Mi / 10:00 – 11:30

The Virtual Life of Power

Posthuman Narration and Digital Practices of Subjection

Philipp Weber, KWI Fellow

KWI & Online (Zoom)

Our present is often referred to as a postdigital age, a “state in which the disruption brought about by digital information technology has already occurred,” as Florian Cramer puts it. So what does postdigital literature then look like? Two German-language novels have recently attracted attention in this regard: Miami Punk (2019) by Juan S. Guse and Flexen in Miami (2020) by Joshua Groß both imagine sceneries in neon colors that address emerging political, technological, and ecological crises. However, these tendencies are not projected into a possible future, but rather implemented in a counterfactual present: In Miami Punk, an ominous environmental disaster has led to the desolation of America’s East Coast; however, the novel’s setting is the (former) coastal metropolis of Miami, now surrounded by wasteland. In Flexen in Miami, a refrigerator discusses emotional issues with the protagonist, and drones bring food deliveries by the window. The reader thus encounters a different, twisted present that eerily doubles her/his own, familiar one.

Yet there is another element that the novels have in common: both present ideas of video games that seem quite similar, although they never really existed. The visualization of how games could form future narratives takes subjective immersion to a new level. They achieve this by relying on autopoetic, artificially-generated forms of narratives, and — even more — by accessing the real data (in email accounts etc.) of their users. In this way, narratives can be individually adopted, and real biographies can enter the diegetic world. While the events of recent months have shown that artificial intelligence (AI) programs (like ChatGPT) are already capable of realizing some of these ideas, the novels hold even more potential. This is mainly due to the fact that they utilize their fictional programs as a medium of critical reflection. Miami Punk and Flexen in Miami can thus serve as a starting point for interrogating posthuman narratives on the one hand, and relating them to practices of subjection on the other.