The Electronic Revolution

William S. Burroughs

Published: 1970

Type: Text

Description:

The Electronic Revolution is an essay collection by William S. Burroughs that was first published in 1970 by Expanded Media Editions in West Germany. A second edition, published in 1971 in Cambridge, England, contained additional French translation by Jean Chopin.

The book is divided into two parts.

Part one, entitled "The Feedback from Watergate to the Garden of Eden" invokes Alfred Korzybski’s views characterising man as "the time binding machine" due to his ability to write. Burroughs sees the significance of a written word as a distinguishing feature of human beings which enables them to transform and convey information to future generations. He proposes the theory of "the unrecognised virus" present in the language, suggesting that, "the word has not been recognised as a virus because it has achieved a state of stable symbiosis with the host."

Part two, "Electronic Revolution" concerns the power of alphabetic non-pictorial languages to control people. It draws attention to the subversive influence of the word virus on humans and dangerous possibilities of using human voice as a weapon. Recording words on tape recorders and employing the Cut-up technique can easily lead to the false news broadcasts or garbled political speeches causing confusion and psychic control over individuals.

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