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What is Cyberpunk ?

Cyberpunk is where science and technology meets society

What exactly is cyberpunk? The question seems to be continuously resurrected in cyberpunk communities without ever coming to a conclusion as to a definition. What is the point of this topic then? While it is true that cyberpunk may mean different things to different people, there certainly is a common thread. That then is what we’re after.

Cyberpunk is “low life, high tech”

The very word cyberpunk is itself a portmanteau of cybernetics, the science and technology of the system, and punk, the philosophy of rebellion against the system. Where the system intends for order, cyberpunks frequently make disorder; as they say, “the street will find its own use for things.” To understand the movement we must look past the black-and-white to see the modern world in its true shades of grey as the lines between natural and artificial, organic and mechanical, and real and virtual continue to blur.

Cyberpunk is an attitude

There seems to be a common attitude or philosophy among those attracted to cyberpunk. They often find themselves caught in the romantic struggle between themselves and the system. For some this manifests in an interest—sometimes even an obsession—with privacy and security, both online and offline. The cyberpunk notices that the world is heading in the wrong direction as the wealthy are becoming more powerful while the poor are becoming helpless, working more and earning less. As disparities grow wider, their tactics become more desperate: using the tools of the system against the system. When pushed they feel free to use anything and everything at their disposal: including hacking, deception, and intrusion. Do not fuck with us.

Cyberpunk is an awareness

In a world saturated with violently accelerating change, the cyberpunk must find herself armed with a sharp awareness of what is going on around her. Most seem to be apathetic about the philosophical implications of the uncanny technologies of the near future as the existential issues invoked by artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and the technological singularity continue to evade our collective consciousness. Advances in biological and information technologies are already radically changing our lives, but will likely only become more coercive and invasive in the future, especially with the birth of the cybernetic organism and brain–computer interface. While these technologies are not inherently malign, we would rather not see what happens when they are exclusively in the hands of the corporate elite.

Cyberpunk is a subculture

Perhaps the most clandestine aspect of cyberpunk is the ethereal subculture of hackers, phreaks, netrunners, ravers, and razor girls. It is androgynous, sophisticated, and futuristic. It cannot be restrained as it has slipped through the cracks and is now lost in the delicate balance between the analog and digital worlds, avoiding both the attention and oppression of the system. With the rise of a ubiquitous internet, “cyberculture” has begun to permeate throughout the popular culture of modern society. Meanwhile the cyberpunk subculture remains somewhat underground, though where one ends and the other begins is often difficult to discern.

Cyberpunk is a subgenre

The most accessible aspect of cyberpunk is the literary subgenre of science fiction that features a dark and gritty, yet painfully realistic vision of our near future. It essentially takes active social trends and pushes them to their logical extremes. The megacorporation now dominates as the primary influence of society, which brings about an aggregation of wealth, acceleration of environmental decay, and expansion of Asian popular culture. Urbanization sprawls as people flock to the cities, drugs and crime offer most one’s best hope of achieving happiness, and the line between human and machine begins to fade away. This culminates in the “city lights at night” aesthetic present in much of cyberpunk art. While some may enjoy—perhaps even fetish—the dystopian world presented in cyberpunk literature, most are anticipating the resistance against it. For some this fight has already begun.


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