Sound and Technological Posthumanism
Publication Year: 2013
Humanesis critically examines central strains of posthumanism, searching out biases in the ways that human–technology coupling is explained. Specifically, it interrogates three approaches taken by posthumanist discourse: scientific, humanist, and organismic. David Cecchetto’s investigations reveal how each perspective continues to hold on to elements of the humanist tradition that it is ostensibly mobilized against. His study frontally desublimates the previously unseen presumptions that underlie each of the three thought lines and offers incisive appraisals of the work of three prominent thinkers: Ollivier Dyens, Katherine Hayles, and Mark Hansen.
To materially ground the problematic of posthumanism, Humanesis interweaves its theoretical chapters with discussions of artworks. These highlight the topos of sound, demonstrating how aurality might produce new insights in a field that has been dominated by visualization. Cecchetto, a media artist, scrutinizes his own collaborative artistic practice in which he elucidates the variegated causal chains that compose human–technological coupling.
Humanesis advances the posthumanist conversation in several important ways. It proposes the term “technological posthumanism” to focus on the discourse as it relates to technology without neglecting its other disciplinary histories. It suggests that deconstruction remains relevant to the enterprise, especially with respect to the performative dimension of language. It analyzes artworks not yet considered in the light of posthumanism, with a particular emphasis on the role of aurality. And the form of the text introduces a reflexive component that exemplifies how the dialogue of posthumanism might progress without resorting to the types of unilateral narratives that the book critiques.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
Title Page, Copyright
I am extremely grateful to Stephen Ross, whose efforts and expertise in guiding me through the process of writing this book are matched only by his patience with my tendency to obfuscate doubly where I am asked to clarify; moreover, Stephen has acted as both an advocate and a mentor, and I set him as my standard when working with my own students. I would also like to thank Steven Gibson, particularly for sticking his neck out to make ...
It is in the character of sound to be semiotically parasitic, to take on— and usually intensify—the systems of meaning to which it attaches. High-fidelity audio accompanying a video, for example, tends to produce the impression of higher-definition visuals, while the reverse is not the case.1 Sound is a kind of amplifier, but an invisible one, a contamination that produces something different precisely by reproducing ...
1. From Genes to Memes: Ollivier Dyens and the Scientific Posthumanism of Darwinian Evolution
In this chapter, I elaborate a notion of technological posthumanism that is predicated on understanding information—specifically replicable data—as the dominant term in relations between culture and technology. To exemplify this perspective, I focus my argument on the theoretical work of Ollivier Dyens, particularly his book Metal and Flesh. To begin, the chapter emphasizes Dyens’s redefinition ...
2. Dark Matters: An Eidolic Collision of Sound and Vision
To the extent that scientific data are repeatable, verifiable, and falsifiable, we might follow McLuhan in saying that they are staged in visual space.1 In chapter 1’s analysis of Dyens’s cultural bodies, then, it is specifically the vision of scientific representation—which is virtually synonymous with replication, for Dyens—that is challenged from two sides simultaneously: on one hand, it is haunted by forces that are qualitatively different than ...
3. N. Katherine Hayles and Humanist Technological Posthumanism
In this chapter, I discuss the humanist technological posthumanism that is proffered in the writing of N. Katherine Hayles.1 The chapter begins by situating Hayles as a coalescing figure of posthumanism, discussing her role in forming a coherent discourse around the various and scattered activities that have slowly combined to overdetermine the cybernetic landscape. In this perspective, Hayles’s insistence on the historical ...
4. The Trace: Melancholy and Posthuman Ethics
The year 1995: it was a time of flesh, it was a time of data. It was a virtual time, really, in the full sense of the term, that is, in the sense that data bodies were seen circulating freely, but their visibility as such attested to an explicit awareness that something was not circulating. Isn’t this the story of virtual reality? That every dematerializing claim that it makes is simultaneously a ...
5. From Affect to Affectivity: Mark B. N. Hansen’s Organismic Posthumanism
This chapter examines Mark B. N. Hansen’s organismic construction of technological posthumanism, particularly as it is presented in his three key texts, Embodying Technesis, New Philosophy for New Media, and Bodies in Code.1 While the subject matter of these texts frequently overlaps, the primary focus of each nonetheless unfolds distinct components of Hansen’s expanding argument for a view ...
6. Skewed Remote Musical Performance: Sounding Deconstruction
If the organismic technological posthumanism discussed in chapter 5 performs an intensification of the paradoxical (deconstructive) causality that it disavows, this chapter discusses an art practice—Skewed Remote Musical Performance (SRMP)—that makes this performance explicit. Moreover, this practice connects the ambivalence of deconstruction to a digital network without using visual representation. ...
Conclusion. Registration as Intervention: Performativity and Dominant Strains of Technological Posthumanism
A question that is often asked about technological posthumanism—and about virtuality, simulation, and a host of other developments that connect critical theory to digitality—is whether its subjects are something new or simply something that is newly understood. In this book, I have shown that there is no single answer to this question: Hansen, for example, ...
About the Author
David Cecchetto is assistant professor of critical digital theory at York University in Toronto, Canada. He is coeditor (with Nancy Cuthbert, Julie Lassonde, and Dylan ...