/ Posthuman Texts: Nonhuman Actors, Mediators and Technologies of Inscription

Abstract

In the study of textual practices in higher education, there is a recognition of the processes by which social actors are enrolled in reflexive processes of meaning- making and constitution of subjectivities, via a range of semiotic resources. However, the agentive role of nonhuman objects has received less attention in this literature. Drawing on posthuman and actor-network perspectives, this paper will report on a research project investigating the day-to-day embodied textual practices of 12 adult postgraduate students over a one-year period. The analysis will focus on how mobile devices, screens, and print literacy artefacts were enrolled in a complex set of posthuman semiotic practices, drawing on Hayles’s (1999) notion of the embodied virtuality and Latour’s (2005) concept of the nonhuman actor as mediator. I will explore the transcontextual boundary of digital/print and how objects act not only to create new assemblages, but also to enable transitions across contextual boundaries, leading to disruption of “commonsense” binaries around text and author, absence and presence, digital and print, human and device. The implications of a radical challenge to the notion of singular, stable, human authorship will be explored, concluding that a posthuman reconceptualization of authorship serves to destabilize the humanist ideologies underpinning how the university itself is conventionally understood.