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Humanesis

Sound and Technological Posthumanism

2013
Author:

David Cecchetto

Humanesis

A search for acoustic resonance leads to an important new critique of posthumanist studies

Humanesis critically examines central strains of posthumanism, searching out biases in the ways that human–technology coupling is explained and interrogating three approaches taken by posthumanist discourse: scientific, humanist, and organismic. David Cecchetto’s investigations reveal how each perspective continues to hold on to elements of the humanist tradition that it is ostensibly mobilized against.

Exploring the meaning of the digital future through the clashing perspectives of three key thinkers, Humanesis provides not only a superbly crafted critical discourse of technological posthumanism but does something else that is of profound importance. Refusing to think technological posthumanism within its own self-prescribed boundaries, Humanesis brilliantly disrupts an exclusively theoretical understanding of the posthuman with artistic interventions that are splendidly contingent, beautifully fictive, and always ambivalent. The shadows of McLuhan, Deleuze, Derrida and yes, John Cage, are everywhere in these pages.

Arthur Kroker, University of Victoria, Canada

Humanesis critically examines central strains of posthumanism, searching out biases in the ways that human–technology coupling is explained. Specifically, it interrogates three approaches taken by posthumanist discourse: scientific, humanist, and organismic. David Cecchetto’s investigations reveal how each perspective continues to hold on to elements of the humanist tradition that it is ostensibly mobilized against. His study frontally desublimates the previously unseen presumptions that underlie each of the three thought lines and offers incisive appraisals of the work of three prominent thinkers: Ollivier Dyens, Katherine Hayles, and Mark Hansen.

To materially ground the problematic of posthumanism, Humanesis interweaves its theoretical chapters with discussions of artworks. These highlight the topos of sound, demonstrating how aurality might produce new insights in a field that has been dominated by visualization. Cecchetto, a media artist, scrutinizes his own collaborative artistic practice in which he elucidates the variegated causal chains that compose human–technological coupling.

Humanesis advances the posthumanist conversation in several important ways. It proposes the term “technological posthumanism” to focus on the discourse as it relates to technology without neglecting its other disciplinary histories. It suggests that deconstruction remains relevant to the enterprise, especially with respect to the performative dimension of language. It analyzes artworks not yet considered in the light of posthumanism, with a particular emphasis on the role of aurality. And the form of the text introduces a reflexive component that exemplifies how the dialogue of posthumanism might progress without resorting to the types of unilateral narratives that the book critiques.

Humanesis

David Cecchetto is assistant professor of new media (history and criticism) at OCAD University, Toronto. He coedited the book Collision: Interarts Practice and Research. He is also a practicing multimedia artist.

Humanesis

Exploring the meaning of the digital future through the clashing perspectives of three key thinkers, Humanesis provides not only a superbly crafted critical discourse of technological posthumanism but does something else that is of profound importance. Refusing to think technological posthumanism within its own self-prescribed boundaries, Humanesis brilliantly disrupts an exclusively theoretical understanding of the posthuman with artistic interventions that are splendidly contingent, beautifully fictive, and always ambivalent. The shadows of McLuhan, Deleuze, Derrida and yes, John Cage, are everywhere in these pages.

Arthur Kroker, University of Victoria, Canada

Humanesis is a superbly-executed and effective intervention in contemporary posthumanist studies. David Cecchetto’s readings of the major theorists are masterfully sensitive to nuances of their reasoning and to the disciplinary conditions that have made their contributions both important and problematic. His subtle and far-reaching analysis of the linguistic contingency of embodiment in the digital field is original and convincing. This is new media scholarship of the first order.

Terry Harpold, University of Florida

Most valuable of all, he offers through art a thoughtful and innovative means to ruminate over the complex issues at play in the posthumanist agenda. A salutary response to the disciplinary pressures exerted by the rapid and largely unreflexive institutionalization of digital culture is, indeed, a turn to one’s own tool kit, a space from which new questions and ethical concerns might arise.

The Goose

Humanesis

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Posthumanism(s)

Part I
1. From Genes to Memes: Ollivier Dyens and the Scientific Posthumanism of Darwinian Evolution
2. Dark Matters: An Eidolic Collision of Sound and Vision

Part II
3. Katherine Hayles and Humanist Technological Posthumanism
4. The Trace: Melancholy and Posthuman Ethics

Part III
5. From Affect to Affectivity: Mark B. N. Hansen’s Organismic Posthumanism
6. Skewed Remote Musical Performance: Sounding Deconstruction

Conclusion. Registration as Intervention: Performativity and Dominant Strains of Technological Posthumanism

Notes
Index