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Human No More

Digital Subjectivities, Un-Human Subjects, and the End of Anthropology

Edited by Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Wesch

Publication Year: 2012

Turning an anthropological eye toward cyberspace, Human No More explores how conditions of the online world shape identity, place, culture, and death within virtual communities. Online worlds have recently thrown into question the traditional anthropological conception of place-based ethnography. They break definitions, blur distinctions, and force us to rethink the notion of the “subject.” Human No More asks how digital cultures can be integrated and how the ethnography of both the “unhuman” and the “digital” could lead to possible reconfiguring the notion of the “human.” This provocative and groundbreaking work challenges fundamental assumptions about the entire field of anthropology. Cross-disciplinary research from well-respected contributors makes this volume vital to the understanding of contemporary human interaction. It will be of interest not only to anthropologists but also to students and scholars of media, communication, popular culture, identity, and technology.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction: Human No More

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pp. 1-10

Over the last decade the growing possibilities of living in online worlds have continued to undermine and throw into question traditional anthropological conceptions of place-based ethnography. Such conceptions were already facing criticism for artificially bounding, limiting, and reifying “culture” in a world in which transnational cultural flows are commonplace. ...

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1: The Mutual Co-Construction of Online and Onground in Cyborganic: Making an Ethnography of Networked Social Media Speak to Challenges of the Posthuman

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pp. 11-32

For approximately ten years I was a participant-observer of Cyborganic, a group of San Francisco web geeks who combined online and face-to-face interaction in a conscious project to build community “on both sides of the screen.” Cyborganic members brought Wired magazine online; launched Hotwired, the first ad-supported online magazine...

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2: We Were Always Human

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pp. 33-47

The above paragraph is actually not about the Internet. It is about writing, and it is attributed to Plato (Plato 1997, 552). The text in brackets originally read “the written word” or “written down.” Many new technologies are accompanied by loud protests of loss of humanity, and a common thread runs through them. ...

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3: Manufacturing and Encountering “Human” in the Age of Digital Reproduction

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pp. 49-70

There is little question that Jennings and President Obama had their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks when they made these remarks. The two jokes play upon a time-honored cultural meme: the more intelligent—or perhaps “human”—the machine, the more likely it is to threaten its creators. In the past, these types of references were largely restricted to what we might call “geek...

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4: The Digital Graveyard: Online Social Networking Sites as Vehicles of Remembrance

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pp. 71-87

In October 2007, my grandmother was diagnosed with the cancer that led to her eventual death the following spring.3 A devoted mother of fourteen children, she, along with her children, grappled with many difficult spiritual and medical decisions throughout her illness. One evening I witnessed first-hand the incredible unity and strength that comes about in...

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5: Anonymous, Anonymity, and the End(s) of Identity and Groups Online: Lessons from the “First Internet-Based Superconsciousness"

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pp. 89-104

Fox 11 News in Los Angeles calls the “group” Anonymous “hackers on steroids.” The Economist calls them “Internet activists.” They call themselves “the first Internet-based superconsciousness” with a meta-laugh, laughing at all attempts to describe them, including their own. They interact with one another primarily on imageboards like 4chan but spread to other web domains...

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6: Splitting and Layering at the Interface: Mediating Indian Diasporas across Generations

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pp. 105-130

Since early 1990s, a time that coincides with global access to the Internet in the form of the World Wide Web, there have been certain rearticulations of categories of diasporas from the South Asian region through techno-mediation. Such rearticulations are based in the naming of diasporas through the politics of a nation-state whereas others are based in the naming of diasporas through...

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7: Avatar: A Posthuman Perspective on Virtual Worlds

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pp. 131-146

When paraplegic Jake Sully takes virtual form in the film Avatar, he enters the world of the Na’vi, where he assumes the fully functional physical form of an alien humanoid species and falls in love with the young, attractive, and highly spirited Ney’tiri. At the end of the film, struggling and dying, he succeeds in transferring his life essence into his avatar form and completes his...

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8: Technology, Representation, and the “E-thropologist”: The Shape-Shifting Field among Native Amazonians

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pp. 147-156

This chapter centers on both the familiar and the arrestingly new. On the one hand it is about my long-term relationship with the Waiwai (Carib-speaking Amazonians in Guyana and Brazil) as collaborators and friends, familiar territory for me. In fact, this territory is not only familiar but rather comforting to me. ...

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9: The Adventures of Mark and Olly: The Pleasures and Horrors of Anthropology on TV

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pp. 157-176

Taking a cue from MacDougall’s questions about the spaces between filmmakers and subjects, in this chapter I reflect on my experiences as anthropological advisor for several documentary programs broadcast internationally on Discovery Channel, National Geographic International, Travel Channel, and the BBC.1 In my roles as translator, cultural broker, and “fact-checker,” ...

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10: Invisible Caboclos and Vagabond Ethnographers: A Look at Ethnographic Engagement in Twenty-First-Century Amazonia

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pp. 177-198

I had been awake for a while when I heard my research assistant Dal clapping, then pounding, on the door of our two-room, cinder-block dwelling, yelling, Accorda! Accorda, aí! (“Wake-up! Wake-up in there!”) It was the wet season and I lingered in bed because it was only in the morning hours that my body heat finally dried out the thin foam mattress and I no longer had the feeling...

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11: Marginal Bodies, Altered States, and Subhumans: (Dis)Articulations between Physical and Virtual Realities in Centro, São Paulo

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pp. 199-216

This chapter considers articulations, points of contact, and disarticulations, distortions, and other “disconnects” between virtual realities both of urban planning and mass media and on-the-ground or “lived” realities of human subjects whose identities and subjectivities are constructed in place, in this case, in Centro, São Paulo. It stems from a long-time interest in urban landscapes in Brazilian cities, developed while living in them for over five years...

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12: Are We There Yet?: The End of Anthropology Is Beyond the Human

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pp. 217-230

For anthropology the recognition of multiple modernities, both now and in the past, and the existence of other globalized worlds beyond that of the Western sensorium and the expansion of that sensorium enabled by new digital worlds (Jones 2006) suggest that many of the central categories of Western intellectual experience, such as the cultural and the natural, the modern...

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pp. 231-234

In this provocative collection, two questions are continually provoked: what has happened to the human condition in an era of heightened digitality and deterritorialization, and what is happening to the anthropological condition in an era when place-based ethnography has become so out-of-date? Indeed, in these times of “digital subjectivities” and “unhuman subjects,” are we facing...


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pp. 235-236


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pp. 237-243

E-ISBN-13: 9781607321705
E-ISBN-10: 160732170X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607321699
Print-ISBN-10: 1607321696

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 5 b&w photos, 11 line drawings, 1 table
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Anthropology -- Philosophy.
  • Cybernetics -- Philosophy.
  • Online social networks.
  • Computers and civilization.
  • Virtual reality.
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