Brooke, “Forgetting to be (Post)Human”

Collin Gifford. "Forgetting to be (Post)Human: Media and Memory
in a Kairotic Age." JAC 20.4 (Fall 2000): 775-95.

Rather than lumping posthumanism with the other post-isms, Brooke
draws on frameworks pursued by Hayles in How We Became Posthuman
and Latour in We Have Never Been Modern as a way to resolve
rhetoric’s exceptional role in patching the nature/culture rift (Hayles’
corollary, "we have always been posthuman" catalyzes this path of
inquiry). Rhetoric, a "posthuman rhetoric" according to Brooke, is
repositioned in the space of Latour’s hybrids. Turning next to ancient
, Brooke points to Gorgias as one whose rhetoric enacted the
imbroglio that resisted the polarization toward designations of artificial and
natural. Like the Gordian knot Latour wishes for us to re-tie (it was unraveled
by modernist purification), the Gorgian knot suggested by Brooke
draws on posthumanism to furnish a both/and compromise that, rather than viewing
memory as natural (as in orality; see Plato) or artificial (as in
writing, electracy, secondary orality [?]), instead views it as doubly
applicable to our "hypermediated society" (788). In other words, posthuman
rhetoric would keep us cognizant of the error involved in tipping too far toward
either a presumption of memory’s naturalness (truth in mediation, such as Rodney
King film footage segmented into individual images) or its artificiality (the
rhetoric of antirhetoric). Brooke uses the counterparts of kairos
and chronos to explain that the disembodiment of information
(e.g., w/ King and the Challenger explosion) should call back into question the
material manipulation of media that taken to be natural.

Key terms: hermeneuts of suspicion (776), convergence (776), Hayles’
semiotics of virtuality (777), novelty (778), biotechnology (782), Gorgian knot
(783), Valesio’s rhetoric of antirhetoric (784), mimesis (785), Ong’s secondary
orality (787), Ulmer’s electracy (787), discursive ecology (787), chronos and
kairos (790), posthuman rhetoric (791).

"Bailiff’s citation of both the postmodern and the posthuman, however, marks
a distinction I want to pursue in the first part of this essay by claiming that
the posthuman is not simply the latest in our academic procession of
. In the first section I turn to the work of Katherine Hayles and
Bruno Latour in an effort to articulate a space for posthumanism that is
from the modern/postmodern complex" (776).

"I transpose Hayles’ own ‘semiotics of virtuality‘ to the field of
, suggesting that the revision of memory that results may
provide us with our best hope for tempering the will to knowledge that is
one of our modernist legacies, an inheritance that has been intensified with
recent advances in technology" (778).

"In fact, the network of relations among speaking and being spoken,
nature and culture, and agency and determinism might seem to us the very sort of
Gordian knot Latour seeks to retie" (783).

"From its inception, rhetoric does not claim to be anything but
; indeed, it is its artificiality that renders it transferable
and teachable" (784).

"After Plato, rhetoric is an artificial construct, one that encourages
us to conceive of our relationship to language as one of production and
" (784). ^Valesio’s rhetoric of antirhetoric.

"Whether or not the shift from orality to literacy carries with it a
corresponding change in mental faculties, it has a radical effect on the
in which we think and act, which amounts to the
same thing, according to Edwin Hutchins. Hayles glosses Hutchins’ point: ‘Modern
humans are capable of more sophisticated cognition than cavemen not because
moderns are smarter…but because they have constructed smarter environments
in which to work’ (289)" (786).

"As our memories and technologies have become more artificial,
they have done so only as far as they circle back and approach the appearance
of the natural" (787).

"We must reconceive the canon of memory, complicating the binary that
Plato provides and reopening a space within our hypermediated rhetoric for the
recognition of experience" (790).

"Why a postmodern rhetoric might privilege kairos over chronos,
a posthuman rhetoric would find room for both" (791).

"As our technologies tempt us with the possibility of absolute
(patterned) knowledge via the purified technologies of mediation
(absence), a posthuman rhetoric would require us to temper that possibility with
the materially situated emergence (presence) or opportunities
(randomness)" (791).

Related sources:
Hutchins, Edwin. Cognition in the Wild. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1995.
Valesio, Paolo. Novantiqua: Rhetorics as a Contemporary Theory.
Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1980.