At Public Books, Frederic Jameson reconsiders William Gibson's classic sci-fi novel Neuromancer over thirty years after it's initial publication. Jameson argues that modern Utopian sci-fi has been unable to properly contend with the rise of computers, and he takes Neuromancer as a key example:
I merely want to remind us that cyberspace is a literary invention and does not really exist, however much time we spend on the computer every day. There is no such space radically different from the empirical, material room we are sitting in, nor do we leave our bodies behind when we enter it, something one rather tends to associate with drugs or the rapture. But it is a literary construction we tend to believe in; and, like the concept of immaterial labor, there are certainly historical reasons for its appearance at the dawn of postmodernity which greatly transcend the technological fact of computer development or the invention of the Internet. Are there any equivalents in the cultural past for such “belief ” in the existence of a literary image or figure? Perhaps “courtly love”—that 12th-century Cathar heresy famously denounced by Denis de Rougement—might serve as an example; might one dare suggest that the idea of evil, as it is transmitted by literary villains and the melodramatic mode itself, constitutes another? But are these not ideologemes—schematic projections of ideological concepts— rather than objective “realities” in which we believe?
I think it behooves us to look more closely at the notion of cyberspace in Gibson, in order to see what it involves: Is it a new kind of concept, for example, reflecting the alleged historical novelty of information technology in general? To what degree does its content then (apart from any formal innovation) somehow reflect this new reality (whether that of the “real foundation” of late capitalism or merely the “neutral” structure of its third-stage productive technology)? And what are its ideological consequences? How does it feed into other contemporary ideologies, and can it be judged to be progressive, or on the contrary somehow reactionary, inasmuch as (whatever the end of history) those possibilities seem to remain ahistorical and eternally with us? Meanwhile if you have a philosophical bent, you will want to decide to what degree it has some relationship to the popular idea of virtuality, inspired by the work of Gilles Deleuze (which equally reflects and fails to reflect the realities of information technology).