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Outlaws and SpiesLegal Exclusion in Law and Literature$
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Conor McCarthy

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474455930

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474455930.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Contesting the Virtual: William Gibson

Contesting the Virtual: William Gibson

(p.182) 7 Contesting the Virtual: William Gibson
Outlaws and Spies

Conor McCarthy

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter turns to discuss the contest for the virtual in the twenty-first century as represented in the fiction of William Gibson. In Gibson's earlier speculative fictions of the near-to-distant future, power largely means corporate power, following the posited decline of the nation-state; more recent work, set in the approximate present, place the intelligence agencies in play alongside international corporate interests. In opposition to such power, we find various marginal communities and oppositional groups who occupy outlaw spaces, both real and virtual, with Gibson's protagonists usually occupying an ambivalent position between the powerful and their opponents. The discussion examines Gibson’s contrasting of the Borgesian Aleph (a virtual universe of infinite potential), and Bentham's Panopticon (a virtual prison of total surveillance). It uses the dialectic between these two to ask questions of the contest for the virtual that currently occupies us as we balance the emergence of a potential information utopia against the simultaneous rise of the surveillance state.

Keywords:   William Gibson, Surveillance, Jeremy Bentham, Panopticon, Jorge Luis Borges, Aleph, Outlaws, Spies

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