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"Posthuman Aesthetics" Online Course Preview 3: Normality and Enhancement

This is a preview of one of the lectures from our open online course Posthuman Aesthetics.

My module at the Posthuman Aesthetics Open Online Course considers two drivers of change for humans: enhancement and normality. When considering ideas of future humans, and in particular the imagery that literature, comics and film provide, all kinds of possible enhancements are “tested”, often suggesting that what seemed like a great idea – bigger brains, longer lives, stronger muscles, integration with machines – could turn out to be quite terrible. The concept of normality often flies under the radar, but it could in many ways be just as problematic as visions of enhancement as the experience of a shrinking idea of what counts as normal become more and more present. Consider how narrow the spectrum for a perception of normal height is? Beyond 10-15 centimeters one is either tall or short. And such ideas of the normal affect social relations on many accounts as well as desires to control normalcy.

In both cases, the enhanced and the normal, it is obvious that aesthetics play a key role. In fictions of the future but certainly also in the ways people at present are willing to manipulate their bodies or make choices for their futures offspring. What I will suggest – and discuss – is the value of imperfection in this situation, which can be made only taking in the aesthetic value (in its broadest sense) that we constantly “negotiate” with ourselves and the world around us through the choices we make and the art and fiction we appreciate.