I’ve been returning to the introduction to this block of the course and keep reading the line “…digital culture is to an extent a culture of the posthuman.” What does that mean in relation to my thoughts on the readings and my recent blog postings? I decided to have my wife read my blog and then have a discussion with her on what it meant to her to be post-human.
The thing that she said struck her was the description of the cyborg, and the thought that it was a new concept to add enhancements to the human body. She mentioned how it seemed that we are focused on the idea that recent technological advances were allowing us to replace lost or damaged limbs, but that people had in fact been doing that for years (the first recorded use of a prosthesis has been traced back to ancient Egypt). It seemed to her that the trend recently is not simply to replace functionality, but to hide the disability completely (artificial limbs can now be made to resemble real limbs,with freckles, hair, etc – Cosmesis).
She did not understand therefore the ties between the biological enhancements and the concepts of post-humanism. Where was the line drawn as to when we became a cyborg? Was it when we could replace a limb with a functional substitute, or was it when we could do so without anyone else knowing? But then she asked what was the point of hiding the enhancement / replacement if not for our own vanity, or to fit in to the community standards of what is “normal.” If we are trying to fit in, then can we be considered enlightened, and truly have evolved?
We then began to discuss further my posting on transhuman and the idea of transplanting a head to a new body. “What would be the point… to extend life,” she asked? She could understand the idea of replacing parts, but not to replace an entire body. “At what point would you stop being you?” She mentioned how she had a scar on her shin from an accident she had as a teen. If she replaced that limb, the scar would be gone, but the memories associated with it would remain (there is also the phantom limb pain, or proprioceptive memory, in which the body remembers the lost limb). But in telling the story to others, she wouldn’t have a reference to show them, but might say, on my old leg, I had this… At what point then does the physical reference stop being important and stop being necessary as a reference to who you are?
When we discussed transferring consciousness outside of your body she did not believe that it would truly be you. Her belief is that you are the sum or your parts; your body, your mind; whatever you consider makes up your consciousness and your self are intrinsically linked. If it were possible to transfer your “data” to a machine, it would not be you, as it was only raw data… it would be missing too much of the physical aspects that make you unique.
So what then of the post-human and digital culture? As Pickering (2005) suggests, the posthuman perspective is “seeing the human and the nonhuman at once, without trying to strip either away.” So then can digital culture be examined without human interaction? Can a modern day human be examined without reference to technology? “Through use of our minds, we change technology, and in return, technology changes our minds.” (wikipedia, nd) The idea of digital culture then is one in which the technology pervades our lives, is part of it, part of us. To understand what it means to be post-human then is to be able to see this connection…
“When I think of digital culture, I think of it as a part of ourselves, and an extension of society. What it means to me is a step in mental evolution, and social responsibility. The phrase that explains the idea that technology connects us as humans which I coined is “Human Circuitry” (Pirillo, nd)