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Guide Weakness: A Literary and Philosophical History (Continuum Literary Studies)

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In the s and s, this insistence went far beyond the symbolic AI movement always a relatively small group of computer scientists and philosophical fellow travelers to a much larger culture of computer enthusiasts, especially because of the spreading use of the Internet. Unlike earlier forms such as the written letter or the printed book, this form of communication seemed to be abstract, devoid of any significant material signs.

For computer enthusiasts, the evanescent technology of electrons allowed cyberspace to become a realm of pure mind.

Video and even static images were difficult to share. A computer is an artifact, with which the user interacts through various physical mediations: the keyboard, the mouse, the monitor. The affordances and limitations of the digital machine together with the layers of programming also affect those interactions. Hence, the computer should be understood as a physical writing system, just as much as books or manuscripts. In any case, those who communicate through computer networks do not leave their race, gender, or other markers of identity completely behind; such markers are reinscribed in various ways in acts of digital communication.

Even when the communication is purely textual, it still carries those markers.

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844—1900)

The argument in favor of the materiality of the digital has become more convincing with the rise of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many other digital applications are indeed virtual channels of communication, but they are also embedded in the social lives and embodied practices of their users. Research has shown that Facebook and other social networking sites are used principally as virtual complements for communication with friends and acquaintances: Such technologies extend and maintain embodied social relationships in their users' lives rather than displacing them.

Furthermore, mobile versions of applications like Facebook and Twitter allow users to take their digital communicative practices with them as they go about their daily lives. In the s and s cyberspace seemed to be a separate realm in part because going online meant withdrawing with one's computer to some private location cubicle, office.

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And users of mobile devices come to constitute a bridge between the vast hypertext of the Internet and the physical and social environment. They serve as both channels and sensors; they bring information from the Internet into the world and act on it and at the same time convert the world into digital information, either explicitly through texts and images or implicitly by allowing their phones and mobile devices to record their locations.

Ubiquitous computing and ubiquitous media are conditions of media culture today that require the active participation of human users in order to operate. Posthumanist theorists make a convincing case that digital communication in the s is not a refuge from the physical and social world, but fully implicated in it. One important site for the examination of the human subject today is therefore digitally mediated communication.

As the name suggests, social media are technologies and practices for mediating between or among individuals; they can be seen as mass contemporary experiments on the order of hundreds of millions in interpersonal communication. As such, social media provide opportunities for redefining the subject. To examine the presentation of self in social media, many social science and human—computer interaction researchers appeal to an analytical framework provided by Erving Goffman Goffman's perspective, however, is still traditionally humanist, in that he understands individuals as actors putting on particular masks and playing particular roles appropriate to social occasions and audiences.

Social media provide the opportunity for a more radical, posthumanist analysis along lines suggested by Butler In contemporary media culture, users are not autonomous actors; instead, their identities are defined by the performances that they give in their almost constant interaction with social media and entertainment applications.


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Furthermore, users could be said to perform their identities according to discursive frameworks constrained in part by the social media applications themselves. Social media applications are intersubjective, as each user is communicating synchronously or asynchronously with other human users. There is no human subject on the other side of the screen; instead, the player inserts herself into an event loop in which her actions on the game console or keyboard are processed by the code, which in turn provides further outputs for the user's response.

From a posthumanist perspective, interaction with a computer video game redefines the player's subjectivity in a way that the traditional humanist paradigm does not account for. The player becomes a willing, if temporary, cyborg. From a humanist point of view, a willingness to join oneself with a digital system is highly suspect.

It is the abnegation of the autonomy of self, which explains in part the criticism of video games that is common from traditional humanist quarters. Finally, posthumanism has institutional consequences. The practices and assumptions of humanism have been reified for hundreds of years in universities and national academies and supported by various forms of private and public patronage.

Thus, the future of humanism becomes a question of the future of the humanities, particularly in the contemporary university e. Posthumanist theorists propose nothing less than a complete reconfiguration of the humanities—a reconfiguration that removes the liberal subject from the center of humanistic inquiry. They demand new approaches as well as changes in the materials studied.

For example, posthumanists often suggest STS as a controlling interdisciplinary approach—one that can cut across the humanities and social sciences. Above all, posthumanism opposes the essentialism that it finds in the traditional interpretive practices of the humanities. It is joined in this opposition by poststructuralism, postmodernism, postcolonial studies, feminist studies, and cultural studies, all of which have gained ground in humanities departments in recent decades.

In addition to writing about new media, Bolter collaborates in the construction of new digital media forms. With Michael Joyce, he created Storyspace, a hypertext authoring system. Bolter now works closely with Blair MacIntyre, Maria Engberg, and others on the use of augmented reality to create new media experiences for informal education and entertainment.

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References and Further Readings. Braidotti, R. The posthuman. Cambridge, UK : Polity. Google Scholar. Crossref Google Scholar. Citing Literature. References Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password?

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Walter Benjamin (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Password Changed Successfully Your password has been changed. Returning user. Request Username Can't sign in? Features many of the most influential essays in the field organized into several sections determined by topic, such as ontology, emotion, metaphor, and interpretation. Kearney, R. Rasmussen, eds.

Weakness: A Literary and Philosophical History (Continuum Literary Studies), O'S

Essays by thirty philosophers exemplifying romantic, modernist, and postmodernist approaches to art, many addressing literary topics. Each section begins with a brief introduction to the arguments of the essays contained therein and to the cultural or philosophical context in which they were written. Lamarque, Peter. The Philosophy of Literature. One of the best introductions to the field.


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Carefully distinguishes philosophical approaches to literature from those of other disciplines and identifies the main strands of argument in the major theoretical debates over literature as an art. Lamarque, Peter, and Stein Haugom Olsen, eds. Comprehensive anthology of many of the most influential analytic articles in the philosophy of art.

PHILOSOPHY: Jacques Derrida

Contains forty-six articles devoted to both general themes, such as the ontology of art and aesthetic properties, and more specific problems indexed to literature and fictions. Concise introductions with suggestions for further readings begin each section. Stecker, Robert. Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: An Introduction. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, A tightly argued analysis of major topics in the philosophy of art, including those that pertain to literature. Lucid explanations and often incisive criticisms of the arguments of several prominent theorists.

Waugh, Patricia, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, A very informative collection of essays by several contemporary authors addressing the major trends, concepts, and figures in 19th- and 20th-century literary criticism and Continental literary theory, with some earlier historical material.