Pattern Recognition

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William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition moves his stories from a fantastical future to a world at the bleeding edge of today. A curious advertising company seeks to find out more about a series of video clips that have developed a cult following.

The story evokes viral marketing similar to the complex story lines of games like Perplex City, The Majestic or online marketing done by industrial music band NIN and Trent Reznor. The resulting buzz in a passionate community is something that marketers aspire to create in product launches. The challenge that Gibson doesn’t fully articulate is identifying the target audience and watching it coalesce. It also reminds me of how conspiracy theories percolate online and seem to break out randomly. The Slender Man phenomenon and the obsession with number stations are classic examples of this process.

Unlike Spook Country, Gibson only hints at a retreat from his vision of the web as an immersive experience inside virtual reality goggles. Most of the interesting locations and experiences happen in the real-world: central Tokyo, Moscow and London. Gibson’s literary obsession with Japanese culture and cities is part of the connective tissue that connects his early work to Pattern Recognition.

These world’s are much more colourful than online. The web is now reduced to a silver screen on which the mysterious videos are projected.

Marketing insight of the advertising agency and government intelligence operatives are seen by Gibson as two sides of the same coin. This makes sense when one thinks about the amount of data that web and mobile technology use now provides. In some respects big technology has gone beyond governments and moving towards the corporations envisaged in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

All of this adds to the feeling that Pattern Recognition is a tale of now. More related posts here.