Kokaku Kidotai (Ghost in the Shell, Japan 1995, 83 mins)

Dir: Mamoru Oshii Scr: Kazunori Itô, Masamune Shirow (comic) Mus: Kenji Kawai Photography: Hisao ShiraiEd: Shuichi Kakesu Art dir: Hiromasa Ogura Special effects: Mutsu Murakami

* * *

Bodies are a dime a dozen, we’ll get another one from Megatech.

– Nakamura; Chief of Security. Police Section 6, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Treaty Ratification Division.

Perhaps the hypertext mark-up language (HTML), the textual information environment of the [compu]telematically enabled globeª2000, would be a more appropriate medium to navigate Ghost in the Shell‘s complexity. The omni-reference to information networking within Ghost (first released in 1996) would meld seamlessly within contemporary internet cultural/economic information gathering and provision systems. If a reader were to be reliant on computer technology and an HTML environment, a parallel sympathy may arise toward the film’s prescripted manga dataset/situation, where characters Batou and Major Motoko Kusanagi have their (compu)telematically enabled body/shell and soul/ghost owned by the Security Police Department.

The shell of this annotation consists of a series of text nodes, direct textual feed-back (not necessarily the view of the author) from the cinematic experience of Ghost. If this feed-back were allowed to continue until it penetrated the fictional information network enveloping the characters of the film, fragments of this annotation would become accessible to the characters of the film, the annotation shell has been written as if this is the case. A mirror of memory/data with which the characters could use in part to create elements of themselves or to doubt the text’s informative existence/script…

Hacking is no longer limited to computer information networks. Augmenting human body parts with robotic networked interfaces has enabled hackers to program cyborg hosts. These scriptable sub-humans can now be instructed to perform physical tasks in the real world.

Recipients of cutting edge human interface designs will be able to smooth data disparities between computer networks and the real world. As real world interfacing propagates, the control networked individuals have over the real world will increase. Law enforcement/criminal activity dualisms will labour upon these cutting edge designs.

Telepathy can now be purchased. By uploading and translating speech information into encrypted channels section 9 can speak privately to one another from remote locations. “Psychic Awareness” can be simulated by cryptography, that is, an individual’s awareness is inherently linked to their institutional information technology resources and temporal bandwidth.

A Ghost is a Soul. Ghosts may be copied. But an original Ghost’s origin has been traditionally rationalised as being a dataset from the recombination of biological shell structures, or the memory stored in discrete units such as DNA. Digital networks are challenging traditional ideologies on genesis. Can encoded network memory create a ghost?

Ratios of flesh: machinery form complex social hierarchies. A type of post-human racialisation occurs between humans and cyborgs. Are human brains easier to hack than cybernetically augmented brains? Would the clarity of a cybernetically augmented brain choose to revert to its human physiological past? Is genetic biodiversity in humans a superior form of intelligence to that of cyborg mechanical and synthetic neural implants?

As the flesh-machinery ratio tips toward the mechanic in an individual, bias toward cybernetic natural selection instead of species specific genetic encoding is probable.

The shell is a term engineered to accommodate post-human and human body forms. Titanium and the cellular epidermis.

[Cyberpunk fiction] is…posthumanism with a vengence, a posthumanism which, in its representation of “monsters”-hopefully or otherwise-produced by the interface of the human and the machine, radically decenters the human body, the sacred icon of the essential self, in the same way that virtual reality of cyberspace works to decenter conventional humanist notions of an unproblematical real.

Veronica Hollinger, ‘Cybernetic Deconstructions’

Simulated experience technologies challenge traditional humanist modes of memory and therefore modes of reality. If an individual has a hacked brain and undergoes a simulated experience whilst in a physically conscious state, simultaneous fantasy and reality occur. The event did not occur at all in the real world, however it is not a delusion on the part of the individual, it is a real program running inside the hacked brain, being executed by a shell in the real world.

About The Author

Jordan Wynnychuk is an electronic media artist: http://ioreq.hm.

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