Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Bypassing the middle, skipping to the end

In December 2012 I got the great news that I'd been awarded a scholarship to study my PhD full-time. Although the part-time study worked well for me at first, I'd reached a point where just grabbing a few hours here and there to devote to my research wasn't working. I'd start gathering ideas and pursuing a line of thought and bang - it'd be back to the day job. This meant I couldn't really bring my thoughts and ideas together, and I felt I was doing a lot of stopping and starting.

I had a few things to sort out but finally the time has arrived that I can get stuck into my PhD as a full-time student. I'm all too aware of how fast time can pass, though, so I'm determined to make sure I don't waste any time. (Ok, there may be the odd half hour here & there devoted to watching soap operas). So today I've organised my desk, done up a new project plan and set up a 'ideas board' on my wall (basically a bit piece of cardboard that will eventually be covered with sticky notes).

My PhD is creative-practice led, and the manuscript is well under control. So the next few months are all about trying to work out 'what it all means'. According to my ideas board, the four main ideas/themes underpinning my work are:

  • neuroscience
  • carnivale and the grotesque
  • post/transhumanism
  • belonging
My job is to somehow bring the threads of these themes together in a coherent way in a 30,000 word exegesis that supports/expands upon my creative practice (a 65,000 word manuscript). I've done a lot of reading on neuroscience, waded my way through Bahktin's Rabelais and his World, got a basic grip on the grotesque but I'm still trying to get my head around posthumanism/transhumanism. So, for the next few weeks at least, that's where I'll focus my reading.

I started off today with reading the final chapter of Katherine Hayles' How We Became Posthuman and was intrigued by some of the arguments/ideas she put forward. I particularly liked the idea that the posthuman is not necessarily apocalyptic, and that "...we can craft others that will be conducive to the long-range survival of humans and of the other life-forms, biological and artificial, with whom we share the planet and ourselves."

If there are any must-reads people can recommend on posthumanism and transhumanism, I'd really appreciate it if you let me know about them.