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Download PDF How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics

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Hayles understands " human " and " posthuman " as constructions that emerge from historically specific understandings of technology, culture and embodiment; "human and "posthuman" views each produce unique models of subjectivity. According to Hayles the posthuman view privileges information over materiality, considers consciousness as an epiphenomenon and imagines the body as a prosthesis for the mind. This idea of the posthuman also ties in with cybernetics in the creation of the feedback loop that allows humans to interact with technology through a blackbox, linking the human and the machine as one.

Thus, Hayles links this to an overall cultural perception of virtuality and a priority on information rather than materiality. Despite drawing out the differences between "human" and "posthuman", Hayles is careful to note that both perspectives engage in the erasure of embodiment from subjectivity.

Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics

Meanwhile, popular conceptions of the cybernetic posthuman imagine the body as merely a container for information and code. Noting the alignment between these two perspectives, Hayles uses How We Became Posthuman to investigate the social and cultural processes and practices that led to the conceptualization of information as separate from the material that instantiates it. She diagrams these shifts to show how ideas about abstraction and information actually have a "local habitation" and are "embodied" within the narratives.

Although ideas about "information" taken out of context creates abstractions about the human "body", reading science fiction situates these same ideas in "embodied" narrative.

Hayles makes a distinction between thinking and cognition. In Unthought: the power of the cognitive nonconscious , she describes thinking:.


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Although the cognitive capacity that exists beyond consciousness goes by various names, I call it nonconscious cognition. Within the field of Posthuman Studies, Hayles' How We Became Posthuman is considered "the key text which brought posthumanism to broad international attention".

Reactions to Hayles' writing style, general organization, and scope of the book have been mixed.

How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics

The book is generally praised for displaying depth and scope in its combining of scientific ideas and literary criticism. Linda Brigham of Kansas State University claims that Hayles manages to lead the text "across diverse, historically contentious terrain by means of a carefully crafted and deliberate organizational structure. Andrew Pickering describes the book as "hard going" and lacking of "straightforward presentation.

Weiss however acknowledges as convincing her use of science fiction in order to reveal how "the narrowly focused, abstract constellation of ideas" of cybernetics circulate through a broader cultural context. Katherine Hayles is a postmodern literary critic and the James B. Duke Professor of Literature at Duke University. Table of Contents Acknowledgments Prologue 1. Toward Embodied Virtuality 2.

Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers 3.

Full text of "How We Became Posthuman. Virtual Bodies In Cybernetics Literature And Informatics"

Dick 8. The Materiality of Informatics 9. Narratives of Artificial Life The Semiotics of Virtuality: Mapping the Posthuman I recommend it highly. Hayles shows us 'how information lost its body' in order that we might better know how to keep disembodiment from being written once again into dominant concepts of subjectivity. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book!

N. Katherine Hayles

Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Explore Now. Buy As Gift. Overview In this age of DNA computers and artificial intelligence, information is becoming disembodied even as the "bodies" that once carried it vanish into virtuality. While some marvel at these changes, envisioning consciousness downloaded into a computer or humans "beamed" Star Trek -style, others view them with horror, seeing monsters brooding in the machines. User reviews LibraryThing member veevoxvoom. N Katherine Hayles is one of the most prominent scholars of cybernetics and the cultural theory of cyborgism.

Her thesis in this book is that although in our modern age, there is an increasing move in cybernetics to regarding information and human subjectivity as bodiless, in fact, to be posthuman means to be embodied, only in a different way.

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Hayles discusses her theory while covering the history of the three waves of the cybernetics as well as using literary examples she has degrees in both chemistry and English. I read this book in order to supplement an essay I was writing on William Gibson's Neuromancer.

How We Became Posthuman

Hayles raises a lot of interesting ideas about the relation between human and machine, and while I'm not sure I agree with all of them, her opinions are intelligent nonetheless. I particularly enjoyed the foray into literature and science-fiction. But I have to add that this is a highly academic book. I couldn't imagine a casual reader picking it up and enjoying it. LibraryThing member zacchia.


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  • Spanning a period between the 40th and the 90th the author traces a path among the different visions and works that scientists and science fictions writers had about humans and human-like machines that technologist were building or hoping to build. She also explore the desire of scientist to build human like machine and at the same time the fear of having machines that will take over the humans. The book is very hard to read.