Notes and Works Cited

1. I'm grateful to Mike Heferning in Sprint's Kansas City office for having furnished me with a VHS copy of the spot.

2. For a contemporary popularized account of "giant mechanical brains," see Edmund Berkeley, Giant Brains: or, Machines That Think (New York: Wiley, 1950). The non-technical secondary literature that has since accumulated around information theory is rich, diverse, and extensive. Some starting points: The definitive historical narrative of the field is Steve J. Heims's The Cybernetics Group (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991). See also Heims's biography of two key figures, John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener: From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1980). The literary critic N. Katherine Hayles has written a series of essays that serve as excellent introductions to information science and its bearings on other contemporary cultural and intellectual developments; see "Text out of Context: Situating Postmodernism Within an Information Society," in Discourse 9 (Spring-Summer 1987): 24-36; "The Materiality of Informatics," in Configurations 1.1 (1992): 147-170; and especially, "Boundary Disputes: Homeostasis, Reflexivity, and the Foundations of Cybernetics," in Virtual Realities and Their Discontents, ed. Robert Markeley (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1996): 11-37. Don Byrd, in his The Poetics of the Common Knowledge (Albany: SUNY Press, 1994), offers up a unique synthesis of information theory, innovations in post-War American poetry, and the broad-based epistemological implications of cybernetics and what he terms "statistical reality."

3. Interestingly, according to the FAQ (frequently asked questions), the character's kinetic head and shoulders were not computer generated but rather shot simply by using "a heavily made up Matt Frewer, with some video effects for the stutter, against a blue screen." Though computer generated graphics were used for special effects elsewhere in the series, the show's iconic image (Max's twitching head) offers an instance of an electronic aesthetic rendered by analog production methods. (See for the FAQ.)

4. See for example Larry McCaffery's "Interview with William Gibson," in the Mississippi Review 16.2-3, also available online:

5. Compare the above excerpt from Tron's screenplay to the cognitive vertigo evoked in this brief passage near the end of Gibson's novel: "But all of this receding, as the cityscape recedes: city as Chiba, as the ranked data of Tessier-Ashpool S.A., as the roads and crossroads scribed on the face of a microchip, the sweat-stained pattern on a folded, knot . . ." (262).

6. It is instructive to compare and contrast the illustrations depicting "cyberspace" in the Benedikt volume to the screenshots of exemplary Web sites in a work such as Web-design guru David Siegel's widely read Creating Killer Web Sites: The Art of Third-Generation Site Design (Hayden Books, 1996).

7. See Richard A. Lanham, The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology and the Arts. (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993). esp. 4-7.

8. For a retrospective of graphic design at Cranbrook, see Hugh Aldersey-Williams, et al., Cranbrook Design: The New Discourse (New York: Rizzoli, 1990); for a discussion of punk-rock graphic design, see Teal Triggs, "Typo-Anarchy: A New Look at the Fanzine Revolution," Emigre 48: 12-20.

9. For more on Emigre magazine and its influence on digital typography, see Rudy VanderLans, et al., Emigre (The Book): Graphic Design Into the Digital Realm (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993).

10. In fact, Emperor, Oakland, and other of Licko's early Emigre bitmap fonts were to remain the basis for a number of her later PostScript designs.

11. For an initial reference to Hofstadter's work, I am indebted to D.C. Greetham's excellent essay "Is It Morphin Time?", the Coda to the (equally excellent) collection Electronic Text: Investigations in Method and Theory, ed. Kathryn Sutherland (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997): 199-224.

12. See Paul N. Edwards, The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996).

13. Other examples of popular films about virtual reality in which dynamics of inference and direct observation are central would include Brainstorm [1983], The Lawnmower Man [1992], and Strange Days [1995].)

14. From Symbolic Exchange and Death, as printed in Baudrillard's Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1988). See Poster's introduction to the volume for an overview of Baudrillard's thought.

15. JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, a recognized international standard (ISO 10918). Other abbreviations used in this paragraph: GIF is the Graphical Image Format, originally developed by CompuServe. TIFF is the Tagged Image File Format, also a recognized standard. For technical documentation of JPEG and other data formats, see the JPEG FAQ at

16. For more on fractal and wavelet compression, see the FAQ at and also the introductory material on wavelets at

17. This phenomenon is regularly the subject of articles and opinion pieces in the popular press; for example, a piece that ran in August of 1998 in the London Independent headlines with "The 'Sun' did it. Stalin did it. This is how simple it is to retouch history." (The "Sun" reference is to the British tabloid, which used digital image processing to excise a wheelchair-bound player from a published photograph of the national cricket team.) Proposals are under consideration to create an international symbol for denoting images that have been electronically altered.

18. The best starting point by far is William J. Mitchell's The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992). This gorgeously illustrated volume offers both a survey of the current state of the art in digital imaging and three-dimensional modeling, as well as consistently thoughtful discussions of the broad-based cultural import of the new technologies.

19. This statement by Cokie Roberts is quoted in Simon Chesterman, "Ordering the New World: Violence and its Re/Presentation in the Gulf War and Beyond." Postmodern Culture 8.3.

Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. Selected Writings. Ed. Mark Poster. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1988.

Benedikt, Micahel, ed. Cyberspace: First Steps. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1991.

Brown, Judith R., et al. Visualization: Using Computer Graphics to Explore Data and Present Information. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1995.

Chesterman, Simon. "Ordering the New World: Violence and its Re/Presentation in the Gulf War and Beyond." Postmodern Culture 8.3: <>.

Delillo, Don. Underworld. New York: Scribner, 1997.

"Handshake." SQBG-8063.Videocassette. Sprint Business, 1998.

Hofstadter, Douglas. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. New York: Basic Books, 1995.

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books, 1984.

Lanham, Richard A. The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology and the Arts. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993.

Lesk, Michael. "How Much Information is There in the World?"<>.

Mitchell, William J. The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992.

Negroponte, Nicholas. Being Digital. New York: Knopf, 1995.

Shannon, Claude and Warren Weaver. The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Urbana, IL: The U of Illinois P, 1949.

Stone, Allucquère Rosanne. The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1995.

Tron. Screenplay by Charlie Hass. Fourth Draft. Disney, 1981. <>

VanderLans, Rudy, et al., Emigre (The Book): Graphic Design Into the Digital Realm. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993.

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