“She’s lost. There is no map. It isn’t like being lost in any of the romantic tourist destinations back in meatspace. Serendipities here are unlikely to be in the cards, only a feeling she recognizes from dreams, a sense of something not necessarily pleasant about to happen. She senses dope smoke in the air and Vyrva at her shoulder with coffee in her mug that reads I BELIEVE YOU HAVE MY STAPLER. “Holy shit. What time is it?” (Bleeding Edge, p. 77)
Pynchon’s passage describing Maxine’s thoughts shows how fully enveloping the DeepArcher program is, completely absorbing her into the digital world. DeepArcher is a computer program without direction, in which the user creates his or her own rules, building and using the program at will with no set direction. This particular piece describes the point made later in the novel about the Deep Web. Once people go into the Deep Web, it is almost impossible to get them out. The ending of this passage in particular helps reinforce this point, clearly showing Maxine’s shock at the passage of time since she first entered the program. DeepArcher completely absorbs her, drawing her in and fascinating her to the point where hours feel like brief moments in time. In general, the passage takes on a very dream-like state, with ethereal and flowing sentences until Vyrva interrupts Maxine with the time of night. Particularly, I felt this section exemplified the endless possibilities that technology and the web can accomplish. The web is an endless space with no boundaries, waiting to be filled with information and having the ability to control and manipulate at the same time. Primarily, this passage reflects the massiveness of the Internet and its all-encompassing, advancing presence in modern society.
Maxine’s interpretation of the DeepArcher program correlates with the idea of the “hacker ethic” that we discussed in class. DeepArcher is a program in which people can enter anonymously, build projects, and leave their own mark on the web while remaining virtually unseen. The programming system that DeepArcher uses utilizes the Deep Web in a way that users are not constantly being watched or monitored. The dreamlike state of the piece above reflects this, depicting the system as an escape from society’s constant surveillance. Pynchon not only tackles the incredible advancement of the internet and technology in this piece, but also predicts ideas of government surveillance that are common today, such as the Snowden/ NSA scandal that brings up questions regarding government investigation into the private lives of citizens. DeepArcher is an escape from this, forgetting where users have been as soon as they leave, their digital footprints untraceable and only leaving finished products behind. The program is a place that is accessible to all users, a place where one can see other’s work but not know who completed what, creating an environment in which people anonymously build off of each others work and explore the Deep Web. In hacker ethic, this is the idea that “information should be free.” Users can access all the information left behind by others and build off of it themselves, but the identities of previous builders remain protected. DeepArcher is a world in which uses are masters of their own destinies and safe from outside influence.
Overall, I believe the dreamlike structure of the passage followed by interruption accurately describes the nature of the Internet, in this case Deep Web and the DeepArcher program. Pynchon addresses issues of hacker ethic and concealing information, along with predicting future issues of government surveillance. The fact that DeepArcher is an escape form these issues not only describes how easily the internet can draw an individual inside, but also the incredible advancement of technology during the era in which the novel was written. Overall, I believe that Pynchon does not see technology as a negative, but proceeds with caution and is fully aware of the possibilities that it opens to society.