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How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics »

Book cover image of How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics by N. Katherine Hayles

Authors: N. Katherine Hayles, Katherine Hayles
ISBN-13: 9780226321462, ISBN-10: 0226321460
Format: Paperback
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Date Published: February 1999
Edition: (Non-applicable)

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Author Biography: N. Katherine Hayles

Book Synopsis

In this age of DNA computers and artificial intelligence, information is becoming disembodied even as the "bodies" that once carried it vanish into virtuality. While some marvel at these changes, envisioning consciousness downloaded into a computer or humans "beamed" Star Trek-style, others view them with horror, seeing monsters brooding in the machines. In How We Became Posthuman, N. Katherine Hayles separates hype from fact, investigating the fate of embodiment in an information age.

Hayles relates three interwoven stories: how information lost its body, that is, how it came to be conceptualized as an entity separate from the material forms that carry it; the cultural and technological construction of the cyborg; and the dismantling of the liberal humanist "subject" in cybernetic discourse, along with the emergence of the "posthuman."

Ranging widely across the history of technology, cultural studies, and literary criticism, Hayles shows what had to be erased, forgotten, and elided to conceive of information as a disembodied entity. Thus she moves from the post-World War II Macy Conferences on cybernetics to the 1952 novel Limbo by cybernetics aficionado Bernard Wolfe; from the concept of self-making to Philip K. Dick's literary explorations of hallucination and reality; and from artificial life to postmodern novels exploring the implications of seeing humans as cybernetic systems.

Although becoming posthuman can be nightmarish, Hayles shows how it can also be liberating. From the birth of cybernetics to artificial life, How We Became Posthuman provides an indispensable account of how we arrived in our virtual age, and of where we might go from here.

Booknews

Hayles (English, UCLA) investigates the fate of embodiment in an information age. Ranging widely across the history of technology and culture, she relates three interwoven stories: how information came to be conceptualized as an entity separate from material forms; the cultural and technological construction of the cyborg; and the dismantling of the liberal humanist subject in cybernetic discourse. From the birth of cybernetics to artificial life, she provides an account of how we arrived in our virtual age. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue
1Toward Embodied Virtuality1
2Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers25
3Contesting for the Body of Information: The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics50
4Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Wiener and Cybernetic Anxiety84
5From Hyphen to Splice: Cybernetic Syntax in Limbo113
6The Second Wave of Cybernetics: From Reflexivity to Self-Organization131
7Tuning Reality Inside Out and Right Side Out: Boundary Work in the Mid-Sixties Novels of Philip K. Dick160
8The Materiality of Informatics192
9Narratives of Artificial Life222
10The Semiotics of Virtuality: Mapping the Posthuman247
11Conclusion: What Does It Mean to Be Posthuman?283
Notes293
Index325

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