The Posthuman Imagination

The Posthuman Imagination

Now that life has become a series of complex but no less seductive exits to the posthuman future, only that which is confidently and transgressively part of the posthuman imagination – fractured, incommensurable, unreconciled, capable of thinking deeply about issues related to the “in-between,” that enigmatic, undefinable, tense space that is now opening up in all our lives as boundary divisions and borders crash between bodies and machines and natural objects and sentient nature – only this form of imagination, the posthuman imagination, can provide a way to ride the violent shock waves accompanying the precession of society. We desperately require a form of posthuman imagination that fully reveals the hauntologies, disavowals, and silences of the technological dynamo that has crashed the game( s) of reality.1


1. Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (pp. 34-35). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Arthur Kroker on Paul Virilio

Arthur Kroker on Paul Virilio:

Considered as a talisman of the posthuman future, Virilio’s reflections open onto that truly ominous moment when oblivion falls into us, when a great neutralization of social experience takes place. In this sense, the decisive cultural contribution of Paul Virilio may be his intellectual service as a brilliant cartographer of the excesses, as well as possible wasteland, of a posthuman future that is increasingly as enigmatic in its details as it is uncanny in its definition. … Virilio can provide such profound understandings of digital culture moving at light-speed because his thought brushes the question of technology against the language of deprival…

For Virilio, like McLuhan before him, the posthuman fate is this: to be fascinated by the speed of technological devices and augmented by mobile apps to such an extent that the eye of perception is distracted just at the point when it is about to free-fall into a new epoch of “polar inertia” and “grey ecology.” Just as Nietzsche once claimed that he was writing “posthumously,” in effect aiming his thought at generations who would come to maturity in the dark days of “fully completed nihilism,” Virilio’s warnings assume the form of an exit to the posthuman future that will probably only be appreciated in their full intensity once it is too late, once, that is, the “original accident” of technology spreads out with such violent energy that everything in its wake flips into a posthuman reality, not merely an “aesthetics of disappearance.”1


1. Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (p. 26). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

The Politics of Exclusion: Disappearances, Prohibitions, and Expulsions

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People continue reverting to identitarian politics as if it were even relevant in our global world and context, when what’s happening on all fronts and everywhere in the social, cultural, and economic realms is the very hidden and less obvious truth of disappearances, prohibitions, and exclusions. The Neoliberal Apollonian culture of the eye lives in a false world of deco-punk chrome and glamour, while the poor, the excluded, and prohibited live in the dystopian tin hovels on the outskirts… of the Global Cities of Light. We’ve become used to a global culture of violence: World Wide Wrestling, Soccer, Football, UFC… the neoliberal panoply of the spectacle of violence coarsens us to its real and actual impact at street level, while glorifying it in our media-tainment systems.

Romanticizing the spectacle of violence of our cartoon superheroes, Hollywood icons, and Sports superstars, while swiping the real violence of Third-World degradation and corruption under the carpet of invisibility. Even in the First-World we live under the tutelage of enslavement to austerity and bank-bailouts. It’s as if in our neo-feudalisms of Oligarchy and Plutocracy we are once again reenacting the oldest forms of enslavement known to the human animal on a more devious and sinister scale than throughout history. Ours is the age when people have become invisible, living in the dark interstices of our global societies. Bound to the cage of economic austerity they live on the margins of our worlds, dreaming through our electronic haze of better days; when in truth their night of nights is a rejection slip from reality. When they suddenly rebel or seek to find a way into our world of light we turn on them and mark them with a new Mark of Cain. As if their nightmare wasn’t already a bitter pill, they are enslaved to another one that not only deprives them of the light, but excludes them from the night as well. Caught in the non-worlds of disappearance, exclusion, and prohibition they huddle in the shadows of our bright towers waiting for a chance to revolt. This is the present future of our termination zones…

In books like Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective , Enslaved: True Stories of Modern Day Slavery, Expulsions  … just to name a few books we discover the sordid details of Global governance, greed, subterfuge; national and international corporate slavery, abuse, trafficking… we’ve become infused with the violence of the spectacle as Henry Giroux reports:

The spectacle of violence represents more than the public enactment and witnessing of human violation. It points to a highly mediated regime of suffering and misery, which brings together the discursive and the aesthetic such that the performativity nature of the imagery functions in a politically contrived way. In the process of occluding and depoliticizing complex narratives of any given situation, it assaults our senses in order to hide things in plain sight. The spectacle works by turning human suffering into a spectacle, framing and editing the realities of violence, and in doing so renders some lives meaningful while dismissing others as disposable. It operates through a hidden structure of politics that colonizes the imagination, denies critical engagement, and preemptively represses alternative narratives. The spectacle harvests and sells our attention, while denying us the ability for properly engaged political reflection. It engages agency as a pedagogical practice in order to destroy its capacity for self-determination, autonomy, and self-reflection. It works precisely at the level of subjectivity by manipulating our desires such that we become cultured to consume and enjoy productions of violence, becoming entertained by the ways in which it is packaged, which divorce domination and suffering from ethical considerations, historical understanding and political contextualization. The spectacle immerses us, encouraging us to experience violence as pleasure such that we become positively invested in its occurrence, while attempting to render us incapable of either challenging the actual atrocities being perpetrated by the same system or steering our collective future in a different direction.1

Even in the First World workers have become mere machinic desire in a endless circulation of goods. As Frederic Lordon, will tell us in Willing Slaves Of Capital: Spinoza And Marx On Desire :

The capitalist adoption of the fantasy of liquidity, the quest for the perfect, instantaneous adjustment of others to one’s requisites as master-desire, combines with the endless upward trend in productivity targets to put an unprecedented strain on enlistees, in a context where the backdrop of mass unemployment and the weakening of the strictures on lay-offs render the threat to material reproduction permanent. What the capitalist master-desire in the neoliberal era seeks is nothing less than the liquefaction of labour-power, making the overall size of the workforce into something fluid, reversible, and as easily adjustable as the components of a portfolio of financial assets, with the inevitable effect of creating a world of extreme uncertainty for enlistees.2

In her work on Logistics, Deborah Cowen in The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade  will report on the Neoliberal agenda:

The threat of disruption to the circulation of stuff has become such a profound concern to governments and corporations in recent years that it has prompted the creation of an entire architecture of security that aims to govern global spaces of flow. This new framework of security— supply chain security— relies on a range of new forms of transnational regulation, border management, data collection, surveillance, and labor discipline, as well as naval missions and aerial bombing. In fact, to meaningfully capture the social life of circulation, we would have to consider not only disruption to the system but the assembly of infrastructure and architecture achieved through land grabs, military actions, and dispossessions that are often the literal and figurative grounds for new logistics spaces.3

One of the sad aspects of Leftist thought is that it has become irrelevant and obsolesced in such a world as our global liquid economies, our substantial formalisms of Marxist ideology and thought-forms deal with substantial industrial realities that no longer exist. Even those of the Italian Autonomist and Operaist movements have difficulty truly encompassing this new economic world of flows. Deleuze & Guattari stopped at the entry point of such a critique, gave us a few pointers; yet, their thought was only a opening of the gate. We will need to revisit the whole Marxian tradition and see what remains and what must be challenged in our era of accelerating reality (Virilio). Until we can do that we will be building critiques of strawmen, rather than challenging the truth of our dark technocratic civilization.

Saskia Sassen asks the appropriate question when she says, “What are the spaces of the expelled?

These are invisible to the standard measures of our modern states and economies. But they should be made conceptually visible. When dynamics of expulsion proliferate, whether in the shape of the shrunken economy of Greece, the predatory elites of Angola, or the growth of the long-term unemployed or the incarcerated in for-profit prisons in the United States, the space of the expelled expands and becomes increasingly differentiated. It is not simply a dark hole. It is present. Also the spaces of the expelled need to be conceptualized. I make a similar argument about the proliferation of stretches of dead land and dead water due to our toxic modes of development. These are also present. Thus, in a conceptual move aimed at making dead land present, I argue it should be conceived of as an informal jurisdiction. More generally, the spaces of the expelled cry out for conceptual recognition. They are many, they are growing, and they are diversifying. They are conceptually subterranean conditions that need to be brought aboveground. They are, potentially, the new spaces for making— making local economies, new histories, and new modes of membership.”4

We need a politics of exclusion: of the expelled, the dispossessed, the excluded, and the disposed and unwanted people who live in the shadows of our neo-feudalistic global empire and society of cultural and economic degradation. To bring to visibility and conceptuality the subterranean and neglected peoples of the earth, their conditions of servitude and enslavement, trafficking, and toxic habitations. Without recognizing and actively seeking an end to exclusion and expulsion how can we continue to defend our inclusion?


  1.  Giroux, Henry A.; Evans, Brad (2015-06-22). Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 624-636). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  2. Lordon, Frederic (2014-06-03). Willing Slaves Of Capital: Spinoza And Marx On Desire (pp. 46-47). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
  3. Cowen, Deborah (2014-09-01). The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade (Kindle Locations 169-175). University of Minnesota Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. Sassen, Saskia (2014-05-05). Expulsions (Kindle Locations 3021-3029). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.

Arthur Kroker: The “Trans-Subjective” Mind: Process vs. Traversal

Arthur Kroker: The “Trans-Subjective” Mind: Process vs. Traversal

What might be called the subjectivity or, more precisely, the “trans-subjectivity” of digital inhabitants seems to be in the process of abandoning its temporary habitat in human flesh in favor of a permanent orbit of high-intensity connectivity. The splitting of the body of flesh, bone, and blood from the network body of light-space and light-time does not take place by means of a physical separation of this doubled form of being, but by a method that is precisely the opposite. If contemporary technological discourse in favor of “big data” and “distant reading” is to believed, bodily subjectivity is about to be colonized by a form of digital trans-subjectivity where consciousness is radically split. On the one side, consciousness under the sign of the regime of computation: distributive, remote, a relational matrix with perception shaped by algorithms, understanding mediated by digital connectivity, memory installed in all the waiting data archives, personal history recorded in permanent electronic traces. Process minds in the data storm. On the other, the emergence of a new form of technological consciousness as the name given to a form of thought that, having no existence apart from the shock of the (data) real, traverses the entire field of technology, thriving at the folded edges of biology and digitality, articulating itself in the language of the dispersed, the fragment, the wandering particle, formed by the soft materiality of the intersection, the mediation, just that point where computational consciousness actually begins to reverse itself into a universe of unexpected discoveries and unanticipated minoritarian thought. The fateful meeting of process mind and traversal mind, this conjunction of distributive consciousness and a new form of manifestly folded, open-source thought, is properly the key epistemological exit to the posthuman future. Signs of pitched struggle between these two opposing trajectories of posthuman consciousness are everywhere.

– Arthur Kroker, Exits to the Posthuman Future (pp. 24-25

Steven Shaviro: On David Roden’s Dark Phenomenlogy

Steven Shaviro discusses David Roden‘s notions of Dark Phenomenology in the first chapter of his book, Discogniton (“Thinking Like a Philosopher”), Thinking like a Philosopher in Discognition – and I quote:

“When we no longer have concepts to guide our intuitions, we are in the realm of what David Roden calls dark phenonemology. Roden extends the arguments of Kant, Sellars, and Metzinger. Since I am able to experience the subtlety of red, but I can only conceive and remember this experience as one of red in general, there must be, within consciousness itself, a radical “gulf between discrimination and identification”. This leads to the ironic consequence that first-person experience cannot be captured adequately by first-person observation and reflection. “What the subject claims to experience should not be granted special epistemic authority since it is possible for us to have a very partial and incomplete grasp of its nature”.

“In other words, rather than claiming (as Dennett does, for instance) that noncognitive phenomenal experience is somehow illusory, Roden accepts such experience, espousing a full “phenomenal realism”. But the conclusion he draws from this non-eliminativist realism is that much of first-person experience “is not intuitively accessible”. I do not necessarily know what I am sensing or thinking. It may well be that I can only figure out the nature of my own experiences indirectly, in the same ways – through observation, inference, and reporting – that I figure out the nature of other people’s experiences. Introspective phenomenological description therefore “requires supplementation through other modes of enquiry”. Roden concludes that we can only examine the “dark” areas of our own phenomenal experience objectively, from the outside, by means of “naturalistic modes of enquiry… such as those employed by cognitive scientists, neuroscientists and cognitive modelers”.

“Roden’s account of dark phenomenology is compelling; but I find his conclusion questionable. For surely the crucial distinction is not between first person and third person modes of comprehension, so much as between what can be cognized, and what cannot. Phenomenological introspection and empirical experimentation are rival ways of capturing and characterizing the nature of subjective experience. But dark phenomenology points to a mode of experience that resists both sorts of conceptualization.” (Kindle Locations: 490-560)1

In the above passage one discovers the differences within the neuroscientific community of the sciences, and the philosophical community: the neurosciences are stripping the lineaments of Kantian intuition and/or ‘phenomenological introspection’ (first person) out of the equation altogether; while those within the philosophical world seek to save the last bastion of Kantian thought from the veritable erosion in a sea of technological systems outside the purview of consciousness. This is the battle confronting 21st Century thought. The Neurosciences vs. Philosophy. On the one hand you have those who believe philosophy should not be seen as opposing so much the sciences as being the guardian of thought itself; maintaining that without philosophy the scientists would not have the theoretical frameworks within which to carry on their conceptual discourses. On the other you have the neuroscientists who could care less about the specifics of thought, but rather seek an understanding of the very real and empirical operations and functions of the brain that gives rise to thought. It’s this intermediary realm between material/immaterial that is at issue. In older forms the physicalist arguments reduced everything to the brain, but newer neurosciences are taking into consideration that things are not so easily reduced; yet, there is no agreement among scientists or philosophers as to what this gap or blank is between the material and immaterial, or even if such questions are pertinent to the task. So that for scientists it’s not so much about frameworks as it is about the pragmatic truth of actual process in real-time that have nothing to do with philosophical intuitionism and much more about the way the brain interacts with the environments within which it is folded.

Already neurosciences, imaging technologies (i.e., fRMI, etc.), and interface tech are bridging the material/immaterial gap without understanding the full details of the processes involved. Along with computer/brain interfaces that can be applied intrinsically and extrinsically to a person, allowing for new and exciting abilities for those whose bodies were otherwise incapacitated access to speech, communication, and computing systems, there is the interoperative collusion of biochemical and hardware intermediation that up till recently would have been seen as impossible. Yet, in our time technology and invention is bringing a revolution in such splicings of human and machine. More and more those like Andy Clarke are being proven right that humans are already becoming Cyborgs… are, maybe we always already were. Technology that we create is in return changing who and what we are as humans. Some say this is the posthuman divide, a crossing of the Rubicon between human and technology that will change our mode of being in the world forever. What it will lead to is anyone’s guess. David Roden will term it the disconnection thesis: a point beyond which we just don’t know is being reached, one we can only speak of speculatively rather than ontologically with any depth of resolution.

Only time will tell who will come out on top, here; but I suspect if history has a say, that the sciences will uncover the processes of thought in the brain as being outside the control of the first-person navigator we term the Subject altogether. Philosophers want to retain a connection to our sense of Self and Personality, to hold onto the metaphysical basis of human thought and exceptionalism. But the sciences day by day are eroding the very ground and foundations of human subjectivity and self upon which western metaphysics since Plato has encircled itself. The battle continues… and, as Steven suggests, Roden’s “dark phenomenology points to a mode of experience that resists both sorts of conceptualization.” Where it will lead we will need to follow…

1. Steven Shaviro. Discognition. Repeater (April 19, 2016)

 

You’ll have to read the book to understand the rest of the story…


1. Shaviro, Steven (2016-04-19). Discognition (Kindle Locations 204-205). Watkins Media. Kindle Edition.