Apophenia in our time

William Gibson’s book Pattern Recognition is still stirring my mind up. Perhaps in different ways than the author intended (warning: spoilers ahead). For instance, the book shows the recurrence of a theme in which the creator of art is profoundly disabled (cf. the pathologically mute Cornell box building artist-machine in Count Zero, and, if you stretch it, the AIs in Neuromancer who are really the only creative force in the book). Only the creator in PR doesn’t even finish her works; they’re completed, “rendered,” by prison labor after she lays out the initial strokes. This is almost certainly made necessary by the nature of the artist’s disability, but one wonders whether this reflects some sort of deepening cynicism of Gibson’s view of creativity: from the artist as black-box crazy robot to the artist as profoundly disabled savant who requires hordes of assistants to finish the task.

Okay, that was a little bleaker than I meant to make it, but I still wonder.

Anyway. For more speculation on PR’s themes, motifs, etc., check out the ‘PR’-otaku that Joe Clark (of Building Accessible Websites fame) is putting together. Also, be sure to keep checking Gibson’s own blog (and its attendant discussion forum, in which a listing of discussions of Gibson’s readings has sent me a bit of traffic recently).


  1. This was written earlier this morning but unpublished due to problems with my website’s back end.
  2. Apophenia means finding patterns that aren’t there.
  3. After writing this, I read the Gibson book discussion a little more deeply and found a thread in which someone made the same observation. If I’m seeing things that aren’t there, I’m not alone.