N. Kathrine HaylesChapter 3 "Contexts for Electronic Literature The Body and The Machine"
Summary
Hayles places the intermediation of the body and technology as a dominance issue which has “significant implications for embodied practice and subjectivity” (88). However, she is especially intrigued in how human-computer integration affects how we conceptualize the self . This chapter considers the contexts in which electronic literature is created, played, interpreted, and taught. It focuses on whether the machine or the body should be the theoretical grounding for understanding electronic literature—approaches represented respectively by German media theorist Friedrich A. Kittler and American theorist of embodiment Mark B. N. Hansen.

The two dominant schools of thought:
      • positing that the “posthuman” self should be thought of as a dominant human presence with a peripheral element of technology,
      • arguing that the posthuman self should be thought of as a dominant technological presence serving as the context for understanding the increasingly small human element
are both incomplete and she posits a third approach focusing on the intermediation that inextricably entwines body and machine, without giving either absolute theoretical priority.

Commentary
The problem:
  • Arguing that technology is the dominant actor in human identity implies that traditional writing is a hegemonic method of signification that we have since broken with.
  • Arguing that the body is the dominant actor overlooks the ways in which humans and their technologies often evolve together (such as the invention of complex tools)

The counter argument:
  • Kittler argues that technology has an enormously dominant role and even goes so far as to argue that our media is what has led to various wars throughout history. Hayles is skeptical of this, though, and argues that social processes like war are too complicated to be explained with technological media alone.
  • Hansen argues the opposite, noting that we maintain a “subordination of technics” and that even when technology permeates our world, we nonetheless exist “within the operational perspective of the organism”

A solution of sorts:
Hayles suggests that both the human and technological elements must be thought of as dominant, as this “allows continuities to be thought between the print tradition and digital texts. It also positions electronic literature as part of a contemporary mediascape".
She goes on to say, “Children growing up in media-rich environments literally have brains wired differently than humans who did not come to maturity in such conditions” and that, “the 8-to 18-year-old cohort…is undergoing a significant cognitive shift”. This means that rather than narrowly focusing on the destruction of print culture, we should focus on how future generations will be organically different from us. In essence this implies that how we read and think will be substantively changed.


Questions
1. Should we conceptualize the human body as the center of the human identity through which exposure to the digital world occurs, or should identity begin in the digital world and provide the context for understanding what it means to be human?

2. What does it mean to be “posthuman?”

3. In terms of coevolution, Hayles reminds us of how the development of human language coincided with the creation of complex, multipart tools, and that though first we shape our tools, we will inevitably be shaped by them. How does this play into Hayles assertion that all literature now is already electronic?