Transhumanism and Posthumanism Research Essay

For ASTU100, I wrote a research essay on the transhuman and posthuman identities observed in the novel Frankenstein.

This research essay was written for the Media Studies course ASTU100 (Remediation).

Project aim: Posthumanism (and its subgenre transhumanism) are relatively new topics in academic discourse, which is why they are often confused terms when they actually define very different conditions. My essay attempts to distinguish them through the novel Frankenstein and orchestrating scholarly articles in scientific and theoretical fields.

Why did I choose this project?

After my introduction to computer programming, I became interested in the philosophical discourse of how machine and humans differed and converged, and the concept of the posthuman, a hypothetical human being who loses ontological distinction from machines, addressed exactly this question. However, when I delved into this topic, I realized that the term was often used interchangeable with "transhuman" (a human with technological enhancements). I decided to clarify this confusion of terms through this essay.

Skills used and Challenges:

  • Research: The planning of this essay exercised my research skills a lot because I was trying to clarify something that, even in dominant academic discourse which I was referencing, was easily confused.
    • Challenge--Definition of Terms: Many of the scholarly articles I found had different or even clashing definitions of the same terms due to how new this discourse was. To solve this issue, I limited the research discipline to Science Studies to have a more focussed definition.
    • Challenge--Conflated Terms: Another problem of conflation was "posthuman" with "posthumanism" and "transhuman" with "transhumanism" when these were actually different (but not unrelated) subjects. Throughout this process I learned to make use of library Advanced Search fields in order to limit my scope of research, which led in much more relevant search results.

  • Communication: Because my essay centered around distinguishing two very similar terms that used the same words in their descriptions ("futuristic", "technological", "advanced" etc), I was particularly exercising my ability to communicate and had to become familiar with jargon from that particular field of discourse in order to concisely point out differences.

Final outcomes:

Research Essay Final Version (Emily K)

Research question: How does Frankenstein’s creature, as a realized form of human transcendence, facilitate the distinction between theoretically-rendered transhuman and posthuman conditions?

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Learning Significance

  1. Human and Machine (What marks the difference between humans and parts being put together to work as a machine?):
    From my essay, it appeared that the most characterizing difference is the change in Ontological Existence, because it does not just mean losing a singular physical body, but also losing the psyche attributes of a singular body, such as the will to survive and life motivation.

    Morals and Ethics (Futuristic Society):
    Reflecting on the mistreatment of Frankenstein's creature as an analogy of the transhuman subject made me realize that the moral and ethical issues outlined in the novel could very well happen in real life with the current advent of human technological development, such as AI. This made me more conscious of the current societal attitudes held towards scientific innovations, and problems that may develop in the future as a result.

    Conventions of academic discourse:
    This topic was particularly new in comparison to scholarly works I had cited in the past. for other essays The "newness" of this discourse made me realize that the beginning conversations of academic topics quite naturally have a lot of conflicting views--the whole point of orchestrating scholars is to come to certain consensus about what certain terms and ideas mean, and I am glad to have participated in the process.