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Should we read the platform in post-human terms?

To elevate _the platform_ in this way can easily be read in post-human terms, building analysis around inhuman agents which in an important sense act behind the back of our familiar human subjects. This would be a reading in keeping with the theoretical mood of the times where, as theorist of the post humanities Rosi Braidotti (2013: 2) puts it, “Discourses and representations of the non-human, the inhuman, the anti-human, the inhumane and the posthuman proliferate and overlap in our globalised, technologically mediated societies”. While we share Braidotti’s (2013: 4) sense of what “the task of critical theorists should be in the world today, namely, to provide adequate presentations of our situated historical location”, it is nonetheless our conviction that this ambition needs to be detached from the framing of the _posthumanities_: we accept the notion of a post human condition in the broader sense while rejecting the valorisation of _posthumanism_ and maintaining that breathless invocations of the post human constituted a form of epochal theorising which obscure continuities and rob us of precisely the social coordinates which they originally intended to provide (Savage 2010, Al-Amoudi and Morgan 2018). These frameworks too easily end up as the mirror image of the neo-empiricism which theorists like Braidotti righty bemoan, tacitly accepting the eviscerated humanity on which the behavioural apparatus of planetary scale computation is predicated (Bratton 2017, Carrigan 2018).

If we see the partial humanism of the liberal enlightenment as a cultural project to be resisted, rightly charged with providing the intellectual framework for imperialism and Eurocentrism, why would we not treat other cultural projects of human representation with the same scepticism? As Braidotti (2013: 27) writes of humanism, it “is neither an ideal nor an objective statistical average or middle ground” but rather “a systematised standard of recognisability – of Sameness – by which all others can be assessed, regulated and allotted to a designated social location”. Can we not see a comparable arrogance and enforced standardised in the post-human? When modernity’s crimes are unpicked with such epistemological sophistication then why are the “challenge presented by contemporary technology-driven global economies” so easily hypostasised (Braidotti 2013: 38)? Our claim is not so much that these are wrong as that there is something about the theoretical edifice of the post humanities, as an animating and animated vector of inquiry at a time when critical theory trends towards exhaustion, which fails to grasp the specificity of the present in its enthusiastic repudiation of the past. There has indeed a significant change underway in the conditions of human life but if we too quickly dispense with the category of the human then it becomes difficult to understand how and why platforms operate the way they do, leaving us confined to merely noting their operation as a challenge to a conception of the human which we are not sure all that many people really hold.

Categories: Pre 2020 reading notes

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