mh1Embedded ground of reality. The economic version of

 mh1Embedded pattern

 mh2Rather would be better here.

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In relation to the last instance, for example, the signifier/signified
dichotomy, the shift from print to computer-generated text involves
technological processes which according to Hayles, “suggest different modes of
signification and changes in signification are linked with shifts in
consumption” (Posthuman, 28). The original relationship between the
signifier and signified which was proposed by Saussure, in spite of being
arbitrary, placed the signified firmly on the ground of reality. The economic version of this view would be an
“abstract equivalence … between the objects to be exchanged” (Hawkes, 163).
Lacan who(,) as Hayles points out,
formulated his theories in a largely print-based culture, dislodged the
signified, so that signifiers were “defined by networks of relational
differences between themselves rather than their relation to signifieds” (Posthuman,
30), changing them into “floating signifiers.” Focusing in the presence/absence dialectic, Lacan placed
the double-absence of “signifieds as things-in-themselves as well as the
absence of stable correspondences between signifiers” at the core of
signification (ibid, 31). The reliance on the presence/absence dialectic which
foregrounds “absence” in Lacan’s version, materializes in the form of “presence”
in the case of Baudrillard. Identifying “the logic of the commodity and of
political economy” in the “abstract equation between signifier and signified”
in Saussurean signification (Critique, 146), Baudrillard describes the
change from representation to self-representation or simulacra as the
realization or materialization of false consciousness, and “ideology as no
longer some Imaginary floating in the wake of exchange value , but the very
operation of exchange value itself” (ibid, 169).

Of utmost importance is the reminder that the condition of virtuality and
the process of becoming posthuman is not necessarily being immersed in virtual
worlds or becoming a cybernetic organism, half robot half human, but also mh2 a mindset one may adopt. The condition of virtuality is a shift to the
pattern/randomness dialectic and seeing the world as information flow rather
than essential presence. This will bring about a radical revision of the
opposites human/machine, real/virtual, subject/object, mind/body, and even
signifier/signified.

The shift from presence/absence to pattern/randomness, according to Hayles,
also brings about a shift from possession to access (Posthuman, 39).
While the printed book might seem almost the same as the electronic version you
might produce by scanning the same text into a computer, the implications of
this transition are great and far-reaching. The book is durable good to be
owned. It belongs to me, and therefore, not to you. The shift from the material
existence in the form of a book into a (still material) existence in the form
of information renders it into an existence (which)
is no longer shadowed by possession, but (by)
whether or not you have access to it. This is similar to what the
character of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler does,
turning the body of the text into “electronic impulses, into the flow of
information … shaken by redundancies and noises” (26-27). The body of the
text is no longer an object, but ones and zeroes differentiating themselves
from a sea of other ones and zeroes.  Unlike
the book, if I give you this information, then both of us have it.

Think of playing a computer game. In most modern video games the player
uses a user interface and a kind of controller such as a joystick or data glove
to control an avatar. The question is, to
what extent does this avatar exist
mh1 in the real world, in the sense that the player exists in flesh and blood?
A simple answer to this question might be that neither the avatar nor the other
things on the computer screen actually exist, as all of them are in fact
virtual. Nevertheless, simply looking at a player play a game, her reactions,
happiness, sadness, the joy of winning and the tantrum she throws when she
loses, all undermine that primary answer. In “The Condition of Virtuality,” N.
Katherine Hayles describes virtuality as “the cultural perception that material
objects are interpreted by information patterns” (69). What this means is that
our perception of both what we label as virtual because we see it inside the
frame of the monitor and what we see outside that frame is not as different as
we would like them to be. Both are reliant on our interpretation of information
patterns. “From here,” Hayles elsewhere points out, “it is a small step to
perceiving information as more mobile, more important, more essential than
material forms. When this impression becomes part of your cultural mindset, you
have entered the condition of virtuality” (Posthuman, 19). If I see the
monitor itself as a real object in my environment, it is because my brain is
finding patterns in the messages my eyes are sending it, interpreting it as an
object in the real world. Seeing something as real, therefore is less reliant
on whether or not that thing is present, than it is on whether the right patterns
are distinguished and the right dots are connected amongst the randomness. One
must consider the possibility that the existence of the TV set itself might be
similar to the existence of a constellation such as Ursa Minor. A constellation
is in fact a number of bright stars scattered in three dimensional space,
unrelated and probably billions of light years apart, but producing a pattern
when seen from a certain angle (from Earth) by a pattern-seeking human being,
thus distinguishing itself from the randomness of black space and other assorted
shining dots. The question is not, according to Hayles, the question of
presence and absence, whether Ursa Minor really exists or not, which has
dominated western philosophy for so long, but the dominance of
pattern/randomness (Posthuman, 28). The “pattern/randomness” dialectic,
explains Hayles, “does not erase the material world; information in fact
derives its efficacy from the material infrastructures it appears to obscure”
(ibid).

The Dominance of
Pattern/Randomness

 

Together, the Body, the mind, and
technology constitute the love triangle which gives birth to the modern human
being. This chapter shall deal with the relationship between these three
aspects, how they interact, oppose, and augment each other in the formation of
not only human narratives, but also narratives of humanness throughout history,
and in what ways they are beginning to merge and integrate with each other,
leading to the birth of the posthuman or the cyborg.