Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) to the Technological University Dublin, 2008.


The posthuman is a concept that has accrued much currency in disciplines as diverse as legal theory, artificial life science and philosophy. This thesis explores the meaning of the concept by initially examining what it means to be human, finding that art and science have so far failed to provide a long-lasting definition of humanness. Instead of a temporal “coming-after” stage of humanity, posthumanism might be more usefully seen as a concept that draws attention to the cracks that have always existed in the apparently water-tight description of the human- how the “human” has changed radically and continues to change radically over time. Following this, it examines how posthumanism is imagined in technological discourses, as well as how philosophy uses the technological to think through dilemmas of existence. With this mapping of the posthuman, we turn to how the post-human is imagined in the current era of visual culture, and in particular international corporate advertisements. Advertising constitutes a fundamentally important and influential site of the aesthetic imagination, yet the ways in which advertising imagines concepts such as the future, technology and the human are underexamined. This work combines historical and philosophical accounts of technology, poststructural literary and film criticism, and Derridean close reading as a special toolset to examine the visual culture of the posthuman. It shows a) how the technologised body of the future acquires meaning and how this meaning cannot be simplistically thought of in terms of a liberatory/oppressive economy, b) how the primitive, technology and horror emerge as interrelated tropes to articulate alternative forms of identity that could be termed a posthuman biology, and c) how cybernetics, nanotechnology, complexity and networks carry ideological assumptions about existence that produce an aesthetic imagination different to previous technological eras.