Dec 01 2010

Sharon Boyd

Essay Topic

Posted at 10:44 am under Essay

Soil, Soul and Society: the Responsibility of Being Posthuman

Our readings from weeks 8-10 raised the same issues of what it means to be “posthuman”, and we noticed that responsibility (to other humans, other creatures, other “things”, our planet, ourselves) and awareness of that responsibility are key factors in the debate.

Throughout this course, I have been swirling around the dualism shown in my original artefact – the greenwoman/machine hybrid – and each week added a new layer to that until it’s now positively geologic! I was concerned for a while that I wasn’t moving beyond this, but now I wonder if I was, in fact, coming full circle – at least as much as I could manage anyway :)

The problem lay in trying to decide *what* to do, nevermind how to do it. How to take a subject so huge, with so many tantilising sideroads I could travel down so easily? I was finding it hard to tie myself down to one clear route. Angus et al.’s (2001) paper from last week (A Manifesto for Cyborg Pedagogy) made me smile, as I could see I was having the same problems as Geoff with his cup of coffee.


Image copyright by Martin Liebermann/zeitspuren

I’m dipping in and out of Davis’ Techgnosis at the moment, but also reading Alastair McIntosh’s Rekindling Community: Connecting People, Environment and Spirituality. It was from this that I got my title, as I love the triune of terms – very Celtic :)


Further inspiration and confirmation arrived on Sunday with an interview with Margaret Atwood – her blending of science and literature echoes the work we have been reading and the thoughts I have been having. Likewise, she blends a dystopian vision (reminiscent of James Lovelock’s Gaia theories) with a determiniation not to let that prevent her from becoming involved in “good causes” – supporting the connections in her life.

In my essay, I will discuss this connection of being, knowing and doing in connection with each other and the land, in part as a reflection of what it means to be a “responsible posthuman”, and in part as an examination of ways in which we can become more active and how the web supports, facilitates and perhaps also acts as a barrier to this action. That sounds very clear and confident when I read it back, but I’m not really. Like everything on the MSc though, I find that when I throw myself into it, the “doing” teaches as I go.

I was intending to follow James’ example and use Issuu, but I’ve changed my mind and decided to use Blogger – mainly because that means that, whatever happens to this blog in the future, the essay will “stay with me”, if that makes sense? I’m also pondering a build in Second Life, and again creating the essay in Blogger will allow me to pull links from the blog into the build and vice versa – suitably weaving as appropriate.

I still have to figure out my criteria – that’s always the hardest part for me!

Any ideas, suggestions, tweaks and questions are very welcome :)

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Essay Topic”

  1.   Jen Rosson 02 Dec 2010 at 10:54 am 1

    hi Sharon – I like your ideas a lot, and the figure from your week 1 artefact makes me wonder if a way to narrow this topic down would be to conduct something of an auto-ethnography – to try to situate yourself (as you did in block 1) in the context of responsible posthumanism. That might feel too personal, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t be thoroughly scholarly as well. Another way to think about this would be to look for a single big idea that you want to work critically with – not that you need to embrace wholeheartedly, but that you could use as the ’spine’ (as Sian calls it – back to the body!) of the paper, bringing in other literature as needed.

    Just a final point – it’s fine to construe ‘learning’ and/or ‘e-learning’ quite broadly, but don’t forget about that angle!

    Hope that’s a bit helpful – good luck with it. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

  2.   Sharon Boydon 02 Dec 2010 at 8:57 pm 2

    Thank you so much Jen! I just read back through my original post and thought – sensible girl, Sharon, you never mentioned *anything* about learning!

    I’m conscious that we all learn best when we’re working on/engaged with something that really excites us. I’m also aware that too much time “plugged in” and separated from the wild world does nobody any favours, physically or psychologically, and yet many people of all ages spend more time online than outside. How to bring the two together for the benefit of us all?

    In our first email about the essay, you had asked if I was going to explore political activism. I was thinking about environmental activism and the potential to get students engaged in not only thinking about it, but also actively making a change – a change in their lives, a feeling that they can bring positive change to their community, and to the wider world as part of an active online community (and what that means). The awareness of connection as being important, as per Angus et al.’s article.

    The key for me is not the distinction between off- and online, but rather how the two acting together can bring about effective change. How we need to accept our posthuman responsibility and combine thinking, talking and doing.

    So I was going to look in part at different ways that this could be encouraged or guided in students, but got carried away and forgot to mention it in my first post. Does it have essay back-building potential, do you think? Is it too huge? Feel free to tell me I’m off my rocker :) – “calm down dear” I believe might be the appropriate phrase.

    All that said, you’ve now made me stop and think “whoaw! auto-ethnography would fit nicely with a blog” – I’m fine with it being personal, that’s not a worry, but I’m going to go and have another think :)

  3.   Alison Johnsonon 03 Dec 2010 at 9:22 am 3

    Hi Sharon

    I cant contribute anything concrete to help at the moment but just thought I would say – love the title you have selected and have you changed you header picture to reflect the weather and season?

    I too am ‘factoring’ my own experience in a little to my essay in terms of harnessing my creativity (or finding it in the first place) and think your own auto-ethnography would reflect the issues in a very personally captivating way for others – more so than comment or general ‘objective observation. Then we have found, I think on this course that there is no such thing as an ‘objective’ view anyway!

  4.   Sharon Boydon 05 Dec 2010 at 12:56 pm 4

    Hiya Alison,

    Thank you :) – and I can’t take credit for the title, it is something I picked up from Alastair McIntosh, who in turn gathered it in himself from a colleague.

    I did change the header picture! I’ve spent a week working from home on a dodgy internet connection, have had a chunk of the plants in my garden crushed in roof-top avalanches, but yet I do love a snowy day! That was a picture taken from the carpark at the vet school last winter and I just felt I needed to change the standard banner this week :)

    I’ve spent this week trying to find my creativity too – so I can empathise with that feeling. I’m still working around the edges of the auto-ethnography – I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out myself :)

    And I totally agree with you – there is no such thing as an ‘objective’ view – no matter how we try!

  5.   Jen Rosson 06 Dec 2010 at 2:26 pm 5

    I think it sounds great, Sharon – you’ll figure out how to narrow it down if necessary, and the environmental activism/education angle answers the learning question!

  6.   Alison Johnsonon 07 Dec 2010 at 9:57 pm 6

    Hi Sharon,

    in several of your posts you comment on jumping in and learning as you go, despite being a bit hesitant or unsure of what you should be doing. This captures the discomfort and disorientation of this course nicely. Do you mind if I draw upon some of these comments in relation to my discomfort and creativity assignment?

  7.   Sharon Boydon 08 Dec 2010 at 7:56 pm 7

    @Jen – thank you, that makes me feel more confident too :)

    @Alison – you’re very welcome to take anything that will help you – it’s lovely to think it is helping you and feel free to fire through any questions if you need more info :)

  8.   Alisonon 10 Dec 2010 at 8:41 am 8

    Many thanks sharon – I need to get my head together – its stuffed at the minute but will no doubt come back. :-)

  9.   Sharon Boydon 11 Dec 2010 at 3:05 pm 9

    You’re very, very welcome Alison – anything to add to your brilliantly creative thoughts :)

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