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Thierry Bardini
Series: Posthumanities
Volume: 13
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Examining cybernetic structures from genetic codes to communication networks, Thierry Bardini explores the idea that most of culture and nature, including humans, is composed of useless, but always potentially recyclable, material otherwise known as ‘junk.’ Junkware examines the cultural history that led to the encoding and decoding of life itself and the contemporary turning of these codes into a commodity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7488-6
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. Coda: Lambdas All Over the Place
    (pp. 1-6)

    λ phage is the paradigmatic temperate bacteriophage. Abacteriophageis a virus infecting bacteria (E. coli in the case of the λ phage, see glossary entriesbacteriophageandphage). This name was coined in 1917 by Félix d’Hérelle, a French Canadian microbiologist working at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. “Phage” comes from the Greekphageinmeaning “to eat.” λ phage in fact does not eat its host bacteria, in the sense that it does not ingest, digest, and then incorporate it. Instead, it does rather the opposite: the phage penetrates the unicellular organism of the bacterium, replicates inside of it,...

  5. Introduction, or a Set of Promoters: Robbe-Grillet Cleansing Every Object in Sight, and Vik Muniz Piling Them Up
    (pp. 7-26)

    This book is thus about junk and about us, late-modern humans. Junk; not trash, not garbage, not waste: junk; mongo, kipple,gomi,and all kinds of stuff that grows in stacks and patiently waits for a renewed use. This book is also about now; this particular junction in the anthropogenetic process, this singular moment in time that some claim to be the last moment before the singularity, this unmistakable now just before we might become something altogether different: a whole new species, maybe. This book claims that, in the meantime, we, late-modern humans, are becoming junk,that is, junkware. Junk,...

  6. Part I 3’ Biomolecular Junk

    • Chapter 1, or a Repressor Complex: How Junk Became, and Why It Might Remain, Selfish
      (pp. 29-60)

      On April 14, 2003, the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, led in the United States by the National Human Genome Research Institute and the Department of Energy, announced the successful completion of the Human Genome Project, more than two years ahead of schedule. The announcement was greeted with ample press coverage displaying numerous expressions of a wide spectrum of emotions, from puzzlement, wariness, and hype to religious awe. Often compared to the Manhattan Project, or perhaps more cautiously dubbed the Apollo mission of biology, the international effort to sequence the 3 billion DNA bases in the human genome (at a...

    • Chapter 2, Mostly Head: From Garbage to Junk DNA, or Life as a Software Problem
      (pp. 61-96)

      Garbage came before junk, even if garbage is more than often the fate of junk: discarded, refused, banished, thrown away. And yet, garbage came before junk when came the time to qualify this uncanny part of DNA, this part which was resisting the smooth efficiency of code turning into program.

      Wasn’t it this time too, actually, when design took a new meaning, as in the compound expressiondesigned obsolescence? From the heyday of modernization, when Taylorism and Fordism became the newmot d’ordre, came this lingering concern, andhow long will it lastbecamehow long should it last?¹ Ah,...

    • Chapter 3, Head Again: Multimedium, or Life as an Interface Problem
      (pp. 97-122)

      Once medium, language, and message had collapsed into simulation, the performativity of the founding trope of the genetic program was bound to proliferate in many uncontrolled ways. Once life had become a software problem, and the program an auto-organized production, the linearity of the archetype gone in myriads of networked effects, room was left for the ekstasis of communication. Passed this line, one encounters speculations, ramified, paradoxical, contradictory speculations. The time has come for theorizing without a “solid factual base,” the time of soft theories, versus solid, material, empirical theories; evidences are now declared outlawed. A metaphor has run amok,...

  7. Part II 5’ Molar Junk:: Hyperviral Culture

    • Chapter 4, All Tail: Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind
      (pp. 125-144)

      4.22.2002. In my wife’s hospital room, the morning after the birth of our son. On the cover page of Montreal newspaperLe DevoirI read three headlines (here translated):Genetic Therapy: The Lack of Funding Is Slowing Down Research, Is the Universe Digital?,and for the Monday Interview section,We Ought to Forbid the Patentability of the Human Being: We Are Not a Source of Commodities, Claims Maureen McTeer.Late modernity enters the next millennium: welcome to the next level, echo Sega™ and Heaven’s Gate™. Later in the interview column, I read about the recent decision of Canada’s Health Research...

    • Chapter 5, Lysis and Replication: Homo nexus, Disaffected Subject
      (pp. 145-168)

      “Homo nexus” is the name that I give to today’s transitional form toward overman, this “new form” whose advent might make current human beings (Homo sapiens) obsolete: or, in the programmers’ lingo, posthumans might eventually make Homo nexus404 compliant.¹

      Alfred Elton van Vogt (April 26, 1912–January 26, 2000) was a Canadianborn science-fiction author, and one of its early pioneers.² Born in Winnipeg, the son of a lawyer, van Vogt grew up in a rural Saskatchewan community. Without money for education (like many children of the Great Depression, his father lost a good job), he did not attend college....

    • Chapter 6, Tail Again: Presence of Junk
      (pp. 169-206)

      Here I tie some of the last knots: junk is a name, which was given to this unknown part of DNA; but junk is more than a part in the compound expression “junk DNA.” Junk is the alternate name of our world, the binding principle that holds it together. Junk is the cement of our cultural experience, the fractal principle that unifies our most intimate fiber (DNA) to the cosmos (space junk) and everything in between: what we ingest (junk food), where we live (junk space), what we trade frantically (junk bonds), our communications (junk mail), our (more or less)...

  8. De-Coda
    (pp. 207-214)

    Richard Doyle once reported that “there were [in the 1950s and 1960s] many experiments among researchers attempting to ingest DNA and RNA itself as a hallucinogen, sometimes in the hope of developing a ‘learning lozenge’ which would inscribe the experience of LSD onto the brain.”¹ At the same time, these “researchers” were, quite often, albeit unwillingly, working for the CIA. Quite a (power) trip! This is folklore by now, raw material for constipation theorists. No, Doyle had some more important revelations to make. These researchers, such as Kary Mullins, the inventor of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), were pretty much in...

  9. Glossary
    (pp. 215-228)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 229-272)
  11. Index
    (pp. 273-280)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-281)