David Aston, ‘Oracle: Artificial Intelligence Future Prediction Simulator’ (Image courtesy of Paul Sutton).

Being Human: Culture and Identity Now

13 October 2023

From the Climate Crisis to Artificial Intelligence

The climate crisis and the prospect of ecological collapse represent perhaps the greatest challenge to humanity in its history. As we seek to find ways to grapple with this, concepts that we have previously relied upon to make sense of ourselves and our place in the world have increasingly been found wanting or insufficient.

As City Lit Culture tutor Katie Goss notes, ‘concepts of being, consciousness, culture, language, intelligence, and aesthetics have often been defined through a decisive separation of the human from the background of the natural environment and the primitive characteristics of non-human species. Yet in the twenty-first century, the limitations of such conceptualisations are being newly felt’. 

David Aston, ‘Oracle: Artificial Intelligence Future Prediction Simulator’ Image courtesy of Paul Sutton) David Aston, ‘Oracle: Artificial Intelligence Future Prediction Simulator’ Image courtesy of Paul Sutton)
David Aston, ‘Oracle: Artificial Intelligence Future Prediction Simulator’ (Image courtesy of Paul Sutton). 

In seeking to redress the balance, there has been an ‘eco-critical’ turn in the humanities, sciences and arts, producing new forms of knowing and ways of being. As part of a suite of courses that explore these (and other) contemporary ideas that cut across a range of disciplines within the humanities, the newly expanded Culture programme at City Lit is endeavouring to explore how contemporary thinkers, writers, filmmakers, artists are finding creative ways to respond to this crisis.

The Society of the Spectacle

The cultural landscape that we inhabit today is one that has become ever more mediatised in its broadest sense, whether via older technologies such as television or via the newer, sometimes increasingly unsettling AI-driven (artificial intelligence) world of the Internet and social media.

Some of these forms of communication can trace their origins back to the Victorians and the development of electrical communication – the telegraph, for example – but also the rapid expansion of the railway network and the profound changes that this introduced to the conception and experience of everyday life.

Today our intimate entanglement with digital technologies and with non-human forms of intelligence continues to push the boundaries of human experience and beyond that what it means to be human at all. Fundamental questions such as these will be considered across some of the many new culture courses on offer here at City Lit this academic year.

The Culture Programme at City Lit

For those interested in learning more, the interdisciplinary Culture programme at City Lit offers various ways into thinking about some of these urgent issues through a range of in-person and online courses. 

We have courses exploring specifically Victorian modes of communication and travel alongside one that examines the changing nature of technological development and its impact on culture from the 19th century to the present day. 

We also offer courses that look at the current environmental crisis and the various cultural responses to it. There are plenty of other exciting culture courses available at City Lit, ranging from explorations of New York ‘80s Culture, Americans in 20th Century Paris, Feminism for the 21st Century and considerations of contemporary Cyborg Cultures, to name just a few, so please do check the online Culture pages for further details.



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