Posthuman Subjectivity – Conference paper
We’re representing our group to give a presentation about posthuman subjectivity in our digital media lecture.
After the others presentations, with all the different aspects of the life changed in digital context, with the background of all the discourses, all the signs indicate that we want to be and we’re on the way of being posthuman.
‘The Posthuman starts by exploring the extent to which a post-humanist move displaces the traditional humanistic unity of the subject. Rather than perceiving this situation as a loss of cognitive and moral self-mastery, Braidotti argues that the posthuman helps us make sense of our flexible and multiple identities.’
Are we still ‘human’? Or is humanness extended in the way we interact in online contexts? Just like evolution, a species development was influenced by nature, but human are trying to make changes by themselves now. The digital technology of a thinking brain is computer, and it is the basic tool that people use as a media to keep in advance. The relationship between human and technology is appear on the surface of our electronic devices, we make it functional, bionic, convenient to finish the tasks which were belong to us. Especially the smart phone and computer, which is the carrier for our communication, satisfied our possibility for being a digital citizen all over the world. New century’s people spend a lot of time on the internet with their devices and it is the beginning of the process to be posthuman, the digital life.
In the digital world, we experience constant ‘mediated intimacies’, whereby our personal lives are co-constructed through technological interaction with a screen.’ (McCarthy 2001) Many people have the feeling that they consider their digital devices as their extendibility or part of their flesh body. Just like Zhe Dong mentioned in her blog, ‘When you touch the media, such as internet and video games, you will be in the shell of the virtual world which means you will be only influenced on your mental part, your awareness will goes into a different world. You probably will not find when you use the keyboard to give orders, you are already “posthuman”, as the keyboard has become your hands or the extension of hands.’
Posthumanism creates new subjectivities, and amplify their nature. Therefore, posthumans can have flexible and multiple subjectivities. This is closely related to poststructuralism, in what it attacks the liberal humanist tradition.
Then, let’s move on to how the posthuman subjectivity embody in the game world. When it comes to posthumanism in WOW, the first thing comes up to my mind is I want to be my avatar if it is possible in the future.
Game world is a utopian land created by people who dreams to make a different world, so the character inside could be a symbolic human, which hold our mind but more than our flesh body. WOW is the basic post-drilling of living a posthuman’s life, even less than it will be, but the idea of simulation for experience is a good chance that we could get close to it. Social scientists painted the virtual in blunt terms, calling it ‘subjective’, meant to shape or invent a world, not to represent it. (Margaret 1998:21-24) Since we all know the game world is not real, but thousands of millions of billions of players are still enjoying it, and hoping some of these will come into reality.
The immersive quality of virtual worlds takes players into a construct, a narrative dream, a ‘post-human’ world treating the body as a ‘tool of the emergent mind’, ‘something capable of being replaced by other prosthesis’. (Sean 2000) This point of view gives out a clear boundary that how people put one foot in the virtual world and the other foot in the reality. We need our body as part of the agent to give the computer order when our mind is being deeply into the game world. (Jiadai Li 2015)
This is yangchen’s writing:
In the class, it is same. Initially I was not familiar with many classmates in real world. We come from different countries, holding different cultures and customs. But once we enter WoW, we break the inherent racial limits, reconstructing a same cultural background—we may be all human, or elves, pandaren, being born in a same place, completing a same mission. We help each other, cooperating to complete task and conquer difficulties. When we get achievement, we can share the happiness. When we met setbacks we can console mutually. From this, we produce many same subject to chat, and gradually become familiar no longer unfamiliar. Human functionality expands because the parameters of the cognitive system it inhabits expand (Hayles 1999: 290-291). In such a game world, our area of action expands, so avatars become into the expansion of our bodies and cognition, thus transfer us from human to posthuman. (yang chen 2015)
Here, YunFan Sun connects the concept of affect to post humanism “all the characters in the game have a family, a friend, they will be angry, will feel hungry, will hurt. These are all human beings created and entirely by human control. They are image created by the human imagination, in the game they can do anything”.
She is defending how emotions can get to the avatars. This affect will be then transferred to the createor the posthuman in this case since he is playing and interacting through a digitally enabled game. She also divides the agency between the player and the avatar: even though it is the person controlling the game, she recognises a certain degree of independence of the character.
In this quote taken from Qiu’s blog, he talks about the endless possibilities that being a postman offers. He says “I am a human, but in the game I chose “pandaren” because I want a chance to change myself.”
He also comments on embodiment, a crucial notion of poshumanism by stating “I feel the keyboard became my limbs, screen became my face, mouse became my neck”.
From this excerpt, we can see how technology, in this case the computer and the game, is enabling him to change his appearance, even his kind, and to extend his body through the different computer accessories. He is embodying the game and feeling through it.
To be posthuman then means to be able to develop multiple identities and multiple subjectivities through different technological devices. Our physical bodies do not represent the limit of our human experiences and they no longer define our existence. With technology, we chose who we are and how we look. In World of Warcraft for example, we can even chose to be brought back to life after dying. We can conclude than being a posthuman is being able to modify ourselves and create ourselves through technology.
Critics on post humanism
Regarding the criticism on the concept of “posthuman”, Tufekci claims that “we were always postman”. He defends that this “posthuman” era characterised by the proliferation of digital technologies has not made us any more posthuman than the invention of writing. He sustains that humans are all at once embodied and symbolic, and that we have always been like this. So, there is no “pre” human, therefore there cannot be a “posthuman”.
Hayles also critics post humanism since she considers the theory refer to bodies as “fashion accessories”. She claims that in posthumanism, information loses its body, placing at the same level the human mind and computers. In her opinion, this stresses the dualism of body/mind, emphasising on cognition while ditching embodiment.
Ethics on post humanism
Toffoletti says “to be postman is to construct a notion of self within a culture of simulation, virtuality and the digital. It is a new mode of existence by which the subject comes into being as distinctions collapse between nature and artifice, self and computer, virtual and real, animate and inanimate.”
This quote made us think and take into consideration the ethics of the theory. How applicable is to be “posthuman”? Does it represent a valid reality for everyone?
The first group to be excluded would be people with no access to technology due to either a lack of economic resources or technological resources. People living in very rural areas where connection to the internet is not possible or people with limited purchasing power could not be posthuman under Toffoletti’s definition.
The second group to be excluded would be the animals: as Braidotti explains “in advanced capitalism, animals of all categories and species have been turned into tradable disposable bodies inscribed in a global market of post-anthropocentric exploitation.” We wonder then, can we name ourselves “posthuman” while living in animal slavery times?
In our opinion, “to be posthuman” should be a claim for ethics in the world in favour of human-to-human equality (against patriarchy, racism, etc) and also in favour of human-to-animal equality, ditching thus completely animal slavery. We think the ultimate goal of post humanism should be to create a better version of ourselves.