A comparative literary perspective on emerging digital cultures and how the systems-thinking of Post-World War II information and dynamic systems theory have entered into everyday life and lived space, prompting tactical (re)understandings of the human
Tactics of the Human returns to American fiction published during the 1990s, formative years for digital cultures, to reconsider these narratives’ comparative literary print methods of critically engaging with digital technologies and their now ubiquitous computation-based modes of circulation, scenes of writing, and social spaces. It finds that fiction by John Barth, Shelley Jackson, Leslie Marmon Silko, Ruth L. Ozeki, and Jeffrey Eugenides, by creatively transposing digital writing, material formats, and spatiotemporal orientations into print, registers shifting relations to technologies at multiple sites and scales. Grappling with the digital practices catalyzed by post–World War II biological, information, and systems theory, these literary narratives tactically enlist, and enable speculative diagnoses of, emerging relations to digital technologies. Their experimental technics comparatively retrace emerging relations to the digital as these impact American nationalisms and their transnational economic networks; processes of gendering and racialization that remain crucial to differential discourses of the human; and as they enter, unnoticed, into micropractices of everyday life and lived space.
In the midst of expanding technoscientific processes of digital de- and re-materialization that render multiple, charged boundaries of the human increasingly plastic, Tactics of the Human illustrates why it is ever more crucial to query and assess the divergent (re)understandings of the human now categorized, quite loosely, as posthumanisms with particular attention to women’s, subalterns’, and other knowledges already considered liminal to the human. It identifies here and pursues strains of systems thinking, informed by feminist, new materialist, queer, and subaltern understandings of material practices, revealing why these are so pivotal to ongoing efforts to assess current limits to digital technics and expand upon their biological, cultural, social, and poetic potentialities.
Laura Shackelford is Associate Professor of English at Rochester Institute of Technology.