DeepArcher and the Dreamlike Enormity of the Web

“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.

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5 Responses to DeepArcher and the Dreamlike Enormity of the Web

  1. riderphilze says:

    I found this post interesting because in another class I’m starting to embark on a project about intellectual property laws and plan to examine open source. This idea of a somehow perfect anonymity on the internet fascinates me when I know I’ve tended to use similar names across multiple spaces in cyberspace.
    It’s immensely fascinating to me that you mention hacker ethic and the “information should be free” concept, suggesting that the collaborators constructing DeepArcher act ethically toward each other with a sense of anarchic solidarity, then say that their identities are /protected/ from each other, which conversely suggests that they’re able able to work with one another, but maybe without completely trusting one another.


    • KeepCalm22 says:

      I think that the idea that people are able to work together with an anonymity that can sometimes lead to distrust is directly related to the nature of the hacker. It gives a sense of illegality to the action, an idea that what these hackers are doing is revolutionary and rebellious in some way. Hackers are often willing to compromise legal matters in order to free information. However, though they are all jointly working together to free this information, the illegal nature of their actions and their willingness to carry them out does suggest that perhaps these people have reason enough not to trust each other. However, if no one can be identified, as in the case with DeepArcher, everyone is at a level playing field whether a level of trust or not. I think that this is central to the idea of encouraging users to create, ensuring them that they are on the same level as everyone else who enters the Deep Web.


  2. shhairah says:

    What you have to say is quite interesting. I think what you are saying in regards to hacker ethic in reflection to DeepArcher and the Deep Web highlights this idea of wanting information and wanting it for everyone. In a reflective manor I think this highlights that there are people working hard to keep information locked up. I appreciate that you brought up Snowden and the NSA in regards to these questions and ideas of who should have access to what information and when. What I find interesting is how other people view this question of access to information. I’m curious on what your thoughts are. Do you think there should be free access to information or no or somewhere in between? In regards to the book specifically, I’m personally curious to see how long DeepArcher is able to stand.


    • KeepCalm22 says:

      In response to your idea that DeepArcher suggests that there are people working hard to conceal information, I think that within the novel it is a direct response to the notion that perhaps Gabriel Ice is hiding information that would be dangerous for public consumption. Is he working with the government, or connected to other countries such as those in the middle east? There are a lot of questions surrounding his character, and I think DeepArcher is a response to that.
      As for my thoughts on the Snowden/NSA issue, my opinions lie somewhere in the middle. It is questionable that NSA spying is a violation to the constitutional right to privacy. The 4th Amendment prohibits unnecessary searches and seizures of private property. Personal conversations, in turn, could be considered private property, especially those carried out via phone. The internet, however, is more of a public domain with individual private sectors, creating a gray area on what is considered private. As another point, some information may incite more harm than good if revealed to the public. The truth is, many Americans aren’t well informed, and it is unlikely that any of us will ever perfectly understand why the government does what it does, including its inner workings. Some information, if misunderstood by the public, could incite riots and disorder beyond comprehension. Also, it makes our country vulnerable to others given security threats. Personally, while Snowden’s idea seems all good in theory, I strongly disagree with his decision, as I think it puts the general welfare at more risk and harms U.S. international relations. However, the whole issue is an example of the far-reaching effects of technology on society, and illusions to such situations really help back up Pynchon’s views within the novel!


  3. You’re on the verge of doing some interesting work here, as this adequately describes the passage and some of the realities of the contemporary internet, but I cannot yet discern your argument. Expanding considerably on the last sentence would certainly have helped you here.


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