Monthly Archives: September 2013

Meeting – October 14th

We are pleased to announce that the first meeting of the Being Non/Human discussion group  will take place on Monday, October 14th at 6:30pm – 8pm at King’s College London, Strand campus, room S2.39.

Please join us for two very interesting papers:

Dr Gerard Briscoe (Queen Mary University of London) – ‘Being Posthuman: Who Controls the Cyborg’

Abstract: It has been suggested that the fourth discontinuity to be overcome is the distinction between humans and machines. We consider posthumanism to include the range of debates that examine the potential changes in the human body and its relationship with technology. So, debating what is human, especially with regards to our relationships with technology, in which humans can be seen as mixtures of machine and organism. Cybernetics can be seen as the foundational step in this fourth discontinuity, which governs the study of regulatory systems and self-governing mechanisms. This is because it was the point when machines and humans were imagined as self-regulating patterned information processing systems. These cyborg constructions are the conversion of the material into the informational in two ways; as the flesh into data (extropanism) and the conversion of data into flesh (technology embodiment). Therefore, the realisation of the posthuman will be defined by the nature of the relationship between the human and technology in cyborg constructions. Considerable fiction has presented the merging of human and machine as degenerating, even threatening to humanity. Instead, we generally believe we integrate technology when it is enabling rather than disabling, but unintended consequences can result in disabling effects. For example, the balance of control can become lost and the integration becomes degenerative. Cases will be considered where human machine integration is expected to be enabling, but eventually becomes disabling and even degenerative.

Dr Briscoe specialises in interdisciplinary research at the fringe of the computing sciences with the arts and humanities, and his research interests include Digital Cultures.

Jon Garrad – ‘ “Who’d choose to be a human? I do that in real life…” – Race, Species and Identity in the MMORPG’

Abstract: The academic criticism of computer games has achieved a concern with the politics of identity that is both extensive and limited. It is extensive in the depth of answers to questions articulated most plainly by Meadows (2007), questions I shall reluctantly summarise as “where does the player end and the avatar begin?”; it is limited in that it seldom moves beyond those questions, save in the realms of gender objectification and identification, in which the gender of the player is often the primary focus of investigation (Norris (2004), Gallelli (2010), Carr (2011) et hoc genus omne). I propose a project investigating a similar choice that can be made by players in fantasy and science fiction games, focusing for the sake of brevity and ease on World of Warcraft: the choice of a ‘race’ – or, more accurately, ‘species’ – which is not the player’s own. The paper will present and explore reasons for choosing a non-human, even monstrous avatar, and the extent to which such avatars are characterised both in the game’s representations and in the players’ interactions with those representations, made to occupy a liminal space where they can be occupied/inhabited/identified with by their player, and yet remain tantalisingly Other. Some of this implications of this choice – the reification and reframing of racial difference into species differences, the luxury of being able to choose from potential prejudices, and the taxonomic aspects of the ‘level/race/class’ identification of player avatars – will also be considered. The project’s objective, ultimately, is to establish a basic understanding of the motivations and implications surrounding the choice to ‘be non-human’.

Jon Garrad is an independent researcher and college lecturer. He studied Education at the University of Plymouth, English and American Studies at the University of Manchester, and Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. His research interests include the pedagogy of English, cultural capital and literary tradition, interactive storytelling and roleplaying games, black magic and Arthuriana.

For full details of the group’s timetable and the different papers to be presented, please go to the Schedule and abstracts page.