From Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers: the anxiety and fear of disbelonging – to a nation, community, or simply humanity – fuels the upsurge in ethnic violence of a savage ‘vivisectionist’ sort around the world today (Allison 2012, Afterword).
Our wired existence hasn’t reduced the anxiety caused by globalization (neoliberalism, put your own bogeyman here) by giving us increased ways of connecting to individuals throughout the world, but instead has exacerbated it. What Allison is saying in the afterword is the need to figure out how people interact with each other, online and in the real world, as part of ‘making communities.’ This perspective (pointed out by Appadurai in an earlier work, discussed by Jennifer Cool as colocation) argues that the key driver of social relations is creating and maintaining communities. Political scientist Robert Putnam (social capital, in Bowling Alone) also is approaching social life in the same way.
To understand social life today requires participation (this is anthropology’s method). To begin to explore social relations today means developing one’s own digital subjectivity – what Whitehead (2012) spells out is a prerequisite for any observational activity. In Whitehead’s discussion of the posthuman, the problem is the persistence of seeing what it means to be human in post-Enlightenment dualistic terms – mind and body – where reason and its cultural expression as language and embodiment as mapped through biological perspectives define what it means to be human.
The posthuman could be understood as an ecological approach, in that what it means to be human is constructed through its networked placement in a web of connections to other humans, animals, governments, the world, etc. The problem of alternative approaches such as animalizing the human or humanizing the animal is what is left out – other biotic taxa such as microbes to those considered somehow subhuman (the undocumented, junkies, terrorists, the disabled, the avatar).
Whitehead’s point is that subjectivity cannot be separated from its “prosthetic systems of communication supported by digital devices, without which we can no longer function as fully “modern humans” (Whitehead 2012)