Contemporary Posterity

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

What does it mean to be post? In a time of countless movements of post-[x], the value of the prefix itself becomes of interest: what does it do to a concept to reposition it by turning it into a ‘posterity’?

I will unpack this question through an inquiry into the concept of ‘post-digital’, scrutinizing and seeking to overcome the problems of rigid periodization that the prefix ‘post’ might imply. Such an inquiry is arguably also central to the ongoing exploration of posthumanist tendencies in literary and aesthetic fields. Indeed, posthumanism and the (post-)digital are – historically and continuously – closely connected (cf. Haraway; cf. Hayles). As Laura Shackelford argues, the post-digital’s “practice-based experimentation continues to pursue … posthumanist inquiries and immanent engagements with technicity” (349).

But what can the concept of post-digital contribute to the study of posthumanism? A noticeably large proportion of inquiry into the post-digital has revolved around discussions of the troublesome notion of being ‘post’ – discussions which, in my view, are relevant across multiple ‘posterities’. The post-digital is, in Florian Cramer’s formulation, “the messy state of media, arts and design after their digitization” (17, original emphasis). However, while the post-digital “is afterdigital,” it still “remains profoundly computational” (Berry 45, original emphasis). The troublesome question of being ‘post’ points towards a more general “problem of simply declaring something as being ‘post’ something else” (Cox 161). And as Eric Snodgrass points out, the promise of being ‘post’ can readily become a ‘blue flower’, or conceptual red herring, promising but not delivering a romanticist departure from that which is conceptually undesirable – be it the perpetual innovation imperative of the ‘digital’ ethos or the severe micro- and macroscopic oppression inherent to Humanism’s universal Man.

Faced with the problem of periodization, I want to suggest a seemingly paradoxical juxtaposition of the notions of ‘contemporary’ and ‘posterity’ in order to investigate how a status of being ‘post’ can decidedly play out in a contemporary setting, and potentially enact social transformation. Part of this conceptual endeavor is a drive to move beyond rigid periodization and binary oppositions of ‘before’ vs. ‘after’ or ‘digital’ vs. ‘analog’ – or ‘human’ vs. ‘nonhuman’ for that matter. Building on Geoff Cox’s critique of temporality in the post-digital, David Berry’s notion of the post-digital constellation, and Eric Snodgrass’ conceptualization of the post-digital as anamorphosis, I will develop the conceptual stance of contemporary posterity as a way of looking at (and acting within) our contemporary situation by/while looking ‘backwards’, through a positioning of one’s theoretical glance in a (conceptual) posterity, or a moment of what Snodgrass describes as “looking-in-the-(rear-view)-mirror” (30).

If these two posterities share characteristics, posthumanism would be to Humanism what the post-digital is to the colloquial notion of ‘the digital’. What this means in more exact terms is something I will be looking forward to discussing in Bergen. My hope is that a concept of contemporary posterity can help articulate the transformative potential of posthumanism and the post-digital alike – beyond rigid periodizations.

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Record posted by: 
Cecilie Klingenberg