Through the Window of Posthuman Knowledge

As a brand-new PhD student, it’s always exciting to get the first piece of literature to read and analyse; it’s the start of the entire navigation of my research project. I wanted something that would discuss an open topic that I could link to my thesis, but that would also alter my own perspective of the world…cue Posthuman Knowledge by Rosi Braidotti. I mean, I’d heard of post-modernism and all its glory in the literary and film world (thanks to H.G Wells’ The Time Machine and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange) – but this was a completely new subject to me. After reading, I’ve found that I can make so many links to my research topic, but in the direction of the advancement of digital technologies and how social media is an integral part of both communication and technological development. Keep reading if you want to know how to find out about my experience of scratching the service of posthumanism but be prepared to have your mind blown like mine was.   

Chapter 1 was aimed at the beginners in understanding the posthumanism concept (such as myself), but by the end of the chapter, I was already making links as to how social media communication comes into play.  

One of the main understandings that I got from the first chapter were the concepts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (advances in digital technology and Artificial Intelligence) and the Sixth Extinction (the dying of our physical geological space with buildings and spaces to accommodate our capitalist environment), which I had never known of before but now makes a lot of sense about the world around us and how cities have become capitalist hotspots. It also got me thinking about how our world has accommodated for capitalisation, as a part of the posthuman convergence.  

Living in the 21st century as a millennial, I’ve never thought of social media being a major aspect of 21st century capitalism until now. Social media has been easy for me to adapt to and has always been a form of communication. However, it was only until I studied Digital Marketing for my MSc that I ever saw social media in a business perspective as well as a communication tool to promote a brand and its message. Learning about Braidotti’s take on posthuman convergence not only solidifies my understanding of business and its relationship with social media, but can also generate the final question of how the promotion of brand messages and narratives on social media platforms can be viewed in a subcultural perspective – how do subcultures use the Fourth Industrial Revolution to their advantage by promoting their narratives and qualities? 

Chapter 2 to me was really based on the ways in which we as a human race have responded and will respond to the posthuman convergence. Just like Chapter 1, 2 of Braidotti’s points in this chapter speak volumes to me – especially in relation to my research topic. 

The first point that stood out was that the position that we all find ourselves in during the posthuman continuum. It spoke out to me because of the evolution of new trends in social media platforms that we’ve seen in the last few months. With everyone currently confined to their homes, not only has social media usage absolutely rocketed with people communicating with one another, but new platforms such as TikTok have allowed social media to become tools of entertainment and especially within subcultures.  

For young people who have had social media as an integral aspect for most of, or even, the entirety of their lives, they will no doubt find it easy to move forward into a posthuman era as digital technology and advancements continue. However, for someone who hasn’t had this much exposure to technology or an attitude that is against technology, the transition to a posthuman continuum will no doubt be difficult.  

This links to my second most important point of ‘we-are-(all)-in-this-together-but-we-are-not-one-and-the-same’. Moving forward with the posthuman transition, it is important to realise that even though we all experience this posthuman movement at a different pace and with varying levels of difficulty, we are all experiencing the posthuman movement, nonetheless. Once again, it can be linked to my research by asking the question of ‘if we all use social media, what do we primarily use it for?’. Some may argue that they use it purely for communication purposes, but some may also use it for the notoriety or causing debate. It’s these kinds of questions that I think will be good starting questions for my thesis.  

Whilst reading chapter 3, I got to read on the many different aspects of Posthuman Knowledge production, all of which had the non-human (zoe & techno) element as the catalyst. In my perspective, I can transfer this knowledge and interpret it in a social media POV as it’s really a collaboration of the two that create and inform the world of current issues.  

What I also agree with in this chapter is the necessity for the Humanities to be viewed as a valid science, especially with what we already know from theorists such as Braidotti and her understanding of posthumanism. With the use of social media and technology working hand in hand with various subcultures to promote their messages and what they stand for (feminism, LGBTQ+ community, political parties), it is important for academic institutions to realise that human/social sciences are becoming an equally valid science as the voices of subculture influencers get bigger and louder through social media and the promotion of their values and beliefs.  

With chapter 4 discussing the ‘critical posthumanities’, I have been able to generate clearer links that align with my theory of subculture communication using social media and new technology. As equality subject topics have slowly but surely become prominent talking points on social media, it can also be interpreted that the open discussion on these topics can also be classed as posthuman, but in a liberalism perspective as it ‘renews the common understanding of what is meant of being human’.  

I feel like this message was screamed in Braidotti’s points of first and second generation studies, which is why I believe that my research will link with the posthuman theory of social justice and using new technologies such as the Internet and social media to be the platform of many voices to debate and support the subjects that would’ve been classed as taboo (racial studies, queer studies and feminism and gender studies).   

Chapter 5 I think gave me the ability to generate the clearest link with my research project because of this one quote (right). I believe that learning about posthumanism isn’t simply learning about an advanced technological era; it spans across the human and non-human subjects. Therefore, by collaborating the voices of theorists and activists of social issues with new technologies that allow voices to be heard no matter the geographical location, subcultures that support activism alo replicate this pattern of having no geographical bounds.  

As I worked through this book, I got to see a lot of similarities to posthumanism and my own thoughts of subcultures and their use of new technology. I can see that Braidotti’s concepts link to subcultures communicating not only with one another, but with outsiders of their subculture that look in on their activist.  

Chapter 6 was definitely the chapter that took me a little bit of time to get my head around and where my break from academic reading really worked against me. From what I did get from the chapter though, was the importance of ‘the power of acting’. What provoked my thoughts especially was the thought that we achieve freedom through the understanding of the conditions of being un-free and the awareness of our oppression.  

In a subcultural POV, this is so important to understand and especially with the topics of understanding and valuing the ‘soft’ sciences, this is a crucial point to look at. It got me thinking about the activism stance that subcultures can take by learning about the oppression that each member of their online community experiences and in-turn create an endurance against the oppression by supporting one-another through social media. 

Chapter 7 I believe was a wonderful way to summarise all the points that Braidotti made in the previous chapters of the book. I think that the empowering tone that Braidotti uses, flips the topic of the inexhaustible into a pro-active (rather than laissez-faire) attitude. My thoughts of the collective attitude on the inexhaustible link a lot to my thoughts on my research topic – with reference to subcultures and online communities, the collective attitude can be used as a form of motivation to promote the messages and values that they believe in. In a posthuman convergence perspective, it’s important for humanity as a collective to acknowledge that for the many that have been ‘fortunate’ to have been brought up with new media technologies, the soon-to-be posthuman convergence will be easy. However, it is important to ensure that people who have spent the majority of their life without technology are kept motivated and encouraged to use new technology so that they don’t become exhausted and unmotivated of the world that we’re going to be living in.  

3 thoughts on “Through the Window of Posthuman Knowledge

  1. This is an extremely helpful review of Braidotti’s work in her 2019 book. A précis of your text would be useful on the Amazon reviews page; currently, late April 2020, only one real UK review appears. One of the many exciting refractions that you make from your reading is ‘the activism stance that subcultures can take by learning about the oppression that each member of their online community experiences’; I had not thought of this function of social media channels. It echoes well with Braidotti’s continual call throughout her book to be affirmative in our production of posthuman knowledge. I wonder if this might be a small micro-study for you to see if this activism can be detected in publicly-accessible social media spaces. Just tentatively at first. I have gained a lot from your first content post; thank you so much for sharing so much thinking.

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  2. I was recommended this book by one of my PhD supervisors, and I too, was unfamiliar with Posthumanism as a theoretical model for framing my arts-based, practice-research. Your blog article has been really helpful and is insightful in terms of identifying the key critical areas that align with your own research, and also, in some respects, with my own, which considers self-representation both as an arts (gallery based) and democratic (social media) practice. It would give any ‘newbie’ to Posthumanism, and in particular to Braidotti, a succinct overview of the themes, motives and what is at stake in our more than human, technologically-augmented age. The current situation of lock-down brings elements of the Posthuman continuum to the fore, and as researchers, I believe can give us a relevant structure under which to examine personal and social practices and arguments that are, and will continue, transforming contemporary life. I am particularly interested in your identifying those (the non-technical) that are excluded or resistant to this change. Thank you for this summary! Gail Flockhart (University of Plymouth)

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