New Romantic Cyborgs: Romanticism, Information Technology, and the End of the Machine
An account of the complex relationship between technology and romanticism that links nineteenth-century monsters, automata, and mesmerism with twenty-first-century technology's magic devices and romantic cyborgs.
Romanticism and technology are widely assumed to be opposed to each other. Romanticism—understood as a reaction against rationalism and objectivity—is perhaps the last thing users and developers of information and communication technology (ICT) think about when they engage with computer programs and electronic devices. And yet, as Mark Coeckelbergh argues in this book, this way of thinking about technology is itself shaped by romanticism and obscures a better and deeper understanding of our relationship to technology. Coeckelbergh describes the complex relationship between technology and romanticism that links nineteenth-century monsters, automata, and mesmerism with twenty-first-century technology's magic devices and romantic cyborgs.
Coeckelbergh argues that current uses of ICT can be interpreted as attempting a marriage of Enlightenment rationalism and romanticism. He describes the “romantic dialectic,” when this new kind of material romanticism, particularly in the form of the cyborg as romantic figure, seems to turn into its opposite. He shows that both material romanticism and the objections to it are still part of modern thinking, and part of the romantic dialectic. Reflecting on what he calls “the end of the machine,” Coeckelbergh argues that to achieve a more profound critique of contemporary technologies and culture, we need to explore not only different ways of thinking but also different technologies—and that to accomplish the former we require the latter.
Praise for New Romantic Cyborgs: Romanticism, Information Technology, and the End of the Machine
New Romantic Cyborgs promises both to help us understand how humans interact with AI and new ICT in the context of earlier technological innovation, and to develop new ways to think about and relate to machines—Times Literary Supplement—
Coeckelbergh shows how romanticism does not turn away from technology and science, but is fascinated by it.
—The Time Dutch—
Due to the amazing advances of science and technology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it is easy to overlook the influence of romanticism on society and, in this sense, New Romantic Cyborgs presents a solid counterbalance.
—Philosophy in Review—
...drawing on and quoting amply from an extensive secondary literature, Coeckelbergh paints a more complex and nuanced picture [of romanticism]. Avoiding any sharp, unitary definition, he variously associates romanticism with fascination with the sublime, Gothic motifs, transcendence and echantment.
—Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews—
Coeckelbergh is at his best when arguing that twenty-first century ICTs represent a new stage in the relationship of humans and machines; he is persuasive in tracing the steps that led up to it, and he is right to sort ouf the long-term inplications of our novel condition....New Romantic Cyborgs identifies a new reality and poses powerful questions. The search for answers is only the beginning.
This well-researched, rich text challenges the idea that technology is contrary to Romantic concepts of being....Providing a rigorous literary and social history of Romanticism as layered social, literary, artistic, and cultural movements, Coeckelbergh...demonstrates proficient knowledge of the subject matter....This text will serve as a strong introduction to Romanticism across historical periods for scholars in technology studies, media studies, or similar interdisciplinary fields, or as an enrichment for historians interested in these time periods who wish to engage with questions about technology and media.