This work explores the shifting meanings of the “subject,” human or otherwise, in the posthuman world. The “posthuman” is shorthand for an expanded, even exploded vision of the human in the late twentieth and twenty-first century, when the forms and opportunities for bodily augmentation, digital connectivity, cybernetic hybridity, and biotechnological interventions have become ubiquitous in many parts of the world. This research considers how robotics is transforming conceptions of the human and what it means to be a subject, that is, a sensing, feeling, knowing being inhabiting a world of other (posthuman) subjects.
Posthuman relationships evoke a future in which humans could be dependent not on one another, but on robots or other non-human entities. Non-human care raises a number of ethical and ontological questions: What are the risks and benefits of robotic interventions that seek to engender affective ties between objects and their users? How might these technologies influence the meaning and function of care and relationality? Moreover, how might such relationships transform the meaning and function of the human animal? This project considers the political and philosophical debates inspired by posthuman interventions into human vulnerability, real and imagined by examining the development of actual social robots alongside speculative representations. Through a series of themed workshops, networking events, scholarly publications, and interdisciplinary conference, the project considers the social, philosophical, aesthetic and ethical issues arising from new models of relationality, companionship, and caregiving evoked and provoked by new and emerging technologies. This project brings together researcher and stakeholders at Leeds and beyond working with aging, disability, illness, gender, ethics of care, biotechnology, haptics, and robotics in order to consider and imagine how emerging technologies, shifting economies, and the “posthuman turn” are affecting our understanding of the ethics and philosophy of care.
Imagining Technologies for Disability Futures is a multidisciplinary and multi-institution research project, led by Professor Murray, focusing on the relationship between cultural and artistic imaginings of disability technologies (such as prosthetics and other assistive technologies) and their design, production and use in engineering and healthcare settings. We are exploring the boundaries and processes that constitute disability futures, looking at how ideas of imagining, engineering, design, selfhood, embodiment, and care shape the production and meaning of disability, augmentation and enhancement. We are also interested in the ways in which the various narratives that represent augmented/enhanced futures are framed within contemporary ideas – posthuman, transhuman, biohybrid, robot – that might articulate disability experiences within the development of health technologies and cultures.