY?

Yes 
 

ABOUT THE STORY

SUMMARY:

From Marge Piercy’s website: Shira Shipman is a woman who longs for the traditions of her upbringing even as she breaks from them; a woman whose life has been "shattered into bright dangerous shards" by the loss of custody of her young son. As the novel opens, she is returning to Tikva, the Jewish free town where she was raised. . . but she finds no easy respite in going home. Her part in the creation of an illegal cyborg - more nearly human than any created before, given life in order to protect the town, but truly brought to life by Shira's deep and startling involvement with it - places her, her young son and her elderly grandmother at the center of a deadly battle for information, the most important commodity of the time. If the cyborg is man-built, it is woman-programmed, and that woman has been a lifelong rebel and sexual iconoclast.As Shira's adventure unfolds, we hear, as well, a tale told in the voice of an extraordinary artist and Shipman, a feisty and sensual mystic. It is the story of a great kabbalist in Prague's Jewish ghetto in the year 1600 who, to protect the people from attack, defied the laws of the land and of nature and gave life to a golem. Interweaving these two stories, Marge Piercy creates a vast physical and emotional tapestry, playing the ancient against the futuristic, the mythical against the technological and the most fundamental relationships-child and parent, grandchild and grandparent, woman and man-against the most startling: human and that which is made by human hands.http://www.margepiercy.com/books/heSheIt.htm 

ERA/YEAR:

Distant future 

CHARACTERISTICS
OF WORLD:

From Marge Piercy’s website: The time is the middle of the twenty-first century (2059). The place is what used to be North America, now Norika: a vast toxic wasteland dotted with huge environmental domes, enclaves of the monolithic corporations-the "multis"-that have replaced governments and whose employees have become an indentured citizenry; the far fewer "free towns," independent settlements where the remarkable technology of the age has not yet been turned against the individual; and the "Glop," the overwhelmed stretches of megalopolis where nine-tenths of the Norikans live - violent, festering warrens unprotected from the poisonous atmosphere and ruled by feuding gangs and warlords.Prague’s Jewish ghetto in 1600 is as in history.http://www.margepiercy.com/books/heSheIt.htm 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE-EVOKING TECHNOLOGY
NAME:
The Net; Yod; stimmies; Malkah’s house; Joseph 
DESCRIPTION:
The Net—like today’s Internet, only one accesses by plugging in through a port in the body. One projects oneself in the Net while physically being at a terminal. Yod: A cyborg that is humanoid with enhanced strength, senses, and abilities. Stimmies: telepresence-invoking movies. Malkah’s house: the house is programmed with defense and monitoring systems. Joseph: a golem built to defend the city in the past. Made of clay. 
NATURE OF TASK OR ACTIVITY:
The Net: People work there and can also hold meetings. It operates as an additional “space” in which to exist. Yod: designed to defend and attack. Programmed and socialized with feelings and becomes Shira’s lover (after previously being Malkah’s lover). Malkah’s house: programs act as defense for inhabitants. Baby-sits Shira’s son while she is away. Joseph: defends Jewish ghetto in Prague circa 1600 
PERFORMANCE OF THE TECHNOLOGY:
The Net: exists as a space. Yod: fully functional cyborg – capable of battle, enhanced abilities in the Net, and can have sex. Develops emotions and feelings. Stimmies: gives an illusion of experience. Malkah’s house: operates very well, although seems to recognize that Yod is given special status as a humanoid cyborg as opposed to a machine/robot designed to serve humans. Joseph: very strong and adept at defending the ghetto 
 
ABOUT THE CREATORS OF THE TECHNOLOGY
DESCRIPTION:
Yod: created by Avram, socialization and emotional programming by Malkah and Shira. Stimmies: Gadi (Shira’s ex-lover and Avram’s son) is a creator of stimmies. Malkah’s house: programmed by Malkah. Joseph: created by Rabbi Judah Loew Ben Bezalel, 
MAJOR GOAL(S):
Avram created Yod as part of his research on cybernetics and to defend Tikva. Stimmies: to entertain. Joseph: created to defend Jewish ghetto of Prague 
 
ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO EXPERIENCE PRESENCE
DESCRIPTION:
People experience different forms of presence depending on the technology being encountered. 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE EXPERIENCE
TYPE(S) OF PRESENCE:
Both spatial and social presence 
DESCRIPTION:
The Net: can be mundane, but one recognizes that one’s projection into the Net is real and therefore, one can die in it. The spaces in the Net (city bases) are to be protected similarly to real spaces. Yod: intense parasocial relationships. Most treat him like a person, although Avram maintains that he is a creation, not a sentient being. Stimmies: viewer can watch or be the star of a story. Joseph: intense parasocial relationships with Chava and townspeople. 
USER AWARENESS:
The town of Tikva is initially unaware of Yod’s being a cyborg, but find out at a town meeting when Yod, Shira, Avram, and Malkah argue to consider Yod a citizen. Users are aware of being in the Net, but must consciously exit it as well. Users of the Net project themselves as they see themselves (it is possible to shape shift). In Prague, most do not know that Joseph is a golem. 
VALENCE:
Shira and Malkah experience sexual pleasure from Yod, Shira loves Yod, the people of Tikva see him as a sentient being. People enjoy stimmies. 
SPECIFIC RESPONSES:
Shira falls in love with Yod. Malkah and Shira talk to Malkah’s house like a person. 
 
ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF PRESENCE
LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES:
Both Yod and Joseph (in parallel stories) are destroyed because they are too successful at becoming sentient beings. Joseph is destroyed by his creator. Yod destroys himself and Avram to prevent more cyborgs like him from being created. Shira destroys her records of Yod's programming. 
 
AND FINALLY...
OTHER INFORMATION:
 
CODER NAME:
Byron Lee 
CODER E-MAIL:
byron.lee@temple.edu 
CODER AFFILIATION:
Temple University 
DATE CODED:
3/22/2008 

 


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