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Becoming Objects: IoT, the Archive, and the Transformation of the Human

  • Author(s): Seberger, John Sidney
  • Advisor(s): Bowker, Geoffrey C.
  • et al.

The human is transforming; the human is being transformed. This dissertation approaches the transformation of the human via the lenses of phenomenology, historiography, and media and critical theory, in order to identify the ontological status of the human transformed. It addresses and theorizes: (1) the transitional status of the human as subject-object chimera in terms of the emerging category of things that populate the Internet of Things (IoT); (2) the historiographical and epistemological assumptions of a post-IoT archive and their impacts on what it will mean to say, ‘I am human.’ Through the realization of the future-oriented imaginary of IoT, the human will know itself as a construction of objectivist reductionism: they will become objects.

1. Things are a gathering. The transformation of the human will occur, in part, as a result of a reconstellation of the subjects and objects that gather to produce things in the IoT: an n-adic mode of thinging. The evidenced reconstellation and expansion of the subject-object dyad that comprises the thing implies an ontological shift: the membrane that once separated the biune categories of subject and object expands to create a liminal space in which subject-object chimeras emerge. The biune becomes triune. The result is a human that knows itself as a subjectivity through the reductionist dissociation of objectivist, data-driven information extraction.

2. The rise of the subject-object chimera implies an archival duplication; it evidences widespread discursive transformation such as one might expect at the emergence of a new historical a priori condition, a new era. This duplication shines further, materialist light on the emergence of what Bowker referred to as the Age of Potential Memory. Through duplication—wherein the liminal space that divides becomes a phenomenological space unto itself in which the human resides between two archives—traditional dichotomies of subjects and objects, extensions and prostheses, humans and posthumans, come into question. Through reverse anthropomorphosis, the human will come to know itself, post hoc, as a subject only through the reflection provided by the objects with which they couple to produce things.

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