Category Archives: Ethics

Numbers or Souls? Angelo Musco’s Ecotechnical Bodyscapes

Angelo Musco. Xylem.  2011.  Metallic C-Print mounted between Aluminum and Plexi-glass.  8'x20'.

“For some it’s the numbers,” Angelo Musco told TIME Lightbox in an interview last March. “For me, it’s the souls.”

Musco creates “Bodyscapes,” enormous images composed of thousands, even millions of naked bodies. What looks like a forest scene or a bird’s nest from a distance turns out to be, upon closer inspection, a mass of bodies stretched, reaching, bent, huddled, flying, swimming, curled, piled, entwined—but most of all, amassed, aggregated, collected, concentrated. The images are certainly beautiful, but it is a terrifying beauty. For Musco, the body is a site and a celebration of pain as well as joy. Continue reading Numbers or Souls? Angelo Musco’s Ecotechnical Bodyscapes


Grindhouse Posthumanism

I have been meaning to get this post out since I first saw Ben Popper’s article for The Verge, Cyborg America, about “basement body hackers,” way back at the beginning of August. A new teaching assignment at Humber College as well as an ongoing editing contract have kept me from posting for the past months, however.

I embed the video here, but I also encourage you to read the accompanying article.

I sent the link around to a number of my colleagues after covering issues of technoscience and ethics in our classes. One of them sent me a message back, saying that, while Popper’s article is certainly interesting, he takes the “cyborg” practices to be somewhat outdated here. He points out, correctly, that a lot of transhumanist discourse now envisions human enhancements at the genetic and nano levels. Continue reading Grindhouse Posthumanism

New Talk: The Hen Electric and the Mechanical Boy

“The Hen Electric and the Mechanical Boy: Joey, Bruno Bettelheim, and the Empty Fortresses of Humanism.” Paper presented at the 26th Annual Conference of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, “Nonhuman,” Hilton, Milwaukee, WI, 28 September 2012.

In the March 1959 issue of Scientific American, Bruno Bettelheim relates the case history of Joey, the so-called “Mechanical Boy.” In this article, Bettelheim stages the child’s complex emotional disturbance as a psychoanalytic Pinocchio story for the “machine age.” Joey’s autistic imprisonment in a “world of machines” renders him a robot-child that oscillates between imperious withdrawal from, and helpless desperation for, human affection. When Bettelheim retells Joey’s story nearly a decade later, in The Empty Fortress, the Pinocchio story remains, along with its starkly moralized theme of a human species endangered by its own inept infancy in the face of highly complex and impersonal technological advancement. Yet where the magazine article deliberately concentrates on pathology over therapeutics, the greatly expanded account of Joey’s case history in the latter text does detail his course of therapy at the University of Chicago’s Sonya Shankman Orthogenic School. This account traces Joey’s journey through a psychological “rebirth” and escape from the captivity of his delusions. For Bettelheim, Joey’s flight from the machine world thus marks a triumphant delivery into a fully human world–at last he becomes a real boy! Yet I argue that the text depicts an (anthropo)genesis that is not at all as orthotic as Bettelheim claims. Joey’s psychically newborn self is a singular entity hatched from a miraculous egg, laid by an electric hen, and midwifed by kangaroos, bears, and dinosaurs. Joey’s story is therefore one of allogenesis, even xenogenesis, and suggests expansive forms of kinship and communication beyond the merely human.

Shark or child?

Over at Larval Subjects, Levi Bryant has been working through questions of ethics in connection with speculative realism and object-oriented ontology.  In the last few posts, he has been struggling with his commitment to what he calls a “flat ontology,” which posits, in the words of Ian Bogost, “all objects equally exist, but not all objects exist equally.”  Responding to certain criticisms of object-oriented ontology and its perceived negligence on matters of politics and ethics, he argues that a flat ontology does not imply a flat ethics. Continue reading Shark or child?