Transhumanism in Arts and Expression
This module focuses on transhumanism in new media, art and expression. Transhumanism looks at how technological breakthroughs might radically redefine what it means to be human. Transhumanist themes focus on efforts to overcome or negate the factors that constrain the human condition in its materialistic forms, including aging, sickness, and mortality. Cyborgs, artificial enhancements, and super intelligent machines are all central to the Transhumanist project.
In this module, we'll look at how Transhumanist themes manifest themselves in a variety of expressive practices, from solitary art installations to blockbuster Hollywood movies. We'll examine what Transhumanism has to say about our relationship to technology, and what it means to be human in an increasingly digital world.
Module Level: Introductory - requires no prior knowledge.
By the end of the module students will be able to:
- express a nuanced understanding of the humanities by comparing and contrasting arguments made by humanists, post-humanists, and transhumanists;
- identify and critically assess the polemics of cyber-utopianism, technological determinism, and religion in discussions about technology and the human condition;
- make judgments related to the ways in which an emerging technology (e.g., wearables or embedded technologies) may lead to new conceptions of human identities;
- propose an artistic, scientific, or entrepreneurial project that challenges our assumptions about the human condition.
Suggested Learning Activities and Assignments
Discussion board posts: Students will write two posts on the course forum (150-200 words each) reflecting on the concepts learned in the lectures and readings. Students will be provided with a list of questions to respond to.
Research a Transhumanist Artist: Students will research a Transhumanist artist and write a brief report describing the artist’s work, including how they incorporate Transhumanist themes.
Wearables Mashup: This online, interactive exercise gets students to build their own wearable system. Students will choose a base (glasses, jacket, or internal human body) and add both existing and speculative components to create a Transhumanist wearable. In addition to the interactive exercise, students will also provide a written rationale explaining a) how their wearable incorporates Transhumanist themes, and b) why this wearable might be useful.
Marketing Presentation: Students will form groups of 3-5 and produce a marketing campaign for one of the wearables created via the interactive exercise described above. This project can take a variety of forms, including a poster, radio ad, television ad, or jingle. Students must then present their wearable and marketing campaign to the class, either online or in person.
Dr. Jason Hawreliak is an assistant professor of game studies at Brock University’s Centre for Digital Humanities. His research examines the cultural, social, and psychological functions of interactive media, as well as their role in persuasive discourses. He is also interested in maker culture and project-based pedagogy.