In the paper linked below Hayles compares and explores the rhetorical structure and key assumptions embedded in the work of Richard Dawkins, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Gauttari. Along the way, Hayles demonstrates the importance of taking embodiment, constraint and onto-specificity seriously when investigating real-world systems. And humans, as Halyes later demonstrated in her amazing book, How We Became Posthuman (1999), are no exception: we are first and foremost embodied, and that embodiment - and the actions deriving thereof - are located and specific.
Here is a key passage from the text:
“Juxtaposed, these two versions of the posthuman indicate that a principal area of contestation is the struggle to envision what will come after the fracturing of consciousness. Is the goal to develop new forms of consciousness, either through displacement into other entities or through emergent behaviors achieved in and through artificial life forms? Or is the goal to experience an unimaginably vast range of behaviors that are literally unthinkable as long as consciousness reigns as the arbiter of identity? In different ways, both of these alternatives decontextualize our relations to each other and to the non-human world. Both deny that distributed cognition implies distributed agency—Dawkins by giving all the agency to the genes and none to conscious human subjects, Deleuze and Guattari by giving agency to the desire that alone drives the endless mutations and transformations.
Read More Here: Desiring Agency: Limiting Metaphors and Enabling Constraints in Dawkins and Deleuze/Guattari (2001), by N. Katherine HaylesI prefer a third alternative, in which constraints act in dynamic conjunction with metaphoric language to articulate the rich possibilities of distributed cognitive systems that include human and nonhuman actors. Neither completely constrained nor entirely free, we act within these systems with partial agency amid local specificities that help to determine our behavior, even as our behavior also helps to configure the system. We are never only conscious subjects, for distributed cognition take place throughout the body as well as without; we are never only texts, for we exist as embodied entities in physical contexts too complex to be reduced to semiotic codes; and we never act with complete agency, just as we are never completely without agency.” (Hayles 2001:158)