N. Katherine Hayles, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Literature at Duke University
“Theorizing the Global Influence of Digital Media through the Technogenetic Spiral”
An expanded view of thinking that takes account of embodied and extended cognition makes clear that the influence of technics is not only through implants, prosthesis, etc. (as in the cyborg) but more generally through a co-evolutionary spiral between humans and technics that I call the technogenetic spiral. In this view of human-technical relations, objects are seen less as static entities than provisional meta-stabilities, always on the move toward other configurations. Thus objects, no less than humans, are able to embody an evolutionary dynamic. Interacting with humans through broad-spectrum environmental influences as well as through discrete objects, programmable and networked machines influence the human technological unconscious to re-engineer human neural systems, while simultaneously being re-engineered themselves. The result is an array of evolutionary forces pushing humans/technics toward increased information density, faster processing speeds, more (and more diverse) information streams, and less in-depth attention. As time-based art expands beyond films into New Media, new configurations become available for re-thinking the aesthetic implications of the technogenetic spiral. I will discuss the science fiction film Dark City in conjunction with Steve Tomasula’s multimodal science fiction electronic work TOC to illustrate these tendencies and explore their consequences. As TOC shows, one implication is that time-based art itself is moving away from feature-length films into shorter assemblages that can be combined in different ways to create effects that themselves exhibit the different temporalities involved in the technogenetic spiral.
N. Katherine Hayles, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Literature at Duke University, writes and teaches on the relations of literature, science and technology in the 20th and 21st centuries. Her book How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics won the Rene Wellek Prize for the Best Book in Literary Theory for 1998-99, and her book Writing Machines won the Suzanne Langer Award for Outstanding Scholarship. Her latest book, How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis, will be out in Spring 2012 from the University of Chicago Press.