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Posted by on Nov 28, 2010

Constructing (my)self

This post is basically a response and continuation of James’ post on a posthuman pedagogy specifically geared towards an upcoming event that he and I are contributing to. I wanted to bring part of the discussion here as the comments box felt limiting (to own sense of unwarranted grandeur). So, I will spend some time responding to James here.

I think the manner in which Michael will be contributing to the Conference could be seen as posthuman. I’m not going to prejudge what Michael might offer, however its perfectly conceivable that his contribution could be made without appearing on screen or using voice. In this example, the academic conference delegate becomes information rather than a corporeal body. Taken to the nth degree (and using Hayles’ argument) we could question whether Michael exists at all in a physical sense.

Now, I do exist (or do I?), but I have been working on my part of the contribution, which will be prerecorded. So I could be done already without anyone knowing it. In fact, I recorded it years ago in the anticipation that I would be asked. That is how buoyant an ego I have over here. To be serious though, James is right. I had fully anticipated not using any realtime physical manifestation of myself, as in video. I was, however, going to use my voice and that can be jarring and that has partly to do with expectation.

A mosaic of self.

You all know me and I know you as voiceless creatures, voiceless in the sense of audio. I have heard some of you speak ever so briefly on Second Life, but just for mere seconds. In this video, I will more or less speak for five minutes. I cannot pretend that everyone is particularly interested in listening to this, but I find that the “real” voice and my imagined version of someone’s voice never match. Our imagination is just too omnipotent. You will learn, I suspect, from the recording that I am

  • excitable/passionate (depending on which slant you want to give my energy)
  • a fast talker (I had to script what I am going to say, otherwise it would meandered 25 times into side conjecture and mental association)
  • a bit of a goofball (not sure if that is endearing or not)

Now what disquiet, disconnect, or disillusionment will that cause in my representation at Edinburgh? Will it reveal any semblance of the “real” me? Will it prove that I exist at all?

Now within the EDC classroom, we’ve seen what we presume to be Michael’s portrait and avatar. We’ve also seen his ideas in written and visual form. But can we confidently conclude from the evidence on screen that Michael exists in reality, or is the digital trail he has left behind the product of consciousness that exists purely within a computer?

Once again, James has a point. How can you trust that I exist? How do I know that any of you exist? What does it matter if you are chasing a digital trail, a phantom? I know I am mediated by you and perhaps you by me and we exist surely in conjunction. But really the question here is what does it mean to know, ontological to the core.

In the posthuman classroom, the corporeality of the student is less important than the ‘information patterns’ he/she/it produces. I think our EDC class is a classic example of this. We’ve never seen Michael Sean Gallagher in the flesh, but does that really matter?

James is right again. Does that really matter? There is a construct named Michael Sean Gallagher that does exist, is present, and embodied, and engaged, and communicative. That is the construct that matters, despite if I make it slightly askew from my physical self. I, as we all are, am an open book, but there are a lot of pages in there, all as real as the next.

This thread had me thinking further about a posthuman pedagogy of construction. If I were my fellow classmates, how would I construct me? What would the construction of an entity for mediation look like? What would I want to see in something that I knew would change me in every interaction? What would the perfect colleague/companion look like in a posthuman learning environment? Maybe that is the Michael Sean Gallagher I am projecting, or trying to.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Goofball to Goofball ☺, in response to “I recorded it years ago in the anticipation that I would be asked.” A classical rhetoric proof in a syllogism:

    In reality existants do not know the future.

    Michael responded to the future in the past.

    Therefore Michael does not exist.

    • Sound logic to me, Dennis! Interesting visualizing technique for the posthuman pedagogy, eh? We know that we are mediated by our constructs as we mediate them. I forget the article exactly (maybe Bayles?) that mentioned the example of the US Constitution. Did that document presuppose a populace that did not exist? In essence, did it create the “American”? I suspect posthuman pedagogy will fall on some of this type of projection. Asking a 10 or 15 or 20 year old: what do you want to know and be in the future? Saying it aloud, wearing it as a badge, and mediating your way to it, like a fish working its way upstream. Of course, if I were a cyborg, I might just disregard all those boundaries I just constructed and just go there to that goal.

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