Experiencing the world in new ways

To be honest, many of the concepts we have covered in terms of posthumanism and what it will mean in the future to be posthuman are quite scary. Some of the concepts are easily accepted because they make a lot of sense. For example, Hayles idea that we have always been posthuman, suggesting the posthumanism is being part of the environment, is easily accepted.

What scares me are the notions of technology changing how we view our already complex identities and, even more so, how technology is changing how we see the human body. I have always seen the human body as unique and special. Seeing people add third ears and hang bodies from strings, in the manner Stelarc does, makes me feel uneasy. It takes something I have always seen as exceptional reduced to the same level as every other common thing. This leads me to think that we should not pursue research headed in that direction.

But then I think back to a viral Youtube video that I watched a few weeks ago and my sentiments change. People who build new technologies are often just looking for ways to improve our quality of life. It is hard to argue against that. In the case of this video, technology allowed a young woman to experience the world in a completely different way. This 29-year-old woman heard her voice for the first time after receiving a hearing technology implant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsOo3jzkhYA

In watching this, it is easy to forget that there is technology that lies behind this woman’s happiness. Many people hear the idea of merging the man and the machine and automatically express distaste.  It is easily forgotten that machines have become a valuable part of our environment, so it is inevitable that these two elements will crossover in some way. Adding a third ear to your arm may still be on the extreme side, but simple things like wheelchairs and prosthetics that have emerged in medical technology are shaping how we can experience our bodies differently—but in a positive way.

So maybe one day, it will not be weird to be listening through your third ear. People 100 years ago never would have anticipated how far we have come technologically today, so it is only fair for us to move on with open mind and look forward to what is coming next.

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2 Comments

  1. I agree. The ideas covered in the posthuman tradition (if we can call it that) are groundbreaking and somewhat discomforting. However, like we mentioned today in class, as long as we as colleagues and the leaders of tomorrow have the opportunity to make technology into a positive force in the world, I feel that we would be taking a step in the right direction. The “fear ” here comes from the fact that no matter how hard we try, there is no stopping the advance of technology – it is a wheel already set in motion. Just as a good teacher does not force a student to think in a particular way, we must have the same attitude towards the development of our technologies – we must guide and take care of them. It is imperative that we are intelligent and responsible with what we are doing.
    I understand that Stelarc is pushing the envelope as far as “extremes” are concerned, but again, we must be able to, both intellectually and emotionally, tell ourselves that he is experimental and artistic in his work. He uses stem cell research as a foundation from which to jump to new and exciting heights. However, besides being used in creative capacities, chinyeamanda clearly states that stem cell research has a significant impact on people, provided it is given a specific purpose. Therefore, with a thorough understanding of direction and an undying sense of optimism, we can provide ourselves with a bright and overly fulfilling future. Great post!

  2. I thought Chinye’s examples of more “familiar” posthuman additions–wheelchairs and prosthetics, being able to hear normally–are, for the most parts, are devices that are designed to return us to some notion of an “ideal” person, one that is fine without the need for any visible supplementary technology. Technology that adds new functions entirely, such as Stelarc’s ear, is comparatively disturbing. Is this division–prosthetics that restore vs. prosthetics that add–something that will stay with us, or are we becoming more accepting of such enhancements?
    –MH


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