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Technoromanticism pits itself against a hard-headed rationalism, but its most potent antagonists are contemporary pragmatism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, surrealism, and deconstruction—all of which subvert the romantic legacy and provoke new narratives of computing.
This book explores the spectrum of romantic narrative that pervades the digital age, from McLuhan's utopian vision of social reintegration by electronic communication to claims that cyberspace creates new realities. Technoromanticism pits itself against a hard-headed rationalism, but its most potent antagonists are contemporary pragmatism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, surrealism, and deconstruction--all of which subvert the romantic legacy and provoke new narratives of computing. Thus the book also serves as an introduction to the application of contemporary theory to information technology, raising issues of representation, space, time, interpretation, identity, and the real. As such, it is a companion to Coyne's Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age: From Method to Metaphor (MIT Press, 1995).
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It's no secret that contemporary culture romanticizes digital technologies. In books, articles, and movies about virtual community, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, artificial life, and other wonders of the digital age, breathless anticipation of vast and thrilling changes has become a running theme. But as Richard Coyne makes clear in Technoromanticism: Digital Narrative, Holism, and the Romance of the Real, a dense but rewarding piece of academic criticism, we also get romantic about the new technologies in a more rigorous sense of the word. Whether heralding an electronic return to village communalism or celebrating cyberspace as a realm of pure mind, today's utopian thinking about the digital, Coyne argues, essentially replays the 18th- and 19th-century cultural movement called Romanticism, with its powerful yearnings for transcendence and wholeness.
And this apparently is not a good thing. Romanticism, like the more sober Enlightenment rationalism against which it rebelled, has outlived its usefulness as a way of understanding the world, Coyne argues. And so he spends the duration of the book bombarding both the romantic and the rationalist tendencies in cyberculture with every weapon in the arsenal of 20th-century critical theory: poststructuralism, Freudianism, postmodern pragmatism, Heideggerian phenomenology, surrealism--Coyne uses each in turn to whack away at conventional wisdoms about digital tech. Whether the conventional wisdoms remain standing at the end is an open question, but Coyne's tour of the contemporary intellectual landscape is a tour de force, and never before has digital technology's place in that landscape been mapped so thoroughly. --Julian DibbellAbout the Author:
Richard Coyne is Professor and Chair of Architectural Computing at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of four other books published by the MIT Press, including The Tuning of Place: Sociable Spaces and Pervasive Digital Media.
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