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Hayles, the Posthuman, Ontology and…Ecocriticism?

October 26, 2009

I thought I would share this link in preparation for our discussions of Neuromancer.  Though perhaps a history of the internet may not seem immediately applicable to an environmental discussion, I find it interesting that among the other technological advances of 1984 you will see Gibson’s novel mentioned (it is also worth noticing that the internet was first commercially available in 1990).

One thing that Hayles only begins to touch on in chapter one (though she does explore in more detail later) of How We Became Posthuman is the issue of cybernetics, one I think connects a bit more clearly to issues of the environment.  Though it seems a bit of a stretch, human bodies are as much a part of the natural world as the bodies of animals and plants.  What does it mean when biology and technology begin to meld?  Take a look at some of the following sites and clips:

Virginia Tech’s Robotic Hand
University of Michigan’s Brain Implant technology
Bioengineering Nerve-Muscle connections
Brainport’s Vision Device

While I, like Hayles, chafe at the idea of human consciousness being reduced to data—what do we make of these sorts of technologies?  What happens when something as intimate and integral to the human experience as sight is, at least at some point, actually reduced to pixelated data?

This, to me, brings up the question of clones, androids, replicants, cylons (whatever you so choose to call them). I would be interested in talking about the recent incarnation of Battlestar Galactica along these lines.  I don’t want to risk spoiling what I think is an excellent series for those who haven’t yet seen it.  The cylons of Galactica are evolved technology—evolved so far as to move from the realm of mechanical engineering to biological beings. Perhaps in the comments we could start a spoiler-filled discussion (the revealed identities of these characters continually complicates the definition of human within the series) of how cylons may tie into Hayles’ ideas about the posthuman.  Are they human, posthuman, or something entirely different?  Are there any other branches of ecocriticism or environmental philosophy that deal with similar metaphysical and ontological questions?

Are you alive? Prove it.

Are you alive? Prove it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 26, 2009 7:16 pm

    We will be exploring some of these very questions today, with a focus on robotics in part. The all-too-human and yet strangely posthuman, robotic, and alien qualities of the Cylons could not be a more fitting examples for both Hayles’ theory and Gibson’s novel!

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