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Re: <eyebeam><blast> posthuman politics

On Feb. 10 Brian Holmes wrote,

>. . . There has been some disquiet for a long time about the perception
that the accumulation of disciplinary technologies - relating, for
instance, to the structure of the state, or the organization of
industrial production and the management of its symbolic equivalents
(i.e. money) - could become so great and so rigid as to effectively
block human autonomy, freeze it into certain very limited patterns. When
people complain about being reduced to the status of machines, they're
generally complaining about the imposition of such a discipline.

>  Are you suggesting that the development of cybernetic technologies,
as such, may help alleviate that problem? Will posthuamn
cyberintelligence have a more supple approach to human relations than
the earlier varieties? Or will it just be more efficient? I would be
curious to see the way your thinking on a new understanding of
embodiment and of the human-machine interface can be related to
political questions, i.e., how technology is used and for whom.

Brian, Of course, it depends on what technologies one focuses upon.  But
it seems to me that a good example of a "supple" technology is the World
Wide Web.  In my view, the Web, for all its problems, has been one of
the really important progressive developments of this century.  Its
potential for opening up communication between people who would
otherwise have a difficult time finding one another still amazes me.
Embodiment in my view is very much related to political questions; I
explore this issue at more length in an essay called "The Seductions of
Cyberspace"  in "Re-Thinking Technologies," edited by Verena Conley.
Briefly, I see the prospect of an axis of phyiscality/virtuality coming
into existence, where the privileged end is the virtual one (understood
as a removal from the consequences of embodiment, for example when
American pilots used virtual technologies to bomb people on the ground
in the Gulf War).  My response to this situation is to try to point out
the ways in which all technologies, including virtual technologies, are
of course embodied; they couldn't exist in the world if they weren't.
At issue here, then, is not only how the technologies are constructed in
fact, but also how they are constructed in discourse. I see the rhetoric
of disembodiement (e.g., Gibson's "Neuromance," John Perry Barlow's take
on VR) to be politically dangerous.

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts about the relation of
these technologies to political questions.  Obviously it's a huge topic,
and there's much to say about it. . .
Kate Hayles

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