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by Andy Miah, PhD

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Posthumanism is moving

Earlier this year, I purchased the domain space www.posthumanism.org.uk as the base for my postings about this subject area. Please alter your bookmarks or, if you use rss readers, use the following feed:


While I know some academic institutions will not view blogs as resource sites, the permanant domain space allows permanence and the rss feed much greater visibility. I also think that its location within my broader blog is more reflective of its intentions. A mirror site will be developed soon, as I know some territories do not allow blog access.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tomorrow's People

The James Martin Institute launch event 'Tomorrow's People: the challenges of technologies for life extension and enhancement' takes place this week in the Said Business School. The conference is streamed on the web and discussion boards are set up. I have made a few postings to my new wordpress account as well as the conference boards.

Photograph by PhotoVibe

Monday, January 23, 2006

Sony Reader - the end of paper?

The sony reader claims to be look just like paper and hopes to revitalise the digital book market. I use a palmpilot lifedrive and frequently read articles from my endnote database in this unit. It is not particularly easy, navigation is frustrating and the size of the text field small, but it's possible and reasonably enjoyable. I have never used a digital book reader but look forward to the prospect of integrating it with my work.

This new technology reminds me of a piece I wrote a few years ago about the future of publishing. At the time, there were still no clear means through which to archive websites and urls really seemed to matter. Recently, I have noticed that films no longer have a unique url attached to the trailers. One reason for this is surely that urls are becoming much less relevant as a decriptor of some virtual place. With increasingly powerful search engines, I rarely bother to note down urls anymore, especially when they are attached to articles. All too often, the domain name of the articles changes and the easiest way to find the piece is just to google the title.

Here's the title and url [;)]:
(e)text:Error...404 Not Found! or the disappearance of history

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Making Sports Virtual

How long will it be before we ditch the sports arena and compete as athletes - or view as spectators - within an entirely virtual reality? This is the subject of a new book I am writing for The MIT Press, tentatively titled 'CyberSport: Digital Games, Ethics and Cultures'. It will be written with a colleague of mine in Australia, Dr Dennis Hemphill.

The subject of this book will feature in a Sky One (television) production to be broadcast on December 2 in the United Kingdom. The programme is about sport and technology generally, and it rounds off with a segment about the prospect of making sports virtual.

This project develops some thoughts that have been hanging around for the last five years. An early example of how they work out can be found in this piece:

Miah, A. (2002) Immersion and Abstraction in Virtual Sport, Research in Philosophy and Technology, 21, 225-233

Thursday, November 10, 2005

10x Human-Machine superperformance

I am a long-distance member for one of Yale's inter-disciplinary bioethics group, which soon receives a talk from Professor Deb Roy. Taking a closer look at Roy's work draws me even nearer to the work at MIT. I visited there in April this year and was struck by the breadth of creative invention taking place there.

This project 10x Human-Machine Symbiosis is discussed in an outline paper available from its website, wher Roy explains ths relationship between art, science and design.

In my various travels, I have found the richest of environments where a range of disciplines and views inform an approach to a problem, where it is difficult to characterise researchers as having expertise in specific domains. The more intriguing researchers seem to be those who apply a set of understandings to a range of applications.

More recently, I have been drawn towards architecture in work related to technology - such as William Mitchell's 'city of bits' - to research surrounding media spectacles - the Situationist Internationale are integral to a course I wrote on Spectacle. Today, I was reading an article about Unifying Urbanism, which described a use of communication technology within the city to de-fragment its evolving character. I struggle to separate out disciplinary perspectives when writing about culture. Far too much is connected.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Posthumanism in Barcelona

Before this becomes incredibly out of date, I must mention the post-/trans- humanism session that took place at the conference on Ethics and Philosophy of Emerging Medical Technologies at Institut Borja de Bioetica, Universitat Ramon Llul, Barcelona, Spain in August 2005. The meeting was a joint annual meeting of the European Society for Philosophy of Medicine and Healthcare and the European Association of Centres for Medical Ethics.

I gave a paper on Posthuman Medicine and Imagined Ethics, which discussed a number of the futuristic scenarios posed by trans/post humanists, asking what legitmacy they have in critical, current debates on medicine and health care. It was particularly interesting to hear the term posthumanism in a number of papers, including Prof. Ruth Chadwick's keynote address on the definition and meaning of enhancement.

I do not think that posthumanism and transhumanism are informed by the same literature, nor are they speaking with the same intentions. I argued as much in my paper.

Other papers in my session, which itself was titled 'Transhumanism and Posthumanity" were:

F. torralba (Spain)
What does posthumanity mean?

G. Weikert (Germany)
Transhumanism - Hothouse of Mankind [this presenter did not attend]

We had a very engaging debate after the presentations, though I think there remains considerable skepticism for this proposed future, from within the medical community. Many doctors see the transformation of the human species within these terms, which is far from what they see as their role. This presents considerable challenges for advocates of technological enhancement; they have a considerable number of medical professionals to contend with.

Stelarc's Prosthetic Head

In November 2003, Stelarc came to Glasgow to showcase his new Prosthetic Head project at the New Territories festival. I spoke with him about this project and even had a play with the Head itself. Just recently, he published a paper in CTHEORY on the project, which raises a number of questions related to artificial intelligence and posthuman art. The project itself was developed using AI and Stelarc seems to be a valuable exemplar for collaborative work in this area.

Julie Clarke's essay on the project, also published in CTHEORY is also worth reading.

The last I heard, Stelarc's next project was to have an ear surgically attached to his forearm, but he was struggling to find a surgeon who would agree to the procedure.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Post-Humanism and the Politics of Animal Representation

Call for Papers

2006 Northeastern Modern Language Association (NEMLA) Convention
Philadelphia, PA, 2 - 5 March 2006

Following the Second World War, a re-examination of the animal as a
category of ontological being by Heidegger, Levinas and Derrida pushed
this question of philosophical theory out of its academic margin.
Moreover, North America's ecocritical movement has produced an
increasingly visible body of work. Nevertheless, the politics of animal
representation remains quite underdeveloped in both literary theory and
criticism. This panel will take submissions on literary works that
reconsider how representations of animals function in terms of their
politics, how different types of representations may not work to
encourage or resist appropriation as metaphors, and in particular, how
these works might rearticulate other questions of race, gender and
transnationlism along the lines of species.

For consideration, please e-mail 250-word abstracts by 15 September
2005 to vjguihan@connect.carleton.ca or mail print copies to:

Vincent Guihan
Carleton University
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Murderball & Cyborgs

I tread very carefully when discussing the use of technology by people with disabilities. I am skeptical of progressive transhumanist arguments associated with reparative technologies. However, this documentary seems to demand that very progressive argument. I am not sure that it lends itself to a cyborgian or posthuman discourse, unless we deal with those terms as simply the broadening of what it means to be human or, indeed, disabled.

I have only seen a trailer for the movie, but the director and actor/athletes talk about transforming the way in which athletes/people with a disability are perceived. In this sense, they are entering into a process of re-definition. I wonder whether they would see themselves as constitutiely technological as athletes. The chairs they use are quite different vehicles/ prosthetics to any that I have seen in other sports and their attitudes come across as deliberately and unapologetically aggresssive.

There is surely a paper waiting to be written about this both within sport studies and cultural studies of technology.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Future of Our Memories

Last friday, I participated in a symposium by this title. The co-presenters were Professor Wendy Hall and Professor Neil Burgess. It was hosted by the Royal Institution of Great Britain and was part of the EPSRC Futures series. The Chair of the debate and Director of the series was Dr Dan Glaser, who did a first class jobs. Chairs rarely get credit, but Dan was really superb. He has had a lot of experience with public engagement and his management of this session made it very enjoyable.

A number of possible futures were discussed and questions were asked about the use of metaphors and analogies when imagining what constitutes our memories. Movies came up a lot as well, particularly a compendium of Jim Carrey films (Bruce Almighty, Truman Show, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Memento was also mentioned. I think we could have spent the whole evening just talking about film.

Prof. Neil Burgess also described some work on recollection that uses virtual reality environments as a means of evaluating how much people remember. Yet another example of computer game technology infiltrating the sphere of science. Last November, I learned of similar uses within surgery.

My paper attempted a socio-ethical take on the future of memory, wondering about how we might alter memories and on what basis we justify memory enhancement. Paralells are made with debates related specifically to neuroethics (recent edition of the AJOB has a number of papers about this) and the use of cognitive enhancers. It seems that the future indicates the potential to develop a refined knowledge hierarchy where some forms of knowledge will become more important than others. So, perhaps through sophisticated digital support systems, the importance of remembering factual information will be less. This could have radical implications for how we evaluate capacity and intellect.

Again, the emphasis I wish to make is that becoming posthuman need not imply radical, futuristic technologies such as memory erasure. Rather, the integration of digitisation alone into our daily lives transforms what it means to be human. A good indication of this is the use of community photograph sites, such as flickr, where your images become part of a collective memory of an event or moment.

Blurb on the Symposium
Continuing our innovative look at what the future holds for us, the second in our series of ‘Futures’ debates will ask how will we use our memory in the future and how much we will rely on technology to do it for us. This reliance has already begun – consider how many phone numbers you can remember now that you can store them on your mobile phone – and looks set to continue with projects such as ‘Memories for life’. This is one of the grand challenges in the computing world, and its aim is to develop a system to both store and protect our individual memories while being sophisticated enough to allow us to sort through them. But what effects will this have on individuals and society as our ability to access information, and our dependence on external devices, increases? How can mass-storage devices be designed to interface with people and their brains so that more and more can be retrieved with less and less reliance on biological memory? And could this help people with memory impairments? Join Neil Burgess (University College London), Wendy Hall (University of Southampton) and Andy Miah (University of Paisley) as they look at the potential of future computer systems and ask should we be embracing or resisting this move towards an age when digital and physical activities not only coexist but co-operate. (Link to Royal Institution of Great Britain website).

A link to my presentation

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Genes Talking

Yet more on what might be described as posthuman art, conversations between science and art:


ICA, The Mall, London, SW1
Tickets & Box Office Information: 020 7930 3647 / www.ica.org.uk
The laboratory will be open to the public daily from 12 noon – 7.30pm
FREE with ICA Membership (£1.50, £1.00 Concs; except Sat & Sun £2.50, £1.50 Concs)

From Monday 4th July 2005, the ICA theatre will become the unique site for a groundbreaking, time-based installation, transforming into a live, working scientific laboratory. Volunteer scientists will conduct genuine experiments using DNA sequencing technology - used in the Human Genome Project - in the hope of isolating DNA responsible for specific language impairment (SLI), a disorder characterised by problems with verbal communication. In this world first, the public will be able to see a real lab working on a day-to-day basis, talk to scientists, and take part in the analysis of the results.

The experiment will analyse a ‘candidate gene’ for specific language impairment (SLI). Individuals with SLI have problems producing or understanding spoken language, despite normal intelligence. Characteristically they exhibit delayed onset of speech, perhaps not
learning to talk until 3 or 4 years of age. SLI is distinct from dyslexia, which involves problems with written language, but is just as common in the population.

By allowing public access to a working scientific lab and involvement in a genuine scientific experiment, Genes Talking aims to demystify the scientific process and bring about a better understanding of genetics. The project is the result of a collaboration between science–arts consultant, Dr Julie Webb, curator, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), Professor Anthony Monaco from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford,
and Professor Mandy Fisher from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre (MRC CSC).

Visitors to Genes Talking can contribute to these experiments in the ICA’s Digital Studio. Data generated from the DNA sequencing reaction will be collected digitally, taking the form of a simple graph. Members of the public will be invited to read DNA sequences on the graph from people with SLI, and compare these to the normal sequences, noting any differences. A simple procedure of interpreting coloured peaks from a graph, corresponding to letters of the genetic alphabet, this will also give participants a feel for the everyday life of a scientist, which is at times humdrum, often frustrating, but occasionally exhilarating. Their contribution will be acknowledged in the form of a printed certificate and also on future research publications.

This project is part of an ongoing initiative by the ICA to cross-pollinate the worlds of arts, culture and science; the choice of a ‘language gene’ for study looks to encourage debate on the nature of genetic research and its relationship to culture, society, and philosophy.

The ICA laboratory will be informed by the availability of supplementary background information about the science and technology involved, including a programme of talks, vox-pop interviews with scientists, and a website.


Over the last decade many studies have shown that SLI tends to run in families, suggesting that it involves some genetic component. Two DNA regions have been identified which may be involved in language impairment: one on chromosome 16; and a second on chromosome 19. Each of these regions is large and contains many good candidate genes.

One of the genes from chromosome 16 is similar to a gene that was previously shown to be involved in dyslexia. The Genes Talking scientists believe this gene is the best candidate for SLI in this region. During this experiment, they will sequence fifty controls and fifty patient samples and look differences between their DNA. Some differences, or polymorphisms, may
represent normal variation. However, if they can uncover a loss-of-function mutation, they believe this could be causative in language impairment. Using this strategy they will confirm or rule out this candidate’s involvement in SLI.


Mon 11 July, 7pm
Thanks to the lavish investment of major cultural and scientific institutions, sci-art has moved from a niche pursuit into the mainstream. But is it simply an excuse for bad art? Can the encounter between science and arts change ways of thinking creatively and lead to fruitful new
avenues, or is it an excuse for a failure of vision – and a failure to communicate that vision – on both sides.

Speakers: Lewis Wolpert, Emeritus Professor of Biology as applied to medicine, University College London; Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programmes, The Wellcome Trust; Sandra Kemp, Head of Research, Royal College of Art.
Chair: Emma Crichton-Miller, journalist and writer.
£8, £7 Concs, £6 ICA Members

Thur 14 July, 7pm
Is human language a natural progression of animal communications, or has there been a genetic leap in our ability to communicate? The issue of whether there is continuity between animal communication and human language has always been contentious. But what clues can the new science of comparative genomics offer?

Speakers: Professor Anthony Monaco, Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics and Head of the Neurogenetics group; Heather van der Lely, Professor and Director of the Centre for Developmental Language Disorders and Cognitive Neuroscience; Professor Stephen Oppenheimer, Research Associate with the Institute of Human Sciences, Oxford University and author of Out of Eden. Chair: Professor Amanda Fisher, MRC Clinical
Sciences Centre.
£8, £7 Concs, £6 ICA Members

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Cyborg Bodies - the end of the progressive body

A great resource for the subject of 'Posthuman Art' from 'Media Kunst Netz / Media Art Net', deals with a range of ideas about the changing body and its representation/articulation through art. Editorial by Yvonne Volkart

Subject areas include:
Mythical Bodies / Unruly Bodies / Postsexual Bodies / Transgenic Bodies / Monstrous Bodies / Collective Bodies

Monday, April 18, 2005

Body Modification

The Body Modification Mark II conference takes place this week in Australia. This meeting looks as if it will be around for a good few years to come. The keynote speakers are first class and the range of issues they will discuss exciting:

"Once again, the aim of this conference is explore the many and varied ways in which bodies are modified, selves are formed and transformed, and culturally specific knowledges and practices are mediated and transfigured. We hope to include a wide range of interdisciplinary approaches to the question of what constitutes body modification, as well as performative and visual presentations."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Designer Bodies: Towards the Posthuman Condition

I missed this one, but due to my budding, Scottish roots (do roots bud?), it seemed important to prevent it from slipping into the ether.....

New Media Scotland & Stills present an
International Symposium - Designer Bodies: Towards The Posthuman Condition

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: Gymnasium
75 Belford Road, Edinburgh
Saturday, 3rd April 2004 10:30am– 6pm
£15 / £10 concessions (includes refreshments and buffet lunch)
Early booking essential due to limited seating. Please register using the form below.

Download the Registration Form

The symposium aims to unravel the aesthetics, ethics and future of biosciences. Do works of art inspired by new scientific insights into genetics explore the posthuman condition? Do biomedical science and genetics have a similar creative impact on contemporary art to that of anatomy during the Renaissance? What are the implications for artists using DNA and genetically modified organisms as their media of choice? How do we view today's alliances of science and art?

Speakers include:
- award-winning artists Christine Borland, Gina Czarnecki, Gair Dunlop
- Jens Hauser, Curator of L'Art Biotech, France - the first festival of biotechnological living art
- Steve Kurtz, Critical Art Ensemble, USA – an artists' collective dedicated to exploring the intersection between art, technology, politics and critical theory
- Dr. Keith Skene, a scientist working in Environmental and Applied Biology, University of Dundee
- Dr. Warren Neidich, USA - an artist-in-residence at Goldsmiths College, London and founder of the field of Neuroaesthetics
- Dr. Alan Bleakley, Psychologist and Senior Lecturer in Medical Education, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro & Peninsula Medical School, Exeter
- Hannah Redler, Energy Project Leader, Science Museum, London
- Bronac Ferran, Director of Interdisciplinary Arts, Arts Council England.

The related exhibition, Designer Bodies shows at Stills from 3rd April – 6th June 2004. Artists Christine Borland, Gina Czarnecki, Jacqueline Donachie and Gair Dunlop use photography, film and digital media to explore the implications of genetics for disease treatment, human bioderversity, social perceptions and species boundaries. The resulting works spark excitement, fear and awe.

Organised by New Media Scotland and Stills, Edinburgh. In association with the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Edinburgh International Science Festival; London Science Museum and Arts Catalyst - the Science and Art Agency. Supported by the Wellcome Trust, Scottish Arts Council, Arts Council England and Edinburgh City Council.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Biotecknica - posthuman art

In Nov 2003, I met Jennnifer Willet and Shaun Bailey at a conference in Glasgow School of ART. The Conference was called 'The State of the Real' and was chaired by my good friend Dr Damian Sutton. It included a couple of excellent keynotes, one from Slavoj Zizek and another from Linda Nochlin. Jennifer, Shawn and I were in a symposium along with Anne-Sophie Lehman (Netherlands).

I was intrigued by their work on Biotecknica, particularly since they talked about how they had had a lot of comments from people who identified their art project as a real scientific organisation. This begs a question about what people really expect from science and how much can be taken for granted by non-experts. It also made me think about what might be characterised as posthuman art - less the content and expectations one has of the exhibit, and more to do with the conflation of fictional and non-fictional spaces.

The website for biotecknica is here

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Post-human history, New Perspectives Quarterly

I have had a copy of the NPQ sitting in my 'to archive' folder for a while and got around to looking through it today. I then had a closer look at the NPQ website, only to find an entire edition dedicated to posthumanism. The contents are as folllows:

Post-Human History?:

More Technology, Not Less ALVIN AND HEIDI TOFFLER
When Descartes Meets Darwin AMORY LOVINS
Act Now to Keep New Technologies Out of Destructive Hands BILL JOY
Regenerative Medicine: Where the Genetic and Info Revolutions Converge WILLIAM HASTELINE
Anthropo-Technology PETER SLOTERDIJK

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Brain implants & mind reading

is that you cannot simply infer from his case that we are becoming posthuman. I am very suspicious of those who will point to the use of radical technology and pose the question 'what next?', imagining all sorts of superhuman as the next step.

Matt Nagle is paralysed from the neck down and made headlines this week for being "the first person to have controlled an artificial limb using a device chornically implanted into hi brain" (Meet the Mind Readers, The Guardian). I am personally excited about the prospects of this technology and certainly wonder 'what next?', but we cannot talk about this case as a transhuman or posthuman innovation. The biggest obstacle to that this kind of technology remains intimately connected to therapeutic medicine. Until the applications are genuinely non-therapeutic, we cannot claim to have become posthuman.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Liminal Body

An exhibition that brings together a range of my interests - posthuman, Olympic, body modification. Seems it was from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

The Liminal Body
8 September - 15 October, 2000

Tue - Sun: 11.00am - 6.00pm
Galleries One and Two

Jon Baturin
Farrell & Parkin
Sue Fox
Dieter Huber
Bill Jacobson
Diana Thorneycroft

Curated by Alasdair Foster

At a time when the eyes of the world is glued to images of the body pressed to its athletic extreme, the Australian Centre for Photography presents an exhibition that explores other corporeal limits through the provocative and uncompromising work of seven photo-artists from Australia, Austria, Canada, UK and USA.

The Olympic Games play out the apollonian tradition of a healthy mind/spirit housed within, and finding physical representation through the fit healthy functioning body. As a political event the Olympics take this tradition and applies it to the state - the healthy body, striving for supremacy in the sporting arena becomes an emblem of state identity and a metaphor for spiritual (and political) wellbeing (if not ascendancy).

The Liminal Body explores the bacchic obverse of the apollonian Olympic paradigm - looking to other equally (perhaps more) human limits. The body on the brink of life/death; the dysfunctional body; the visceral reality of flesh and blood; the corporal as it shades into the spiritual; the sensate as it merges into the virtua

From medieval medical machinery to virtual 'genital modification'; from the cadaver to the spiritual; from the catharsis of nightmare to the control of meaning: The Liminal Body presents challenging work that imaginatively explores the limits of human bodily experience.

The Symposium Death Dysfunction and the Olympic Ideal further explored these issues.

One-Day Symposium
Death Dysfunction and The Olympic Ideal

A Symposium complementing the exhibition The Liminal Body presented by the Australian Centre for Photography and the University of New South Wales at the College of Fine Arts 9th September 2000

Lecture Theatre E block
University of New South Wales at the College of Fine Arts, Paddington
Enter off Selwyn Street


Set against the background of the Sydney Olympics and taking a radical and provocative alternative approach to physical extremity, this one-day symposium will explore the challenging issues raised by the work of the seven artists showing in the ACP exhibition The Liminal Body. With an international, cross-disciplinary panel of speakers, subjects addressed will range from Rabelais's Gargantua to postmodern health neuroses; from the mortician's slab to the priest's alter; from the visceral to the virtual.

Following the keynote presentation the day will be divided into three sessions:

* Malady and Viscerality
* Dissolution and Spirituality
* Phantasm and Virtuality



Dr. Kit Messham-Muir (Australia)
No Gold for Gargantua

My presentation will begin with a brief excerpt from the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald about a race involving Ian Thorpe and Michael Klim. The story reads like a piece of erotic fiction - it's very funny. Then I'll briefly talk about the way in which the City of Sydney itself is being promoted to the world as a classically ideal 'body' - which is efficient, pushed to its capacity, times and homogeneous - physically and psychologically. From that I'll lead into the classical tradition of this body and compare it with the more heterogeneous notions of the body in medieval culture as seen through the novels of François Rabelais. While the Western Enlightenment philosophy that followed reimposed a notion of the body more aligned with that of Classicism, this model of a problematised 'Rabelaisian' body has made something of resurgence with this faltering of grand narratives of modernity. I'll finish by looking briefly at the ways in which this notion of the body has been dealt with in recent art such as that of Andres Serrano, Patricia Piccinini, Adam Cullen (in his pre-Archibald career) and the artists showing in The Liminal Body.

Kit Messham-Muir is a lecturer in Art History and Theory at the College of Fine Arts, University of NSW. He has a PhD in Art History and Theory from the University of NSW and a Bachelor of Visual Arts first class from Sydney College of the Arts. He lectures on a wide range of cultural subjects including pornography, grunge and the loser aesthetic.

Session One: Malady and Viscerality

Jon Baturin (Canada)
Myths about Ends

Hope and the 'ideology of care' define my philosophic position. The ideas behind the works I produce arise from observations of a world in turmoil. We see the breakdown of systems or ideas (the body / philosophical ideologies / societal justice) through processes of corruption, negligence, or decay. There is also a dominant reference to bodily dysfunction throughout the work. Life sometimes deals us some cruel blows. In some cases we cease to be healthy. In others we cease to be idealistic. Most difficult of all - we (or those whom we love) live and die tragically. "Enemies Within" uses chaos and flesh. "The Myths cycle" acknowledges chaos, fear & flesh. The resulting combination of portraits, figures and medical imagery produces discomforting juxtapositions. However neither the subjects nor the anatomical representations are themselves unaesthetic. There is an unsettling kind of beauty. There is dignity. And there is hope.

Jon Baturin is an artist and Associate Professor and Program Director Photography & Explorations at York University, Canada. He has a Master of Fines Arts from Glasgow School of Art (Scotland), an advance diploma in photography and print media from the Emily Carr College of Art, Vancouver and a BA in psychology and sociology from the University of Victoria, Canada. He has exhibited widely overseas and curated a number of exhibitions in Canada and Europe. His critical writings have been published in North America and Europe.

Victoria Ryan (Australia)
The Art of Living Well: A Hypochondriac's Guide

In recent years the Olympic ideal of eternal youth has been given scientific credibility by futurists who argue that we will soon see the last mortal generation. In keeping with such predictions, utopian medical narratives no longer represent aging and death as inevitable, but as diseases to be cured, through technological intervention and the erasure of visible signs of degeneration. Thus, the 'art of living well' emerges in popular health advice as a series of (im)possible, strategies for cheating death and staying young.

Victoria Ryan is currently completing a PhD at the School of Art History and Theory, University of NSW at the College of Fines Arts (COFA) entitled The Anatomy Lesson: Photography, Eugenics and Physical Culture in Australia 1900-1950. She has worked as a lecturer and tutor at COFA since 1996. Her research interests include public health photography, medical illustration, popular health advice, organ transplants and aesthetic surgery.

Michael Wardell (Australia)
Ailment, argot, and artifice in the work of Farrell & Parkin

This talk will give a very brief outline of the development of Farrell & Parkin's work from Film Noir 1985 to Traces of the Flood 1999/2000. It will concentrate on the two themes that have dominated the work of the 1990's; that of secret language and that of sickness. It will discuss their extensive use of fiction and artifice to explore notions of strength/weakness, beauty/horror, sickness/health, benefaction/torture etc.

Curatorial Services Coordinator at the Art Gallery of New South Wales since 1998. Previously Director of Michael Wardell Gallery (13 Verity Street), 1986-97, a curator at The Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1978-1986 and at Monash University Gallery, Melbourne, 1976-1978. Farrell & Parkin were represented in Victoria by Michael Wardell Gallery 1994-97.

He has curated numerous exhibitions including Photography: The Last Ten Years. Australian National Gallery at Australian National University, 1980, Iskustvo: Recent Soviet Paintings, Linden Gallery & 13 Verity Street (followed by Regional tour) 1990 and (with Tony Bond) Ken Unsworth, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1998. He also curated the photography exhibition My City of Sydney, which is currently showing at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He has written numerous articles and catalogue essays including Farrell & Parkin: Black Room. Encontros Da Imagem. 10 Anos. Associação Cultural de Fotografia e Cinema de Braga. Portugal, 1996, and has lectured extensively throughout Australia.

Session Two: Dissolution and Spirituality

Rebecca Scott Bray (Australia)
Sensing Death: The chiaroscuro of touch in the mortuary photography of Sue Fox

This talk engages with the mortuary photography of British artist Sue Fox. Fox's images melt flashes of death and fragments of texture into a language for viewing death that is resonant with the artist's meditation and Buddhist faith. How long is our dying, how deep is our life? What questions are posed by the flesh: of the viewer, of the dead body? Moving these bodies into gallery spaces, and therefore public consideration, Sue Fox presents the viewer with an accumulation of decompositions. Here, photography releases the image as a chant, as the artist states "of what is, what was ... a song".

Rebecca Scott Bray is completing a PhD in the Department of Criminology at the University of Melbourne. She has a Master of Criminology from the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney and a BA with honours from the Australian National University. She has presented a number of papers on law, culture and the imagination at conferences in Australia, USA and UK.

Kirk Huffman (UK/USA)
Malakula and Kaggaba: The 'Living Dead' and the 'Dead Living'

This illustrated presentation will contrast the attitudes to death in two specific and far spread cultures: the people of southern Malakula Island in Vanuatu and the "last surviving pre-Colombian civilisation", the Kaggaba (also known as the Kogi) of Colombia. Based upon his research in Vanuatu from 1973 - 2000 and his trip to Colombia in 1992, Kirk Huffman will outline the attitudes to the body and to death in these two cultures, setting them against their individual cosmologies. The southern Malakulans believe that the dead live among them as 'travelling spirits'. They smoke the bodies of deceased males shortly after death and eventually over-model the skulls to honour the likenesses of the departed as a way of representing that closeness. The Kaggaba live high on a vast mountain in northern Colombia which they believe to be the heart of the world. Their whole social order is focused upon supporting their Sun Priests in their spiritual rites, which they believe sustain all life throughout the world. The Kaggaba believe that what we call 'life' is a form of death and that it is only when one passes from this world that one truly lives. Consequently when their priests reach the age of 90 years and their work is considered to be over, they can ask to be buried alive and so move into the new and more real life to which they aspire.

Kirk Huffman is an anthropologist/ethnologist and currently Visiting Fellow in the Anthropology Division of the Australian Museum. He was Curator at the National Museum of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, Vanuatu from 1977-89 and continues to hold that position in an honorary capacity. He studied Social Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistoric Archaeology at the Universities of Newcastle, Oxford and Cambridge in England from 1966-77 receiving a BA Hons in Anthropology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Ethnology. He has advised on the making of 36 anthropological television documentaries including David Attenborough's 'Man blong kastom' [BBC2/PBS 1975]. He was one of the authors and editors of Arts of Vanuatu [Crawford House Press 1996]. Mr Huffman will be leaving again for Vanuatu and Southern Malakula shortly after this lecture.

Alasdair Foster (Australia)
Songs of Sentient Beings

This presentation will trace the development of Bill Jacobson's work during the 90s, from the earlier works addressing his intense sense of loss as AIDS and HIV began to take friends and community from him [Interim Portraits] to the more resigned images of his later work [Thought Series]. I will go on to explore his attempt to create a visual equivalent for the fading of substance and the more hopeful evoking of a notion of the 'trace'.

Alasdair Foster is the director of the Australian Centre for Photography and the curator of The Liminal Body. He has a BSc in physics, history of science and modern theatre from the University of Edinburgh. He was the founding director of Fotofeis, the international biennale of photo-based arts in Scotland and curator of the seminal exhibition, Behold the Man that toured Europe and North America. He has a background in film, commercial and art photography, art criticism and publishing.

Session Three: Phantasm and Virtuality

Diana Thorneycroft (Canada)
The Body: Its Lesson and Camouflage

I work in total darkness. I lock the aperture of my camera open and using only a torch I illuminate my body, the props and environment I have prepared for each private performance. What is recorded on film is always a surprise as my body has a language of its own, a language that my conscious mind does not always speak let alone fully comprehend. My discussion will focus on the body, its expression of suffering and the darker aspects of the unconscious mind that have been fundamental to my work for many years.

Diana Thorneycroft is an artist and Adjunct Professor at the University of Manitoba, Canada. She has an MA in Art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a BA Hons in Fine Arts from the University of Manitoba. She has exhibited widely internationally and her work has featured in a number of documentaries on CBC TV.

Maurice Whelan (Australia)
Psychoanalysis and The Creative Imagination

This paper explores the need for self-representation through play, dreams, art and through emotional contact with fellow human beings. It will address the place of the creative imagination as a transformative agent within the practice of psychoanalysis. In exploring these ideas I will demonstrate how my thinking draws inspiration both from the psychoanalytic body of knowledge and from literature.

Maurice Whelan studied philosophy, theology and sociology in Ireland. He trained as a social worker in England and worked as a field social worker and as a psychiatric social worker in Child Guidance. He has an MA in Criminology and Social Policy. He trained as a psychoanalyst in London and is member of the British and Australian Psychoanalytic Societies. Since 1992 he has lived and worked in Sydney. His book Mistress of Her Own Thoughts was published in July by Rebus press.

Dieter Huber (Austria)
Body Unlimited

In his cycle KLONES (1994-1999) Dieter Huber worked on options for genetic engineering and questions of manipulation in general. In connection with social context, gender, political statement, technology and art history he developed metaphorical computer-aided images. In selected works the artist will illustrate his operating method and question the future of the human being in time of 'life sciences'.

Dieter Huber is an artist living and working in Salzburg, Austria. He studied stage and costume design at the Mozarteum University, Salzburg. He has exhibited regularly in Europe in over 25 solo and 40 group exhibitions and his work is the subject of several monographs.

Live Internet links to artist Sue Fox in the UK and Farrell & Parkin in China will further extend the discussion.

The Symposium will be formally launched by Little Johnny (formerly Pauline Pantsdown, aka Simon Hunt) taking time from his gruelling millennial Olympic program to bestow a prime ministerial blessing on the event "and perhaps a small apology".

Symposium coordinated by Alasdair Foster (ACP) and Lynne Roberts Goodwin and Peter McNeil (UNSW at COFA) Internet coordinator Ricky Cox

Image Credits:

• Dieter Huber, Klone #31, 1994-95
• Sue Fox, Untitled, 1997
• Diana Thorneycroft, Untitled (bridle), 1998
• Farrell & Parkin, After the Flood, 2000
• Jon Baturin, Enemies Within #2, 1992
• Bill Jacobson, Song of Sentient Beings #1612, 1995 Courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery, New York

link to site

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Posthuman law in the human world

details of a seminar due to take place on Tuesday 12 April, 2005
4-6pm, Venue: TBA, South Building, Coleraine Campus, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland

Professor Sandra Braman
Department of Communication, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


'Posthuman Law in the Human World'

The assumption that the law is made by humans for humans no longer
holds: Increasingly, the subject of policy is the information
infrastructure itself, machinic rather than social values play
ever-more important roles in decision-making, and laws and regulations
for human society are being supplemented, supplanted, and superceded by
machinic decision-making. The transformation of the legal system
wrought by such changes is so profound that it may be said that we are
entering a period of posthuman law. These trends are likely to be
exacerbated in future as ubiquitous embedded computing at the
nanotechnological level destroys any meaningful distinction between the
"information infrastructure" and the material environment. They will
in turn force reconsideration of distinctions among the "natural," the
"human," and the "machinic". And they raise quite new questions about
what it might mean to effectively participate in decision-making about
the conditions of our individual and social lives.


Sandra Braman has been studying the macro-level effects of the use of
digital technologies and their policy implications since the mid-1980s.
Current work includes Change of State: An Introduction to Information
Policy (in press, MIT Press) and the recent edited volumes
Communication Researchers and Policy-makers (2003, MIT Press), The
Emergent Global Information Policy Regime (2004, Palgrave Macmillan)
and The Meta-technologies of Information: Biotechnology and
Communication (2004, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates). With Ford
Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation support, Braman has been working
on problems associated with the effort to bring the research and
communication policy communities more closely together. She has
published over four dozen scholarly journal articles, book chapters,
and books; served as book review editor of the Journal of
Communication; and is former Chair of the Communication Law & Policy
Division of the International Communication Association. Braman
currently sits on the editorial boards of six scholarly journals; is a
Fulbright Senior Specialist; and has been appointed a fellow of the
Educause Center for Applied Research, a think tank focused on IT and
higher education. During 1997-1998 Braman designed and implemented the
first graduate-level program in telecommunication and information
policy on the African continent, for the University of South Africa.
Currently Professor of Communication at the University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Braman earned her PhD from the University of
Minnesota in 1988 and previously served as Reese Phifer Professor at
the University of Alabama, Henry Rutgers Research Fellow at Rutgers
University, Research Assistant Professor at the University of
Illinois-Urbana, and the Silha Fellow of Media Law and Ethics at the
University of Minnesota.

To attend contact:

Digital Media and Digital Culture Seminar Series
Centre for Media Research, University of Ulster
Coleraine Campus, Northern Ireland

For futher information, expressions of interest and inquiries, please

Ned Rossiter
Senior Lecturer in Media Studies (Digital Media)
Centre for Media Research
University of Ulster
Cromore Road
Northern Ireland
BT52 1SA

email: n.rossiter@ulster.ac.uk
tel.+44 (0)28 7032 3275

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Superhumans, Mutants and Monsters

Superhumans, Mutants and Monsters: Gene Doping, Bioethics and the Posthuman Game
University of Toronto, Canada, March 24, 2005.

I just got back from UoT, where i gave a presentation by this title. I wanted to talk a bit about how posthumanism is evolving as a body of literature and how it relates to competing ideas on transhumanism and cyborgology.

It always suprises me (pleasantly) at how different people approach this subject. The cover of GMA has written the content for many of my talks on this subject. This week conversations got into the subject of 'feline' modifications and the possible colonial interpretations of enhancement. For example, could we think about the discourse of posthumanism as similar to how people of certain races might have been characterised as savage or Other? Alternatively, does the morphed human with cheetah tell us anything about the gendered nature of enhancement? What kind of animal would we like to look more like and what does thi reveal about our values and assumptions about beauty?

Interesting lines i think. If you want to take a look at the presentation, click here

(sorry if you read this on Bioethics and Sport, but sometimes there is valuable overlap!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Culture Machine 2005 - Biopolitics


Contents to the 2005 volume:


Edited by
Melinda Cooper, Andrew Goffey and Anna Munster

Biopolitics, For Now

Eugene Thacker
Nomos, Nosos and Bios

Hannah Landecker
Living Differently in Time: Plasticity, Temporality and Cellular Biotechnologies

Biopolitics and Connective Mutation

Kane Race
Recreational States: Drugs and the Sovereignty of Consumption

Julian Reid with Keith Farquhar
Immanent War, Immaterial Terror...

Luciana Parisi and Steve Goodman
The Affect of Nanoterror

Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts
Big Pigs, Small Wings: On Genohype and Artistic Autonomy

Anna Munster
Why Is Bioart Not Terrorism?: Some Critical Nodes in the Networks of Informatic Life

Andrew Murphie
Differential Life, Perception and the Nervous Elements: Whitehead, Bergson and Virno on the Technics of Living

Maria Hynes
Rethinking Reductionism

Monday, March 07, 2005

Biosemiotics: the new challenge


Biosemiotics: the new challenge
23 March 2005

Biosemiotics has been responsible for the acceleration of semiotics’ impetus in the last decade.

Biosemiotics promises to transform biology; it poses a challenge to aspects of Darwinian orthodoxy; it re-orientates the study of the sign; and, arguably above all, it precipitates a major re-thinking of the human subject.

‘Biosemiotics: the new challenge’ is a one-day international symposium run
by the Communications and Subjectivity Research Group at London Metropolitan University in conjunction with the journal, Subject Matters. It is the first event of its kind in Britain to be devoted exclusively to biosemiotics.

The symposium will feature the molecular biologist, Jesper Hoffmeyer (Denmark), the cybernetician, Søren Brier (Denmark) and, from botany, the semiotician, Kalevi Kull (Estonia). Each will deliver papers aimed at a humanities audience addressing, in particular, biosemiotics’ consequences for the theory of the subject.

Price of entry to the symposium: £18-00.

To book or gain further information, email

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Hybrid Identities in Digital Media

Call for papers...

Hybrid Identities in Digital Media
Vol 11, no 4, Winter 2005

Digital bodies, virtual characters, man-machine hybrids, simulated 'humans', androids, and cyborgs

Guest-edited by Kerstin Mey and Yvonne Spielmann

The focus of the special issue:

While digitally constructed identities have entered the popular media environment through fiction film, television, and computer games, where they have homogenising effects on the viewer/user that do not encourage them to question or critically look at the cultural concept of 'hybridity', we find that in experimental fields of creative practices (arts, youth cultures, and other groups) the challenge lies in the articulation of individual features that are appropriate to specific needs and express – through diversity – reflections on the hybrid, increasingly interactive and virtual production in digital media. The common interest here seems to lie in the expression of virtual selves that abandon the pre-fabricated products of cinema, television, computer games, and so on.

We encourage a discussion of the following: In what way does the construction of hybrid identities in digital media arts and cultural practices have an effect on:

* new role models (of behaviour, action)
* innovative ways of identification (participation, interaction, communication)
* new ways of collaborative experience (through multiple user interfaces, MUDs)
* novel ways of self-reflection (of role models, ethic/gender/social patterns)
* new ways of self-representation (public/private spaces).

Copy deadline for refereed research articles: 1 April 2005

All proposals, inquiries and submissions for this special issue to:

Yvonne Spielmann
Braunschweig School of Art
Institute of Media Research
Johannes-Selenka-Platz 1
38118 Braunschweig
tel: +49 (0)531 2810728
fax: +49 (0)531 2810713
email: spielmann@medien-peb.uni-siegen.de

Kerstin Mey
School of Art and Design
University of Belfast
York Street
Belfast BT15 1ED
Northern Ireland, UK
tel: +44 (0)28 9026 7258
fax: +44 (0)28 9026 7310
email: k.mey@ulster.ac.uk

Submission details: Two hard copies and one electronic copy (Macintosh Word compatible) of all articles should be sent to the guest editors with the following information attached separately: name, institution and address for correspondence, telephone, fax and email address. Papers should be typed on one side of the sheet with endnotes in accordance with the MLA style sheet. Authors should also enclose a 50 word biography and an abstract.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Public Autopsy

Miah, A. (2004). "The Public Autopsy: Somewhere Between Art, Education and Entertainment." Journal of Medical Ethics 30: 576-579.

Miah, A. (2003). "Dead Bodies for the Masses: The British Public Autopsy & the Aftermath" CTHEORY E119

In November 2002, Gunter von Hagens conducted a public autopsy in London, UK. Legally, it was all a bit suspect, but it was a fascinating event. This media moment took place soon after von Hagens had exhibited his plastinated bodies in the UK.

Since then, he has presented a series of programmes on UK TV called 'Anatomy for Beginners', which was considerably more professional and valuable, as an indication of what medicine does. However, the entire process relies on his technological method of plastination, so identifying the realness of the process is no easy task.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Cyborg Bodies and Digitized Desire

Jennifer Attaway's analysis of posthumanism in Philip K Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' brings into question the concept of human identity. The article is specifically about AI and spends a lot of time reviewing Dick's story, but does get into ideas about free will and desire. Attway claims that 'the technologically and ideologically mediated experiences of humans have diluted their desire to a point that there is no such thing as indivdual expression of desire'

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Posthuman Podiums

Butryn, T. M. (2003). "Posthuman Podiums: Cyborg Narratives of Elite Track and Field Athletes." Sociology of Sport Journal 20: 17-39.

Butryn's empirical work on technological narratives is unique. He spends time investigating how athletes articulate their relationship to technology and, while in many instances, they speak about technology as being seamless from the natural sporting body, when it comes to 'body' modification, the distinctions are much clearer. Using performance enhnacements are described by these athletes as contrary to the personal integrity of their performances, though one might beg the question as to whether these views would persist, if it were not for the moral rhetoric that surrounds them.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Prozac and the Post-human Politics of Cyborgs

Lewis, B. E. (2003). "Prozac and the Post-human Politics of Cyborgs." Journal of Medical Humanities 24(1/2): 49-63.

Prozac has featured in a number of discussions about posthumanism. Along with a range of other psychopharmcological substances, it is described by many as transforming the social role of medicine. Here, Lewis discusses Donna Haraway's cyborg theory in the context of this drug that alleges to make us better than well.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life

Kember, S. (2003). Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life. London and New York, Routledge.

Kember's work marks a new relationship between the study and theory of technological cultures. ALife signals a shift towards a fresh way of conceptualising the salient characteristics of humanness.

Saturday, January 15, 2000

Gene Cheats

Aschwanden, C. (2000). Gene Cheats. New Scientist. 2221: 24-29.

Christie Aschwanden's article on genetic enhancement for sport is the first mainstream publication on this subject. It has become first of many articles about gene doping in the mass media, but remains one of the most thorough explorations of the issue.

Friday, January 15, 1999

Implantable Brain Chips

Maguire Jr, G. Q. and E. M. McGee (1999). "Implantable Brain Chips? Time for Debate." Hastings Center Report 29(1): 7-14.

Maguire and McGee review a number of prospects for brain/sensory modification, drawing on the current 'cyborg' Steve Mann.

They make the case for a serious consideration of sci-fi prospects in bioethics, a worthy view. Their moral debate recounts what might be characterised as standard objections to technological enhancement: the oppositional natural/technological natures of humanity,concerns about bodily integrity and the sanctity of life, distinctions between therapy and enhancement, safety, risks, social consequences, costs, equity.

It would probably have been useful to pursue some of the narratives of the sci-fi that they mention at the beginning. This could assist in understanding how we frame possible futures and how they relate to our (jeopardised) sense of moral agency, which is central to many stories about technology 'out of control'.