deconstructing human-ism


Week 4 already… how did that happen? Such a variable, this human perception of time.

Anyway, in this final week of guidance-by-resources-and-good-questions, before the final week of somehow-making-sense-of-it-all-in-less-than-5-minutes-or-800-words…. we’ve seen a few more interesting short films, and read some (to me) very interesting stuff.

Robbie is an amusing short sci fi fantasy about a robot sent into orbit to maintain whatever techno junk is up there by the decades into the future this film portrays… and who, on last legs or gasping breath of battery life, is recording a personal history in the hope that someday someone might find the recording and be able to bring him back to ‘life’, because he kinda misses all his remembered human friends back on earth (sorry Rob, I think they might actually be long dead by now)…. it’s a cute take on the sorts of discussions we’ve been hearing and reading of late in this course – especially on social sites, where a plethora of stuff in addition gets posted – suggesting that robots might become as human as humans (and humans as robotic as machines). The film maker says he didn’t intend any particular message with this film, but was just curious to ponder how we face death, transposing very human thoughts and feelings onto the robot, that we might better notice them, and appreciate the living we have.


The next this week was Gumdrop – another short about a very humanised robot, this time a female one on earth, who is remarkably good at house cleaning… I guess that’s what’s meant to make her seem just like a real woman? (I laughed more at the references in the film to both Bulgaria and Alabama, as that will speak to two of my quadblogging team!)

I found this one less thoughtful than Robbie – high ‘production values’ as they say, but less point to it. The vacuum robot is applying for an acting job, talks banalities in warm up interview and reads a few lines of meaningless script in a different accent, which she finds ‘exhausting’… why? I really have no idea what that was about…


Moving right along, then we have True Skin (which I still have only seen half a minute of because it just won’t download in any reasonable timeframe and I keep giving up and moving on to some more important task)…. clearly a play around with the idea of us perhaps being able, in the unspecified future, to replace body parts – in this fantasy, like fashion accessories – and extend functionality and life…. there was something going on in the voice over about “who would want to be like them?”…. referring to ‘fully organic’ people who are too poor to afford new parts and walk around the streets being sick and old and heading for death…

true skin

One thing that immediately struck me in this one is the use of colour – every other ad or art film about the techno future has been so grey-blue and creepy clean, this one makes a striking contrast, but the storyline is radically dystopian, so that juxtaposition of bright lights and abject misery of the have nots is really unsettling… a bit like real life in capitalism… ooo

Finally, we had Avatar Days.. unlike the others, not about humanised robots or technological transformation of human bodies, but about the second lives of ‘regular guys’…. we see bizarre characters from game worlds walking about the streets and hear the voice of the ‘real person’ behind the avatars and what they think of the character they inhabit online..

avatar days

Then in the end we see the characters at home, looking in the mirror, where we see the real person reflected….. It’s a really cute concept for a short film and very well put together…. but not being a gamsey person, and not being a bloke, well…. you know..

Really enjoyed the readings this week…

Bostrom’s text here on so-called transhumanism aligned well I guess with the Fukuyama utterances of week 3’s listing…. all about bodily enhancements (or dystopian modifications and impositions by big pharma). This is the territory of good and evil resulting from technology implants into human bodies, and mind altering drugs to achieve greater social conformity, as well as the ‘we’ll soon be able to download your mind onto a silicon chip’ brigade…. (I really can’t quite fathom how or why anyone takes that AI kind of nonsense seriously… each to their own, but I have yet to read anything in that domain that is based on any understanding of how language works and why the brain = computer analogy is rather ridiculous.. I just deal with the irritations by making fun of the discourse… and collect classic statements as I come upon them into casual scoops that I might mine later for more serious purposes…. like my thesis – ah yes, I must make some time for that this week too!)

On a more philosophical note, Cary Wolfe’s blog was a pleasure to read, locating arguments on a metaphorical terrain bounded by such divergent extremities as Fukuyama and Harraway represent….. she gives a nice overview, and articulation of the current challenge of the ‘posthumanism’ crossroad we find ourselves at, where, as she puts it, “the disciplinary formation we call the humanities” meets an ’emergent and more inter-disciplinary range of possible meanings and practices’ (such as what we are exploring and experiencing in this mooc no doubt).

Haven’t had time yet to read through the ‘system upgrade’ report on education, but will get there!

I think in short, this past week and a half, I’ve really enjoyed perusing the humanist and posthumanist material, seeing more short films, and thinking about how they align with these larger narratives…. but I’m definitely most interested in the philosophical and historical discussions of how humanist discourses construct a certain vision of personhood. I think it was Egbert’s blog last week make some really good points about the politics of defining a ‘person’ and citizen… and Giada posted something about ‘the illusion of presence’ or ‘non-mediation’ afforded by technologies that I wanted to follow up on (but haven’t had time yet)…. what’s on my mind, as ever, because I seem to have a one track mind (like most folks I guess) is the illusion of presence that language construes… I don’t tend to think whatever technology is as material in the illusion of presence as is language itself…. but that’s food for another day’s thought…

what did you make of it all?

meanwhile, I have a hangout to attend now! see ya


2 comments on “deconstructing human-ism

    • o thanks for reading and commenting Sandra 🙂 I haven’t had time to read much of others’ blogs at all these past two weeks, as classes are about to start up here and I’m madly getting moodle sites ready! I will get there though, bear with me 🙂

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