MY POST HUMAN LANDSCAPE & THING-POWER

October 2, 2014

Firstly let me begin by defining what ‘posthuman’ means to me. A logical starting point would be to dissect this word; what does it mean to be past human? This is of course a highly subject question and I must first begin by assessing what I believe it means to be human. To me, what separates us from other animal races is our ability to think large, far beyond the confines of our immediate environment; to be aware of our actions and truly care about the ramifications. Therefore when I think of a posthuman landscape, I think of a situation, time or place, where humans are no longer aware, where the ramifications of our actions have become overshadowed by something so large and far removed from what it means to be human: technology.

So have we reached that point now? I think largely, yes. We live in a world today where technology has taken over. To be part of the modern age means not going anywhere without your phone, without access to social media, emails, news on demand. It is our thinking that these things increase connectivity but it seems to do the exact opposite. Riding the train to work or sitting in a café at lunchtime, and you cannot look anywhere without the sad realisation that everyone else is looking down. Whether it be looking down to a phone or a computer, isn’t technology taking us away from our awareness, and into the realm of a world where interactions are staged and everything is just a façade? We are distracted by a non-reality and no longer concerned with the here and now.

This brings me to onto my posthuman landscape. At KTH, Autumn semester of 2014, ‘’Studio: Full Scale is currently in the process of designing and constrcuting a studio space at scale 1:1, to be situated in a parkland, located on the KTH campus. Being a part of this studio, I have seen the process shift from thoughts about what is best for the students and the public realm, the people, to a design based purely on mechanics.

This obsession with technology, or a ‘thing’ paves the way for a posthuman landscape to arise, and brings me to thoughts of Jane Bennett’s piece titled, ‘The Force of Things’. Her thoughts on the concept of ‘thing-power’, being the “curious ability of inanimate things to animate, to act, to produce effects dramatic or subtle”[1] seem to be at play here. Where there was opportunity to create a beautiful workspace that engages both the students and the public, design was quickly overlooked to instead focus on a moving roof. The idea of a mechanism became so alluring that opportunity was forgotten about and lost. Thing-power is stronger that one might think.

Emma Crea

 

[1] Jane Bennet, ‘The Force of Things: Steps Toward an Ecology of Matter’, in Political Theory, Vol. 32, No. 3, June 2004, p.351

 

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2 Responses to “MY POST HUMAN LANDSCAPE & THING-POWER”

  1. Filip Mesko Says:

    On the topic of smartphone hegemony, I keep returning to Pier Vittorio Aureli’s account of asceticism in his essay Less is Enough, and I quote from pages 29-29:

    “So what’s wrong with Steve Jobs’s asceticism? Apparently nothing is wrong. Asceticism is ultimately not about poverty or simplicity per se, but these aspects are among the possible means of this practice. And yet in Jobs’s perfect asceticism there is indeed something fundamentally wrong, and it concerns the very purpose of asceticism. As we have seen, ascetic practice put a major emphasis on how we live. To be an ascetic means to be constantly in control of oneself, to be aware of one’s body and one’s mind and to train them constantly towards the goal of living according to one’s own principles. Jobs’s asceticism is in this sense a false asceticism – not for the obvious reason that he made a lot of money, but because the form of life implied in what he helped to conceive and produce has nothing to do with his own life. Leaving aside the market-driven nature of Jobs’s work, which would be too easy to criticise, it is the technology to which he devoted his ascetic life that has dramatically disrupted any possible control of one’s self. I don’t want to discuss the discontents of our digital age and end up with a luddite rant against smartphones, yet there is a fundamental problem with the digital age that people like Steve Jobs have helped to bring about: the dramatic shortage of attention.” (https://itun.es/se/zusAP.l)


  2. Dear Emma, This is a thought provoking discussion, reflecting on the negative and alienating aspects of technology where it instrumentalists human relations, or over-mediates them in such a way we might begin to wonder whether we are communicating, or whether it is actually our devices communication for us! (This makes me think of that recent movie Her, directed by Spike Jonze). I think it’s good also to be able to articulate a critique of the design project you are in the midst of, but also remember to look for the positive sides, or else, following negative critique, search for the way out, or another answer…how do you bring back in the concerns you believe to be important in your project, and even more challenging, how do you do this through an understanding of the role technology might play in a positive way? There’s much to think about. Well done. H Frichot


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