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Mar 11
Zach, Richard Lau and Jpalms13@googlewave.com:
    Cyberpunk: World

    This wave serves as a brainstorming space and archive of "background story" ideas for our Cyberpunk web series. Feel free to post any general story ideas or thoughts on the fictional world of the series, including possible virtual spaces. More visual or "technological" ideas should be posted here: Design






    "Real World" Settings, History, etc.


    Contaminated Zones (Biological? Radiological?)


    Corrupted Zones- data passing through gets corrupted in unexpected ways. When inside, all outside spaces are corrupted in some way. When outside, data inside is masked and inaccessible. Thus those who wish to hide their virtual activities can do so within these corrupted zones.

    The Cyberpunk Series takes place in an overlap between a Contaminated Zone and a Corrupted Zone, somewhere on the West Coast of the U.S.


    Mar 7
    Zach:
      Notes from Blair, from our 2-26-10 meeting

    • Approx. 50 years in the future in the US
    • Biological/ radiological weapons contaminated areas around the world, which are obviously harmful to occupy.
    • A networked/ computerized society – with a virtual (metaphysical) world and a physical world (along the lines of the Matrix or Ghost In the Shell, kinda)
    • But there are “corrupted” areas of the virtual world – trying to get into corrupted areas from outside cause data to be corrupted or broken up. To use any of the data in the corrupted area, you have to physically/ biologically go to the area where the data was originally put up. – might need to be more detailed about it – further brainstorming?
    • Anyway, occasionally/coincidentally some of the physically corrupted areas overlap the virtual corrupted areas – which I am going to call corrupted cause short hands easier. And it is in one of these that the series will be set.
    • People go to corrupted areas to hide, find, trade data – all manner of secrets. Generally shifty areas similar to pirate coves or the canteen in Star Wars.
    • Also, virtual worlds, being virtual, can be anything- a 1950s garage, a medieval tower, a jetsons type night club. And things in the virtual world can actually be/represent data/information – kind of like a folder with in a folder. Ex: In the 1950s garage, a wrench could be some secret information. Also, different severs or urls or websites in the virtual world have their own rules and function and people (I’m thinking something similar to the manga/anime Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicals)
    • Episodes will be separate but connected in an overall story arc and overall theme kind of way
    • One group in our corrupted areas could be really sick people hoping for radiological treatment – probably really desperate, because medical treatment is more advanced.
    • Law enforcement –regulated by government? Possible separate branches for virtual and physical world – lack of communication between two. And, because corrupted2 areas are so hard to exist in and less populated, there’s little law enforcement in the area – either like an old west film with 1 sheriff, or a rotating agent who comes by once a week to check shit out. So, what happens when some serious shit goes down – who solves the crime/figures it out/ takes in the bad dude?
    • So, corrupted areas are coincidental, and end up being really secure. Then a government agency or a private company wants to artificially make one for their own use. But this requires the radiation, so bad stuff ensues?
    • Addictions – addictions to going through virtually corrupted areas, to staying in virtual world, or other.
    • Cults – who believe in radiation, or that interne is going to kill them all, etc.
    • Buildings in corrupted areas could be small, with metal nailed to inside to keep radiation out.
    • Should be slang/ phrases about virtual world and radiation.
    • Virtual commodities – people whose entire life is online – work is entirely virtual, payment is virtual, except where person sleeps and eats, everything in life is virtual.
    • Maybe time goes differently in virtual world – slower or faster – kind of like how you can be on internet for hours for a long time and not realize it – so virtually, you think you’ve spent 5 hours at a site, but you come back to physical world and it’s only been 1 hour. Non linear time stream.
    • Chekhov’s gun – idea that if there’s a gun in the beginning of the play on the mantel piece, by the third act it should be pointed at some one. So, mundane objects are not all that mundane – everything needs to have a purpose. Inspiration – Memento, Sleuth. See objects or hear things early on that don’t seem important, but end up being extremely important. Cyclical.
    Mar 14
    Richard Lau:
      Question: how established is higher education in our world. I ask because our protagonist for the first episode is a grad student.
    Mar 19
    Zach:
      Good question. What do you all think? My own guess is that higher education will continue to expand its range, and yet get ever more watered down... Also, I imagine that in our world there will be more and more people "opting out" of the system. For instance, many of those in the zone will likely be private, anti-social types, some of which might also be anti-education. Your further thoughts are welcome!
    Mar 25
    Richard Lau:
      I could see a society that has to deal with these problems (biohazards right at their backyard so to speak) may end up focusing on practical skills, and there being an increased prestige for trade skills.

      Maybe our heroine could be some sort of apprentice rather than a grad student in our publically funded university sense of the word. It would place her at a similar role in society and a similar level of physical and emotional maturity: an adult, but really just starting out.
    Mar 29
    Zach:
      Yes. What would be an interesting (thematically, but not necessarily "exciting") vocational skill?
    Mar 29
    Cricket:
      In the real world or not?
    Mar 29
    Zach:
      The real world.
    Mar 29
    Cricket:
      If it was in the real world, it might be something practical. I liked the idea of a mechanic, but with a twist, maybe specifically power sources? Maybe there are a lot and they aren’t necessarily compatible. Talk about important/useful skill to bring to a community/be able to use. Think about how many different kinds of chargers for cell phones there are, that kind of concept. But on a larger scale. Are batteries obsolete? Or were they made obsolete by a discovery of another device?
    Mar 30
    Nightcrow35@googlewave.com:
      Going along with the mechanic idea, perhaps a maintenance worker, whose job it is to fix the infrastructure of this network when part of it gets corrupted. they could also be people who reinforce their shelters/buildings from radiation. can this radiation be part of the reason why these places are corrupted? if so, they'd be in effect protecting information.

      hmm, or to think the opposite of this, a wrecker. are there places that are particularly harmful that the government would want people to keep out, so that they would resort to destroying these places?

      if these corrupted places are physically destroyed, the information there would be lost or inaccessible. which leads to someone from the underground whose job it is to retrieve bits and pieces of information. For some reason, I think of dumpster diving, but I think that's too obvious..it's not exactly a job either, but someone in the corrupted zone has to be desperate enough to do it.

      Hmm, and now it brings up questions in my mind about waste disposal or the impact of pollution of this time period. Would a normal every day street be polluted in the real world?
    Apr 3
    Zach:
      I posted on this yesterday, but it seems to be gone now... I'll just say again that I like all three ideas:
      1. insfrastructure worker (though probably a volunteer)
      2. Government wrecker
      3. Data extractor




    Possible Virtual Spaces



    Mar 5
    Richard Lau:

      A few virtual spaces; simple realistic, yet with the capacity for the disorienting disquieting and surreal.

    • Hospitals - A clean white room with a cot and a curtain. Can we get a dentist chair? Should we put bloom on the camera/ turn up saturation to create an artificial sense of sterilization.
    • The Suburbs - uniform buildings, its creepy. Think of the movie "Stepford Wives" or "Pleasantville"
    Mar 5
    Tiffany.n.huynh@googlewave.com:
      A possible virtual space I was thinking of was like an empty classroom or empty hallway. Like in the new SSMS building, at night, it's really creepy to walk down the brightly lit hallways alone. Since it's new, everything is pretty empty, a little unsettling.
    Mar 5
    Michelle:
      Oooh, yeah. What about Building 387 etc. over by Psychology? There's these steep stairs and it's very shady and run down. A couple of us were out at night looking for our classes first quarter and ended up there--scary shit when it's midnight and the door's unlocked for no particular reason and there's no good lighting except for some broken lamps and the like haha
    Mar 5
    Zach:
      This sounds like a good real world space--and Tiffany's suggestion sounds like a good surreal virtual space.
    Mar 10
    Cricket:
      We were talking about various tasks that could be done in VR... did anyone consider gardening? I mean, you can have some pretty surreal looking plants. Think Harry Potter meets Coraline. Also, what about a train station for a VR space? Full of symbolism lol
    Mar 10
    Michelle:
      We could even have the virtual space playing retro video games that are no longer available on the market as a form of either relaxing or extracting data from the zones
    Mar 10
    Cricket:
      Or even just retro games, like checkers, or chess or monopoly or something
    Mar 10
    Cricket:
      Lol or pong
    Mar 10
    Zach:
      Hopscotch? Jump-rope? What else involves precision and is visually interesting? (i.e., that we can connect to "actual" work being done. For instance, just thinking conceptually, a game of virtual hopscotch could control precision robots that are actually constructing something. Jump-rope could control an automated (but highly precise) function on an assembly line.)
    Mar 10
    Alexandra Benes:
      shooting lay-ups on a basketball court? Paddleball. Tetherball. Sifting for gold in a river.

      there is that whole greek myth where Sysiphus was condemned to an eternity of pushing a boulder up a hill only for it to roll back down when he neared the top. Just an idea
    Mar 11
    Cricket:
      Scrabble
    Mar 11
    Tiffany.n.huynh@googlewave.com:
      scrabble with subliminal messages, but that could be cliche XD
    Mar 11
    Cricket:

    Mar 11
    Alexandra Benes:
      haha i like the scrabble idea. that could work for crosswords too. or sudoku. tic tac toe?
    Mar 19
    Zach:
      I like all of this. In terms of games and other activities that can be "linked" to real-world data manipulation, let's think about ones that involve fine-tuned selection and manipulation, involving a lot of elements in play. Scrabble is great in this sense, but we can also go more abstract: perhaps something like batting various objects to the side when they come flying at you... Or rearranging tiles or beads into new formations. You get the idea. Let's brainstorm a little more, then start a structured table that actually links complex activities to real-life manipulation.

      In particular, we need to select some concrete virtual activities and spaces to start think about filming next quarter!



    Characters


    Feb 28
    Zach:
      Thus far:

    • A young woman looking for a friend who disappeared into the underground. She had family ties to a large corporation doing secret work for the government, as well as personal contacts with an underground group. Our character doesn't know if her friend has willingly disappeared or been kidnapped, and if the latter, by which of these organizations. She has to go to the contaminated zone to try to find her.
    • An assassination team, consisting of a middle-aged man who is a virtual space expert, and a younger woman who is a security expert. They arrive in the contaminated zone. Assassination here is largely a digital process: a matter of discovering/unlocking/unencrypting an individual's biometric and other digital identifiers. Perhaps once this is discovered and linked up with a "real-life" reading of some kind, the person can be more or less easily killed technologically. Thus the two members of this team must work together, in both virtual and real space, to effect an assassination. Who they work for and who their target is is a question that would unfold over time. Also, perhaps the man could have a female avatar...
    Apr 18
    Alison Reed:
      Duffy Watt seems loosely based on Michael Taussig, among others... I love his character. Also, Kaja's training in the building of simulations that act as interfaces between conscious cognition and memory is so provocative when paired with performance and trauma studies; in particular, I'm struck by the distinction between affect/thought and memory as data. What happens at the interstices of this divide? Has Kaja suffered from a particular trauma other than her estrangement from friends and family? Trauma theory (coming out of Freud) tells us that PTSD operates according to two temporalities: of a past never fully experienced as it occurred due to a lack of prior experiences and language with which to understand it, and of a present haunted by that past which failed to register at the time. As Cathy Caruth writes in the introduction to Part II of Trauma: Explorations in Memory, traumatic "events assume their force precisely in their temporal delay" (9). This temporal disjunction might complicate the two worlds in interesting ways...
    Apr 23
    Zach:
      I agree that it would be potentially productive to think about both Kaja and Adelle in relation to trauma. Adelle has experienced trauma in the death of her parents. We should absolutely find a way to connect this with her contact with the Corporation that has manipulated her experiences to produce a neural "program" in her brain... Program as trauma, perhaps activated or in some way operationally defined by temporal disjunction. Really worth exploring further!
    Apr 18
    Alison Reed:
      Another comment on the overall dramatic/thematic arcs:

      The gender mutability and shape-shifting of the Assassins against which Kaja struggles reminds me of the power play between Doro and Anyanwu in Octavia Butler's Wild Seed (characters which recur throughout the Patternist series). A potentially productive connection?
    Apr 23
    Zach:
      I think this is a really interesting connection. In some ways Butler's narrative is a gender struggle complicated by shapeshifting. We may think of ours as information struggle complicated by gendershifting...?
    Apr 24
    Alison Reed:
      Absolutely. For Butler (Octavia and also Judith), gender "codes" are themselves a kind of information that the body acts in accordance with or against... gender is not attached to bodies (male or female) since Anyanwu often takes on her male form. Rather, gender is destabilized by the shape-shifter or trickster figure's ability to wield power through deliberate play, or to summon John Rechy, through infiltration, camouflage and sabotage...
    Mar 2
    Richard Lau:
      Some vaguer character sketches we can develop into characters/plots if useful:

    • I like the idea of there being a figure that's really important in the digital space (an information broker? a leader of some criminal organization?) but whose identity in the physical world is unknown. Its a pretty stock sci-fi trope, but its a little different for our purposes because geographical limitations on whose accessing the digital world. The area has a fairly limited population, and thus a fairly limited people it could possibley be, thus ramping up suspense - and paranoia if this figure has a sinister presence.
    Mar 3
    Zach:
      Absolutely! I'd go so far as to say that we should have several of these characters. Indeed "information broker" is exactly the job title we could associate with a number of characters. The (plot) question is always, who does each of them work for?
    Mar 5
    Tiffany.n.huynh@googlewave.com:
      an idea for a character: an undercover government agent or something. he's sent to one of the corrupted spaces to gather more information about it for possible future use or he's sent there to retrieve some data that was accidentally sent through one of the corrupted zones and has now been stolen.
    Mar 5
    Cricket:
    Mar 6
    Zach:
      I like both of these looks; the second one especially. I would imagine a lot of people in the zone looking something like this. Of course, some people would look quite different--more corporate or sleek. I really like this look as a baseline, though; especially for those characters who "fit in" or "belong" to the zone.




Mar 10
Nightcrow35@googlewave.com:

    Interesting news article I came across. It's about two parents who raised a virtual child and neglected their REAL child to the point where the real one died. Apparentlly, they lost their will to because they lost their jobs and their baby was premature. It's pretty sad, actually..

    It did help me come up with some ideas. When someone dies in real life, their virtual avatar dies with them, correct? Maybe they're deleted or they disappear when the real person dies. In the corruped zone, all kinds of illegal activity occur. Perhaps one of them could be 'raising people from the dead' or creating copies of virtual people. There could be some kind of shady hacker which does this, and then smuggle them back into a non-contaminied zone.

    Or taking this in a different direction...someone losing touch with what is the real world and the virtual world.

    or someone who wants to continue to exist in the virtual world after their real body dies.

    eh, i really don't know. i'm just throwing out a bunch of ideas.
Mar 10
Zach:
    This is really good. I think an episode (somewhere in the middle of the series) could definitely involve a character who resurrects "dead" or "orphaned" avatars. Of course, to truly smuggle data--without corrupting it--from a corrupted zone to the outside net, it would need to be transported on old-school physical media in the real world, past the border of the contaminated zone...
Mar 11
Richard Lau:
    I really like this idea. What material would be used to reconstruct someones personality? Would it be the customers memories of the person? Logs or recordings of the deceased previous activities?

    It sounds like it would be a fascinatingly tragic story someone was trying to create a digital version of a loved-one that had died, but this replacement loved one is subtly, but undeniably incomplete.
    It could perhaps illustrate a drastic paradigm shift - in such a digitalized world where the concept of privacy doesnt have as much meaning as it does to us, it would be reasonable for someone to think they could wholey bring someone back to life - everything about them must be somewhere in digital space, they would think. And to have this fail really crystallizes the dystopic nature of the world that we are trying to represent.
Mar 11
Cricket:
    What if people could download experiences, like stick in a credit card, and suddenly have had the experience of... going to the gym, or running a marathon?
Mar 11
Richard Lau:
    Like videotapes, but with memories?
Mar 11
Alexandra Benes:
    Someone was telling me that Dollhouse was centered around a similar premise.
Mar 11
David Marmor:
    Strange Days is built on that premise. Specifically, people would wear these devices on their heads that would capture all the sensory data coming into their brains and record it. And that recording could then be played back by someone else to experience exactly what the recorder had experienced.

    And on the subject of digital versions of people living on in virtual space, one of the definitive novels on that subject is Permutation City. One of the interesting things in that is that the simulation of a person's consciousness runs at different speeds based on the hardware it's on. So you could experience a day as a digital simulation, but a year might have gone by in physical space.
Mar 19
Zach:
    I have to check out "Permutation City"! Spring Break reading... with the length of my spring break, I might be able to get through the first chapter...
Mar 6
Jpalms13@googlewave.com:
    I don't know if you are interested in explaining why there are contaminated zones exist, but one possible explanation could be the reversal of the magnetic poles. This has happened several times in the past and could theoretically happen at any point in time. It would involve the creation of many north and south magnetic poles resulting in some areas that have particularily weak magnetic fields. This would cause an increase in solar radiation in those areas and disrupt the function of electronic devices, particularily orbiting satellites. Anyway if you are interested you can find more information here.
Mar 6
David Marmor:
    Also, holes in the ozone layer could have similar effects, letting in more solar radiation. In both scenarios the zones would be dangerous for people to be in due to the high radiation levels. That might inform how people dress and look. I was in Australia last year, where they have similar problems with a depleted ozone layer, and the schoolchildren are all required to wear these big sunhats.

    There's also a Greg Egan book that takes place in the near future where there's high solar radiation, and everybody has had their skin melanin artificially raised, so everybody has very dark skin, even blonde people.
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