(De)constructing technologies of subjectivity

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This paper revolves around the following question: what is the relation between technology and the subject, and what might this mean for any attempt to write the discourse of the subject itself? In the course of her discussion, Anderson suggests that Derrida’s arguments on the frame and photography (imaging technologies) represent a sophisticated means by which to think the subject, not as separate from but as technology. She argues that the subject-object dichotomy (and its accompanying ‘instrumental’ ontology) remains the default position for accounts of the relation between ‘man’ as organism and the artefacts and practices of technology. But, as Anderson shows, this assumption simply replays the humanist account of the subject in its instrumental relation to the phenomenal universe ‘outside’: with ‘technology’ cast in the guise of ‘other’. Using Derrida’s critique of Kant on the frame (the parergonal) she deconstructs the dichotomy inside/outside, working across a series of analogies between the subject as presence/absence and the frame as a limit defined by its instability. Looked at from this perspective, boundaries between the inside and outside, the organismic and the technological, like those between the frame and what it separates, inevitably blur. The subject, by analogy, looses its outline, becomes indistinct: it is now simply an artefact of the scale at which phenomena are theorized. Subject must therefore be rethought: it can now be understood not simply as presence, but as presence-in-absence in alterity: as a dispersion or deferral across an array of systems - social, biological and material - within which and through which it is (re)constituted. By rethinking the subject in this way, we must inevitably rethink technology (and not just in its instrumentality: in its very ontology): in this rethinking, subject and technology become mutually constitutive. Given this, Anderson’s paper attempts to raise some searching questions about the problematic boundary between soma and techne, subject and other.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScan: journal of media arts culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Publisher version archived with the permission of the Editor, Scan, Department of Media, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia. This copy is available for individual, non-commercial use. Permission to reprint/republish this version for other uses must be obtained from the publisher.


  • Derrida
  • deconstruction
  • subjectivity
  • technology
  • photography
  • art


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