Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers

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Hayles, N. Katherine. "Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers." October 66 (Autumn 1993): 69-91. On line at JSTOR at link (affiliation or library proxy required).[1] Collected as Chapter 2 in How We Become Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, pp. 25-49.[2] Anthologized in Rob Latham's Science Fiction Criticism: An Anthology of Essential Writings.

Important essay, with an intriguing early passage discussing the differences between using a typewriter and a computer (keyboard, CPU, screen; cf. the example useful for students of a certain age and background comparing and contrasting pinball machines and electronic games, with a pinball machine instructively Modern and electronic games arguably postModern). This leads to explaining to an audience VR — the publication date is 1993 — as personally experienced.

From my experience with the virtual reality simulations[...], I can attest to the disorienting, exhilarating effect of the feeling that subjectivity is dispersed throughout the cybernetic circuit. In these systems, the user learns, kinesthetically and proprioceptively, that the relevant boundaries for interaction are defined less by the skin than by the feedback loops connecting body and simulation in a technobio-integrated circuit. (How We Become Posthuman p. 27)

A main emphasis is a partially paradoxical dialectic between pattern and randomness for conveying information, and "As the emphasis shifts to pattern and randomness, characteristics of print texts that used to be transparent (because they were so pervasive) are becoming visible again through their differences from digital textuality" (p. 28).

See for "informatics' (following Donna Haraway) as "the technologies of information as well as the biological, social, linguistic, and cultural changes that initiate, accompany, and complicate their development" (p. 30). Also see for Hayles on cyberspace and the Neuromancer trilogy, and for the films THE TERMINATOR, ROBOCOP (1987), THE FLY (1986), BLADE RUNNER, and HARDWARE. Note well Hayles's formulation that she starts for her idea of human in "the tradition of liberal humanism; the posthuman appears when computation rather than possessive individualism is taken as the ground of being, a move that allows the posthuman to be seamlessly articulated with intelligent machines" (pp. 33-34).

Cited in Carl Silvio's "Refiguring the Radical Cyborg in Mamoru Oshii's GHOST IN THE SHELL."

Maly, 02/07/02; RDE, completing, 4July19