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Description: transhuman technologies

By Renha
Pinned to #mscedc on Pinterest


Comparing this to Williams & Bendelow’s (1998) assertion that bodies have become increasingly plastic‘, bionic‘,  communal or interchangeable,   interchangeable across species and virtual or hyperreal (pp. 79-85).. and Gray et al.’s identification of ‘restorative tools’, ‘normalising technologies’, ‘enhancing technologies’ and ‘reconfiguring technologies’ (cited in Miller, 2011, p. 212). Additions in the infograph appear to be ‘altering’ (i.e. genome editing) and lifestyle adjusting. The latter point is taken up in Williams and Bendelow (1998, p. 69), with the suggestion that ‘a new conception of “fitness” is being forged’, with ever-greater importance being placed on appearance and body presentation and the state of the body assumed indicative of character and mind:

“Today, the firm, well-toned and muscled body has become a symbol of ‘correct attitude’; ‘it means that one “cares” about oneself and how one appears to others, suggesting willpower, energy, control over infantile impulse, the ability to “make something” of oneself’ (Bordo 1990:94–5).” (Williams & Bendelow, 1998, p. 74).

 

 

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In Book Thirteen of the comic version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? there’s a three-frame spread of Deckard waking up in the morning. In the first, there’s just an alarm clock beeping – 5am – and a hand reaching over to quieten it. Next “THE CLOCK TELLS YOU IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP” and in the final frame, “ONE MACHINE GIVING INSTRUCTIONS TO ANOTHER”. From this, some might infer that Deckard is a replicant, a machine receiving instructions from the clock. However, as I reached to quieten my own alarm this morning, when I used the biometric scanner to clock in at work and when I responded to repeated meeting reminder alerts from Outlook it felt much more like a statement about the robotization of humans! Though of course, my human performance, my efficiency, is enhanced by these technological tools.

Life stream, Comment on Posting for the sake of posting – is it worthwhile by eappleby-donald

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Hey Renee,

Q: Do you think that the requirement to post (as part of assessment) & ‘feed’ the lifestream changes the nature of engagement? (i.e. posting for the sake of it?)

Though talking about assessed forum contributions, Ke (2010) suggested that forced participation can lead to superficial, grade-driven interaction. Others (see Gourlay, 2015; McFarlane, 2015) have questioned the validity of focusing on and assessing observable, performative behaviours within social constructivist approaches, since this privileges a particular way of learning/demonstrating learning. It’s an area I spend a lot of time thinking about as a teacher, so interested to know your thoughts.

Yup I think that’s correct. I think the requirement of the lifestream blog has the potential to change behaviours and I know I have seen it in myself. I wouldn’t usually post to twitter so much but I’m forcing myself to for the sake of the course. Hopefully, things will calm down as we all get to grips with what’s expected of us.

With assessed participation, yep absolutely, I’m watching colleagues on other courses where participation is part of the mark and they are all grumbling about having to write “something” in the forums even though they have nothing to say.

I understand why we would have marks for participation, but I think by doing that we also force some learners to behave in ways they wouldn’t normally when learning?

I have also been watching the community building for our course and I think that because we don’t have a discussion forum, we were trying to form bonds on twitter with its woeful character count. I guess it will be interesting to watch as things progress and see what happens 🙂

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Life stream, Comment on Posting for the sake of posting – is it worthwhile by Renee Furner

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I’ve been thinking about this point too, Eli. Perhaps it was just setting up – certainly I know I posted just to check if IFTTT was working as I’d intended it to.. and then again (& again) because I had not gotten IFTTT right. But then..

Q: Do you think that the requirement to post (as part of assessment) & ‘feed’ the lifestream changes the nature of engagement? (i.e. posting for the sake of it?)

Though talking about assessed forum contributions, Ke (2010) suggested that forced participation can lead to superficial, grade-driven interaction. Others (see Gourlay, 2015; McFarlane, 2015) have questioned the validity of focusing on and assessing observable, performative behaviours within social constructivist approaches, since this privileges a particular way of learning/demonstrating learning.  It’s an area I spend a lot of time thinking about as a teacher, so interested to know your thoughts.

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The larger question is perhaps, how do the affordances of technology naturalise themselves within communication protocols, so that ultimately they change our expectations of participation and are integrated within education? And how can we ensure that pedagogy, rather than technology, remains at the helm?

Lifestream, Comment on Reminders by Philip

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Thank you Renee, very interesting and compelling comments. As I was reading I thought of another example of the space-presence concept. Since we have been Tweeting about Blade Runner, I have been reminded of the Star Trek series. As the Enterprise moves through space, it simply occupies a given point at a given moment of time. It takes up space, nothing more really. It is only when the ship or its occupants interact with that space, or with other objects or entities within that space, that actual presence is felt.

I find this a difficult idea sometimes, especially when my brain tries to interject all kinds of possible exceptions and scenarios. But, I still like to think I’ve got a decent concept going that is workable.

In any case, I like your statement that you must become an “active community member”. To me, and perhaps to oversimplify, this means I must make my presence in space known in some active, overt manner (quantitative), in order for my presence to have any qualitative meaning.

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Lifestream, Comment on Reminders by Renee Furner

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Interesting reflection, Philip. Made me think of White & Le Cornu’s V&R typology (2011). It might be an interesting activity to map your own online engagement prior to #mscedc and post- certainly I think my own map will change significantly as I’m generally much more of a lurker (elegant or not;).

While I can see how your blog is ‘your space’, and how people might cross from their ‘own’ spaces into each other’s spaces (maybe like you’d pop over to a friend’s for a cup of tea?) I wonder about beyond that. i.e. Twitter does not ‘belong’ to any of us, yet our posts under #mscedc create ‘our’ space. Communal space, if you like – where people with less immediate connections to the tag can drop in/drop out/be invited/elegantly lurk. Perhaps this (communal) space is inferred when you talk about using platforms to ‘establish myself in the online community’.

This element of ‘presence’ is key to me. #mscedc forces me to become an active community member, due to the publicness of the platforms utilised. White has suggested that early engagement such as mine (and others within the course who have been less publicly active previously) marks a transition point, from knowledge consumer to community participant: ‘It’s the point at which they are exploring their ‘voice’ within the discourse’ (White, 2015).

This has got me thinking about what creates ‘quality discourse’ – and the impact of being required to demonstrate regular engagement (for the course grade) on that discourse (a point @Eli_App_D@c4miller & @Digeded touched on early in Twitter). I don’t suppose it helps that IFTTT posts each Tweet separately from all but the preceeding tweets in Twitter conversations – rather than capturing conversations wholistically. Makes us all seem a bit shouty! 😉

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Lifestream, Comment on Week 1 by Renee Furner

[In reply to http://edc17.education.ed.ac.uk/dschwindenhammer/2017/01/20/week-1/]

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on week 1, Dirk – and so innovatively. I missed the live transmission, but caught it about an hour later.

I agree that the creation of groups allows for (and can encourage) the construction of ‘otherness’/’sameness’. This part of your talk/post made me think of that famous lesson with the brown-eyed and blue-eyed children (Jane Elliott, experiment starts at 3:19). However, I’m not sure that reducing anonymity or enforcing real-name policies are ways to eliminate the vitriol. Research by Rost, Stahel and Frey (2016) suggests that people are actually more hostile during online ‘firestorms’ when using real-names (empirical evidence is based on behaviours in a German social media platform http://ift.tt/1nbtAwy, 2010-13).

The authors further suggest that the reason we often equate anonymity with increased aggression online is because most attempts to theorise about such behaviour use traditional bullying research theory. Under this theory, as you noted, online aggression is driven by lower-order moral ideals and principles, which people would be ashamed to express if their identity was known. However, Rost, Stahel & Frey suggest viewing such behaviour through a different lens – social norm theory. Through this lens, those posting aggressively online might be viewed as enforcing of social norms – ‘aggressive word-of-mouth propagation in social media is the response to (perceived) violating behaviours of public actors…In this view online firestorms enforce social norms by expressing public disapproval with the aim of securing public goods, for example, honesty of politicians, companies or academics’ (Rost, Stahel & Frey, 2016, ‘Introduction’, para. 8). If this is held true, many people who post aggressively online believe themselves to be acting from a position of higher-order morals, and perceive the public actor they are aggressing as acting from lower-order morals, and they have no need to hide their identity (ibid., ‘hypothesis 3′). Even when real names are given, acting aggressively online as a way of norm-enforcing is low cost for the actors: their geographical distance reduces risk of physical harm, lack of non-verbal cues from recipients reduces aggressors’ empathy, and technology allows them to reach a large audience with little time or effort (ibid., ‘online firestorms within a social norm theory’).

No doubt some people who act aggressively are just bullies, acting as you say, because their anonymity allows them to disregard morals through reduced fear of getting caught. I’m not sure it is the full picture, though.

Thanks for prompting me to think more deeply about this.

Renee

Rost, K., Stahel, L., & Frey, B.S. (2016). Digital social norm enforcement: Online firestorms in social media. PLOS ONE, 11(6): e0155923.  http://ift.tt/2ae2cla

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In this post (and Dirk’s initial post) the focus is on the negative reality of cyberculture, in terms of how it is experienced today – complete with trolling and aggression. Of course, it is just one side of the coin – there is also willingness to engage politely, helpfully and generously amongst strangers.

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In identifying key criticisms of extropianism and transhumanism, Miller (2011, p. 215) indicates that ‘bioconservatives’ (those opposed to significant alteration of the body through technology)’ take issue with the potential for technological augmentation to create inequalities and conflict between those who are augmented and those who are not. Additionally,  bioconservatives see technological augmentation as a source of the debasement of human character and dignity (Bostrom,  cited in Miller, 2011).

For me the first concern is legitimate, but one which we are unlikely to heed. Bourdieu (1984), for instance, has suggested that the body has always been a site through which social distinction is sought, not only through the cultivation of appearance through dress and grooming, but also through the role of class in determining what foods are appropriate to eat and how bodies are used in labour – both of which impact on physical form. 

The second concern, that of the debasement of human character and dignity similarly ignores that what we do with, and how we control, our bodies has presumably always been influenced by culture. ‘Natural’ bodies would not blow their noses delicately, suppress belching or attempt to contain flatulence – in the many of today’s societies it is the civilised body which avoids debasement, not the natural body, and just as the social requirements and expectations for bodily control changed to affect that body, they are likely to continue to evolve under the influence of technology (see Wiliams & Bendelow, 1998, Ch 4.  The body in ‘high’ modernity and consumer culture from Williams & Bendelow, The Lived Body Sociological Themes, Embodied Issues, pp. 67-93).


Miller, V.  “9. The Body and Information Technology” from  Miller, Vincent, Understanding Digital Culture, pp.207-223. London: Sage 

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Of course, I didn’t want to give anything away to Eli.. but what I was really curious about was whether she would come away thinking of Deckard as a replicant or not, and how that would colour her interpretation of the film/the themes within it. One can’t unsee what one has seen (nor see what one has not;): my first Blade Runner was the theatrical version (none of the others were ‘out’), where it remains ambiguous whether Deckard is a replicant or human. What I like about the notion of Deckard being human is that it allows a deeper interrogation of what it means to be human: through his work/killing, Deckard is increasingly dehumanised, while the replicants’ love for each other, attachment to life and overt emotional displays make them seem ever more human. In this context, with Deckard as human, his love at the end of the film for Rachel, a replicant, appears rehumanising – yet, what can that mean if there is no difference between replicant and human?

In what ways do you/does “modern life”/neoliberal post-industrial society force you to act like a ‘robot’?