Cybercultural Ecologies examines the interpenetrating relationships between nature, virtuality, and narrative. Operating at the interface between ecocriticism and cyberculture, its approach is narrative-based and thematic, focusing on texts (literary, cinematic, and new media) which depict varying conceptions of technology, virtuality, and their effects. Understanding these effects is ecologically crucial, because technovirtual interfaces profoundly alter one’s experience of nature, corporeality, and relationships. Even the most basic sense of what counts as an environment in the first place depends on the interfaces one uses.
The Introduction examines the ambiguities surrounding the terms of its own investigation: cyberculture, ecology, interface, nature, virtuality. Drawing from Jacques Derrida and Marshall McLuhan, it responds to the “interface anxiety” evinced by environmental writers and ecocritics by arguing that nostalgia for an “authentic,” supplement-free mode of “contact” is itself a pastoral fiction.
Chapter I examines virtuality’s relationship with nature in both virtual reality and mixed reality paradigms, beginning with nineteenth-century decadence and aestheticism—Huysmans’ A Rebours (1884) and Morris’ News from Nowhere (1890)—before moving to Cronenberg’s eXistenZ (1999), Gibson’s Spook Country (2007), and Vinge’s Synthetic Serendipity (2004).
Chapter II questions the attempt to evade virtuality and machinery in order to reclaim “unmediated contact” through the “natural” body in Forster’s “The Machine Stops” (1909) and Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928).
Chapter III looks at the liberation offered by the virtual body, as well as its liabilities, in Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1759), Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000).
Chapter IV scrutinizes the authenticity of virtual relationships in Bioy Casares’ The Invention of Morel (1940) and Herzog’s Grizzly Man (2005).
Chapter V inquires into how a virtual sense of place is evoked in Dickens’ midnineteenth century railway sketches and in 21st-century digital interactive narratives.
The Conclusion examines the film Avatar (2009) and explores the possibilities (and problems) that arise in attempting to make audiences “see” with ecological vision through the lenses of virtuality.