The past thousands years of human ideologies and its activities have irreversibly altered the preexisting natural processes of the Earth system.1Erle C. Ellis, “Earth Science in the Anthropocene: New Epoch, New Paradigm, New Responsibilities, Web”, EOS, December 8, 2008. p.473 Man become a destructive, geological force that is being referred as the Anthropocene – the new geological epoch.2 “Since geologists are beginning to use the term “anthropocene” to designate the era of Earth’s history that follows the Holocene, this will be a convenient term to use from here on to sum up the meaning of an era that extends from the scientific and industrial revolutions to the present day” Bruno Latour Matthew Coolidge from the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) believes that nature as it used to be understood doesn't exist: “every molecule on the Earth has been affected by humans, if we try to put things back that would be reconstruction.”3The Geologic imagination: Every molecule on the Surface of the Earth has been affected by humans, Interview with Matthew Coolidge, Amsterdam, Sonic Act Press (2015) James Lovelock believed that the Earth - Gaia - is a living, breathing thing, where organisms are interconnected with its inorganic surroundings, which is deeply affects the stability of the global planetary balance, because “our human dependence on nature cannot be understood without a deep ecological study of the interconnectedness of life”.4Jim Moran, “Three Challenges For Environmental Philosophy”,consulted on October 3, 2016 The Anthropocene refers to that radical mutation and the long-term collapse of the cosmic, evolutionary ecosystem that nurture and holds life itself.
Derric Jensen, environmental activist and writer does not agree with the chosen name, Anthropocene: “All of this is crucial, because perpetrators of atrocity so often attempt to convince themselves and everyone else that what they’re doing is natural or right. The word “Anthropocene” attempts to naturalize the murder of the planet by pretending the problem is “man,” and not a specific type of man connected to this particular culture.”5 , Derrick (2006), Endgame: The problem of civilisation. New York: Seven Stories Press Susan M. Rustick, in her essay Held Hostage by the Anthropocene, has a similar view.“I argue that the proposed name “Anthropocene” is comparable to the experience of Narcissus, peering at his own human reflection in the pond. The pond itself does not exist for Narcissus; the trees and sky above the pond do not exist. All that exists is the gazer enrapt by his own image.”6 Tønnessen, Kristin Armstrong Oma, Silver Rattasepp, (2016), Thinking About Animals in the Age of the Anthropocene. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books As dominant, responsible species we can no longer pretend to be the only players in front of the background, called nature. Due to wrong political and economic decisions, and the relentless resource exploitation has led to land degradation, water and air pollution, massive species extinction, sea-level and temperature rise causing fatal environmental and social consequences. Pope Francis, published an official encyclical letter, Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for our Common Home, where he is expressing his anxiety towards climate change with strong critics on the unregulated capitalist production: “The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”7Francis, Pope, (2015), “The Holy See”, published on w2.vatican.va 24 May 2015 He continues, by reminding us, that “our very bodies are made up of her (Earth) elements.” It’s quite surprising turn, that the Holy Father Francis makes an anti-capitalistic statement, by this he empowering the global left.
“We—all of us on Terra—live in disturbing times, mixed-up times, troubling and turbid times.”8Haraway, Donna, (2016), Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Experimental Futures). Durham: Duke University Press Books We can call it apocalypse, catastrophe, disaster or tragedy, that is - after all - leads to pointless deaths, extinction and then oblivion. I am being careful using these words, as nowadays they seem over and misused by environmental scientists, green activists or marketing strategists. What these terms eventually means, we don’t know. How can we relate with this anti-anthropocentric state of mind? Sadly, due to economic interests, it fails to become a political issue. As Naomi Klein’s book, This changes everything, stresses “It is a civilizational wake-up call. A powerful message—spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions—telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet.”9Klein, Naomi, (2015), This changes everything. New York: Simon & Schuster We have enormous amount of scientific data, statistics and prediction that precisely giving evidences of the measure of human impact, however it only provokes impotent political reactions and fails to provoke voluntary social transformation. Adam Curtis, in his film HyperNormalisation draws a picture on the corporate control over global politics and the disappearance of the importance of truth, where everyone knows that the current economic system - capitalism - is sick and infeasible however most people cannot dare to imagine and resist for an alternative status quo. Unfortunately, “for most people in the world, it is probably easier to imagine a global ecological catastrophe caused by human activity than the end of the capitalist system”.10Rasinski, Lotar, (2016) “A Picture Held Us Captive...” Marx, Wittgenstein and the ‘Paradox of Ideology’ Everything that we have taken granted, suddenly becomes the subject of change. The problem is none other, but ourselves. We have been collectively designing our own apocalypse.
It seems that we can’t get away recognising that we need a radical reconfiguration of everything that we – as civilisation – have become, however the opposite is happening as the status quo is being reinforced by the prevailing techno-capitalistic structure. The ever-increasing institutional dependency on automatization and smart algorithms is becoming standards. Without computational systems, there is no stock-exchange, no defence system, no university, no social media. Our lives have intimately fused together with smart devices and information technology, that makes us fundamentally addicted dependent. The google search is so much part of our everyday life, that is affecting how we learn, read, write or remember. If we look at the “four horsemen of the posthuman apocalypse: nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science”11Braidotti, Rosi. (2014), The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press, it foreshadows a technologically mediated future scenario as tech-solutionism.
The transhumanism movement finds the human through the possibility of bio-technological evolution. It considers that the human body is obsolete, and can and should be enhanced, alter and modify in order to make a better fit into to our technologized reality. It thinks the opposite way, instead of questioning the concept of techno-capitalism, it questions the human in terms of potentiality, confirming the actual power relations. Transhumanist thinks optimistically and rationally, surrendering under intelligent technology, open society and self-transformation. As if the human body there would be no better than a machine, but the human mind is exceptional and transcendent. Consequently, bio-technological corporations become the definition of future as a kind of religious figure, providing and maintaining the transhuman image, which is substantially the commercial version of modern humanity. It profits and invests in the informational code of all lives. The informational code of life becomes the ultimate commodity, where the code possesses more privilege than its material manifestation. For instance, Monsanto owns the informational code of all grains, possessing new level of control over production and productivity. Life becoming mere extract, code, data, commodity. “It is no longer about designing the things in the environment around us but designing life itself from microorganisms to humans, yet as designers we devote very little time to reflecting on what this means.”12Dunne, A, Fiona, R (2013), Speculative Everything. Cambridge: MIT Press
The posthuman is - as opposed to the transhuman - very sceptical and critical towards technology, and its capitalist ideology. It finds epistemologically unacceptable to promote commodifying the informational code of any life. It would argue that the “most important question to ask about modern societies is therefore what understanding of human life is embodied in the prevailing technical arrangements.” 13Feenberg, Andrew. Transforming Technology. Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. The posthuman rather sees problematic the concept of technology, since the progress of human domain ultimately conceals the terrific decay, accumulating waste and violence, that continues separate and segregate humanity.
“We are a part of that nature that we seek to understand”.14 Donmez, Basak Agın, “Recent Approaches in the Posthuman Turn” Relations. Beyond Anthropocentris, June 2016, p.106-115 Rosi Braidotti stresses that Darwin and the concept of human as a species is missing from our philosophical terminology. We have to try think beyond the centrality of the man, the limitation of anthropomorphism and the historical significance of humanism. We must take a distance from our species, our history, to rethink and erase ourselves from a different light. Braidotti refers to it as the post-anthropocentric turn, that is eventually anti-anthropocentric. Humanism has been long time part of a philosophical discourse. In the Renaissance, the Vitruvian Man’ s message by Leonardo da Vinci express a new image, that attempted to disconnect from the centrality of god into the centrality of the man. The drawing was a symbol, instead of god, ‘the man is the measure of all things’. But it was just the very beginning. The revolutionary humanistic turn happened in the age of Enlightenment, where Rene Descartes, with the motto of - I think, therefore I am - have begun a dualistic version of humanism.
By now in the dawn of the 21 century, the promises of the humanistic exceptionalism suggested have failed. Humanity has never been one. The human that classical humanism refers to is the white, heterosexual, taxpayer, male citizen, that excludes as much as its includes. The essentialism – the emphasis of the mind – went too far and has resulted the Anthropocene. It has produced extreme disconnection between body and mind, nature and culture as well as a “gap between information and materiality, discourse and matter, and thus the human and the nonhuman”.15Donmez, Basak Agın, “Recent Approaches in the Posthuman Turn” Relations. Beyond Anthropocentris, June 2016, p.106-115 Braidotti claims that, the dualism is what the posthuman turn attempts to exceed with the philosophy of Foucault, who defined the matter as vital and self-organizing. Braidotti has an anti-humanist background, that is not to be misunderstood with misanthropy, it is an explicit rejection of transcendental humanism.16Transcendental humanism in philosophy considers what is proper treatment of humans outside of nature and decides they have inherent rights, simply from being human. It is also positive that man is capable of transcending the material self and can also free himself from surrounding influences. An example of this is when he thinks about himself and his character traits as if two different people. She refuse the dualistic, hierarchical theories altogether, “which disavow the ecological dimension”17Braidotti, Rosi. (2014), The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press and instead, she offers a Spinozist, holistic, relational approach. “Monism, the unity of all living matter (that is) the building blocks for a posthuman theory of subjectivity that does not rely on classical Humanism and carefully avoids anthropocentrism.” 18Braidotti, Rosi. (2014), The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press The task here, is to peel off the privileges of the human subject and to diminish any transcendental reason that can maintain the superior position of the man over anybody or anything. If we consider it as a design problem, we immediately realise that all of these terms, outlooks and ideologies are constructed and designed. But concepts that lasts too long are harder to abolish, change or question because its already defined the rules in which we are living. What Braidotti suggests, is as simple as to admit that we should be in control, not being controlled, especially in a design context. As Timothy Morton, states: “The Anthropocene is an anti-anthropocentric concept because it enables us to think the human species not as an ontologically given thing I can point to, but as a hyperobject that is real yet inaccessible.”19Morton, Timothy. “Realist Magic Objects, Ontology, CausalityTimothy Morton.” (2013): 1–234. Print.
“Can we imagine today a world without capitalist relations of production?”20Rasinski, Lotar. “A Picture Held Us Captive...” Marx, Wittgenstein and the ‘Paradox of Ideology’. 2016. Print. Capitalism has drawn from areas of human knowledge, like science, psychology, perception, engineering, industry...etc in order to further its powerful economic system. Considering its connection with design to craft visual messages with fixed ideology (propaganda) was always an important addition to support this imperative. The history of graphic design is inextricably linked to that commerce and consumer production. But if design has a history linked to the generation of need, consumption and desire, it also linked to the generation of knowledge and information. At the level of a service industry, where most design have taken place, it exists only as form-giver not content provider, since forms are the real carriers of ideology. That stage has been long passed as Daniel van der Velden proposed, “today, an ‘important graphic design’ is one generated by the designer himself, a commentary in the margins of visual culture.”21Daniel van der Velden, “Research & Destroya Plea for Design as Research” Metropolis M, issue 2 2006, defining a new trend or approach. Marx outlined ideology as a "false consciousness" of a ruling class in a society which falsely presents their ideas as if they were universal truth, a set of ideas used as a political tool to achieve hidden goals and interests by distorting social and political realities. That confirms that disconnection between critical and affirmative design that I am seeking to analyse. In fact, the history of graphic design is the history of form not the content, the problem however is that most commercial enterprises will not be interested in forms that reveal the true relations of the dominant economic and political systems, that could undermine its corporate status. Braidotti argues that there is a “tension between the urgency of finding new and alternative modes of political, ethical and social agency for our technologically mediated world and the inactivity of established mental habits on the other.” 22Braidotti, Rosi. (2014), The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press This I understood as a tension between the only available agency that runs design production, where hypnosis takes place, and the other, selfanalogous, holistic, relational design practice outside of corporate interests that is active, dynamic and self-critical. “The post-anthropocentric turn, linked to the compounded impacts of globalization and of technology-driven forms of mediation, strikes the human at his/her heart and shifts the parameters that used to define anthropos.”23Braidotti, Rosi. (2014), The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press
The crisis of dualism is the essence to open up the posthuman condition, that I would like to integrate and fuse into the possibility and potentiality of design. Emphasising how important and crucial is to recognise the capability of design in the age of despair, confusion and extinction. The posthuman turn that Rosi Braidotti offers “has come to denote a horizontal, rather than a hierarchical, alignment of the human and the nonhuman” and attempts to place this isolation between the body and mind, nature and culture into focus, as well as the disconnection between form and content, value and truth, society and politics. It is the age of ambivalence: panic and at the same time excitement. Design operates in two ways: form and content. Form is the materialistic, physical embodiment through various techniques and technologies. Concept on the other hand is the virtual, the philosophical through, political or social interaction. Of course, these qualities intervene and mixed within design production. I am curious as to what extent the posthuman condition affects design, the role of a designer and what are the consequences of it? What is to be offered in terms of possibilities of acting politically through design and how does one become a posthuman designer?