Thursday, April 12, 2007

Stratified Net

Although Stephenson paints a very commercialized, corporate future, where everything is priviately owned; what seems to remain the same is the make up of class structure...even in the net. When Hiro visits the "Metaverse", he describes the "Brandy", "Clint" (p.37) and "black-and-white" (p.41) avatars he see on the "Street". It seems that only those with really sophisticated technology (Like Hiro) can create a truly unique, detailed "avatar". The mid-techies, ("Brandy" and "Clint") if you will, purchase their image from Wal-Mart, and the low-techies use some 'xerox machine' ( p.41) ("black-and-white")version of themselves. So, apparently while you can change your image to be anything you want on the net, people are still locked into an image they can afford. Even how you get to the street, having a "House" (p.36) or arriving at a public "port" (p.37), classifies the net user.

Is this what makes us human? Our ability to classify, objectify,and see ourselves as better than the other; in reality and in cyber-space?


Dani said...

Well I don't know, animals have some form of this. They don't have a "class" system as so to say, but something comparable. Pack animals or herd animals have a sense of social rankings based on whatever traits or health status and age. Not as complex as humans, but this ranking system is not unique; it's only unique if based on money and technology, but somewhere some hidden primal thing lies behind it.

Sarah said...

That's an interesting thing to note. But if you look at Juanita in the Metaverse, she was black-and-white with "shitty resolution." We find out that Juanita is actually very wealthy with proper technology, but uses a crappy kind of make a statement. Obviously a lot of class distinctions are made on how much money one has (and more or less technology), however, some people use such things as their wealth and technology in different ways to establish themselves in society. Also, making a statement and gaining reputation sometimes can't be bought and it depends on the person themselves, thier actions, personality, and the like, so that's something to consider as well. One more thing to note is Raven's avitar. It is also low grade and I'm not sure about his financial standing...but we know the guy has got a lot of power. How does the concept of power relate with this "class" system in the novel, if it even does, is what I'm kind of curious about.

Sean said...

Avitars seem to be one of the primary status symbols of the world of this book. they seem to play the role that cars can play today. Just like people spending above their means today in order to have the "right" car how many people in the metaverse are spending beyond their means to appear rich and powerful to the rest of the metaverse.