Andrew Hoskins Lecture – 4PM, 9/16

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2008 at 6:15 pm

All seminar participants who are available are strongly encouraged to attend the DeRoy lecture by Andrew Hoskins taking place this Tuesday at 4 PM in the 10th floor Conference Room of 5057 Woodward. More information on Hoskin’s talk, entitled “The Mediatization of Memory,” can be found here.

  1. Tradition philosophy tends to investigate what it means to be human; the question of being—a being that is outside of mortality and empirical evidence. Thus, according to philosophers since Aristotle, human beings exist separate from techne. In other words, technology and the changes within the field of technology is an external force created by human beings and society; humans are the driving force of change. Technology is created, it does not create. Yet, as delineated by Gille, Leroi-Gourhan, and Stiegler, the traditional discourse of technology and humanity is challenged. From this perspective, technological change moves faster than human societies; as humans, we are constantly trying to catch up. Time is constantly referenced by Stiegler; there is always a disconnect between the two realms—“The question of technics is the question of time” (154). Our birth, our entry into time, places us into a particular technical system and this technical system shapes us as a species.

    According to Stiegler, there is no human activity unaffected by technics, not even memory. When we die, we leave traces of ourselves in the living, in those around us, but we also leave traces of ourselves in non—living objects as well: in writing, in objects, computer screens, language, culture, and so on. For Stiegler, many of these traces are not produced to transmit memories, but they transmit memories nevertheless. And they do so spontaneously. This is where, I believe, the draw of artifacts come. These traces that are implanted within the living and non-living enable an inheritance that cumulates with each generation. This is not to say, insists Stiegler, that we inherit this collective memory. It is not a genetic code or memory, rather, it is inscribed outside of genetic program. We obtain it from experience and from the interplay of the human and technics. Stiegler defines this acquisition of memory epigenetic, for it exists outside and along with the genetic. The epigenetic structure existed before us and will continue after us. This is Heidegger’s concept of the already there: this “past that I never lived but that is nevertheless my past, without which I would never have had a past of my own” (140). This past is, in other words, technics.

    Through this vein of though, humanity and culture are the result of tools, of technics. Technology enables the “birth of the human.” Again, the question of time begins to creep in “And since Darwin, we have known that the human, if it exists, has begun, even though we are unable to think how it began. This is the reason why it is so difficult for us to think how it might end” (136). And yet, we exist in a world compiled by memories; genetic memory, memory within the central nervous system (epigenetic memory), and techno-logical memory (epiphylogenetic memory) (177). Language holds a special place within epiphylogenetic memory. It is a memory that inscribes and transcends. Yet language is broken down even more by Stiegler—technics resides within the realm of language, but its alliances lie within the realm of tools and instruments. Similar to language, technics inscribes and transmits memory. While the organic human being dies, a being “characterized in its forms of life by the nonliving” (50), it is in turn made human and transcends time through technics. Technology has, in this sense, created the human as a species; humanity is nothing but a process of ‘exteriorization’, a process in which our access to time and culture is accomplished through external supports which transfer our memories.

    Question: If tools are what create/enable the human, if it is technology that transcends time and produces the human, if it is the prosthesis of technology that advances cognitive ability, than are not we MORE human the less human we become? In other words, is the cyborg more human than the human?

    If we follow Stiegler’s claim that it is techne that creates humanity, what does that mean for the teaching of reading and writing? How do technologies expand cognitive development? For example, face-to-face rather than asynchronous or synchronous teaching/tutoring.

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