I See You: the posthuman subject and spaces of virtuality – Rebecca Bishop

Figure 1: Jake Sully in his Na’vi avatar. Avatar (James Cameron, 2009)

Everything is backwards now, like out there is the real world and this is the dream. (James Cameron’s Avatar, 2009)

Over recent years, considerable scholarly attention and mass media speculation has been paid to the emergence of the figure of the posthuman – a vision of augmented human that has undergone radical transformation as a result of new biotechnological and informatic technologies. This posthumanity lives simultaneously in the world of the virtual and the biological, cast concurrently as the future of a biomedically enhanced humanity and a figuration for overcoming the identity politics of the past. Some are arguing that we will eventually leave the human ‘as we know it’ behind, in a techno-modified, cognitively enhanced evolution, while in critical theory, the posthuman is being lauded as an ontology through which the boundary structures of the EuroWestern legacy of humanism can be dismantled. What has been largely overlooked to date, however, is the way in which early twenty-first century science fiction cinema has added a striking new layer to the fields of discourse that currently weave around the notion of posthumanity. In the films The Matrix (Wachowski, 1999), Surrogates (Mostow, 2009) and Avatar (Cameron, 2009) we see the emergence of a representation of humanness as a multimodal, multipresent subjectivity which is produced in an embodied engagement with the material artifacts of contemporary technoculture. Tracing the history and scope of current conceptualizations of posthumanity, I will point to the way in which these onscreen avatars are indicative of what might be seen as a critical shift in the EuroWestern cultural imaginary, a shift from a core epistemological division between the real and the representational, to a metaphysical matrix in which subjects inhabit and switch between simultaneous physical, conceptual and somatic spaces.

Cyborg evolutions

While certainly broad in scope, both late twentieth century scholarship and cinematic representations of cyberculture were primarily concerned with three core and interweaving phenomena that would prove critical antecedents to the twenty-first century vision of the posthuman. Visions of the cyborg in both critical theory and popular culture offered the human/nonhuman hybrid as a means for interrogating humanist identity politics; the rapid rise of the internet and computer-mediated communications saw new concerns over the mediation and multiplicity of the self in interactions between computer users; and new virtual reality technologies led to an investigation of the nature of the boundary between the real world and simulated space. As I outline below, in each of these fields of representation developments in digital and medical technologies led to concurrent examinations of the teleology of the human itself, and new questions over the capacity of the human to evolve into something beyond what it had always been. This is an epistemological legacy many will now be familiar with, yet it is one worth briefly retracing in order to arrive back to the ‘posthuman’ present.

A hybrid of human and nonhuman, organic and inorganic, the cyborg was heralded in late twentieth century Western academic discourse as a contemporary technocultural manifestation of a legacy of boundary creatures; a figure that might represent the dismantling of the humanist binaries which the masculine military-industrial complex had so rigorously produced. Donna Haraway offered a world of permanently partial identities, a new ontology of hybridity, a “creature in a post-gender world” that had no truck with “seductions to organic wholeness”, and was “resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy and perversity” (Haraway, 1991, p.150, 151). Haraway’s cyborg visions preceded a number of investigations of historical hybridities and boundary creatures and spurred cognate feminist epistemologies (see, for example, Lykke and Braidotti, 1996, Braidotti, 1996, 2006). Yet while the theoretical cyborg was lauded as an emergent ontological figuration, the science-fiction cyborg in popular cinema operated on the fundamental binaries that its epistemological parallel attempted to overcome.

Figure 2: Surrogates (Jonathan Mostow, 2009)

The cinematic cyborg was a human/machine hybrid that operated as a border figure that exposed the potentially chaotic consequences of the conjoining of human and nonhuman. Cyborg films offered representations of a subject whose hybridity generated a fundamental conflict between the feeling human self/soul and cold digitality of the mechanical body; we saw human memory traces causing glitches in the cyborg’s operating system (Verhoeven, 1987), the emergence of human sentience in the black void of a cyborg soul (Marquand, 1983), and a myriad of cyborg minds who questioned and grappled what it means to be human. In a parallel, and often overlapping, trajectory we witnessed stories of machinic entities created by humans who became uncontrollable and ultimately tried to harm or destroy their makers (Lang, 1927; Whale, 1931; Cameron, 1984; Wachowski, 1999; Proyas, 2004). Two core cultural stories were woven into these cyborg representations; one, that the human was marked by a capacity for free will, a moral code, and fixed corporeal parameters, and two, that any attempt to technologically mess with the nature and purity of human corporeality could have potentially chaotic consequences.[1]

While popular culture was filled with dark visions of the chaotic consequences of human-machine hybridity, early scholarly discourse on the liberatory possibilities of the new human realm of “cyberspace” was certainly largely utopian in its tenor. Visual metaphors for the virtual abounded; Novak (2001) for example, described a fundamentally liquid space, which was “animistic, animated, metamorphic, as well as crossing categorical boundaries, applying the cognitively supercharged operations of poetic thinking…an architecture that breathes, pulses, leaps as one form and lands as another” (Novak, 2001, p.153). Spiller too (2001) saw this space as one of infinite technological poesis, a “world populated by vacillating objects, Dalinian exuberances, smooth but jagged surfaces and baroque ecstasies” (Spiller, 2001, p.305). For some commentators, this infinite and un-bodied virtuality offered new potentials for the recreation of identity; no longer hampered by the constraints of real world interactions between bodies, this emergent spatiality offered a new terrain for the construction of multiple selves and “dematerialized identity compositions” (Tomas, 1989, p.114). Franck (2002), for example, suggested that “virtual worlds will offer myriad opportunities to encounter and engage objects and spaces in new and different ways and to occupy other bodies, other entities, other species” (Franck, 2002, p.244). Identity, “as it is physically represented” she suggested, “will no longer be tied to the physical attributes of age, gender, race, size or even to the human species. Attributes of humans or other animate and inanimate objects will be chosen and mixed at will” (Franck, 2002, p. 242; see also Turkle, 1984, 1995).

Questions on the nature of the self itself in the context of virtual communications were raised alongside visions of the formation of communities no longer hampered by time, distance and prejudicial politics (Rheingold, 1993, see also Holmes, 1997; Shields, 1997). For some, cyberspace itself offered possibilities for a new modality of being-in-the-world; for JP Barlow (1996), cyberspace consisted of “transactions, relationships and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications…a world that is both everywhere and nowhere” (Barlow, 1996). In the cyberpunk rhetoric that circulated alongside these speculations on identity shifts in cyberspace, the human body itself was offered up as defunct wetware, a viscous fleshly entity that would have no place in the floating exuberance of the digital matrix. In William Gibson’s (1984) cyberspace, for example, the “body was meat” (1984, p.6); for MIT scientist, Hans Moravec (1988), the future was (and still is) a place in which organic bodies have been discarded completely, and “minds” are downloaded directly into networks of digital information.

A number of feminist commentators recognized this vision of defunct wetware and uploaded consciousness as one that was profoundly masculinist, a recasting of the male, transcendent subject of the Cartesian ego, the desire to be finally free of the immanent body in the ultimate disembodied transcendence (Plant, 1999; Sofia, 1999). Yet at the same time it was suggested that the virtual (or ‘Jupiter Space’) offered a terrain for “post-phallic formation”, a site for the construction of a matrix of subjectivities freed from the constraints of the phallocentric order (see, for example, Sofoulis, 1994). Inspired by Irigaray’s casting of the masculine as a quest to escape from the womb towards god-like transcendence, some argued that the virtual was represented in both image and language as a pregnant, womb-like space, a site both desired and feared (Plant, 1999; Springer, 1991; Wolmark, 1999).

Figure 3: ‘Stim-chair’ in Surrogates.

While the expansion of cyberspace prompted calls for the recognition that disembodied interaction might provide a platform for the sloughing of identity categories premised on embodied physicality, early discourses on the digital productions of virtual realities, where users might engage with simulated environments via haptic data gloves, headsets and bodysuits, prompted a new conceptual engagement with the ontology of the real.  A term coined by computer company VPL in 1989 to describe new technologies for user engagement with built virtual environments, the notion of “virtual reality” prompted a slew of questions on the nature of space itself. If a subject could be physically present in one space, and perceptually present in another, where did that subject truly reside? If one senses and touches a virtual space, moves within it, and alters the nature of that space, is the virtual any less “real” that the environment within which the physical body exists? Within this Neoplatonic rhetoric of digitally mediated shadows there was a strong initial sense that VR technologies would completely transform human engagement with electronic media; it would “enhance the power of art to transform reality” (Heim, 1993, p. 118), it was a means to “create, experience and share a computer-generated world as realistic or as fanciful as you would like […] a parallel world” (Briggs, 1996); it was “not a technology” but “a destination” (Biocca, Kim and Levy, 1995, p.4). A speaker at the first IEEE Virtual Reality International Symposium (1993) captured this sense of augmented perceptional futures when he noted that “we are building transportation systems for the senses…the remarkable promise is that we can be in another place or space without moving our bodies into that space” and that these “advanced interfaces will provide an incredible new mobility for the human race” (Furness, 1993, p.1).

What was particularly striking in these discussions of both creating and inhabiting new metaphysical territories was the emergence of an ontology of the digital which suggested that, mediated by technology, the human subject was capable of multiple modes of presence. The notion of telepresence, the perceptual “being-there” (Steuer, 1995, p.35-36) that occurs when one’s mind is transported into a virtual environment, provided the framework for conceptualizing new modalities of a trans-spatial human experience that was no longer limited by the “mind” located in a single, fixed corporeality. We have here the underpinnings of what I refer to as a multimodal subjectivity; a figuration of the human as a perceptual stratum capable of switching and inhabiting multiple real and virtual spatialities while maintaining its core ontological integrity. This was not a cyborgian notion of being, where one becomes-hybrid in a meshing of human and nonhuman, organic and inorganic, but a construction of the human self as a central point of fixity composed of multiple perceptual and embodied engagements with changing social and somatic environments – an emergent subjectivity that operates in multiple, and simultaneous, perceptual spaces.    These early figurations did not challenge the conceptual boundary between the human and its techno-material others (as many feminist scholars of technoculture have and continue to envision), but offered a new means of conceptualizing human being-in-the-world itself.

Posthuman emergences

The notion of telepresence manifested in late twentieth century virtual reality films which explored the nature of the border between reality and simulation in the context of developments in digital imaging technologies and the growth of the information network known as the World Wide Web. Here, stories exploring the blurring of boundaries between embodied and virtual, cyberspatial identities conjoined with dark tales of destruction caused when the fantasy world of the virtual reality headset spilled over into the real world of human relationships (Trumball, 1983; Leonard, 1992; Fleming, 1995; Bigelow, 1995; Roth, 1996; Leonard, 1995; Cronenberg, 1999; Rusnak, 1999).

Yet the film that clearly captured the twin-poles of late 1990s cyberspatial rhetoric was The Matrix (Wachowski 1999), combining cyborgian representations of machines that destroy their makers with an exploration of the boundary between real and virtual perception. The subject of a remarkable plethora of academic discourses on the way in which the film dealt with mediated virtuality and hyperreality[2], this tale of humans that led a fantasy virtual existence while their “real” bodies were harvested to provide a power source for machines captured the rhetoric of virtuality that circulated in the EuroWestern imaginary.

In The Matrix the self was revealed as capable of being transformed into pure digital information, carried into the realm of the simulation via the code-switching capabilities of digital technologies. Like earlier virtual reality films, the characters in this film “jack-in” to the virtual world via a portal in their bodies; their “wet-ware” is left behind as the mind or self is transported into a world of pure simulation. Losing consciousness of their “real” bodies while engaged in the simulation, these characters become-virtual as long as they remain in the spatial architecture of the Matrix. In this text, a chosen few have learnt how to leave the illusion of the Matrix, to transport themselves back into their earthly bodies, and ultimately, battle with the machines that keep them virtual prisoners of their own perceptual fields. Here, an emergent visual culture of the virtual combined with a legacy of cyborg narratives to produce a form of rabbit-hole that media audiences had never seen on screen.

In its focus on mad sentient machines and multimodal selfhood, The Matrix might be seen as a kind of semiotic bridge between late twentieth century cyberculture and the discourses on the posthuman that emerged in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In 1999, Katherine Hayle’s seminal How We Became Posthuman offered an analysis of the historical trajectory of the EuroWestern intertwining of human and machine, arguing that past conceptions of a cybernetic relationship between technology and biology were being displaced by an ontology of the posthuman. This posthuman, she argued, could be seen as “an amalgam, a collection of heterogeneous components, a material-informational entity whose boundaries undergo continuous construction and reconstruction” (1999, p. 3). In this merging of organic and inorganic bodies and matter, we find “a dynamic partnership between humans and intelligent machines [which] replaces the liberal humanist subject’s manifest destiny to control and dominate nature” (1999, p.289); a new ontology of being-itself in which “emergence replaces teleology; reflexive epistemology replaces objectivism; distributed cognition replaces autonomous will” (1999, p.289). Graham (2002) too maintained that digital, cybernetic and biomedical discourses and representations of the posthuman challenge “our very understanding of what it means to be human” (Graham 2002, p.1, see also Badmington, 2000; Haraway, 1997).  ). In a critical appraisal of posthumanism, Wolfe (2009) pointed out that we have entered “a historical moment in which the decentering of the human by its imbrications in technical, medical, informatics, and economic networks is increasingly impossible to ignore”.  However, unlike Graham, Wolfe offered the term “posthuman” as a means of interrogating the historic production of knowledge itself.  He insisted that we recognize that the human is at once one of a multitude of co-creating autopoetic beings and an ontological specific produced via engagement with “many forms of technicity and materiality” (p.xxv). It is time, he suggested, to find utterly new ways of thinking about and representing the nature of being, and to recognize the many human and nonhuman figures that together constitute and experience that nature.

Evocations of the posthuman were not limited to scholarly theory however; taking an utterly different perspective on the telos of the human, a number of scientists and writers variously used the term “posthuman”, “transhuman”, or “Human +” to describe an “advanced’ humanity cognitively, physiologically and neurologically superior to the human in its current state. NBIC technologies (nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive sciences), coupled with advances in genetic manipulation, robotics and artificial life, were heralded as the grounds for a form of technocultural ubermensch who would ultimately transcend the human itself. While some advocated the techno-augmentation of the body to produce a stronger, healthier and fitter humanity as a starting point for new evolutions (see for example, Bostrom, 2008, Kurzweil, 1999), others suggested that the body itself may have become obsolete, and that humans might in the future become pure, disembodied subjectivity. The World Transhumanist Association declared, for example, that “some posthumans may find it advantageous to jettison their bodies altogether and live as information patterns on vast super-fast computer networks”, where they might “employ different cognitive architectures or include new sensory modalities that enable greater participation in their virtual reality settings”.[3] Hans Moravec, a leading figure in arguments for posthuman transcendence over the material body principle, made a similar point:

Today’s virtual adventurers do not fully escape the physical world: if they bump into real objects, they feel real pain. That link may weaken when direct connections to the nervous system become possible, leading perhaps to the old science-fiction idea of a living brain in a vat. The brain would be physically sustained by life-support machinery, and mentally by connections of all the peripheral nerves to an elaborate simulation of not only a surrounding world but also a body for the brain to inhabit.

“Some individuals”, he suggested, “could survive total physical destruction to find themselves alive as pure computer simulations in virtual worlds”. [4]

These popular posthumanists have been the target of a plethora of critiques both on the grounds of their resurrection of humanist principles in a new technocultural eugenics and on their challenge to the ontological scantity of the human (see for example Fukuyama, 2002; Habermas, 2003; Kass, 2002); at the same time, however, these visions of the augmented and “uploaded” future human subject have had real resonance in cinematic popular culture. In the 2009 films Surrogates (Mostow, 2009) and Avatar (Cameron, 2009) we see a striking blend of social commentary with imaginings of the future human as a form of multimodal subjecthood that can be switched and uploaded between bodies. In these films, humanness is cast as an ontological essence that retains its integrity as it moves between metaphysical spaces; becoming indeed, as Hayles suggested, a “material-informational entity whose boundaries undergo continuous construction and reconstruction” (1999, p.3).

Avatar Selves

Figure 4: Jake and his N’avi self in the film AVATAR (2009)

The films Surrogates and Avatar are key examples of the merging of late twentieth century cyborg imaginings with twenty-first century cultural representations of multimodal subjectivity. Each of these films produce a narrative of multipresence in which subjects switch between human and nonhuman bodies and spaces while at the same time maintaining a centralized human subjectivity. Both set in a future in which humanity has evolved into something-other, these texts can be seen as a culmination of the intersection of scientific imaginings of VR and a popular culture of cyborg bodies and posthuman becoming.

Surrogates is set in an American city in 2017, a world in which humans interact with each other via idealised, physically attractive robotic surrogates of themselves.[5] Their real bodies remain locked in their houses, sitting in “stim chairs” through which they are able to upload their consciousness, or “neuro-signature” into their surrogate bodies while at the same time, remaining conscious of their physical presence in the “real’ world. In this multilayered reality, surrogates can interact with humans as well as with each other, and surrogates can be destroyed without causing harm to their users, or “operators”. These surrogate bodies, we are informed at the onset of the film, are the result of military-industrial research, and have become a technology now so affordable that “98%” of people use them in “all facets of their everyday life”. The surrogate bodies, produced by the corporation VSI (Virtual Self Industries) offer the “ability to live without risk of disease or injury” and “have perfect looks without plastic surgery”.

In this world, a minority group of rebels oppose the use of surrogates and appear to develop a weapon which, when aimed at a surrogate, destroys its “real” operator as well. In the opening credits, we are alerted to the presence of this rebellion; a voice-over, who we later realize belongs to the rebel leader known as “The Prophet”, warns that the public must “unplug from your chairs, get up and look in the mirror”, because “what you see is how God made you; we’re not meant to experience the world through a machine”. As FBI agent Tom Green, sporting a more attractive surrogate version of his human self, tries to uncover who or what is behind these surrogate killings, we are drawn into a society in which purchased, surrogate perfection both masks and produces a myriad of very human vices, and in which the hedonistic illusion of the “self” is clearly promoted and reproduced by the advertising and commodity industry.

Clear visual allusions to MMORPG’s (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) and virtual worlds like Second Life (www.secondlife.com) feature throughout the film, as surrogates bump into strangers in public spaces and take part in banal chat, and engage in romantic and sexual relationships This is “life on screen” (Turkle 1995) with a twenty-first century technological twist; rather than watching their idealized selves on a monitor, these subjects literally embody the fantasy of their own making. This is a representation of multiple selves in virtual space that is certainly reminiscent of early scholarly commentary on cyberspace and selfhood, where “virtual worlds will offer myriad opportunities to encounter and engage objects and spaces in new and different ways and to occupy other bodies, other entities, other species” (Franck, 2002, p.244). Yet in this film these surrogates are, for their users, ontologically real – not simply costumes but alternate corporealities inhabited by a subject that exists in the same metaphysical plane as its constructed, corporeal other.

Figure 5: Jake, with his N’avi self ‘growing’ in a tank behind him

Set over 100 years later in 2154, James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) provides a representation of multispecies, multimodal embodiment and engagement, where subjects switch between human and nonhuman forms of life. The film rehearses familiar environmentalist and postcolonial discourse, framed with popular stereotypes of Noble Savages (the Na’vi), who spiritually connect with the planet on which they live (Pandora) and of an (American) masculine military-industrial complex bent on destroying that environment. In this text, we find a military/commercial operation desperate to mine the Pandora’s precious resource, “Unobtanium”. In order to do so they produce a technology which allows human consciousness to be downloaded directly into genetically bred, visually identical, Na’vi bodies, a download which allow them to enter the local environment and engage with the native population. In the manner of multispecies ethnographers, the scientists involved in the project intercept and interact with the local community in order to learn their cultural values and take botanical samples. At the same time, lead character “Jake Sully” (wheelchair bound in the human world) is asked by the military to use his Avatar to spy on the Na’vi and gain information on how to convince the population to release their Unobtanium – and how best to destroy them if they don’t.

As the story unfolds we find Jake stumbling with the pleasures and pitfalls of participant observation; he is accused of being “like a child” in his failure to grasp the spiritual relationship of the people and land, as well as in his corporeal clumsiness in his avatar body. Gradually though, Jake adjusts to life in this “other” state of consciousness and increasingly resists returning to his “real”, fleshly body; he falls in love, he begins to embrace Na’vi culture and he is slowly accepted by its inhabitants. He is, in part, what Bukatman (2002) has referred to as a “cybersubject”, where:

…virtual reality significantly extends the sensory address of existent media to provide an alternate and manipulable space [and to] be installed into such an apparatus would be to exist on two planes at once: while one’s objective body would remain in the real world, one’s phenomenal body would be projected into the terminal reality…(Bukatman, 2002, p.149).

Yet these are representations not of projection into a virtual reality, but of a subject that physically exists in simultaneous planes. In this switching between bodies and visual realities, Jake’s character struggles with the ontologically real, noting that “[e]verything is backwards now, like out there is the real world and this is the dream”.

In both Surrogates and Avatar hybridity has given way to convergence, cyborgian chaos to posthuman emergence, the virtual to the multidimensional. Yet this evolution is not simply a matter of linear teleology; like all things posthuman these narratives spin trajectories that intersect the legacy of humanism itself. In both of these films the resolution of the narrative rests on a return to a state of singularity, where multipresence is ultimately rejected in favour of a stable state of being; in Surrogates, a recognition that the illusory world of surrogacy corrupts the integrity of human nature and that one should live in one’s original state of embodiment, and in Avatar a decision to cease switching and make the virtual the “real”, leaving behind the wetware of the wheelchair-bound body.

In both Avatar and Surrogates, narrative closure rests on a decision of where to finally be. This cinematic end-moment, where the subject’s ontologically integrity is finally realized via an agentive decision to inhabit a singular corporeality, reveals a critical tension between humanistic narrative and posthumanisms in popular culture. Chaos, randomness and emergence, the unpredictability of multimodal presence, situate the posthuman experience as one of infinite possibility, unbounded by earlier social and corporeal constraints. At the same time, this unpredictability, this nonlinearity, creates a point of crisis or conflict within the subject that must ultimately be resolved in order to achieve narrative stability. Within this imaginary, posthuman possibilities become human predicaments, and like the cyborg narrative of twentieth century cinema, these predicaments must always be resolved in order to attain a state of balance, an equilibrium, between human and nonhuman forms of being, between lived embodiment and cybersubjectivity.  These subjects, it seems, must inevitably choose the space in which they will ultimately reside.

From the unity of the subject to ‘posthuman’ selfhood and back

Notions of illusory reality and alternate or multiple planes of consciousness have grounded both branches of Eastern philosophy and elements of Western metaphysics for centuries. Yet the interception of technology in the achievement of multipresent states can be seen as an emergent phenomenon; a “mode of revealing” (Heidegger 1933) that has travelled from representations of cyborg conflict between human and machine to visions of virtual realities that exist alongside the real, and now, to the realm of the posthuman.

Figure 6: A rescue: N’avi Neytiri removes Jake’s human body from device that transports human consciousness to its N’avi avatar

Cinema itself can be seen as a modality of revelation, a screen upon which cultural narratives are made manifest. The cinema screen today conjoins with the computer screen; the virtual visual of cinematic film co-existing with the cyberspatial, multimodal digital reality that is becoming an increasingly present part of the everyday life world. Digital technologies in themselves generate an everyday multipresence, an embodied switching between the 3-D real, the laptop, the smartphone; a multipresence in which users themselves must negotiate the ontologically real and the visually virtual. Twenty-first century cinema itself is beginning to provide stories of new forms of spatiality – spaces of multimodal perception, spaces of somatic transition, an emergent ontological reality in which subjects both physically and perceptually negotiate their own being-there-in-the-world.  What we see in these forms of story-telling are a number of complex interplays between historical conceptions of the human as a fixed, corporeal entity and the development of technologies which allow that human to “be” in multiple places simultaneously – interplays that produce both fantastic imaginings and deep-seated cultural anxieties.

Recent cinematic representations of the multipresent subject are always ultimately conflicted – they remain fundamentally humanist, and always find narrative conclusion in a return to a state of being a ‘single’ subject in the world of technological possibility.  We are meaning-making animals that turn to our histories to make meaning; however, we invent new possibilities, imagine new ways of being, generate new trajectories.  We can clearly see that current EuroWestern visual representations of a multipresent subjectivity have a rich technocultural legacy; these representations will in turn inform new figurations and imaginings of the boundary between the “real world” and “the dream”.

 

References:

Badmington, Neil, (ed). (2000). Posthumanism, New York: Palgrave.

Barlow, J.P. (1996). A Declaration on the Independence of Cyberspace.  Retrieved 9 February 2011, from https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html.

Biocca, F, T. Kim and M. Levy. (1995). The vision of virtual reality, in F. Biocca and M. Levy, (eds), Communication in the age of virtual reality, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 3–14.

Bishop, Rebecca. (2007). A totally new type of being: framing the human in posthuman ontology, Interculture, Special Edition on Framing the Human: Mediated Notions Through the Disciplines, Spring 4 (1).   http://dih.fsu.edu/interculture/pdfs/bishop_rebecca_framing.pdf

Bostrom, Nick. (2008). Letter from Utopia, Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology, 2 (1), 1-7.

Braidotti, Rosi. (1996). Signs of Wonder and Traces of Doubt: On Teratology and Embodied Differences, in N Lykke and R Braidotti (eds), Between Monsters, Goddesses and Cyborgs: Feminist Confrontations with Science, Medicine and Cyberspace, London and New Jersey: Zed Books, 135-152.

(2006). Meta(l)flesh, in Zoe Detsi-Diamanti, Katerina Kitsi-Mitakou and Effie Yiannopoulou (eds), The Future of the Flesh: A Cultural Survey of the Body, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 254-261.

Briggs, John C. (1996). The Promise of Virtual Reality, retrieved 18 October 2010, from http://project.cyberpunk.ru/idb/virtualreality_promise.html.

Bukatman, Scott. (1993). Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction, Durham NC: Duke University Press.

Franck, K A. (2002). When I Enter Virtual Reality, What Body Will I Leave Behind?, in N Spiller (ed.), Cyber_Reader: Critical Writings for the Digital Era, London: Phaidon, 238-245.

Fukuyama, Francis. (2002). Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Furness, T. (1993). Greetings from the general chairman, Proceedings of the IEEE Virtual reality annual international symposium, IEEE, NJ: Piscataway.

Gibson, William. (1984). Neuromancer, New York: Ace Books.

Graham, E.L. (2002). Representations of the post/human: monsters, aliens and others in popular culture, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Habermas, J. (2003). The Future of Human Nature, UK: Polity Press.

Haraway, Donna. (1991). Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Association.

(1997). Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium.FemaleMan©_Meets_Oncomouse: Feminism and Technoscience, New York: Routledge.

Hayles, Katherine L. (1999). How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Heidegger, Martin. (1933). A Question Concerning Technology and other essays, (trans. William Lovitt [1977], New York: Garland Publications.

Heim, Michael. (1993). The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, New York: Oxford University Press.

Holmes, David. (1997). Virtual Politics: Identity and Community in Cyberspace, London: Sage.

Kass, Leon R. (2002). Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity, San Francisco: Encounter Books.

Kurzweil, R. (1999). The Age of Spiritual Machines, UK: Viking.

Lykke N and R Braidotti, (eds). (1996). Between Monsters, Goddesses and Cyborgs: Feminist Confrontations with Science, Medicine and Cyberspace, London and New York: Zed Books.

Moravec, Hans. (1988). Mind children: the future of robot and human intelligence, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Novak, M. (2001). Liquid Architecture in Cyberspace, in N Spiller (ed), Cyber_Reader: critical writings for the digital era, London: Phaidon, 150-157.

Plant, Sadie. (1999). The Future Looms: Weaving Women and Cybernetics, in J Wolmark (ed), Cybersexualities, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 99-118.

Rheingold, Howard. (1993). The Virtual Community: Finding Connection in a Computerized World, London: Secker and Warburg.

Shields, Rob. (1997). Cultures of the Internet: Virtual Spaces, Real Histories, Living Bodies, CA: Sage Publications.

Sofia, Z. (1999). Virtual Corporeality: A Feminist View, in J Wolmark (ed), Cybersexualities, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 55–68.

Sofoulis Z. (1994). Slime in the Matrix: Post-phallic Formations in Women’s Art in New Media, in JJ Matthews (ed), Jane Gallop Seminar Papers, Australian National University, Canberra: Humanities Research Centre, 83-106.

Spiller, Neil.(2001), Vacillating Objects, in N Spiller (ed), Cyber_Reader: critical writings for the digital era, London: Phaidon, 304-309.

Springer, C. (1991). The pleasure of the interface’, Screen. 32 (3), 303-323.

Steuer, Jonathon. (1995). Defining Virtual Reality: Dimensions Determining Telepresence, in F. Biocca and M. Levy, (eds), Communication in the age of virtual reality, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, 33-56.

Tomas, D. (1989). The technophilic body: on technicity, in William Gibson’s cyborg culture, New Formations, Summer (8), 114-5.

Turkle, Sherry. (1984). The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit, New York: Simon and Schuster.

(1995).  Life on Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, New York: Simon and Schuster.

Wolfe, Cary. (2009). What Is Posthumanism?, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Wolmark, J. (1999). The Postmodern Romances of Feminist Science Fiction, in J Wolmark (ed), Cybersexualities, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 230-238.

 

Filmography:

Bigelow, Kathryn. (1995). Strange Days. USA: Lightstorm Entertainment.

Cameron, James. (1984). Terminator, USA: Hemdale Film.

(2009). Avatar, USA: Twentieth Century Fox.

Cronenberg, David. (1999). eXistenZ, Canada: Alliance Atlantis Communications.

Fleming, Eric. (1995). Cyber Bandits, USA: Cyberfilms Inc.

Lang, Fritz. (1927). Metropolis, Germany: Universum Film.

Leonard, Brett. (1992), The Lawnmower Man, USA: Allied Vision.

(1995). Virtuosity, USA: Paramount Pictures.

Marquand, Richard. (1983). Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, USA: Lucasfilm.

Mostow, Jonathon. (2009). Surrogates, USA: Touchstone Pictures.

Proyas, Alex. (2004).  I, Robot, USA: Twentieth Century Fox.

Roth, Philip J. (1996). Darkdrive, USA: AGATE Films.

Rusnak, Josef. (1999). The Thirteenth Floor, USA: Columbia Pictures.

Trumbull, Douglas. (1983). Brainstorm, USA: AJF Productions.

Verhoeven, Paul. (1987). Robocop, USA: Orion Pictures Corporation.

Wachowski, Andy and Lana Wachowski.(1999). The Matrix, USA: Warner Brothers Pictures.

Whale, James. (1931). Frankenstein, USA: Universal Pictures.

 

Notes


[1] I have argued elsewhere that these films represent a particular EuroWestern approach to the stability and fixity of the human;  and that much of the cybercultural discourse that surrounded these representations tended to universalize notions ‘the human’ that lay at the core of cyborg texts. See Bishop (2007).

[2] A plethora that indeed let Slavov Zizek to suggest that the “The Matrix is one of the films which function as a kind of Rorschach test, setting in motion the universalized process of recognition”.  Inside the Matrix: International Symposium at the Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, October 28, 1999.  Accessed 15 December, 2010, from  http://www.lacan.com/zizek-matrix.htm.

[3] “Transhumanism: Post-Human and Trans-Human” (n.d), retrieved 9 July, 2010, from http://www.miqel.com/transhumanism_nano/transhuman-posthuman-uberman.html.

[4] “Simulation, Consciousness, Existence”, (n.d).  Retrieved 9 July 2010, from http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm/project.archive/general.articles/1998/SimConEx.98.html.

[5] Originally based on  2005-2006 comic series, Surrogates, written by Robert Venditti, drawn by Brett Weldele, Top Shelf Productions.