S(a)LSA: Atlanta, GA

I’m back to post about another incredible and fulfilling Society for Literature, Science and the Arts conference (SLSA), this time at the Westin Peachtree hotel in downtown Atlanta, GA! I attended this conference in early November, and it certainly lived up to the high expectations set at the last meeting in Houston, TX. This year marked the 30 year anniversary of SLSA, and the theme was “Creativity.”

This conference felt less geared towards the intersections between bio-medical research and technology from a humanities perspective, which was largely what attracted me to the society in the first place in 2015. This year was different, but still enjoyable, as I was able to delve more deeply into VR research and the body from a more critically anthropocentric standpoint, as “anthropocene” seemed to be the focus of many panels. Anyways, here’s an abstract of the lecture I gave:

Posthuman Bodies: Creation Through Augmented Synchronization

In Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, Francis Fukuyama regards the posthuman as an altered version of humanity shaped by transhumanist ends, and suggests that engaging with the world through technology threatens an end to humanity. My research focuses on the social and cultural stigmas surrounding our increased dependence on devices that turn us into observers looking at the world from a distance, desynchronized from our bodies and withdrawn from our immediate presence (Romanshynyn). Despite their popularity, virtual reality devices are criticized as mechanisms of disembodiment, but have inspired the creation of more ubiquitous, unobtrusive heads-up displays that merge digital information with the physical world. While VR devices occlude sight, my work focuses on augmented reality (AR) devices that enhance visualizations of environments rather than replace them. I regard AR as “a form of virtual reality where the participant’s head-mounted display is transparent, allowing a clear view of the real world” (Milgram et al). In this paper, I explore the potential of new devices such as CastAR, Meta, Vuzix M-100 and others to argue that wearable technology can aid in the creation of hybrid spaces and expand boundaries of the body through technological prosthesis. I see humans as inherently technological beings, not through the merging of flesh and wires, but as posthuman entities (Haraway; Braidotti) that re-define the notion of “being there” through intentional technological mediation. Through an analysis of reality-augmentation technologies, I show how we can enhance our situated-ness in hybridized environments of our own making.

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