Mirrors, however, are not the only imitations of life that appear in World on a Wire. IKZ also houses an elaborate network of cathode-ray video monitors. Its employees use videophones to communicate with each other—one of the film’s only instances of a visibly futuristic technology. More striking is the use of video screens in the design of IKZ’s computer room, where Stiller is able to “hook up” his consciousness to Simulacron and download himself into an identity unit within the virtual world. The system is portrayed as a vast bank of television screens set inside walls covered with reflective silver, each screen a viewing portal that reveals the goings-on in a different part of Simulacron’s computerized reality. The images they display aren’t the computer-generated animations we twenty-first-century viewers might expect; rather, they’re regular black-and-white video footage, using the logic of a closed-circuit surveillance system or a live television feed. In the first half of the film, Stiller says the identity units are “like people on TV dancing for us.” In the film’s second act, Siskins enters the computer room to view his “double,” an identity unit that has been designed to look like him. He hunkers down to watch this familiar figure engaged in a scene that indeed resembles a bit from a musical variety show: a Siskins twin on the TV screen, singing a bawdy song in top hat and tails, surrounded by a chorus.
World on a Wire: The Hall of Mirrors