Embodied Posthumanism

29 11 2004

Katherine Hayles’ book How
we became posthuman
pops up all over the place (see for example Purse
Lip Square Jaw
), and my supervisor recommended it highly before summer.
I found it a very interesting read. Especially the historical pieces describing
the development of cybernetics as a science – the literary parts become
a little to opaque for my taste.Hayles, in the book, argues for a re-materialization
or re-embodiment of information – that we should not forget that information
is never completely disembodied. Her point of departure is Cybernetics,
which she uses to understand how discourses on information has changed
over time.

One of the main themes of the book is how information became disembodied.
Hayles describes how “[t]he effect of these [digital] transformations
is to create a highly heterogeneous and fissured space in which discursive
formations based on pattern and randomness jostle and compete with formations
based on presence and absence. Hayles envisions a discursive struggle between
interpretations of information: one discourse which emphasizes information
as “a pattern rather than a presence”, and one subdued discourse
that relates information to its materiality.

Texts have bodies, readers and users have bodies, and meaning emerges from
material engagements with the rich resources of a physically vibrant world
as it is crafted through artistic practices and instantiated in artifactual
objects and processes. To settle for anything else than a fully embodied
and material practice of literary theory and criticism is to risk impoverishing
our understanding of the meaning-making practices through which we engage
the world.

Materiality
Has Always Been In Play

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