“Cayce’s contract for a consultation of this sort specifies that she absolutely not be asked to critique anything, or provide creative input of any sort. She is only there to serve as a very specialized piece of human litmus paper” (Page 13).
This passage highlights Cayce’s job and the terms in the contract. She is paid for her body’s ability to react positively or negatively to different stimuli, such as a brand logo. William Gibson makes it clear in this passage that that is her one and only role. Words like “absolutely not” and “input of any sort” are used to clarify the boundaries of her contract, so there is no gray area. Cayce purely reacts to the logo without any prior knowledge, input, or explanation.
Basically, her job is to feel. Once she is exposed to the stimulus, she will feel something, and that feeling determines the future of that idea or product. She does not know how she knows, but she always knows; it is an intuitive process. We spoke in class about how her job is all about feeling, yet in this passage, Cayce is described as a “piece of human litmus paper”. In a way, this dehumanizes her and takes away her human traits and emotional depth.
Litmus is derived from certain lichens and is used for its ability to change colors when exposed to certain solutions. According to dictionary.com, litmus paper has been “impregnated with litmus” and is dipped into a solution to serve as a chemical indicator. When scientists use litmus paper to test a solution, they are only concerned with what occurs on the surface of the paper. Does the paper change color? Once this is visually determined, the paper can be disposed of. This paper cannot communicate other than to visually indicate the reaction. Below is an image a piece of red litmus paper being tested in a solution and turning blue when reacting to the Alkaline solution (http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ks3/science/chemical_material_behaviour/acids_bases_metals/revision/4/).
In the above passage, Cayce is treated like an object. Once this “consultation” is over, she will be disposed of and passed off to the next client. So it’s all about feelings and has nothing to do with feelings all at the same time.
Not only is Cayce compared to litmus paper, she is describes as “a very specialized piece” of this paper. Gibson uses the word “specialized” to imply her specific ability. He mirrors this specificity throughout this passage by using definite language like “only”, “very”, and “absolute”. This precise language also mirrors the language used in a contract, and as I previously mentioned, it allows no room for questions.