Prosthetic Versus Embodied Memory in Westworld’s “Kiksuya” and Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer

Colleen Johnson 

Publication: Volume 3 Issue 2

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Abstract

The creation of human-passing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in both science fiction and the real world must interrogate the importance of materiality and embodiment in the development of personal identity and consciousness. While it may seem that both Uta Briesewitz’s episode of Westworld, entitled “Kiksuya,” and Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer [Emotion Picture] work on a theory of memory as disembodied digitizable information, the films actually put forth a more nuanced theory of memory and identity that aligns with recent work in neurobiology which—as described by José van Dijck—claims that memory is constituted by sensory feeling and emotion rather than being just a function of data processing. This theory of memory is portrayed in both works by the traces of deleted memory still accessible to the lead characters and their ability to distinguish between embodied memories of lived experience and implanted prosthetic memories.

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, posthumanism, memory, identity, embodiment, materiality, cinema studies.

Colleen Johnson (Colleen.Johnson@oregonstate.edu) is currently a library instructor at Oregon State University Libraries and Press and holds an M.A. in English Literature and Culture and a B.S. in Bioengineering from Oregon State University, USA. Her research interests include contemporary screen studies, popular culture and fan studies, and queer and feminist theory. She is passionate about the role of queer writers and readers in online fan spaces and the transformation of popular culture objects within queer fan communities.