Themes, culture and sources of inspiration

Introduction to cyberculture, cyberpunk and posthumanism concepts

The development of new technologies, the Internet revolution, the democratization of communication networks and the emergence of new media are factors that predict the externalization of human identity in the virtual world. What is the role of human identity and education, after the globalization of culture? How can we use technology and art to better the world?

All technological progress of human society is geared towards the redundancy of the human species as we currently know it. […] Complex machines are an emergent life form. […] As computers develop to be more like humans, so humans develop to be like computers more. (David Bell)


Obviously, with the modernization of the social space, the utilitarian contribution of the cyber world is incontestable in the field of communication. The fundamental role of cybernetics remains to improve the quality of life and to facilitate human relations or economic exchanges. To the detriment of this statement, we must consider the negative effects on social control. Carried out in the SF film industry, the premises of cybernetics can be catastrophic in relation to the uneven spread of technological resources. For example, in the field of warfare, the manufacture of weapons based on artificial intelligence is one of the alarming fears of today’s geopolitics.

Virtual communication, favored by the emergence of the Internet, leads to the creation of information platforms, meant to increase the openness to knowledge. For example, reading and collaborative editing of information brings radical changes by launching the wikipedia encyclopedia, published in 2001.

Etymology and key terms

Cyberspace is a term postulated for the first hour in the SF literature, taken from cyber-punk, as stated by the Canadian writer William Gibson. In his novel titled Neuromancer (1984), he proposes the term “cyberspace” as a representation of a “consensual hallucination”. According to the quote:

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…” (William GibsonNeuromancer, page 51)

According to David Bell, the cyberspace (1) must be viewed and analyzed at the intersection of technology and representation. The development of the cyber environment favors the use of the virtual environment for artistic purposes. According to the critic Clement Greenberg, the art of the Internet (developed intensively during the ’90) implied connectivity, globality, multimedia, immateriality, interactivity, and equality. In the field of visual arts the Australian artist Stelarc, proposes the concept of post-humanity which aims at extensions of human capacities through technological contribution. According to Stelarc, the images become “operational agents of the hybrid system between man and machine”(2).

Cyberculture relevancy to education

Controling technology means we control the communication methods but also the content we chose to share among ourselves. In the current state of affairs, our children need to understand the length of their virtual and real actions, the language they speak, the tools they use and the media projects they want to be part of.

Referring to films from Hollywood production, Bell addresses the factors by which SF history (from the late 1990s) foresees the outsourcing of identity in the virtual world. Identity thus becomes fluid – its construction being placed at the border between humanity and technological influence. Starting from a quote from Robert Pepperell’s Post-Human Manifesto (1995), in a rather pragmatic rather than cynical way, the author refers to cyborgs as ”a union between flesh and metal”, one that extends the notion of the biological definition itself.

Stelarc's Third Arm Concept, drawing extracted from The Cybercultures Reader (2000), edited by Ed. David Bell and Barbara Kennedy

Cyberculture within the visual arts

From Stelarc’s perspective, the symbiosis between humans and technology can be analyzed from the perspective of the language produced by the flow of images. Thus, if at the emergence of the Internet, the cybernetic language was mainly based on text (connected in the form of hyperlinks), in the contemporary period, the image becomes a vital component of the media. From a linguistic point of view, Stelarc analyzes and identifies the function of the virtual environment to support the image of our body, rather than the physical body. During one of his works made during the 80’s, Stelarc used techonology to enhance his body’s limitations. Like a ghost arm (3), the body is present in cyberspace, due to its lack. Therefore, the adaptation of the body to the virtual is facilitated by the projective universe created by the use of images. To the physical detriment, genetic memory is rather connected by virtual information, than biological data.

In the article “FROM PSYCHO-BODY TO CYBER-SYSTEM: IMAGES AS POST-HUMAN ENTITIES”(4) the artist talks about a repositioning of the body in the cybernetic area, dominated by the hybridity between man and machine. According to the artist, the symbolic image has lost its power, we live in an age of cerebral fantasies in which the accumulation of information has lost its purposes. At this time, freedom of form dominates the freedom attributed to the idea – the freedom to modify the human body becoming the next evolutionary step. Individual control over human destiny, already envisaged both by SF cinema and in the current field of bionic science, is used here: the use of prostheses and medical devices for prolonging life. Like a machine, it is proposed to extend human capabilities to the point where death is no longer an evolutionary act, by replacing defective elements in the human body.

Key takeway

If the spaces in which we live change considerably depending on the technological intervention and not only, the question of the obsolence of the body in relation to the natural ecosystem of which it is part is raised. Moreover, the relation between the speed of information production and the sensory capacity of reception must also be taken into account. Adaptive technological devices, through programming and mapping, sensors, internet, wireless technologies, Stelarc’s works operate using complex mechanisms located on the border between technology and human.


(1)The Cybercultures Reader(2000), Edited by David Bell and Barbara Kennedy, Routledge, London/ New York, 2000. One of the main premise proposed by the author in the introduction of The Cybercultures Reader (2000) guide (detailed in the collection’s texts) is whether we live in a cyborg society – regardless of technological access – or we become machines, hybrids with prostheses as extensions of the human body. (Stellarc: CHAPTER 35).

(2) The Cybercultures Reader(2000), Edited by David Bell and Barbara Kennedy, Routledge, London/ New York, 2000, Stelarc – the essay Virtual Futures: Cyberotics, Technology and Post-human Pragmatism, Routledge, 1999, page 576.

(3) Ibidem, org. ”PHANTOM BODY/ FLUID SELF: Technologies are becoming better life-support systems for our images than our bodies. IMAGES ARE IMMORTAL. BODIES ARE EPHEMERAL.”.

(4) The Cybercultures Reader(2000), Edited by David Bell and Barbara Kennedy, Routledge, London/ New York, 2000, Stelarc – the essay FROM PSYCHO-BODY TO CYBER-SYSTEM: IMAGES AS POST-HUMAN ENTITIES, page 571.