Category Archives: posthuman/posthumanism

Posthuman Social Policy

One of the things that comes up when people ask about my thesis (an action they soon regret-I do go on) is a sense of surprise. Not just because I managed to secure funding. More because the idea of the posthuman still has a whiff of science-fiction-with emphasis on the latter- to the general public. Almost everyone is familiar with say, Arnie’s cyborg The Terminator or the super-humans of The Avengers, but the notion that such beings might become a reality are generally dismissed as either ridiculous or thousands of years away. In fact, one of the problems any proponent of Transhumanism must face is the inability of most current humans to think beyond their own lifetime; or to think in deep time, if you like.

Of course, writers like Ray Kurzweill  and others argue for an exponential development of science and technology (see here for more on ‘accelerated change’. In which case our post human future is not a question of deep time but one that requires a public debate in the present. Current developments in techno-science push us ever closer to a point beyond the existential dilemma of knowing who we are to the ethical question of knowing what we want to become. Choosing which of the qualities we have come to define as human we wish to retain. If any.

At any rate, that is a discussion for another post. What I want to do here is present a list of various governmental and parliamentary reports that relate to the development of the posthuman. This is not a complete list, I’m sure there are many more of these from various countries and research groups, so if anyone knows of any please do get in touch and pass them on. I’m sure there’s an interesting comparative study to be done of the local differences of approach. A flavour of such differences may be gleaned here. I’m going to put them in reverse chronological order because I want to end by highlighting the importance of a public debate about post/transhumanism. More importantly, I hope that this list at least provides sceptics with evidence that these issues are no longer the sole province of science-fiction. These are real governmental reports addressing real questions. And of course they are all hyper-linked for your reading and research pleasure. The search for a posthuman social policy starts here!

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Posthumanism/Transhumanism/Superheroes: A Bibliography

With the deadline for my thesis looming I have been going through the various bits and pieces and ensuring all the references are there. It occurred to me that at least one bibliography, covering the literature review on Posthumaism and Transhumanism, might be of interest to readers of this blog. I will of course put the full bibliography for the thesis up at some point after i’ts completed. In the meantime my Google Library contains several of the works I have used as well as more besides dealing with posthumanism, the body, superheroes and comics studies more generally. I try to keep the Google library updated whenever I come across across a new text so it is becoming quite a useful resource. They can be found by clicking here.

On a related note the next Comics are Magic will be a bibliography of works relating to religion, magic, mythology and superheroes. That should be up in the next couple of weeks. And since I have nothing published as yet, I can at least draw attention to my own two papers dealing with superheroes, posthumanism and Transhumanism; Producing and Consuming the Posthuman Body in Superhero Narratives and The Silver Age Superhero as Psychedelic Shaman. Or if you’d prefer just to read the abstracts for those two just click here.

Specifically, this post presents a list of those works that directly invoke the comic book superhero to talk about posthumanism and/or transhumanism (but not the many works which merely mentioned superheroes in passing). Such approaches are relatively rare, at least in academic terms, so I hope this list proves useful to anyone thinking of exploring this intersection.Where possible, I’ve tried to hyperlink them to their source. Hopefully some day my own thesis can be added to this list. It goes without saying that my thesis would not exist at all without these preceding works. Hopefully this short bibliography will prove of inspiration and use to others. So let’s begin. Continue reading


Tpot Freedom Sessions and The Stand: It’s been a busy week…

Hello humans.

It’s been a while. Sit down, let’s catch up. Tea? Coffee? How do you take that? There you go. Some biscuits on that plate too if you want. Just help yourself. No not those ones. They are for me.

So let’s begin. Its been a busy week. Thesis continues apace as the October deadline looms. Hopefully when I start editing it down-because its way, way, too long right now- the academic excess fat can be put up here on the blog. I believe the theory is that they should be turned into journal articles to further my academic standing. Or something. But information wants to be free! And besides, the blog affords more opportunities for digression and humour.  Because obviously I pepper my academic writing with knob gags.

Its standard academic practice! Everyone does it!

My actual point being that I have nothing to report from the realm of research for a while. But when I do, you will be first to know. I know you have an unquenchable thirst for writing that considers the evolution of the superhero through the lens of posthumanist theories. Considering the evolution of the superhero through the lens of posthumanist theories is very fashionable right now. It’s all those hipster kids down at the discotheque ever talk about on their blackphones and i-berries.

For now though: Comedy News!

ITEM! Started the week with my first ever open spot at The Stand‘s Red Raw night. The Stand, for those who don’t know is a comedy club in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle. I was on in Edinburgh, which is an amazing place and where I have seen two of my comedy pantheon-Stewart Lee and Simon Munnery– performing. So being in the same Green Room as those two, and many more besides, was very exciting. basically the Stand’s ethos is that they take  comedy seriously, paradoxical as that sounds.

So yes, it was an open spot night, but it was an open spot night at proper comedy club The Stand. So I was more nervous than I’ve been in a long time and desperate to make a good impressions. A nice tight five minutes with no lulls. And while I don’t know if I necessarily managed that it was great fun and with a proper audience, a roomful rather than a handful. Not that performing to a handful isn’t fun and instructive itself of course.

It seems to have gone down well though. I’ve been offered a few more open spots anyway, (dates can be found at the bottom of the post) including a ten minute spot at the end of July. So I’ve gone up by 5 minutes! Sort of. For that one spot anyway. It is, of course, entirely possible that a full ten minutes at a Stand Red Raw night might be the dizziest height my stand up career ever reaches. This is fine. two years ago it never would have occurred to me that i would be anything but an audience member in there anyway. So I guess there’s a lesson in there about following you dreams and you will one day shit rainbows or some such. Got a thing you love to do? Or have always suspected you would love to do? Go out, dear reader, do it now! For life is short, and one day you will be nought but dust.

(This is  why I failed as a motivational speaker)

ITEM! Wednesday night I spent an enjoyable hour and a half talking to Peter Wood for his new series of podcasts. You can keep up with Pete on his blog or follow him on twitter and see where he’s playing next. If you can bear to listen to it an hour and a half of me talking about comedy-lord knows I couldn’t -then that’s here. He also interviewed the excellent Robin Valo (who blogs and tweets too- my, aren’t we all modern?) which you can listen to here.

ITEM! Friday was the filming for the inaugural Tpot Freedom Sessions show/website/multimedia juggernaut. Our tagline is: Teapot Freedom Sessions: Smashing you repeatedly in the face with a fist made of entertainment. At least that’s what it’s going to be on this blog. More news when it’s all cut together but the Facebook page is up here and I will post more details when the website goes online early next month. The short version: to film a show that can be broadcast with an accompanying website where viewers can find what would effectively be DVD extras: interviews with the performers, extra live footage. A mixture of music and comedy filmed up at Tpot Music Studios out in the middle of deepest darkest Perthshire, the day was a roaring success. But as the things not edited yat and this post is about stand-up I’m only going to talk about that aspect of it here. Except to briefly plug the bands who were on and urge you to like their Facebook pages, but their albums, go see them live, and write them inappropriately suggestive fan mail. So thanks to The Boston Tea Party, The Creeping Ivies, Homesick Aldo and the enigmatic Family of Ghosts who have no internet presence whatsoever which means we can safely call them an underground band. They would like that.

Anyway, we made up a room in the house to be the comedy club for the evening by shoving in a higgledy=piggledy mix of chairs and sofas and bean bags. An intimate venue is the polite way to put it. Then we shoved it full of Perthshire reprobates. Who were, let us say, a lively crowd. it made for a fun gig. Four of Scotland’s up and coming comedy talents were good enough to come through. So I’d like to say a big thanks once again to Dave Nelder, Ray Fordyce, Genevieve Cytko, James McIntosh and Les Sinclair for their time and their jokes. Everyone did amazingly. And thank you too to the audience, who were supportive, quite drunk and occasionally a bit mental. But in the best possible way. It certainly made for a good show and I cant wait to see the footage. More details on that as and when. In the meantime click on all those comedian’s names, see what they are doing, go and see them live, become their friends, but them drinks, write them letters that go way past inappropriately suggestive into the realms of Sadean pornography. They will love you for it. Trust me.

For my part, aside from being presenter for the day, which was interesting, fun but a bit weird, I was compeer for the comedy section which was a whole new experience for me and an eye-opener. mostly because my comedy is, if not slow exactly, then I guess ‘considered’ whereas comepering for this to an audience well on their way from ‘merry’ to ‘fucked’ on the Inebriatometer I felt I had to go full tilt. A lot of jumping around was involved, a lot more shouting and, for some reason, a lot more swearing than usual. I enjoyed it anyway, and I’m looking forward to the next one. So keep an eye out for that and come visit the countryside!

Don’t forget to like the Facebook page and keep up with what’s going on.

FINAL ITEM! The mystery that is Davey Mitchell has a venue booked for this years fringe. Last year he was based at The Blind Poet, where I spent several happy afternoons, drinking, doing a five-minute spot and then watching and chatting with an insane variety of different acts, at various levels of experience, and it was always an enjoyable gig. Even when there was only three people to play to, there was a kind of benignly anarchic egalitarian atmosphere. All comers were welcome. No news yet on the time but when I know I will tell you all and you can get down there and support the show. All of the comedians mentioned above will no doubt be there ar some point so again, follow their blogs, tweets, face droppings and all that.

Support live comedy people! It’s good for the soul.

Anyway, this is my blog, so fuck those guys! I will be around leaving my comedy smearings on walls at the dates below. And during August I will be tweeting my random whereabouts at the festival. So if you like this blog or you like my comedy come along. if you like this blog but you don’t like my comedy, come along anyway. You can tell me I’m not funny and that we can discuss the philosophical implications of the posthuman instead. Although both is preferable.

Over and out.

Upcoming dates!

JUNE

Monday, 11th-  Comedy Variety Show@City Cafe, Edinburgh

Monday 18th- Red Raw@The Stand, Edinburgh

Tuesday 19th- Red Raw@The Stand, Glasgow

Tuesday, 26th-Red Raw@The Stand, Glasgow

JULY

Tuesday 31st-Red Raw@The Stand, Glasgow

AUGUST

I will be running around the Edinburgh Festival. Follow me on Twitter to find out when and where!


Anarchy and Posthumanism Part 3: Anarchist Superhumans

In my thesis I have made a distinction between the types of posthuman body found in comic books and how these relate to various other versions of posthumanity in philosophy and transhumanist texts. Of particular interest in terms of posthumanism and anarchy is what I call the posthuman Cosmic Body (more detail can be found by clicking on the link). This final post on Anarchy and Posthumanism (part 1 is here and part 2 is here) will consider how anarchism has been presented within superhero comics and note how these representations usually chime with this vision of the ‘Cosmic Posthuman’. Continue reading


Anarchy and Posthumanism Part 2: The Anarchist as Ubermensch

Part 1 was a brief overview of anarchist thoughts and ideas. This part deals with the links between posthumanism and anarchism (while part 3 deals wth anarchism in superhero comics). These links can be best introduced by consider the role of Nietzsche’s philosophy in anarchist thought. As I’ve written elsewhere (elsewhere being here), that posthumanism as a critical/philosophical position arguably finds its first full bloom in the ideas of Nietzsche. As Spencer Sunshine has written,

There were many things that drew anarchists to Nietzsche: his hatred of the state; his disgust for the mindless social behavior of ‘herds’; his anti-Christianity; his distrust of the effect of both the market and the State on cultural production; his desire for an ‘übermensch‘ — that is, for a new human who was to be neither master nor slave.” Continue reading


Liquid Sky: Lipstick Traces and Alien Races

Guess who finally watched Liquid Sky? No, not her, she died years ago. It was me actually. As will soon be seen in great detail.

A quick warning from the off, Liquid Sky is an unusual film with some unusual themes and ideas. So there are going to be big swears (like c-bombs and everything), hard drugs, grubby new-wave synth music, a dash of necrophilia, aliens that feed off of the pleasure secretions of the human brain, androgyny and neon lighting-lots of neon lighting-from here on out. It will be worth it, but if that stuff doesn’t sound like your bag then I’d jump ship now. Why not try a taster with the opening minutes from the film? If you don’t like it you can read something else. I won’t mind. The rest of you, see you in five minutes.

INTRO TO LIQUID SKY

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Transhumanism,Eugenics and Human Neophobia

Nazis+Posthuman=Bad News

A forthcoming paper in the journal Ethics, Policy and the Environment entitled “Human Engineering and Climate Change” has recently caused a bit of a hoopla for daring to suggest that the notion of human enhancement deserves “further consideration in the debate about climate change“. The paper includes a disclaimer stating:

To be clear, we shall not argue that human engineering ought to be adopted; such a claim would require far more exposition and argument than we have space for here. Our central aim here is to show that human engineering deserves consideration alongside other solutions in the debate about how to solve the problem of climate change. Also, as we envisage it, human engineering would be a voluntary activity – possibly supported by incentives such as tax breaks or sponsored health care – rather than a coerced, mandatory activity.

Never the less, according to an article in The Grauniad a flurry of hostile reactions to the paper (abetted by an interview in The Atlantic with it’s lead author S. Matthew Liao) ensued:

terms such as “eugenics”, “Nazis” and “eco fascists” were quickly being bandied around. One sceptic blogger said  that the “sick” Liao and his co-authors should be “kept in Guantanamo”. Another said  the paper “presages the death of science, and indeed the death of reason, in the West”. But prominent environmentalists were also keen to denounce the paper. Bill McKibben tweeted  that the paper contained the “worst climate change solutions of all time”. Mark Lynas tweeted  that he thought it was an “early April Fool”. It was hard to disagree.

The phrase ‘it was hard to disagree’ at the end there is telling, and invites us to ask why trans/posthumanist ideas are often so quickly dismissed? It is only hard to disagree with the notion of bioengineering humans being an April Fool if it already seems foolish to you. These reactions probably highlight the twin poles of ‘human’ reactions to posthumanity. Continue reading


Psychopathenomics 2: Corporate Posthumanism

In a previous post tilted Psychopathenomics I highlighted a number of studies suggesting that the corporate world-especially high finance-attracts psychopathic personalities, and suggested that our current economic and social systems serve both to reward psychopathic behaviors and foster it in others. It got some interesting responses. So in this post I want to suggest that psychopathenomics rests on the production of a version of posthumanity that I’m going to call the Corporate Posthuman. And that moreover this ‘philosophical’ vision of Corporate Posthumanity has serious consequences for the future implementation of Transhumanist enhancement technologies.

(Although some of what follows is bowdlerised from a chapter in my thesis a discussion of the broader themes would take up too much space and lord knows my blog posts are already very long. However, if anyone wants to know more my paper Producing and Consuming the Posthuman Body in Superhero Narratives provides an overview of the thesis that should help contextualise this particular variation on posthumanity, while my paper The Silver Age Superhero as Psychedelic Shaman offers a vision of posthumanity that is in many respects the opposite of the Coporate Posthuman)

First of all its important to note that many see the emergence of the Corporate Posthuman as a natural and healthy evolutionary development. Jeffery Skilling, the disgraced former president of Enron, for example, reportedly saw Richard Dawkin’s book The Selfish Gene as providing a sort of evolutionary explanation-and impetus-for his own corporate machinations. As discussed in this here video clip from the excellent documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room:

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Posthuman Ecstasy: Long Live the New Sex

David Cronenberg’s new movie A Dangerous Method is out now. I haven’t seen it yet, this isn’t a review. But thinking about the film led me, naturally, to thinking about sex in Cronenberg’s movies. Specifically, about how Cronenberg’s films offer up images of posthuman sexualities, of erotic experiences beyond the bounds of what human bodies are normally considered capable of. So this post is about Cronenberg’s new flesh. The erotic flesh. The philosophy of which is illustrated in the speech in the video below. Fair warning though: although this audio-visual tour through posthuman sexuality will be stimulating and enlightening, you probably don’t want to be reading this post at work or in front of your Granny. Unless she’s very adventurous.

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Superheroes, psychedelics, counterculture, magic and posthumanism: Best post ever?

Hello humans.

My paper “The Silver Age Superhero as Psychedelic Shaman” is now available HERE on Nth Mind or HERE if you’d prefer a printable version with illustrations (and who could blame you?).

I’m very happy with this one. But then, of all the types of posthuman body discussed in my thesis the Cosmic Body is the one closest to my heart and the vision of posthumanity that is most capable of ensuring the greatest happiness for all. Posthuman bodies require posthuman minds!

Valuable context is available in the first paper, “Producing and Consuming the Posthuman Body in Superhero Narratives” (click the tile to read that), which lays out my idea that the discourse of the posthuman is a matter of bodies -discourse being not just representations (talk, language), but also material practices. So for example, ‘genetic engineering’ is not just a matter of science-fiction but also a real-world techno-scientific practice. Not to mix my academic work with parlance of hip-hop but this shit is real, baby.

This posthuman discourse consists of three overlapping discursive domains-speculative Trans/humanism (also including ‘real-world’ tecno-science); critical-philsophical Post/Humanism (in which include people like Foucault, Haraway) and of course Superhumanism (the realm of science fiction, but also comic books). Superhero comics offer a delicuos smorgasboard of posthuman bodies. Considering these bodies lets us also consider how they are found in the other two discursive realms.

Without going into too much detail (you can read the paper for yourselves after all), this paper takes a rhizomatic journey through the Cosmic Body, following the hidden underground root systems that link superheroes with the psychedelic counterculture of the sixties with Transhumanism’s forebear the Human Potential Movement with eastern mysticism with Nietzsche’s critique of Humanism with shamanism with Western occultism and the scientist-shaman with Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol with One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest with, well, you get the idea.

(The paper isn’t written in this style I should add. I’m a professional, I just blog as an excitable child with a precocious interest in esoteric ideas and countercultural philosophies)

At any rate, this paper is a point where it feels my academic, philosophical, personal and creative interest came together as one. A point where, as I say in the paper, critical theory and cultural criticism can become productive and transformative practices rather than simply nihilistic and deconstructive (not that that doesn’t have its own appeal).

Make your own minds up, of course ( and anyway, in a couple of months I might think it’s rubbish) but I would love to hear any comments, criticisms and suggestions. Anyway, once again, because I wrote more there than I meant too, here is “The Silver Age Superhero as Psychedelic Shaman“.