Posthuman: a concept, a non-human or half-human or neither?

This topic is completely out of my comfort zone. It reminded me of when I had to learn physics or Descartes, neither of these made sense to me! Perhaps I need an idiot’s guide to Posthumanist and Cyborgs.

So here’s me trying to make sense of it all – I hope the application of these in Week 10 will help alleviate the difficulty reading through the materials.

Towards embodied virtuality, Hayles (1999)

If I look at the set of notes I took from pages 2-3 of Hayles, I begin to get an idea of posthuman as a machine, but has a consciousness without depending on the body, and if the limbs are there, it is to be manipulated by the informational pattern and consciousness. It has an identity, and its’ relationship with intelligent machines is seamless.

The description below seems to have appeared in Haraway (2007), Hayles (2005) and Pickering (2005)

“The Posthuman subject is an amalgam, a collection of heterogeneous components, a material-informational entity whose boundaries undergo continuous construction and reconstruction”(p3)

But this quote below suggests to me that a posthuman is closer to being a human yet with the possibilities of information technologies, and it has the concept of agency and choice.

…my dream is a version of the posthuman that embraces the possibilities of information technologies without being seduced by fantasies of unlimited power and disembodied immortality, that recognizes and celebrates finitude as a condition of human being, and that understands human life is embedded in a material world of great complexity….”(p5)

If it is not referring to human, why use the word post-human? Perhaps the confusion is the inclusion of the word human? Or are these just concepts trying to reconceive what being human really is? And the inclusion of Haraway’s writing is really about making sense of the world of human beings in the digital environment? As Amy has kindly explained, from the feminist tradition, it is a challenge to look at the world, not from a man’s or in Haraway’s writing a ‘white’ man’s viewpoint, with the Christian tradition of being cast out of the garden. In the feminist perspective, things are not in straight lines but it grows organically, not in some neat boxes. Things are messy, in Amy’s words.

Reference:

Haraway, D. (2000). A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late 20th Century. in D Bell and A Kennedy, The Cybercultures Reader. Routledge.

Hayles, N.K. (1999). Toward embodied virtuality, chapter 1 of How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature and informatics. Chicago, University of Chicago Press. pp1-25

Pickering, A. (2005). Asian eels and global warming: a posthumanist perspective on society and the environmentEthics and the Environment, 10(2), 29-43.

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