chapter  12
Death in life and life in death
Forms and fates of the human
ByConnor Graham, Alfred Montoya
Pages 22

This chapter considers what it is to ‘be human’ in recent time, with regard to questions of life and death. We take “the human” as a question, a historical, contingent figure, and one of quite recent invention, rather than as a given. To briefly map the characteristics of this figure through time this chapter engages with work from existential media studies on the “exister.” It distinguishes the concept of “human-as-is,” the being, concrete, existing, mortal instance of a human being, from the concept of “human-as-category,” the enframing, abstract, general, human being in discourse as an object. Through drawing on Foucault’s 1970s work examining forms of subjectivity it also briefly traces “the human’s” development from the sixteenth-century European adoption of the idea of “Man,” to the more contemporary figures of “The Human” in human rights discourse and Virilio’s “terminal citizen.” This tracing shows how evolving notions of “the human” are inseparable from history, politics, media and technology. The critical treatment of this figure includes an examination of its deployment in scholarship that centers on digital media, design and mortality. This analysis demonstrates how there is no single preferred form of “the human” drawn on in this scholarship and that different forms are quite capable of co-existing. Given this, the analysis ends with questioning what it means to ‘be human’ today and the possible fates of “the human” through considering the new challenges and alternatives created by digital media.