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Human Error

Species-Being and Media Machines

2011
Author:

Dominic Pettman

Human Error

Argues that humanity can be seen as a case of mistaken identity

What exactly is the human element separating humans from animals and machines? Dominic Pettman argues that the most decisive “human error” may be the ingrained impulse to understand ourselves primarily in contrast to our other worldly companions. Human Error boldly insists on the necessity of relinquishing our anthropomorphism but also on the extreme difficulty of doing so.

This is a powerful account of human exceptionalism, narrated with the most enchanting of attentiveness to the texts being read. Dominic Pettman writes with such subtlety, wit, and imagination that every page of this book is a pleasure to think with.

Rey Chow, Duke University

What exactly is the human element separating humans from animals and machines? The common answers that immediately come to mind—like art, empathy, or technology—fall apart under close inspection. Dominic Pettman argues that it is a mistake to define such rigid distinctions in the first place, and the most decisive “human error” may be the ingrained impulse to understand ourselves primarily in contrast to our other worldly companions.

In Human Error, Pettman describes the three sides of the cybernetic triangle—human, animal, and machine—as a rubric for understanding key figures, texts, and sites where our species-being is either reinforced or challenged by our relationship to our own narcissistic technologies. Consequently, species-being has become a matter of specious-being, in which the idea of humanity is not only a case of mistaken identity but indeed the mistake of identity.

Human Error boldly insists on the necessity of relinquishing our anthropomorphism but also on the extreme difficulty of doing so, given how deeply this attitude is bound with all our other most cherished beliefs about forms of life.

Human Error

Dominic Pettman is associate professor of culture and media at New School University.

Human Error

This is a powerful account of human exceptionalism, narrated with the most enchanting of attentiveness to the texts being read. Dominic Pettman writes with such subtlety, wit, and imagination that every page of this book is a pleasure to think with.

Rey Chow, Duke University

Reading this book is a seductively creaturely experience. Pettman combines impressive theoretical sophistication and pitch-perfect pop-cultural readings with a lightness of touch that pulls us in many unexpected directions and elicits many surprising feelings. A major contribution that maps a way past the all-too-human errors of the posthuman.

Hugh Raffles, author of Insectopedia

For anybody approaching the book with an open mind, Human Error should provide an insightful and entertaining reading experience.

Frames Cinema Journal

Human Error makes for an inspiring and entertaining read. Pettman’s style of writing weaves together a number of key philosophical debates with analyses of popular culture.

Radical Philosophy

A wildly engaging exploration of what it means to be human.

Roy Christopher

Insightful, passionate, theoretically sophisticated, but also provocatively
playful.

New Formations

Readers from diverse fields–from cultural studies to history, philosophy and economics–will find much to reflect upon in Pettman’s writing.

The Goose

I predict that readers will find their own customized hooks in Human Error, and find themselves inspired to write from one of the many starting points this fascinating book presents.

Humanimalia

Human Error

Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Human Element
1. Bear Life: Tracing an Opening in Grizzly Man
2. Zooicide: Animal Love and Human Justice
3. After the Beep: Answering Machines and Creaturely Life
4. The War on Terra: From Political Economy to Libidinal Ecology
Conclusion: Human Remains
Notes
Bibliography
Filmography/Videography
Index