Brooke, Collin Gifford. “Forgetting to be (Post)Human:  Media and Memory in a Kairotic Age.”  JAC 20 4 (2000).  775-95.  Print.

  • Brooke begins the article by pointing out how postmodernism has eroded the hermeneutic depth of the modern episteme at the expense of passionate attachment; in other words, now that the unified, universal modernist subject is dead postmodernism offered nothing in its place. . . just a space of critique (775).  Brooke also notes that the postmoderns have offered little (or at least little of note) for conversations about technology.
  • Article trajectory:  Part I – B. looks to the work of Hayles and Latour to offer a vision of posthumanism that is distinct from the modern/postmodern complex.  B. relies on Latour to highlight how postmodernism/modernism both rely on the nature-culture binary . . . much to their own detriment.  Part II – an examination of rhetoric via the Latourian-Haylesian posthumanist perspective to reconsider the canon of memory. . . the canon where the nature-culture binary is most prominent (777).  Part III – B. identifies some of the problems of a rhetoric founded on the division between nature and culture . . . a division that disembodies our rhetorical practices and obscures the nature-culture divide through technological immersion.  Relying on Hayles “semiotics of virtuality” to complicate that other traditional binary: presence/absence.
  • B., following Hayles, notes that posthumanism isn’t some grand theoretical insight but a recognition of something that’s been there all along: networked subjectivities, distributed cognition, and integrated human-machine circuits.
  • Paraphrasing Latour, B. notes that modernism has been the slow and steady amplification of the binary between science/nature and subject/society (780).  The solution to this is a recognition of the interpenetration of both subject and objects into an object-oriented universe . . . a network.  This perspective shares a lot with Hayles treatment of the binaries that undergird our post/modernist episteme’s: nature/culture, body/information.
  • What is the positive of Hayles perspective on posthumanism?  Focusing on information allows us to blur the distinction between human and machine so that we understand information as always already embodied (and hence close the gap/binary into oneness) (782) to allow for a philosophy of relation[1. I wonder about the convergences with Levinas, Harman, & Hardt/Negri here.].
  • B. notes that rather than using posthumanism to completely make anew rhetoric we should instead use it to retie the knot of ancient rhetoric for the contemporary age (783).  B. notes that Plato isolates nature/culture in Phaedrus when he highlights the role of memory in relation to writing:  writing is an affront to memory and nature because it is artificial (like rhetoric). . . .and in one fell swoop Plato initiates the beginning of the nature/culture divide 984) while also creating a rhetoric of forgetting. . . a rhetoric that must acknowledge the distance between speaker and audience and the movement away from natural states toward artificial rhetorical ploys (or between act and art) (784-5).
  • B. brings memory back to the fore by highlighting how contemporary “smart environments” have made the externalization of memory a common process. . . but a process that is material and embodied (even in machines. . . machines that must be taken – according to Hayles – as part of our own networked subjectivity) (786).
  • B. notes that a danger arises from the saturation of technologies in our lives:  like information in Hayles account, rhetoric becomes disembodied in a way that creates real ethical problems (remember: ethics and relationality as first philosophy).  As a remedy, B. offers a reconsideration of the canon of memory.  Leaving behind questions of presence/absence Brooke turns to patter/randomness (via Hayles) in order to temporalize memory along the axes of chronos and kairos (790).
  • Chronos is the ordering of time in temporal units while kairos is the void of emergent possibilities (the virtual in Reid’s work or the writings of Deleuze/Guattari).  B. notes that the King trial saw a chronosization of a kairotic moment so that moment became a metonymy for something larger: the war on drugs.  Likewise the Challenger disaster saw a kairoticization of a chronological event – an explosion that could have been accounted for was rendered unaccountable (791).
  • Key quote:  “As our technologies tempt us with the possibility of absolute (patterned) knowledge via the purified technologies of mediation (absence), a posthuman rhetoric would require us to temper that possibility with the materially situated emergence (presence) of opportunities (randomness) (791-2).

Leave a Reply