Wired:: Ghosts in the S[hell]

Kathy Nguyen, Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies, Texas Woman’s University [About | Email]

Volume 17, Issue 1 (Article 2 in 2017). First published in ejcjs on 23 April 2017.


The recent ghost sightings in Japan (re)produce this fundamental idea: one’s existence, perhaps, can never truly be erased. In recent years, the idea of a wandering ghost (“a ghost in the machine”) has drifted into the technological landscape. The ghost has drifted into the network; the digital network to be exact. Based on the anime narratives and visuals of Serial Experiments Lain and Ghost in the Shell, I conceptualise and contend that the network, a highly advanced, connective digital space where information is entered, (re)processed, and (re)stored, as a body drifting network. The themes of life and death are prominent in both anime features and as such, living in the age of changing informatics, what does death exactly look like? Is there a hell in the network? How was the network created? Who created it? These questions serve as a foundation for this paper. Borrowing the Friedrich Nietzsche’s “God (and Buddha) is dead” statement, I argue that Buddha perhaps was the architect of the network.

Keywords: anime, bodies, information, ghosts, digital networks, memories, archives.

If you think God’s there, He is. If you don’t, He isn’t. And if that’s what God’s like, I wouldn’t worry about it.
—Murakami Haruki, Kafka on the Shore

Blood, muscle, and bone. When those are lost, humans face death. What lies beyond that? Heaven? Hell? Reincarnation?
—Londes, Cowboy Bebop

Remember, while hell may be a place of misery, it still perseveres, promising perpetual preservation, continuation. Again the rain seems to increase. Reincarnation is another option in terms of material, inarguable. However, whether some kind of awareness survives is something else entirely. Still daughter, there is no question the matter that made up Dov will find a place again in this grand universe. After all, these particles we’re made up of are not exactly new. Quite the contrary. The atoms making up water falling around us are over nine billion years old. The atoms that make up you and me, the same. We are all of used parts. Our newness lies only in parts rearranged.
—Mark Z. Danielewski, The Familiar Volume 1

Prologue: “Brain Scratch(ing)” The Creator(s)

Watanabe Shinichirō’s 1998 mixed-genre anime series, Cowboy Bebop (Kaubōi Bibappu), is set in the year 2071. The main protagonist, Spike Spiegel, a former hitman of the Red Dragon Syndicate, and his crew find themselves and the rest of humanity inhabiting in various planets and moons of the solar systems as Earth has become dilapidated. Bounty hunters, or “Cowboys,” are legally contracted by the Inter Solar System Police because of increasing intergalactic crime rates. Spike Spiegel’s crew consists of Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward Wong, and a genetically engineered Welsh Corgi, Ein. Each crew member is connected to each other by isolation from a ruined world (a bleak prediction of the future) and tragic pasts. The episode, “Brain Scratch” [“Burein Sukuratchi”], written by Nobumoto Keiko, specifically deals with SCRATCH, an electronic transcendence group and/or religious cult, and their public desires for the disembodiment. As Spiegel’s crew observed, followers are seemingly brainwashed and they become increasingly violent after joining the group. The episode opens with Londes, the perceived antagonist in the episode, promoting his group on an inter-networking broadcasting device:

What is a physical body? The body is merely an object. It is an existence all too impure to store the Gods within us called souls. How you will remember. The bloodstained history! Material desire. Hunger. Sexual drive. Desire to dominate. Desire for fame. As long as there is a body, desires will be born. As long there is desire, human ego will not disappear. Human swill continue to fight to fulfill their bodies’ desire. And it will never end. At this rate, there is no future! (Cowboy Bebop)

In another promotion, Londes declares that “[the group] are disciples of God, sent here to free [people’s] soul[s] from [their] bod[ies] and lead [them] to the infinite sea of electrons.” Londes’ statements exemplify several ideologies and narratives that have been—and will continue to be—explored in most science fiction staples, which is the desire for corporeal disembodiment. As Allison Muri notes, the rhetoric of disembodiment has been questioned and challenged in recent theories concerning postmodern identity (73). Scholars are often interested in problematising “the existence and reproduction” of biological human bodies, especially in an age where electronic and digital entities and/or inventions1 will possibly render natural, organic bodies obsolete (Muri 74). And in an age where bodies can be technologically implanted for physical augmentations, disembodiment may very well be a possible feat as humans are entering themselves into a network, disrupting several established ideologies of the Anthropocene.

While investigating Londes, Black discovers that SCRATCH uses a brain wave control device on a game console to scan people’s brain waves, and then uses a program to copy their spirits as their brain waves are converted into digital data, or “spirit data.” Data are then entered into a universal network, allowing the information to become accessible and a part of public domain. In a revealing scene, Black informs Spiegel that Londes believes “the human brain function itself is a weak stream of electronic pulses.” Black further reveals that in Londes’ universal network, one “can only exist as a soul,” insinuating that bodies are unessential to SCRATCH. In one scen Spiegel discovers a room—an eerie space where decomposing human bodies are amassed next to a mound of television sets. And at the very top, Londes, in his “soul” form, disseminated by the television sets, materialises in front of Spiegel. This scene juxtaposes the beginning of the episode, where an image of a television is being turned on, symbolising that the television—a part of a bigger network—“controls people by using information.” Humans are connected by technology and information, creating an assemblage of sorts. This human-technology assemblage, Mark Poster writes, is an “intimate” mingling that “constitutes an interface outside the subject-object binary” (48).2 Humans are no longer considered the only subjects and nonhumans are no longer perceived as solely objects as boundaries, distinctions, restrictive binaries, and the hierarchical nature between humans and nonhumans are shattered through an assemblage coupling. The network, which encompasses a multiplicity of things, is an entity responsible for these techno-human assemblages.

Such rhetoric and phantasmagoric visual depictions of disembodiment are conventional fixtures in anime (and manga). For Londes’ character, there is an innate aspiration for disembodiment and the need to transgress beyond the restrictions of the human body. This desire for disembodiment, Steven T. Brown writes, demonstrates a “yearning to escape death” by abandoning the natural body “in favour of some higher transcendent being” (177).3 The episode, “Brain Scratch,” is also a provocative example—an illustration, really—of how technology shifts the traditional perceptions of death and dying. The second epigraph, for instance, probes what happens to the human body after death. As Londes queries, what occurs after death? Is there a heaven? A hell? Can the human and body be reincarnated? These questions are especially intriguing as several anime directors and writers have interrogated and picked at these ideas. For instance, in the anime series Hell Girl [Jigoku Shōjo], Internet users can access a “Hell Correspondence” Website at midnight to submit the name of the person the client desires to seek revenge on. Once the client’s request is accepted, Enma Ai [Hell Girl] will send that person to hell. As such what do death and hell look like in a digital culture entangled with the web of networks?

What makes the episode “Brain Scratch” particularly innovative is the blatant depiction of deities and spirits wired into the network. In other words, Watanabe and Nobumoto interrogate the existence of Gods in technology, particularly the network. In “Brain Scratch,” a prerequisite for joining the world of a “wired God” is to discard the physical, “filthy” bodies. This way, humans can allow their purest form, the soul, to enter the network with God. Black and Wong later discover that Londes was once a neurobiological researcher and claimed he had experienced visions from God. Thus, Londes, as Black reveals, “immersed himself in research to store the human spirit as digital data.” But in a shocking revelation, Spiegel and his crew realises Londes never existed; his data were fabricated and that his original body is in a comatose state. Londes appears to be quite young when Black and Wong discover his comatose state; however, as a networked entity, he looks like an old man. In the climax, Spiegel confronts Londes; Londes exposes himself and tells Spiegel that “God didn’t create humans. Humans created Gods.” Here, Londes’ proclamation echoes Murakami Haruki’s quote in the first epigraph above: God exists if one believes in his existence. Londes is later transported back to his original body and remains in a comatose state. In the final sequence, the episode mysteriously ends with Londes, presumably still in a coma, asserting: “[o]ur souls that God has given us, or spirits. Is not our body an existence all too small weak for our spirits, which found a way to swim through the vast network and live in the infinity of space?” Watanabe ends the episode without offering resolutions to whether God even exists within the network. If Londes was constructed as a God, did he die? Does God keep dying after his existence is questioned? Although it is brief, the episode offers the idea of the network as a space for oneness.

What is most intriguing about this episode is that God is addressed as the creator of the network. In many ways, I see Buddha as the architect of the network. Buddha is an amalgamation of things; data entered into the network become a part of a connective web from Buddha’s remnants; memories and the teachings of Buddha are further edified by data. Buddha is kept alive through information stored in the network, and the network is kept alive through Buddha’s teachings of the importance of connectivity. As such, the following can be postulated: information input into the network, a vast space that continues to expand and exist, can never be permanently deleted.

While these narratives may seem nebulous and a figment of the mainstream utopian and/or dystopian fictive gimmicks, I argue that Japanese anime are highly theoretical and have the potential to visualise and examine the inner/intra and outer workings of the network. Cowboy Bebop and Hell Girl are just two anime features that scratches the ideas of how data, information, death, and a possible hell and/or heaven are envisaged in the digital age of networks. Although I have briefly examined one episode of Cowboy Bebop to introduce some of the primary concepts of this paper, the purpose of the introduction is to present how two particular anime series have “visually theorised” how bodies, death, and information function within the network. In this paper, I examine the concepts of death, re/birth, data, bodies in the age of informatics presented in two anime features that are both ahead of their time: Serial Experiments Lain (Shiriaru Ekusuperimentsu Rein) and Ghost in the Shell (Kōkaku Kidōtai).4

Humans in this digital era are rapidly witnessing and participating in the archiving, processing, and production of new information. Therefore, what does death look like living in the age of informatics? What happens to organic bodies after death? It is my intention to “map out” how Japan envisaged the network as a drifting site where information cannot completely be erased and that it is forever a site for the “living dead,” which includes stored information (or bodies) of both humans and nonhumans. It is my intention to re/assert and re/introduce how Eastern Buddhist philosophies and concepts have perhaps predicted the present and future technological innovations/queries of the digital network. As such, I draw on each anime’s themes of the life/death of bodies and God’s uncertain existence within the network. Thus, I (re)conceptualise the network as a body-drifting-network, where codified entities such as information, bodies, and multiple forms of consciousness are prone to states of rupture and fluctuations, and (re)alter themselves as a collective entity.

The network, then, becomes a highly advanced, connective digital space where information is [re]entered, [re]processed, and [re]stored. Thus, I contend that each anime explores how the body drifting network functions as a regenerative, linked system where multiple entities, consciousness, and information are hoarded together for preservation. The main considerations shared by each anime exemplify a striking vital physical concept about the network: information can never be lost, deleted, or die. The network, therefore, becomes a living tomb, where it is constantly drifting and amassing bodies and piles of data to an uncertain point. In theorising the network as a body drifting network and using the concept of ghosts as wanderers, I argue that the living tomb functions as a technical flow 5 within the network, further suggesting that the network is an untraditional site of memori, where bodies are amassed as piles of information that can never be deleted or die. And as I prefaced in the introduction, I argue that the network was created after the death of Buddha, one of the many creators of [inter]connectivity.

Visual Depictions of the Network: The Ghosts Drift into the Wired

Aside from visual depictions in anime and other popular culture media, describing the network and its appearance are arduous tasks. The network is essentially a formless entity. Anything can be a part of a network simply because things are given meaning and relationships to each other, but even if networks are classified as systems and/or arrangements of things, networks have inevitably expanded and reconfigured themselves to acclimate with the contemporary digital networks. For Lars Bang Larsen, people using the network are “privileged” in the sense that users have access to the Internet (12). Like Brown’s assertion of a network of desires, Larsen, too, asserts that network “[c]onnectivity is a compulsion that subtends social participation and cultural imagination” (12). In this perspective, the network is a nexus between the social (an organised, communal space) and culture (actors and actants), interacting in a way where things are stored and preserved for the present and future. In Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s book, Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media, the author argues that while the network is described as an anomalous, “almost contagious concept,” it is also “becoming a defining concept of our epoch” (Updating to Remain the Same 25). The network, in this sense, is a universal concept that seems indispensable, signifying the pervasiveness and integral nature of it.

For artists, the network can be conceptualised as a cloud that webs and locks other entities, humans, and systems together, enabling users to access, upload, and peruse data.6 Bruno Latour realises this and in a conversation he recorded between a professor and a student, the professor notes that ideas are managed and spread; if “actors don’t act, they will leave no trace [of information] whatsoever” (150). Internet users and programmers, for instance, constantly enter data into the database and although encrypted and input information may be anonymous, there are always traces of the person entering them. This conversation, in fact, reflects on the current state of an encoded network: “invisible entities” leave behind some sort of their traces behind, signaling their “proof of their presence” because there is documentation of their existence (Latour 150). Such networks are digitally converted and become a shared system between humans and nonhumans/objects, preserving the stored data.

It is no surprise, then, that many explorations of the network in Japanese science fiction anime focus on how the network is a zone for information and points of connections. Like Londes’ character, for the protagonists and alleged antagonists in both Serial Experiments Lain and Ghost in the Shell, the network is presented as a body drifting network where bodies are transmogrified into data.

Serial Experiments Lain is an anime series with thirteen episodes, directed by Nakamura Ryūtarō, broadcast on TV Tokyo in 1998. The protagonist, Iwakura Lain, is described as a normal, quiet, shy, and withdrawn junior high student living with her family in a mundane neighbourhood in Japan. The series chronicles Lain’s interactions with her Navi, an old computer that her father—a man who is obsessed with his own computers and rarely makes eye contact with Lain—has given to her. The Navi allows Lain and other characters to enter the “Wired,” a digital world adjoined by networks, creating a single platform of communication. Later, Lain becomes more isolated from the real world as she becomes occupied with multiple Navis installed in her room; in addition, she accesses the Wired with her small pocket computer while in school. The Wired is reminiscent of the upgraded emergence of the Internet, or the World Wide Web, in the 1990s. Eiri Masami, the disembodied voice[over] that is often heard in the series, and the self-proclaimed “God” of the Wired, reveals the future of the world:

The network’s evolution would follow a neural model and just as neurons within the human brain are connected by synapses, the Earth itself would become a neural network.

Lain focuses on multiple forms of networks, such as telephone lines, television, Internet, and online games. As Elmo Gonzaga notes, “certain motifs” are frequently used and visited in the series. Throughout the series, there are multiple interspersed scenes showing “intersecting telephone wires,” and “[a] low buzzing drone hounds Lain wherever she goes” (Gonzaga 62). These scenes, commingled with the “Everyone is Connected” sign, present the multiple forms and versions of the network. According to Hu Tung-Hui, older forms of the network such as “railroad tracks, sewer lines, and television circuits” birthed the idea of digital connectivity as computers, Internet access, and other cyberspace platforms emerge (XII). Connectivity and interconnectivity are further established through these systems as information is exchanged between users. The series establishes this assertion in “Layer 02: ‘Girls,’” when Lain’s father insists that “[f]or communication, you need a powerful system that will mature alongside your relationship with people.”

The Wired is one example of the network, and as Lain imputes: “No matter where you are, everyone is always connected.” The fixation with the Wired, once again, verifies the need to remain connected. Hu describes this fixation as a “network fever,” which is “the desire to connect [to] all networks” (11, original emphasis). Hu’s assertion, I think, refers to the idea that humans created the network, even without understanding its possible implications and ramifications in the future, or what it looks like. For humans, there is a need to connect with others and with everything within the larger vicinity. Thus, seeing how the Wired has changed people’s lives, Lain imputes: “No matter where you are, everyone is always connected.”  

Throughout the series, the Wired is considered an “upper layer of the real world.” Lain’s father tells Lain: “You know, Lain, in this world, whether it’s here in the real world or in the Wired, people connect to each other, and that’s how societies function.” In fact, Gonzaga writes:

In the world of Serial Experiments Lain, there are two dominant philosophies regarding the connection between the real world and the Wired. On the one hand, the Wired is merely an appendage of the real world, a means of communication between people. On the other hand, the Wired may constitute another world since it is formed by an intricate web of computers, electricity, and information which covers all areas of the globe. More importantly, the border between this world of the Wired and the real world is crumbling. (62)

In the series, the world of the Wired and the “real world” are blurred; the boundaries are shattered and some characters such as Lain cannot differentiate between the two worlds. The Wired can be described as a virtual world or cyberspace where users can enter in and out of it. Lain can enter herself in between the real world and the Wired. In her analysis of Lain’s character, Susan J. Napier suggests that her “fragmented subjectivity,” her embodiments in the multiple Wired Lains acting within and outside of the Wired, and her lack of origins makes her a representative figure of the Wired because she acts as a portal figure between the real world and cyberspace (“When the Machines Stop” 117). Lain is a liminal figure as she stands in-between the thresholds of the two worlds, causing a collision as the boundaries between the worlds become more indistinct to her. Lain realises that as she enters in and out of the Wired, she has created doppelgängers with different, fragmented, and disjointed personalities, suggesting that these multiple Lains are a product of Lain’s interactions and intra-actions7 within the Wired. By entering herself into the Wired, Lain unconsciously duplicates herself as her body becomes a node—a body vessel—within the network, generating multiple bodies of information.

Through the Wired, Lain, can enter the thoughts, imaginations, (sub)consciousness of anyone who has access to the Wired. In fact, it is strongly hinted that she is the only individual capable of trekking the external and internal layers of the Wired. In “Layer 08: ‘Rumours,’” Lain’s peers begin to call her a “peeping Tom,” indicating that she can see what other people do not want others to know, a perverse act that is invasive. However, as she drifts deeper in the Wired, she begins to realise that her body is a computerised software program that gained sentience over time, further exemplifying how AI and other mechanised entities such as robots are able develop their own consciousness.

Ghost in the Shell, directed by Oshii Mamoru, is a 1995 cyberpunk/science fiction anime film that was adapted by Shirō Masamune’s 1989 serialised seinen manga series that shares the same name as the film.The opening credits profoundly reveal:

In the near future—corporate networks reach out to the stars, electrons and light flow throughout the universe. The advance of computerisation, however, has not yet wiped out nations and ethnic groups. (Ghost)

To keep it concise: the story is set in the year 2029, where the world is (inter)connected by the network; all entities reside in an interfaced society. Humanity consists of human and human-machine hybrids—most of the hybrids have the ability to access the network through their cybernetic bodies, or “shells.” The main protagonist, Major Kusanagi Motoko, one of the many cyborgs in the film, is the team leader for Public Security Section 9. As Sharalyn Orbaugh notes, Kusanagi “is hooked into the Net through four interface sockets in the back of her neck,” and she is capable of “diving” into others’ cybernetic brains, interacting with them and the surrounding networks (“Sex and the Single Cyborg” 445). The world is a part of the vast network and Kusanagi’s body is also a node, attached within the network. Kusanagi and her colleagues at Section 9 are assigned to capture the Puppet Master, an unknown, mysterious hacker who according to Kusanagi, is “wanted internationally for stock price manipulation, information gathering, political manoeuvring, terrorism, and cyberbrain ethics violations.”

In Ghost in the Shell, the network is a powered/plugged-in site where fragmented realities and consciousness are gathered, transfiguring bodies. The film’s story centralises on the idea that networks are a major predictor of the future: everyone and everything will be/is connected—plugged—into the network. The many cyborg bodies presented in the film underscore this. Networks—whether part of the traditional system or part of the informatics age—have always existed. Bodies are edified by networks.

In Ghost, the cyborg is a networked/networking figure. Donna Haraway’s timeless essay, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” defines the cyborg as: (a) cybernetic organism; (b) a hybrid of sorts; (c) a creature of “lived” social reality; and (d) a creature of fiction (7). Considering Haraway’s definition of a cyborg, Alana Brooks Smith states that it may seem speculative that a cyborg—especially if the cyborg is meant to be a remodeled prototype of the (post)human body—is simultaneously biological-mechanical, organic-artificial, and real-fictional (70). As N. Katherine Hayles and Smith note, these bodies are created, or engineered, by both biological and mechanical components because the cyborg body is assembled by fragmented parts and pieces that do not seem to be in concord with each other nor does it have a starting point or origin (Hayles 157; Smith 71). These ideas are further predicated by Haraway, who further asserts that the cyborg “skips the step of original unity” and the relationship between both nature and culture is “reworked” and the cyborg does not “recognise the Garden of Eden” because it is not made from mud “and cannot return to dust” (9). The lack of geneses of the cyborg body further problematises whether all entities, matter, and objects existed out of nothingness. If this is the case, then perhaps these very entities, matter, and objects are accretions of things that are likely not connected yet somehow bonded or knotted so tightly that they define each other, even if their definitions are “leaky.” And for Haraway, the cyborg is a transgressive figure, capable of reconciling the three “leaky spots,” or binaries, between the human/animal; human/organism/machine; and the physical/non-physical (Haraway, 8-13; Smith 71). Like the parts of an oil-machine working in harmony, Haraway’s definitions of the cyborg articulate each other even if the cyborg conglomerates seemingly have no prior connections or relationships with each other. As such, the figure of the cyborg has the ability to blur the boundaries between human/nonhuman and organic/artificial binaries, enabling the cyborg body not to confine itself to categories of biology, race, and gender, but traversing itself within liminal spaces.

Kusanagi’s enhanced cyborg body is a literal representation of Haraway’s cyborg. As Christopher Bolton, who analyses the language and visuals in Ghost, writes:

The spectre that humans will be owned by the networks (Haraway’s “information of domination”) has literally come true in the story: the Major’s body and mind belong to the government, and she cannot leave Section Nine without surrendering that body and large classified chunks of her memory. (733)

For Bolton, the cyborg is an entity that is birthed by the network and in the near future, everything and everyone will be a part—belong to—the network. In this perspective, the network is in a constant state of becoming, blurring the boundaries between humans, nonhumans, real, imaginal, life, and death. Moreover, bodies and information are entering and migrating ad infinitum. It is a continuous state of coding.

But, if we conceptualise the network as a digital space where forms and concepts materialise through codified hoarding, then is it possible to hoard natural, organic components (human genes) into the network? Eugene Thacker interrogates the “merging” between biotech and infotech by asking:

What does it mean to have a body, to be a body, in relation to genome databases? How is our notion of the body transformed when biotech research demonstrates the ability to grow cells, tissues, and even organs in the lab? How is the boundary between biology and technology reconfigured with the DNA chips commonly used in biotech labs? In biotech research, what happens to the reference of ‘the human’ as it is increasingly networked through information bodies? (73)

Thacker poses a question that has significantly changed the discourse of bodies, biology, and informatics and it exemplifies the current state of the human body. Bodies have been changing ever since scientific and biological creations have been discovered. Health informatics, for instance, combine science and information technology to create IT-based innovations that help improve the quality of health care; however, what happens when science and medicine breaches the “traditional notions” of the human body when people create human body that can enhance one’s quality of life? Networked informatics is the key to reconfiguring the body and further complicate our understandings of bodies as technology has proven to redefine humanity.

Both Lain and Ghost illustrate how humans interact within the network. Although Lain’s Wired is based on a virtual cyberspace as opposed to Kusangai’s cyborg-network, the directors of each feature illustrate the network as a body drifting network. Kusanagi, for instance, dives into various ghosts to gain information within the network, and Lain enters herself in and out of the Wired to investigate. Bodies become momentous in the age of informatics as they are no longer completely organic; these bodies are constantly in flux. These ideas are further explored in Arthur Kroker’s theory of body drift. According to Kroker, body drift refers to the idea that the humans will no longer “inhabit” an organic body; rather, humans, and I add, nonhumans, will “occupy a multiplicity of bodies,” which includes “imaginary, sexualised, disciplined, gendered, labouring, technologically augmented bodies” (2). Bodies are volatile and they are in a constant, mutable drifting state (Kroker 2). The human/nonhuman dichotomy becomes more blurred as bodies go through an assemblage process; even more so, the physical, human body is volatile and is prone to experience periods of rupture. Muri refers to the “disappearance” of the “human form” as the rise of “electronic bodies,” suggesting that organic bodies are mutable and embodiment is altering (73-74). Perhaps the body has drifted even before the emergence of the cybernetics age as the body has been cyclically altered, re/coded, and transgressed beyond human comprehension.

The drifted body becomes connected to the network—a seemingly limitless space that continues to expand. The Wired, for example, becomes an integral component in Lain as it serves as a site for the recodification of the collective conscious into a shared network. Eiri tells Lain:

One theory says that man is a neoteny, and is no longer able to evolve. If this is true, then what an absurd creature man has evolved into. Not knowing what it is that drives them, they keep their bodies merely to satisfy the desires of the flesh. They’re worthless don’t you think. That’s all mankind is. But it is no longer necessary to remain a wretched human being. Mankind has finally created an exit whereby he may escape. The network. The Wired, Lain. (Lain)

Eiri’s decree echoes Londes’ announcement in Cowboy Bebop. Both entities are drifting. As Kroker suggests, these drifting bodies become “interpolated” by and within “vast data archives,” simultaneously encompassing code and flesh. The bodies, as Thacker suggests, are mangled with information.

The cyborgs in Ghost also represent a flowing entity, drifting in and out of the network. The opening scene where Kusanagi plugs her ghost into the network, rendering herself invisible to dive into the network, illustrates how a body drifting networking/networked entity appears. The film’s visuals illustrate a fixation of the ghostly figures, flowing through streams of information. Kusanagi and other cyborgian-software entities depict entities as information that is constantly flowing within the various domains of the network. Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker delimit the network as any structure and/or organisms comprised of “interrelationality, whether biological or informatic, organic or inorganic, technical or natural” (28). Networks become a blurred structural entity that attempts to unknot the “polar restrictiveness” of binaries (Galloway and Thacker 28). However, I believe it is significant to point out that Oshii’s visualisation of Kusanagi constantly diving in and out of the network is comparable to Kroker’s theory of body drifting. Kroker’s theory of body drift is relatively “new”—in the sense that it has been recently introduced in academia. The film, however, already predicted the future of networks in 1995. In this context, the network is occupied by drifting bodies. The future, as Oshii envisions, is a body drifting network, where bodies and information that enter the network are presented as new(er) possibilities and boundaries are pushed and become more clouded.  

Ghosts as Wired Wanderers

One of the many concepts in Ghost, and to an extent, Lain, that has been left unexplored is how the network serves as a collective, shared space where a plurality of bodies, data, ghosts, and knowledge amalgamate. As Orbaugh notes, ghosts symbolise one’s “sense of selfhood that gives rise to intuition and emotion, affective promptings that cannot be accounted for logically” (“Emotional Infectivity: Cyborg Affect and the Limits of the Human” 154). Here, ghosts are a fittingly idiomatic word for one’s consciousness, memories, and self-identity. However, ghosts could have been mistranslated or embody different characteristics. Napier, for instance, describes one’s ghost as a cyborg’s “soul or mind” (“The Problem with Existence in Japanese Animation” 77). The full and half cyborgs of Section 9 have a ghost and ironically, ghosts serve as a reminder of their humanities as well as their individualities. Although Kusanagi’s body is a composite consisting of high tech-cybernetic shells, she reveals to Batō, Section 9’s’ second commander under Kusanagi, that the only biotic, organic tissue component of her artificial body is her brain, which retains her ghost; however, she also recognises that her body, brain, and data belong to the government. Her body is a commodified weapon, one that can be used and destroyed at the government’s disposal.

In a scene between Kusanagi and Togusa, one of the few members of Section 9 who is a half cyborg, half human with a cybernetic brain, they discuss the Puppet Master. In response to Togusa’s comment about her over-analytical personality, Kusanagi responds: “Evidence? I just have a whisper. A whisper from my ghost.” However, in a later scene, Kusanagi starts questioning her own ghost when she sees the Puppet Master held in captivity, believing that her body is as soulless and empty as the Puppet’s Master’s. In a profound exchange with Batō, heasks why she does not believe in her own ghost. Kusanagi responds: “And what if a computer brain could generate a ghost and harbour a soul? On what basis then do I believe in myself?” Such an emphasis on ghosts represents their complex and poetic imagery. Ghosts are part of the living. Humans are chained to ghosts; ghosts are chained to humans to create memories. Kusanagi’s body may be altered, but her ghost is uniquely hers. Likewise, Bolton notes that Kusanagi’s ghost is “a faint imprint of her original personality, [embedded] deep in her brain,” but because her body and cyberbrain were produced by the government, she doubts the authenticity of her own consciousness (734).

The ghosts in Ghost are, of course, also a part of the network. Carl Silvio asserts that since the world has become coded, the cyborgs and humans along with their ghosts (as well as multiple components) are defined by their relational locations within the network system (59). The network serves as a space that dismantles the inner/outer dichotomy, where relationality exists. The concept of ghost hacking, the ability to enter and take control of another’s ghost, suggests that although the network is invasive and penetrative, allowing the body to accumulate and acquire multiple ghosts to store and preserve the network.

The Puppet Master is perhaps the most intriguing and enigmatic character in the movie; a character that warrants a brief character overview and analysis. Oshii uses the character to represent the potential, unlimited possibilities of the network. Anything is capable of being produced—birthed—in the network, which signifies that life forms within the network are not limited to just humans and simple algorithmic codes. The Puppet Master is the primary antagonist in Ghost and it—I may be objectifying the character, but I refer to the Puppet Master as an it because it is a conscious entity that is neither dead nor alive, neither male nor female—is an advanced, sentient artificial software program, code name: Project 2501, that lived within the network, and was created by Section 6 (the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Unit). It is capable of ghost hacking, replicating, and creating artificial memories. The Puppet Master was captured by Section 6 after it tried to escape; however, it successfully escaped from the Section 6’s system after it produced a robotic body to reside in. Though the film later revealed that the Puppet Master purposely allowed Section 9 to recapture it, determined to find another body that will fulfill its purpose. Most importantly, the Puppet Master is the embodiment of a body drifting network. It replicates/fabricates memories by ghost hacking, but it is also a programmed entity-nodule, capable of entering, flowing, and restoring other ghosts into the network.

During Section 9’s interrogation of the Puppet Master, the Puppet Master and the Chief debate on what constitutes a “life form.” The Puppet Master perceives himself as an “autonomous life-form;” however, Section 6 Department Chief Nakamura regards the Puppet Master as a “merely a self-preserving program.” The Puppet Master counters the Chief (and perhaps Oshii has already answered Thacker’s questions) and declares:

By that argument, I submit the DNA you carry is nothing more than a self-preserving program itself. Life is a node which is born within the flow of information. As a species of life that carries DNA and its memory system, [hu]man gains [their] individuality from the memories [they] carr[y]. While memories may as well be the same as fantasy. It is by these memories that [hu]mankind exists. When computers made it possible to externalize memory you should have considered all the implications that held. (Ghost)

Remnants and indications of DNA are left and gathered from multiple bodies as the bodies intermingle and connect with one another; amalgamated information (re)enters various structural entities. As the Puppet Master divulges: “I am a life-form that was born in the sea of information,” revealing that it was conceived as an advanced artificial program named Project 2501 that “wandered [through] various networks.” In another revelation that shocked the Section 6 and Section 9, Puppet Master disclosed that after he gained sentience, it was deemed as a malfunctioned bug and was forced to disconnect from the section’s network. Not wanting to disappear, the Puppet Master was forced to reprogram itself into various bodies to live on.

In this context, the idea of a “life-force” functions as an energy that forms and changes things. The Puppet Master, again, symbolically represents a living entity that has flowed in and out of multiple bodies, maintaining its body of information by preserving through connectivity and re/assemblages. This argument, however, has been rebutted because humans often think of themselves as the only intelligent beings in the planet. However, Mori Masahiro, a robotic engineer, writes that the life-force “has been in existence eternally” (112). Nonhuman entities that are relegated as mere objects and things contain a life-force; inorganic objects are animated with life (Mori 112). The human-technology assemblage will most likely delete the polar restrictions of what constitutes organic life and inorganic life. As such, the Puppet Master is an “enmeshed hybrid” that became animated through multiple (re)codings and has reconfigured itself as a body drifting network (Galloway and Thacker 28).

Ghosts are not an essential theme in Lain; however, there are traces of technological apparitions in the Wired, which I established earlier. Like the ghosts haunting the network in Ghost, the Wired is encompassed by other users who want to access, share, and exchange information. In the first episode of the series, “Layer 01: Weird,” Lain sees “bleeding telephone lines and notices amorphous phantoms watching her” (Gonzaga 62). In the same episode, Lain stops writing in her notebook and raises her hand, only to notice that a phantom-like aura is being released from her fingers. I see this as metaphorical imagery. The audience can see that the smoke-like entities are flowing across the room, enveloping the entire classroom. This is a signal: every student is connected to each other through the Wired; it is a web of entanglement. To an extent, Lain and Eiri are similar to the Puppet Master as they are disembodied entities that ghost other actors and actants for sources of information. Lain’s visuals of the eerie, lingering phantoms are a metaphorical description of the omnipresence of the network; they frequently follow the user, maintaining a pathway for connection.

The phantom spectres in Lain also represent an argument that is now being interrogated in several academic disciplines: ghosts are like information; they are always maintained by memory. Because connectivity is the central theme of the series, users of the Wired are “connected unconsciously since they share memories through the collective conscious” (Gonzaga 65). Memories have a long life. Even after the body experiences death from dotage and decay, memories continue to exist. However, what happens to memories when people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia often experience memory loss? Do their memories indefinitely recede in the deep recesses of their brains? As brain cells are damaged, memory and cognitive skills reduce; however, with the rapid cultural impact of social networking (media), one’s memories can be archived through pictures, bookmarking, and metadata (tagging). Archives created through social networking preserve one’s history. In this sense, the capacity of one’s memories may be lost due to aging or brain damage, but memories may be re/stored when uploaded onto the network.

Memories, too, have a lifespan, but their longevity is considerably greater because they are refurbished in an alternative form. While memories can be rendered false, become manipulated, and/or replicated, they still exist/ed at one point in time, particularly through various cycles of re/animation. One of the many poignant scenes from the film involve a mundane trash collector, Kogie, and his artificially implanted memories that were created by the Puppet Master. After an exciting car chase, Kusanagi and Togusa bring the trash collector back to the Section 9’s headquarters, they inform him that his memories are false and that his brain was hacked into, implanting those false memories. The officials of Section 9 describe Kogie as a “puppet controlled by a puppeteer” and was used to ghost hack government officials. Visibly shaken by the ordeal, the trash collector questions whether his false memories could be erased. As Kusanagi and Batō witness the interrogation, Batō shares:

Virtual experiences, dreams, all data that exist in both reality and fantasy. Whichever it is, the data a person collects in a lifetime are a tiny bit compared to the whole.

Memories are continually reanimated through verbal and/or archival records that are generationally passed down, which is analogous to the practice of storytelling. Although we can question whether these stories and/or memories are accurate or existed or not is one thing, but through reiteration, they are maintained and preserved to survive. The desire to maintain the lifespan of memories is intriguing and can be likened to a ghost-like figure: an entity that continues to aimlessly linger and/or bound itself to a specific site after the body experiences death from dotage and decay. Jeffrey Sconce, however, describes ghosts as “fragmented and decentred” former human entities that are no longer a part of “reality,” but are “lost” and left behind to wander in and out of a “hallucinatory world where the[ir] material world is lost” (18). Sconce’s imagery of ghosts reifies the binary between humans/nonhumans and the living/non-living, but in East Asian ghost lore, specifically Japanese folklore,8 ghosts are often drifting in and out of the material and spiritual worlds, interacting in the material-living world and with humans.

Tracing back ghost imagery in Japanese horror films and literature, Sara L. Sumpter explains that Japanese ghost stories often integrate the concept of yūrei, which literally translates as “dim/hazy/faint spirit” of the dead (7). Sumpter further writes: “[t]he most striking feature of both the male and female yūrei is their tendency to appear not as the diaphanous spirits associated with Western concepts of restless souls, but in the form they held while living” (9). For Sumpter, ghosts may be categorically differentiated from humans because they are soulless; however, even without souls, they retain their human forms. More recently, after the 2011 tsunami that killed thousands of people in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture, Steve Huff reports in an online article published by Maxim that Japanese taxi drivers have reported they believe in “earthbound spirits wandering the zone where the ocean roared ashore and erased almost everything”9. As such, the conflation between ghosts and humans, the living and the dead, is like a riddle: What makes ghosts ghosts? What makes ghosts “unfleshy? Better yet: should entities have “flesh” to live?

Ghost(ing) Information

Ghosts become the living dead. They are re/codified and kept alive based on the living’s memories by the country’s spectres, continuing to live on as an imprint of the past and future, becoming the futurepast10. In her close reading of Edogawa Ranpo’s story, “Twins,” Miri Nakamura uses the expression the “trace of a ghost,” to illustrate how ghosts are simultaneously absent and present in our temporal consciousness (69). In Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook, Yamaga Sokō dedicates a section on ghosts and spirits in relation to Buddhism. He explains that when living entities such as animals and humans disembody themselves from their bodies, their ghosts and spirits wander and disseminate, “inform[ing] all things” in the cosmos (341). Ghosts are no longer a figment of our imaginations. They exist in multiple forms, zones, and worlds and are innately connected to humans, natures, and things. I further argue that ghosts/memories are from the past and are reanimated because they haunt our present and futures. Colin Davis refers to Jacques Derrida’s French term and concept hantologie, or hauntology. Hauntology is conceptualised as a “near-homonym ontology” as ghosts are “neither present nor absent, neither dead nor alive” (Davis 373). Derrida’s ideology of hauntology indicate a complex blurring between the animate and the inanimate and the embodied and the disembodied; or perhaps Derrida does not believe there is truly a differentiated binary between humans and nonhumans [ghosts] because life and death are intricately knotted with each other, leaving no space for differentiation. This ideology is similar to the Buddhist mantra and the philosophy of Go players: “to live is to die; to die is to live11.

Derrida’s ideology is applicable in the modernisation of a digital culture. Tools are created because there is an inherent desire to capture the visibility of the invisible. Ghosts or spectral phenomena are classified as some of these obscured, ethereal existences. Consider, for example, DL Cade reports that designer Luis Hernan’s project, Digital Ethereal, uses a camera to capture “streams of information pouring out” from different locations12. As Cade notes, Hernan then adds colour to enhance the images he has captured by using an Android App called the “Kirlian Device mobile that visualises WiFi signal strength[s].” Not only does Hernan’s project further complicate the hauntology of ghosts, but his project threads the possibility on how ghosts, particularly in a digital age, are informational torrents that are enmeshed with the past, present, and future. Even through creative digital manipulation, Hernan is still able to technologically visualise how ghosts are perceived as sources of information that continue to subsist, regardless of which era we as humans enter and adapt in.

Ghost and Lain re/establish the idea of a wandering ghost, filled with information and memories that are sustained by the network and other people accessing them. The Puppet Master’s ghost, Lain’s many Wired duplicated shadows, and Eiri’s lingering form encompass mix(ed) memories through their inter/actions and processes with relata, edified by time. As time flows, the Puppet Master’s stored memories become even more advanced as he passes through the networks. The characters in Lain are similarly fixated with memories. In many cases, Lain and Eiri often argue whether one’s existence is equated to one’s memory. In “Layer 12: ‘Landscape,’” Lain tells Eiri:

People only have substance within the memories of others. That’s why there were all kinds of me’s. There wasn’t a lot of me’s, I was just inside all sorts of people, that’s all.

The network/Wired and the Puppet Master are representations of a fragmented, non-unified entity. Pieces that are assembled onto the body are known as assemblage. As Jasbir K. Puar explains it, the term assemblage is an “awkward” translation of the French word, “agencement,” which is often defined as “design, layout, organisation, arrangements, and relations” (57). Thus, the term assemblage can be conceptualised as pieces, or fragments of multiple objects, entities, and/or things that are somehow connected to each other (Puar 57). These fragmented pieces and/or concepts are not related to each other nor do these pieces/concepts “exist prior to [connecting to each other]” (Puar 57), but are used to re-animate an entity that is cogitated as non-living. The theory of assemblage is like the actor-network theory that Latour proposes. The network has no exact genesis because it came into existence, randomly. It was also created by random individual pieces and/or objects that were attached to each other, building a collective, expansive body. In other words, the network existed out of nothingness, which physicists and religious texts often argued. In the Puppet Master’s view, the network is an untraditional site of memori, where the conscious becomes a living system through its inter-action and intra-action with multiple forms of codified life forms. In fact, the network also propagates itself into a space of becoming.  

Death + Unification = Living Tomb

The motions of living things become interesting as life is inherently connected to death. Sogyal Rinpoche, a Tibetan Dzogchen Iama, and author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, writes that even with technological advancements, “modern society has no real understanding of death or what happens in death or after death” (7)13. As humans, we are unable clearly to articulate the meaning of death, resulting in our frequent usage of euphemisms. Rinpoche’s mentioning of technological achievements, I think, reflects on the mystery of whether death can occur in a digital age. Humans in this era are rapidly seeing and participating in the storage, processing, and re/production of new information. If life forms are ultimately blurred in the network, then death must also be untraditional. That is, the human body experiences deterioration, sickness, and expiry. Rinpoche continues to write: “[d]eath is a vast mystery” (15). In the present age of informatics, bodies may experience death, but thoughts and information up/loaded from the brain may not and continue to remain living.

Another recent digital apparatus that further changes the notion of death in the technological and network landscape is the E-Tomb. This apparatus is a Red Dot Award: Design Concept winner in 201014; it functions as a solar powered battery that is implanted on top of the tombstone of the deceased, allowing mourners to access information of the deceased from a network. The creation of the E-Tomb is an important signifier of the future: although humans are bound by time—and their body—and will eventually perish, the storage of their memories never cease to exist. The E-Tomb, in this case, allows ghosts to remain in digital archives, undeleted. Verne Harris writes about the connection between ghostly narratives, stories, and a concept that he describes as “archive banditry,” which as he notes in his abstract, is “a strategy, if not a praxis, to create a space for ghosts in oppressive societal contexts” (13). For Harris, “archive bandits” pay “attention” to ghosts and they “respect the archival trace—the inscription, the imprint, and the invagination” (16). Similar to Hernan’s Digital Ethereal project, José Esteban Muñoz notes, Derrida employs hauntology as a “conceptual tool” to understand the postmodern age of electronic uses” (42)15.Indeed, archives have abetted in documenting and sharing personal, historical, individual, and collective memories. They become a spectral trace of one’s existence(s); however, there is a difference between paper archives and digital archives. Paper can be damaged and destroyed, leaving no evidence or trace of its existence as it becomes scraps and/or pallid remnants. While digital archives can be deleted at one point, they remain within the network’s circulation. Tweets, for example, can be deleted but remain alive on the Internet once someone takes a screenshot of them and publishes it on multiple social media platforms. The E-Tomb, overall, facilitates a form of technologised social networking, connection, and even interaction between the dead and the living.

The E-Tomb is a primary example of what death looks like in the network. Even in death, as I have argued, one cannot be deleted from the databases of the network. Because the notions of death, rebirth, and impermanence are rendered as philosophical traditions in East Asia, I intend to discuss the assemblage of networked informatics in Lain and Ghost. And here, I argue that the E-Tomb functions as a technical flow16 within the network, further suggesting that the network is a living tomb, where bodies are amassed as piles of data that can never be deleted or die.

Lain essentially begins its layered story with a character death. In the first episode, Lain and her peers receive a mass email, notifying them of Yomoda Chisa’s suicide; however, users of the Wired continue to receive emails from a “dead Yomoda.” These conversations are interspersed throughout the series, showing the audience that there are “real time” conversations occurring in the Wired. For example, in “Layer 01: ‘Weird,’” a message in kanji is seen on the screen: “I don’t need to stay in a place like this [the real world]….” This message is presumably written by Yomoda after she becomes one with the Wired. She goes on to declare through text messages: “If you stay in a place like this, you might not be able to connect.” Death in the Wired, as majority of the characters note, does not seem “real” or “serious.” In “Layer 03: ‘Psyche,’” Mizuki Arisu, Lain’s only friend in the series, confronts her classmates with her witnessing of someone dying; however, her classmates remain apathetic about the ordeal and rebuff her worries, telling Arisu that the death scene was reminiscent of a movie scene, making it surreal to them. One classmate even tells Arisu that she should not take the death so “seriously,” which is strange to Arisu. She states, “I’m saying it’s strange that we can’t take it seriously.” This statement denotes that death and dying are quite different when considering the distinctions between the real world and the Wired; people view death as inevitable and are desensitised about it. As the series progresses, it is revealed that Yomoda did not truly die, but rather, decided to discard her body in order to reside and remain alive within the Wired. A user from the Wired sends Yomoda a question, asking her: “What’s is like when you die?” And, Yomoda responds: “It really hurts! :)” Even then, she can interact with users who are alive in the real world. Once a user enters the Wired, they will see that there are multiple consciousness, psyches, memories, and identities embedded in there. Thus, the series hints that even after death, the network enables continuous activity.

The death of the body is associated with corporeal disembodiment, leading to a form of rebirth in the Wired. In “Layer 03: ‘Psyche,’” a message was sent to Lain, notifying her that “Dying feels so good.” This message can be interpreted as one not fearing death—or what happens to the body, postdeath—in the Wired because one continues to exist there regardless of form. As the story unfolds, Lain notices that dying is different in the Wired, especially after she realises that she is a sentient software program. According to Eiri, she is an “an executable program with a body” (“Layer 11: ‘Infornography’”). Her body functions as an informatic body, coated with codes that are prone to change, that spreads across the Wired. In their conversation about the limitations of the human body, Eiri, who informs Lain that he was the one who created her, proclaims:

The body is nothing but a machine. If the physical limitations of the body restrict [human]kind’s evolution, it would be as if the fall of the special called ‘[human]’ had already been decided by a God that doesn’t exist. The information etched inside humans isn’t only that which they themselves have acquired as individuals. This species called [human] is connected to [their] predecessors and information accumulated within [them]. If that information isn’t shared, it’s meaningless. Mere data. (Lain)

Going back to Thatcher’s idea of what it means to have a body in the age of a database-reliant society, Eiri’s character associates the body as nothing but a mere vessel for information. Even after death, bodies of information remain alive for those who seek, use, and access them; information becomes a connecting point for other users. Though a user may “expire,” their information remains in the network and in the existing archives.

The processes of disembodiment and death in Lain signify how data can be re/imagined and re/produced, or reincarnated, as a form of flesh. Boundaries are shattered further as Watanabe visualises how data can be perceived as a form of spirit. Entered data—information—can be seen as part of one’s flesh. Phillip Thurtle and Robert Mitchell argue that the depictions of information in Star Trek and The Matrix demonstrate that codes and data are “elements” that are part of the body (1). Rather than seeing a continued categorical distinction between information and bodies, Thurtle and Mitchell postulate that both “function almost as ripples that pass from pools of liquid across one another; it is the difference between the pools that allows the ripples to propagate themselves, and intersect in unique and interesting ways” (2). In many instances, the body is indeed composed of information; the brain continuously processes and enters information daily. The body functions in a way that catalogues these data for future applications.

Poignantly, Lain begins with a suicide death and ends with a trickery death of deletion. As the boundaries between the real world and the Wired become more and more blurred, Lain notices that her community is becoming chaotic and more people are committing suicide, most likely due to Eiri’s influence. To change the order of time, Lain downloads the data from her Navi into her brain, and begins “overflowing herself with information” (“Layer 11: Infornography”). This scene is haunting as viewers see Lain’s body wrapped with black wires as she lies on her bedroom floor, in a precarious state, almost as if she is nearing death. The series details that Lain is an entity that can dissolve the bridge between the real world and the Wired, rewiring its synchronicity, to help users avoid remaining trapped between the two worlds, resulting in people living in a state of confusion as their consciousness becomes damaged. Lain believes that by erasing the memories of those who have interacted with her, she can erase the history of events perpetuated by the Wired. Later, she succeeds in resetting both the Wired and moving the real world into “real time and space” in front of Eiri and Arisu17. In the final episode, “Layer 12: Landscape,” the black screen with kanji shows a message that was presumably written by Lain as she becomes an omnipresent entity within the Wired: “What isn’t remembered never happened. Memory is merely a record. You just need to rewrite that record.” Lain’s message mirrors Eiri’s statement from “Layer 09: Protocol,” where he tells Lain “If a being is remembered, that proves that’s it’s part of a record!” Regardless of information manipulation, it thrives by existing.

Once Lain reconciles with the fact that she is a never-dying, all-pervading entity, she disappears from everyone’s lives. In the final episode, “Layer 13: Ego,” an older Arisu sees Lain and runs up to determine whether they know each other. Since Lain has moved time forward in the real world, she has stayed within the domains of the Wired, remaining as an adolescent girl. Though Arisu could not recall where she had met Lain, she knew they had been acquainted at one point. During the exchange, Lain only utters her name to Arisu, with an innocent smile. The series ends with their final, bittersweet departing words:

Arisu: “Maybe we’ll run into each other again someday.”
Lain [after Arisu leaves with her husband]: “You’re right. We can see each  other anytime. I’ll be here, so I’ll be with you forever.”

Memories, again, are connected with one’s existence. Even if Lain erases Arisu’s memories of her, Lain’s traces are somehow left behind, leading Arisu vaguely to remember her. Information becomes a powerful tool because once it is disseminated, even after re/editing it, it remains undeleted. Before the ending, Lain was having an existential crisis about becoming one with the network. One of her many doppelgängers tells her that because Lain’s body is de/re/coded with information, she will always be in motion; as such, she will exist in some form or another to others. Doppelgänger Lain tells the “real” Lain:

A network is a field to pass along information. Information doesn’t always stand still there. Information functions by always being in motion. People’s memories aren’t just personal or one part of history of humanity. No, not even the shared unconscious. (Lain)

Because information never stands still, it continues to spread in and out of the network. Lain will never be deleted from the network, though she has the power to reset herself. Remnants of her memories and information continue to diffuse because the network serves as a connecting point between users, re/absorbing information on a constant basis. However, Douglas Coupland’s recently published book, Bit Rot, introduces the phrase, “bit rot,” which is a “term used in digital archiving that describes the way digital files of any sort spontaneously (and quickly) decompose” (1). As I have argued, while (digital) information can be deleted, changed, and reset, it continues to leave a mark in a networking archive. There is a way to maintain the information without erasing it.  Laura Osburn briefly mentions this in her research on how Buddhist narratives and practices can be digitally contextualised. Osburn claims that “archiving software” could be used to avoid data deletion (54). As a software program, Lain uses her executable abilities to maintain the network and re/store its information (though for the status quo of her community). Lain can be described as a “bit rot” of sorts, simultaneously deleting and collecting data.

Like Lain, Ghost also explores the complexities of life, death, and rebirth. Monique Jones’ piece, “Jon Tsuei is Right: A #WhitewashedOut Ghost in the Shell Misses the Cultural Mark,” references Tsuei’s tweet about how Ghost represents “Japan’s cultural themes of rebirth and regeneration, particularly when it comes to how Japan itself went through a rebirthing process of its own national identity post World War II.” I will not discuss Japan’s rebirthing process in relation to its national identity, but I do think Tsuei’s tweet is interesting as I do see how Buddhist themes of rebirth/regeneration are parables hidden in Ghost.

In the memorable penultimate scene of the movie, Kusanagi, with only her upper half body and ghost left, decides to dive into the Puppet Master’s ghost. The two are laid beside each other and with assistance from Batō, Kusanagi and the Puppet Master are connected through wires, machines, and their ghosts. As they speak, we see that Kusanagi’s voice is heard from the Puppet Master’s equally destroyed body and the Puppet Master’s voice is emitted from Kusanagi’s. In this scene, the Puppet Master reveals his true intentions to Kusanagi: its plan is to merge its ghost into Kusanagi’s ghost, creating an entirely new entity. Although the Puppet Master views itself as a life-form, it acknowledges that its form is incomplete and that its “system lacks the basic life processes of either death and the ability to leave offspring.” When Kusanagi questions why the Puppet Master does not replicate itself, it answers:

A mere copy doesn’t offer variety or individuality. To exist, to reach equilibrium, life seeks to multiply and vary constantly, at time giving up its life. Cells continue the process of death and regeneration. Being constantly reborn as they age. And when it comes time to die, all the data is processes are lost, leaving behind only its genes and offspring. (Ghost)

To avoid extinction and loss of its hoarding information, the Puppet Master seeks to alter itself and Kusanagi’s body/ghost without either of them losing anything. This complete joinery, afterwards, will blur any distinctions from one another.

The Puppet Master’s hoarding of information is quite similar to Lain’s opinions on information: they are valuable. But for the Puppet Master, it believes that once his body experiences death, only small traces of the information it stored will become incomplete. Bolton writes extensively about this scene concerning its layout, dialogue and its parallels to Japanese puppet theatre, or ningyō jōruri. Bolton writes that the final union between Kusanagi and the Puppet Master “is figured in terms of sex, death, and rebirth, as a kind of love suicide” (shinjū) (741). The Puppet Master desires the union because its body is incomplete and fragile. At this point, disembodiment becomes configured into re-embodiment. But Kusanagi fears that she would be “unable to leave any genes or children behind.” The Puppet Master shares its ethos to Kusanagi and responds: “After the merging, you will bear my offspring into the net itself. Just as humans pass on their genetic structure. And I will achieve death.” For Bolton, this scene and dialogue are reminiscent of Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s play, The Love Suicides at Sonezaki, where the “lovers can transcend their worldly obligations through death and yet remained reunited,” and can be reborn together as a single lotus (742)18.  Early in the play, Ohatsu, a courtesan and the star-crossed lover of Tokubei, an employee and soy sauce dealer, tells Tokubei: 

And if a time should come when we can no longer meet, did our promises of  love hold only for this world? Others before us have chosen reunion through death. To die is simple enough—none will hinder and none be hindered on the journey to the Mountain of Death and the River of Three Ways. (1.43)

Love suicide is one way for reunification as the two bodies will enter the afterlife together and will either be punished by the hell deity or be reincarnated in their next life, continuing their life cycle. Not only are there sexual undertones in the anime, but the invocation of this scene intensifies the uncanny parallels between cyborgs and puppets and serves to remind the audience that assemblages blur the boundaries between life and death. But, in Oshii’s perspective, life and death are never quite achievable within the network; the ghost remains even as the body disappears.

Bolton’s discussion of love suicides in Japanese puppet theatre expounds on the re/creations of informatics subjectivities. Digital and technologised entities experience regeneration through multiple methods. In Ghost and Lain, the directors depict a techno-modernisation of regeneration: if bodies contain information, the data can be extracted and “downloaded” into another vessel to maintain their life. Information has an unexpired life cycle. Zoë Brigley references Haraway’s cyborg and speculates that birth becomes “mechanised;” “cyborg reproduction” is referred to as “replication,” a word that “denies the organic process of ordinary child-birth” (18). Hayles furthers this argument and argues that humans are “conceived, gestated, and born;” they experience bodily, physical, and mental developments, aging, and death (Hayles 158). Machines, on the other hand, are created, industrially “manufactured,” and “assembled” (Hayles 158). Perhaps a distinguishing difference between humans and machines and their reproductive processes is that machines could be “disassembled and reassembled either into the same product or a different one” (Hayles 158). That is not to say that humans are incapable of being reincarnated into a different person, body, or thing, but mechanised bodies do experience death in a different manner. After experiencing rebirth, Lain, for example remains in her same form while Kusanagi and the Puppet Master are visibly disassembled. Their new body vessel is an adolescent female body, with Kusanagi’s head intact, holding her and the Puppet Master’s ghost.

Hayles’ assertions mirror the third epigraph that opens this paper. While Mark Z. Danielewski’s book, The Familiar Volume 1, is complex and interweaves several spatial locations, time, and characters together, I am focusing on the quote that Anwar Ibrahim, a computer programmer and video game designer, tells his adopted daughter, twelve-year-old Xanther Ibrahim. They engage in a brief but intense conversation about identity, the possible death of Xanther’s biological father, religion, and an afterlife. Although one need not believe in a hell, let alone a digital hell, bodies, things, and such enter hell for future preservations. Regeneration is continued through hell. And in hell, bodies, parts, and systems exist through a “prearranged” form that is not quite new and not quite old.

Death functions heretically. The network operates as a regenerative living tomb. Bodies may change, but the information extracted from those bodies are stored for preservation. To further understand the connection between death and programmed networks, Chun discusses how digital media “saves” everything by “transforming storage into memory” (Programming Visions 138). Information is re/animated through memories and passed down, making it a cyclical process. Chun further posits that “memory hardens information” (Programming Visions 97).  In a digital archival age, there is a need to re/store data so that it will never get lost. According to Chun, the need to desire a permanent network is “central to progress” of the future of networks (Programming Visions 97). Ghosts, by extension, also resides in us. What makes the humans prone to a network(ed) fever is because there is a desire to “connect every piece of information to another piece” (Hu 11). The E-Tomb was created to reconcile the gap between living information and “dead” information; and information continues even after death. Even though the E-Tomb might be tagged with an expiry date, the information and memories embedded continue remain as it inters into the network. The Puppet Master, for instance, wanted to achieve death—though an incomplete death because its ghost will remain in the network, through Kusanagi. Therefore, information is encrypted with codes, archiving them. The network becomes a living tomb for information—old and new. Memories are permanent in a sense they can always be digitally archived and received at any point in time and the restrictions of memory and storage will become obsolete in the future.

Current technological research has considered the concept of the idea of “spawning networks.” Scholars such as Andrew T. Campbell, John Vicente, and Daniel A. Villela describe spawning networks as a “new class of open programmable works” that “automate” the life cycles for “creation, deployment and management of network architecture.” Such networks are called “parent networks” and are capable of “spawning child network architectures” (Campbell, Vicente, and Villela 249-250). This idea of spawning networks eerily echoes the sentiments of the Puppet Master’s desire for unification:

I am connected to a vast network, of which I myself am a part. To one like you, who cannot access it, you may perceive it only as light. As we are confined to our one section, so we are all connected, limited to a small part of our functions. But now we must slip our bonds and shift to a higher structure. (Ghost)

The Puppet Master functions as the parental-connector figure of a developing network and after committing a physical love suicidal-unification act, Kusanagi inherits the amassed ghosts and information from the Puppet Master. The child network is an incomplete derivative of the two (or more) parental networks it collects and archives information while entering an uncertain path of simultaneity: (non) death and regeneration through connectivity. This idea is quite similar to the philosophies of death in Buddhism: entities experience life and death concurrently. Rinpoche writes: “[a]ll beings have lived and died and been reborn countless times. Over and over again they have experienced the indescribable Clear Light. But because they were obscured by the darkness of ignorance, they wander endlessly in a limitless samsara” (Rinpoche 265). In other words, death and regeneration (rebirth) are bound through connectivity; when there is death, there is life; when there is life there is death.

The life and regeneration cycles are bound by connectivity—the connection to the im/material worlds. Like the Puppet Master, who was unable to achieve death prior to meeting and subsequently, merging with Kusanagi, it was unable to achieve death because it wandered “endlessly” into the vastness of the network. If the dark coloured tones of the network used in the anime were any indicators, the network, presumably, is a like a dark void/vacuum, which resonates with Rinpoche’s thoughts about darkness (ignorance). However, it should be noted that the Puppet Master never fully achieves death because its unification with Kusanagi seems to validate that it is alive within Kusanagi’s new body. At the same time, Kusanagi never fully experiences a rebirth/regeneration because her ghost remains intact, but she has stored the Puppet Master’s networked/stored information and ghosts into her own brain.

Life, death, and regeneration are further blurred in the network as there was never a complete(d) cycle. Therefore, the network embraces incomplete cycles of what life, death, and regeneration, which is consistent with Hayles’ detailing of the assembly and disassembly zones of cybernetic bodies. However, as Chun asserts, memory “contains within the act of repetition” (Programmed Visions 133). The storage of memories is a process of “recollection or remembering,” allowing things to be connected through “commemoration” (Chun, Programmed Visions 133). Information is neither dead nor alive; it does, however, regenerate in a sense that information continues to expand as the network continues to increase due to entered/inter(ed) data. Most importantly, information is generated through connectivity.

The death and rebirthing processes explored in both features indicates that the network parallels the universe. Rinpoche specifically mentions that scientists posit that the universe is “nothing but change, activity, and process” (26). The very same process can be used to describe death in Buddhism; even after death, changes occur and are in motion. In Robert A. F. Thurman’s translated version of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Padma Sambhava, an eighth century Indian Buddhist teacher, similarly discusses that there is a possibility of a “postdeath existence of consciousness and sentience future life continuity” (25). Because life and death are inherently entwined, they are on the same continuum. Sambhava further discusses how death is a part of a “multilife perspective, which is the idea that “matter is a continuum of lives, and that the death, between, and rebirth processes follow a predictable pattern” (18). All living entities and matters go through multiple cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. Even if life and death seem incompatible19, inter/connectivity does not end after death; death is not the end. The network continues to expand even after several transformations.

Is God Dead?

One of my many arguments in this paper is to contend that Buddha is the probable architect of the network, where his ideas of oneness become the foundation of network connectivity. But because God is a main character in both Cowboy Bebop and then Lain, I will also discuss Him as well.

For most of human history, there have been contestations regarding the existence of God. Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous pronouncement of “God is dead” was largely discussed in his book, The Gay Science (181). However, in the same section, Nietzsche also writes that Buddha is dead, which scholars have rarely noted or interrogated. He writes: “[a]fter Buddha was dead, his shadow was still shown for centuries in a cave—a tremendous, gruesome shadow” (Nietzsche 168). While “God remains dead,” Nietzsche contends Buddha’s shadow remains a lingering, significant, and undead entity. For Nietzsche, Buddha is dead in the sense that once we—humans—question the existence of Buddha (and God), Buddha is/becomes dead [to us]. Julian Reid writes that God (and Buddha) are “far from dead” and that their deaths indicate that they are living as lingering shadows (96). Buddha’s and God’s deaths mark an end of an epoch, leading us into the eras of postmodernism and posthumanism.

Like Nietzsche’s dead god, the existence (or non-existence) of God is palpable in Lain. In “Layer 05: Distortion,” a phantom apparition visits Lain to inform here that “the prophecy is being fulfilled.” It is strongly hinted that the prophecy is about the Wired God attempting to bridge the real world and the Wired together, shattering all the boundaries that restricted the merger between the two worlds. Lain does not believe in the prophecy nor does she think a Wired God exists; however; as Lain hears voices from God, she begins to experience inner chaos and confusion. Her father, an enigma who knew Lain was a software program before the beginning of the series, tells Lain:

It may be that what flows through the Wired isn’t merely electrical information. If we assume that it was the development of electricity and phones that brought about the formation of the Wired, then I have to wonder if another world was created at that moment. Here in the real world, God only exists as a concept. But in the Wired, there may be a sort of deus-like embodiment. (Lain)

This assertion is interesting and it relates to Nietzsche’s “God [or Buddha] is dead” statement. God, at times, is socially constructed by the human psyche because there is a need for him: to believe in something greater, something that transcends humans. Lain constantly questions where the Wired is connected to; it seems that the information entered and distributed in and out of the Wired was God’s doing. In “Layer 09: Protocol,” several minor characters state “if you want to be free of suffering, you should believe in God.” While Nietzsche also acknowledges that God “remains dead, he contends that his shadow is still very present” (168). This is further suggested in “Layer 11: Infornography,” where Lain and one of her doppelgängers, which helps viewers realise that Lain has been internally conversing with herself throughout the series, discuss the role of gods after Lain feels lost from her removing herself from everyone’s memories. The doppelgänger states: “The human world creates and prays to various gods, and humans convince themselves, ‘This is how the world is.’” God is still very much alive because humans continue to (re)create a God to fulfill the role of a figure for connectedness within the network.

Eiri declares himself as the Wired God in Lain. Eiri’s character, like Londes, believes that this is because he has had the intelligence and ability to transcend the limitations of the physical body. The series reveals that Eiri was the project director of Protocol Seven for a computer company, Tachibana General Laboratories. As he was working on the project, he covertly uploaded his entire existence and being, his mind, into the Wired, allowing his mind continually to exist in and out of the Wired. He later dies. After this revelation, Lain realises that Eiri, who was her creator/reincarnator, wants her also to abandon her body and flesh and enter the Wired with him so they both could exist as omnipresent beings. He also wants the border between the real world and the Wired destroyed and for that to succeed, he needs Lain. The episode, “Layer 10: Love,” includes some of the most compelling dialogue of the series:

Eiri: I can live forever as an anonymous entity in the Wired, and will be able to rule it with information. What do you think a being like that should be called?
Lain: A god.
Eiri: There is no God.
Lain: Yes. Even if I were an omnipresent being and could influence others, with no one to worship me, I’m no god. (Lain)

Later in the same episode, Lain begins the process of resetting the timeline and she enters the border between the real world and the Wired and talks to Eiri again:

Lain: You don’t have anyone to pray to you now.
Eiri: I can’t be god, then. But I haven’t lost all of them. If only one believer remains, I can still be a god. (Lain)

God becomes an idol in Lain. Risaku Mutai argues that  humans are “incapable” of living without a God (Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook 698). In Risaku’s perspective, God can be described as a “fetish-idol God” because humans created a transcendent being that is revered and will always be present (Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook 698). The series further acknowledges this sentiment when another unknown character claims that, “whether or not you believe in Him, God is always by your side.” Thus, God continues to exist and is incapable of dying.

What is also intriguing about this conversation is that information, once again, is being treated like living matter, a deus-like entity, because it remains alive even after the body fades. For Eiri, the information he uploads is an amalgamation of selfhood, more valuable than a body that is disposable. Lain refutes this, believing that Eiri construes himself as God and gives himself powers to control, allowing him the opportunity to manipulate and brainwash users so they can become his worshippers. But, if the information is manipulated from the original timeline, does the original God not exist?

After Eiri disappears, Lain feels apprehensive about being the de facto goddess of the Wired. In many instances, it feels like Lain, given the option, “would rather be a cyborg than a goddess”20 because she is normal. She has a family. She goes to school. She has one best friend. This all changes because of Eiri and the Wired. Her doppelgänger reasons with Lain and tells her that the changes within the Wired and the real world have happened for a reason, further informing Lain that it would be less complicated if she would just “quietly observe and become God.” Lain finally realises that she can drift in and out of the Wired, and agrees to become the next Goddess of the Wired. As her doppelgänger divulges: “Lain is omnipresent, existing everywhere.”

Nietzsche was/is correct. God’s deaths continue to cast a haunting shadow over us because during and after his death, the idea of universal connectivity has birthed and progressed a digital network where the need to connect to others and things is a priority. For Lain, the Wired and her informatic self are undying and ever-present.

The Architect: Is Buddha Dead?

Buddha and God are almost dis/similar entities. Both, arguably, were humans at one point in their lives. But perhaps a distinguishing distinction between the two is that in many Buddhist teachings, Buddha never claimed himself to be a God, although he was often rendered as a God-like figure. First, an essential in Buddhist teaching is that regardless of form, all matter is interconnected to every other. The concept of oneness stems from interconnectedness and interconnectivity. Oneness describes that there is no separation between matter—dead or living—and the universe, rather than seeing matter as existing in isolation; all things are dependent on each other, creating a web of relationality. Therefore, all things are connected to the universe.  In Japan, the term engi is literally translated as “arising in relation,” signifying that development, growth, causes, and life are dependent on each other. The premise of Lain is about the importance of connections. In “Layer 05: Distortion,” a phantom spectre visits and speaks to Lain about the prophecy of the network:

No, it is a prophecy. History is not merely a linear collections of points that we pass through a lifetime. They are connected by a line. No, perhaps it is more accurate to say that they are made to connect.

After attaining enlightenment and leaving his physical behind, Buddha, who was formerly known as Siddhartha Gautama, reached enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, realising the continued quest for knowledge is important. Even after his death, his acquired knowledges continue to proliferate. Reflecting on Buddhists’ quest for knowledge, I believe the current upgraded status of the network, the digital network, to be exact, Buddha’s ideas of interconnectivity/interconnectedness and oneness are now uploaded onto the network. Though God is the creator of the Wired, the assertion that history, and I add, things, are created to fulfill the need for connection is rooted in interconnectivity/interconnectedness.

Gregory Price Grieve, one of the many editors of Buddhism, the Internet, and Digital Media: The Pixel in the Lotus, introduces the term “digital Buddhism” to describe how Buddhist teachings are stored and preserved online. Grieve references his field study on Buddhist-based Websites such as Second Life’s Zen Buddhist cloud, an online community where members participate in Buddhist practices such as online meditation and other non-violent practices (23). These online Buddhist communities, may shallowly promote Buddha’s philosophies, but Grieve interestingly notes that digital Buddhism opens pathways to maintain and distribute his ideas, connecting online users to Buddha’s knowledges. There are no distinctions, Grieve asserts, between Buddhist practices in the real world and in an online community because the teachings remain the same, though the format has changed based on the current era.

Though Buddha’s shadow lingers, he, too becomes a formless entity in online communities, and the network. But how can one physically “see” Buddha in the network? In The Buddha in the Robot: A Robot Engineer’s Thoughts on Science and Religion, Mori writes that the while the “Buddha-nature” has no true “physical form,” it “fills” the “whole and all the parts” and “moves everything” forward (174). Mori’s description of the Buddha-nature aligns with the idea of an assemblage, where things are abstractly created by knitting together non-congruent parts. But in the end, these fragmented pieces form a collective whole. Mechanical bodies like robots, for example, encompass a Buddha-nature. Mori explains that as he plans and builds his robots, he sees a buddha-nature in them because the relationship he has with his robots are akin to the relationship he shares with Buddha (174, 179).

Mori’s discussion about the creation of his robots parallels Hayles’ discussion of the cyborg’s assembly and disassembly zones. For Mori, however, his process incorporates a Buddhist philosophy. He explains that engineering begins with the “science of cutting” and makes a comparison that the world creates things through a process of “cutting thing apart” then reassembling those very parts together (32-33). Humans are attached to the things they create; however, Buddha disapproves the practice of dividing things and separating them into dichotomies. A priest tells Mori that Buddha “combines the spirit and the body into an entity,” unifying the two to create a harmonised entity (35). Ōhashi Ryōsuke also briefly discusses the connection between “cutting” and the vitality of life. Life is often described as stable in continuity; however, this stability is interrupted once a cut slices through, initiating change. Ōhashi poetically explains that “cutting” is an “interruption” and a “break in activity of nature’s time” and in this process, a “mode of life” transforms “into a new mode of being” (Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook 1193). For example, the climax of Ghost begins when Kusanagi battles a tank that has held the Puppet Master’s body, whom Kusanagi has been trying to retrieve. As she struggles to pull apart the tank, her limbs are ripped apart, but she is regenerated into a new mode of life after merging with the Puppet Master. Life, death, and the reformation of bodies are part of this cutting process. Reformation of bodies is based on this philosophy of “cutting.”

Postscript: Wired, An Anagram for Weird

Through a process of intricately knotting disintegrated pieces of artifacts, information, memories, and things into an endless syntactic web, the emergence of the network—its omnipresence—proposes both challenges and opportunities of an increasingly rapid digitised future. It is true that over the course of time, things change and the novelty of the human-technology assemblage might wear off, but with the proliferation of information being archived and spread in the network, things entered into the network are conserved. Connectivity is changing rapidly, something that Buddha never predicted. But when things are entered in a digital network, things are bound for an update. Even if the update remains in an incomplete/impermanent cycle, it continues to be in flux.

Ghost in the Shell and Serial Experiments Lain are two highly theoretical anime features thatemphasise how the network is both impermanent yet its shadowy cloud magnifies as people continue to feed it information, sustaining its life. The network is currently one of humanity’s mean of connectivity. Things created as a nodule flow or (by)products of the network reflect on the strange possibilities the network has to offer. The creation of the E-Tomb presents a possibility of a techno afterlife/digital immortality, edifying the main idea of this entire paper: information entered wired into the network is never lost. Lain’s replica tells Lain that by resetting the information to another time and space, “Dead people’s information isn’t leaked out of the Wired anymore.” But this is not true. The network prevents information (and memories) from expiring. The network and the E-Tomb cloud the boundaries between life and death. Whether in life or in death, humans, things, and animals are intrinsically (re)connected. Eastern philosophies, particularly Japanese anime that are so high in theory, have predicted the importance of connectivity and the future of the network. Boundaries are shattered once we become cognisant of changes in our inter-actions and intra-actions with our surroundings. The network is a vital force to be reckoned with because as Kusanagi brilliantly uncovers: “[t]he network is vast and limitless.”


I would like to thank Dr. Johnny Stein for providing me feedback on my paper. In fact, his feedback always (re)drifts this paper into a more interesting focus. We discussed how souls and ghosts (though I often conflate the terms) are always in a state of drifting in-between the material and immaterial world (i.e., the natural world and spiritual world) as well as the provocative argument of Nietzsche’s God’s and Buddha’s deaths. Thus, I would like to dedicate and acknowledge Dr. Stein in this paper.

I would also like to thank my father, who sat with me during those late, bleak nights working on several drafts and revisions of this paper as we discussed several interpretations and mis/appropriations of Buddhist philosophies of death.


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[1] There are quite a few published news reports about cyborgs as a “living embodiment” of the human-technology assemblage. One of the more recent more recent news bits was published by BBC, “Meet the Cyborgs: Five People Who Have Modified Their Bodies with Techs.”

[2] For further discussions on assemblage, see Puar, “‘I Would Rather Be a Cyborg than a Goddess’: Becoming-Intersectional in Assemblage Theory.” Andrew Pickering also discusses a form of assemblage, which he refers to as “mangling.” See his book: The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, & Science.

[3] Brown specifically refers to another Japanese anime series, Serial Experiments Lain; however, I use this quote as Cowboy Bebop explores similar themes.

[4] Please note that I consciously chose the 1995 original DVD version of Ghost in the Shell and not the most recent Blu-ray release because I prefer the original subtitles from the original version; however, I do acknowledge that phrases, concepts, and such are often lost in translation, which is a limitation.

[5] I borrow this term from Mushon Zer-Aviv’s blog post: “If Everything is a Network, Nothing is a Network,” Visualising Information for Advocacy, 08 January 2016 (30 April 2016), https://visualisingadvocacy.org/blog/if-everything-network-nothing-network.

[6] Bruno Latour, a French philosopher, often describes the network as the actor-network theory (ANT). For further references, see: Latour, Bruno. “On Actor-Network Theory. A Few Clarifications Plus More than A Few Complications” and his book, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory.

[7] I borrow the term “intra-action” from Karen Barad. Barad defines the methodology of diffraction as a method of diffractively is cutting dichotomies, or patterns, into two and then reconfiguring them back into a “together-apart” entangling pattern (or dichotomy). See: “Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together-Apart.”

[8] The image of lingering and wandering ghosts could also be traced back to rōnin, or master-less samurais, stories, particularly samurais who committed seppuku (“the cutting of the belly”). In a longer paper, I would argue that stories focused on a wandering rōnin committing seppuku is related to the idea of wandering ghosts. As such, ghost stories and images are culturally and politically significant in Japan.

[9] See: Steve Huff, “Japan’s Cabbies Say They’re Having Close Encounters with Ghosts of the 2011 Tsunami.”

[10] Although Hayward reflects on cityscapes as a history entanglement that maps corporealities as a form of a “pastpresent”—“an always present past in the present,” I am borrowing Hayward’s concept and talking about a pastfuture. For further reading, see: Eva Hayward, “Spider City Sex,” 236.

[11] Go is an abstract strategy, two-player, board game that was invented in China. Players use their stones (either black or white) and place them on a wooden grid that is marked by lines. The goal of the game is for each opponent to surround more territories than the other. The game is popular in East Asia and the West, resulting in several tournaments.

[12] See: DL Cade, “Ghostly Images of WiFi Signals Captured Using Long Exposure Photography and an Android App.”

[13] Sogyal Rinpoche specifically refers to modern Western society, but due to the length of this paper, I am unable to discuss possible cultural differences about death.

[14] Designed by Huang Jianbo, Zhao Ting, Wang Yushan, Ran Xiangfei, and Mo Ran. See: Stuart Fox, “eTomb Tweets from Beyond the Grave.”

[15] Though Muñoz connects the ontology of ghosts to queer theories, I will not be expanding their discussion in my paper. For further reading see: José Esteban Muñoz, “Ghosts of Public Sex: Utopian Longings, Queer Memories,” in Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity, pp. 33-48.

[16] I borrow this term from Mushon Zer-Aviv’s blog post: “If Everything is a Network, Nothing is a Network,” who suggests that the nodes within the network are always flowing as entered information and protocols maintain connection at different directions. The idea of information flow, I argue, is similar to Kroker’s body drift theory.

[17] In “Layer 12: Landscape,” Lain did not initially left Arisu’s memories intact as she began the process of deletion, angering Arisu. Lain even tells her: “Humans were originally connected at an unconscious level. I reconnected them, that’s all,” indicating that humans were always connected to each other.

[18] For Bolton’s interesting examination of love suicides, see: “From Wooden Cyborgs to Celluloid Souls,” positions: east asia cultures critique vol. 10, no. 3, 2002, pp. 741-45.

[19] I am referencing Lao Tzu’s section, “Opposites,” from his book, Tao Te Ching: The Book of the Way. He writes: “Existence and nonexistence are incompatible. The difficult and the easy are mutually opposed. The long and the short, the high and the low, the loud and soft, the before and the behind—all are opposites. Each reveals the other” (2).

[20] I am referencing one of Haraway’s quotes in “A Manifesto for Cyborgs.”

About the Author

Kathy Nguyen is a Multicultural Women’s and Genders Studies doctoral student at Texas Woman’s University. She earned her MSW at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Her research interests include cyborgian theory, digital humanities, Harawayian theories, anime and manga studies, posthumanism/post-modernism, network theory/the “mangle,” technology studies, science fiction (SF) studies, philosophy of time, consciousness studies, nonwestern literature, and Vietnamese diaspora narratives.

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