Posthumanism, Virtuality, and the Arts

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 July 2020) | Viewed by 29501

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
School of Communication and Culture–Art History, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Interests: posthumanism; art and evolution; art, technology and nature

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Guest Editor
School of Communication and Culture–Comparative Literature, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Interests: posthumanism; world literature; digital humanities

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

As was famously pointed out in Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto”, the emergence of the posthuman key figure of the cyborg meant a dissolving of a whole row of dichotomies that have upkept the Western humanist subject: not only the defining one of organism/machine but also dualisms such as mind/body, human/animal, culture/nature, private/public, male/female, civilized/primitive, appearance/reality and maker/made. Quite logically, these hybridizations must also have epistemological consequences and blur the border between what C.P. Snow in 1959 termed “the two cultures”, the separation between the techno-scientific domain and that of art and the humanities. Broadly stated, art and its receivers in the aesthetic branches of the humanities, have got their special legitimization by addressing crucial aspects of the left row in the series of slashes, those emphasizing subjectivity and interiority (cp. mind, culture, appearance, the private, maker) in contrast to objectivity and externality (cp. body, nature, reality, public, made).

But whereas art and aesthetics autonomized those qualities into a special domain – named under terms such as imagination, fiction, the virtual, the sensual—in the posthuman condition they cannot so securely be separated from the other side of the slash, which was similarly drained from virtual and fictitious qualities in the specialization of technical and natural sciences. Rather, explorations of the virtual become an integrative part of our possibilities to act in that convergence between nature and culture, which constitutes the posthuman. If we want to responsibly probe future possibilities of technological infiltration of nature and the human body, we have to transgresses the purely objective categorization of material reality—culminating in the mathematically lawful and deterministic domain upon which the techno-sciences are still largely founded – and integrate those experiences of the virtual and playful, which are perhaps already hidden in the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics.

In the Special Issue of Humanities we thus encourage contributions that empirically analyze, or more generally theorize, how the whole field of the virtual—including, but not limited to, art and literature—might function and intervene in the emerging field of the posthuman. Possible questions to be explored could be, but are again not limited to:

  • How are the fictitious worlds of art and literature, including those of science fiction, related to our emerging posthuman reality?
  • How does the posthuman relate to the Anthropocene (including the relationship between utopian and dystopian futures, and between body and environment)?
  • What is the relationship between the aspects of imperfection, which are so crucial for all modern and avant-garde arts (from narratives to formal languages) and the promise of enhancement pertaining to the posthuman? Can the relationship perfection/imperfection be mapped onto the the one between negentropy/entropy?
  • In what ways could the virtuality of art be related to the virtuality of the world at large, as developed in, for instance, Deleuze’s notion of the virtual? Is human subjectivity just the tip of the iceberg of a larger field of self-organizing virtual forces that are immanent in matter, and does the posthuman imply a dissolution of subjectivity or a reconfiguration of it?

Prof. Jacob Wamberg
Prof. Mads Rosendahl Thomsen
Guest Editors

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Published Papers (6 papers)

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23 pages, 372 KiB  
Article
Technicity and the Virtual
by A. S. Aurora Hoel
Humanities 2022, 11(6), 135; https://doi.org/10.3390/h11060135 - 31 Oct 2022
Viewed by 1636
Abstract
This article outlines an eco-operational theory of technical mediation that centers on Gilbert Simondon’s notion of technicity. The argument is that technical apparatuses do the work of concepts. However, the eco-operational viewpoint completely alters the status of concepts: what they are, [...] Read more.
This article outlines an eco-operational theory of technical mediation that centers on Gilbert Simondon’s notion of technicity. The argument is that technical apparatuses do the work of concepts. However, the eco-operational viewpoint completely alters the status of concepts: what they are, where they are, and what they do. Technicity, as understood here, concerns the efficacious action and operational functioning of a broad range of apparatuses (including living bodies and technical machines), which are conceived as adaptive mediators. The focus on technicity provides a new notion of the virtual, that of the operationally real, which resonates with Gilles Deleuze’s while also marking a new direction. What is more, by approaching mediation in terms of technicity, the eco-operational framework offers a novel understanding of concept or generality that stakes out a middle path between Kantian representational generality and Deleuzian concrete singularity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Posthumanism, Virtuality, and the Arts)
13 pages, 248 KiB  
Article
The Virtual as Affirmative Praxis: A Neo-Materialist Approach
by Rosi Braidotti
Humanities 2022, 11(3), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/h11030062 - 17 May 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2537
Abstract
This chapter addresses the resonances between the concept of the virtual and a material philosophy of life, based on heterogeneity, hybridity, and becoming. It outlines the basic tenet of this materialist philosophy and explores its implications, in relation to the notions of difference [...] Read more.
This chapter addresses the resonances between the concept of the virtual and a material philosophy of life, based on heterogeneity, hybridity, and becoming. It outlines the basic tenet of this materialist philosophy and explores its implications, in relation to the notions of difference and becoming. It, also, highlights the importance of an ethics of affirmation, which may balance the creative potential of critical thought with a dose of negative criticism and the oppositional consciousness that such a stance, necessarily, entails. Situating this project in the context of cognitive capitalism, it discusses the question of how to resist the injustice, violence, and exclusions of the times, our times, the better to resist them and engage with them in an affirmative manner. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Posthumanism, Virtuality, and the Arts)
17 pages, 294 KiB  
Article
On Something Like an Operational Virtuality
by Alexander Wilson
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 29; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010029 - 9 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2163
Abstract
We outline here a certain history of ideas concerning the relation between intuitions and their external verification and consider its potential for detrivializing the concept of virtuality. From Descartes and Leibniz onward to 19th-century geometry and the concept of “invariant” that it shares [...] Read more.
We outline here a certain history of ideas concerning the relation between intuitions and their external verification and consider its potential for detrivializing the concept of virtuality. From Descartes and Leibniz onward to 19th-century geometry and the concept of “invariant” that it shares with 19th-century psychology, we follow the thread of what might be informally called an “operational” conception of the virtual, an intuition progressively developed in the 20th century from of group theoretical thinking into “functorial” thinking (in the context of category theory), and eventually intuitions for the concept of “univalence” (homotopy type theory) and its implications for the meaning of equality and identity. At each turn, skeptical arguments haunt this history’s modes of exteriorization, proof, and verification; we consider the later Wittgenstein’s worries concerning rule following and the apparent unbridgeable gap between formal theory and informal practice. We show how the development of mathematical intuitions and formalisms in the last century and the discovery of deep connection between intuitionistic logic and computation have begun to respond to some of these concerns and favour a conception of virtuality that is operational, constructive, pragmatic, and hospitible to scientific detrivialization. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Posthumanism, Virtuality, and the Arts)
16 pages, 457 KiB  
Article
Who Can Speak? Rancière, Latour and the Question of Articulation
by Iwona Janicka
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 123; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040123 - 20 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 4014
Abstract
In recent years, scholars in broadly considered posthumanities have attempted to reconceptualize politics in order to better account for the role of nonhuman entities in political processes. In this context, the article instantiates a dialogue between Jacques Rancière and Bruno Latour on one [...] Read more.
In recent years, scholars in broadly considered posthumanities have attempted to reconceptualize politics in order to better account for the role of nonhuman entities in political processes. In this context, the article instantiates a dialogue between Jacques Rancière and Bruno Latour on one of the fundamental questions of politics, that is, the question of logos. Even though Latour and Rancière differ considerably in their theoretical and political orientations, each of them revisits the question of ‘who can speak?’ in order to examine the ways in which speechless entities gain a voice, thereby becoming intelligible as political entities. In this article, I confront Rancière’s reservations about nonhumans as political agents, showing how Latour offers pathways beyond Rancière’s apparent bias towards the human, a bias that is, I argue, fundamentally contradictory to the latter’s broader conceptualization of politics as aesthetics. I formulate a Latourian rebuttal of Rancière’s reservations and analyse the utility of Latour’s thought in overcoming Rancière’s limitations. Latour’s reorientation of logos towards the concept of ‘articulation’ makes it possible to evacuate, to some extent, the human exceptionalism from Rancière’s philosophy. Combining Latour with Rancière permits to fundamentally rearticulate the parameters of left-wing thinking about nonhumans. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Posthumanism, Virtuality, and the Arts)
34 pages, 8516 KiB  
Article
The Arts and New Materialism: A Call to Stewardship through Mercy, Grace, and Hope
by Nicholas Leonard
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 84; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030084 - 17 Aug 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 15730
Abstract
During highly polarized times, issues are quickly addressed in ways that emphasize divisions. To support the healing of our polarized culture through art, new materialist theory as presented by Karen Barad and Rosi Braidotti will be entangled with art and artmaking according to [...] Read more.
During highly polarized times, issues are quickly addressed in ways that emphasize divisions. To support the healing of our polarized culture through art, new materialist theory as presented by Karen Barad and Rosi Braidotti will be entangled with art and artmaking according to Dennis Atkinson and Makoto Fujimura to argue for art as an act of environmental and cultural stewardship, creating new possibilities and differences in the virtual that are merciful, graceful, and hopeful. To form this argument, first a summary of new materialism and ethics through Agential Realism and Affirmative Ethics is addressed. Next, a cartography including scientific and theological perspectives is presented for a diffractive reading regarding the concepts of mercy, grace, and hope to develop a new materialist understanding through a philosophy of immanence to counter the circular perpetuation of violence. These concepts are then individually addressed through the proposed new materialist framework to further break from material-discursive dualistic thought. This approach is then explored through various artworks to investigate the co-constructing material-discursive nature of art to create new relations and possibilities in the world. Finally, an in-depth study of the artworks Becoming Us by Megan Constance Altieri and Teeter-Totter Wall by Ronald Rael are addressed to detail how a new materialist approach to art that focuses on the concepts of mercy, grace, and hope can position art as an act of stewardship. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Posthumanism, Virtuality, and the Arts)
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15 pages, 1567 KiB  
Essay
(Dis)orientation, POV and the Virtual
by Mitra Azar
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 33; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010033 - 23 Feb 2021
Viewed by 1856
Abstract
This essay moves the first steps toward an understanding of the intricate intertwining between the notion of orientation and that of Point of View (POV) across the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze (and in his work with psychotherapist Felix Guattari), and revendicates their crucial [...] Read more.
This essay moves the first steps toward an understanding of the intricate intertwining between the notion of orientation and that of Point of View (POV) across the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze (and in his work with psychotherapist Felix Guattari), and revendicates their crucial role in relation to the concept of the virtual. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Posthumanism, Virtuality, and the Arts)
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