Richard Powers, Plowing the Dark
This chapter presents a reading of Richard Powers' Plowing the Dark (2000). The novel offers a provocative exploration of the unexpected interplay of art and religion through an account of virtual reality (VR) technology. The narrative weaves together two stories that unfold on opposite sides of the world—a VR lab in Seattle and a terrorist cell in Lebanon. West and East meet in Hagia Sophia, where Byzantine mosaics are transformed by the Web browser Mosaic. Powers sees connections where others see oppositions. He suggests that religion, art, and technology all express the human longing for some kind of transcendence. The question that lingers after the end of the book is whether technology has displaced art, which previously had displaced religion, as the most telling manifestation of contemporary spiritual aspiration. If so, what are the tenets and practical implications of this belief?
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