Consciousness of exclusion through naming is acute. Identities seem contradictory, partial and strategic. With the hard-won recognition of their social and historical constitution, gender, race, and class cannot provide the basis for belief in “essential” unity. . . . Gender, race, or class consciousness is an achievement forced on us by terrible historical experience of the contradictory social realities of patriarchy, colonialism, racism, and capitalism. (Haraway 197)

But, I believe, that we need to sort out who we really are. Put differently, we need to dissolve the false “we” I have been using into its real multiplicity and variety and out of this concrete multiplicity build an account of the world as seen from the margins, and account which can expose the falseness of the view from the top and can transform the margins as well as the center. (Hartsock 171)

The posthuman construction, according to N. Katherine Hayles, is not a new one. Nor is it one necessarily dependent on technology. According to Hayles, the posthuman privileges information over its embodiment, “so that embodiment in a biological substrate is seen as an accident of history rather than an inevitability of life” (2). Similar to the medieval Christian privileging of the soul over the body, the posthuman sees the consciousness as superior to its embodiment. The danger here, Hayles continues, is the refusal to consider the importance of embodiment and its role in constructing consciousness.


Hayles states that access has replaced notions of possession in the posthuman. While the latter may be wound up in the economic terms of haves and have-nots, access, she suggests, “implies pattern recognition” rather than ownership (39). Access, in this posthuman sense, is knowing the codes, pressing the right buttons to achieve a desired effect.

The latest film by Larry and Andy Wachowski, The Matrix, combines metaphysical speculation and cyberpunk realities in a posthuman vision of the world where consciousness is separate from the flesh. In The Matrix, the world, as the audience understands it, is literal simulacra. Like an advanced MOO, the matrix emprisions the consciousness of humanity in a computer program the simulates the turn of a millenium that never was. “Reality” is a post-apocalyptic nightmare ruled by machines that are powered by the natural electromagnetic energy generated my millions of human bodies. These human batteries, literally plugged-in, exist physically in gel-filled husks, but their consciousnesses live within the matrix; the illusion of life for the humans within the matrix keeps the machines’ reality functioning and the humans subservient.

Neo, the hacker protagonist not privy to the knowledge of the matrix at the beginning of the film, eventually gains access to reality through the intervention of a group of rebels who have, one way or another, gotten free of the matrix. This is both a freedom of the mind as well as the body. These rebels manage to literally unplug themselves from a zombie-like existence with the matrix, then choose to re-enter it in order to resist the machines and emancipate humanity. In this posthuman world, access is key.

Much science fiction, like The Matrix, contains glimpses, or new ways of seeing the world. Haraway posits that many SF writers create a much-needed “cyborg imagery” that resists a unified voice through “powerful infidel heteroglossia” (223). These writers suggest a new vocabulary for ordering a world in flux; they access a new language of becoming: where humanity’s technology could lead. These visions are sometimes utopian and sometimes terrifying. We do not have to wait for the future to encounter posthuman examples of the latter.

Julian Dibbell’s account of “A Rape in Cyberspace,” explores a breakdown between action and word in a text-driven VR, LambdaMOO. This issue, then, becomes one of access. Mr. Bungle knew the codes to influence the actions of his VR environment, causing a virtual rape with the help of his voodoo doll, a program Bungle wrote. Here, the coding that influences the reality of this virtual world is controlled by those who have access to it; i.e., like Hayles suggests, power becomes a question of access rather than sex, gender, race, or class (39).


4/29/99 - gerald/r/lucas