The original works
'Most people’s first introduction to the cyborg is within popular media –and particularly science fiction – where the notion of the cyborg has almost always taken on a threatening quality.' (2011: 211-212)....'At the same time, more benign cyborgs in popular media, such as The Six Million Dollar Man or Robocop, portray cyborgs as helpful, as opposed to threatening, but still with a sense of pathos associated with the denigrated human' (2011: 220).
Miller, V. (2011) Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.
“By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are all cyborgs. The cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality…”
Haraway, D. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp.149-181.
'Mobile media technologies, and tele-technologies more generally, are therefore not simply prosthesis or augmentations of our sensorium, but tools which impact upon our bodily limits, shifting the variable boundaries of embodiment, and altering our sense of having a body: they educe altered ‘involvements’ of the soma' (2007: 207).
Richardson, I. (2007). Pocket Technospaces: the Bodily Incorporation of Mobile Media. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies. 21 (2), pp. 205-215
Commentary on the remix by Nigel Painting
I created this visual artefact to summarise learning themes from the ‘Cybercultures’ block of the Education & Digital Cultures course, part of the MSc in Digital Education at Edinburgh University. The key themes that emerged from studying the course were as follows: sentience; almost human; memory; divisions between technology and humanness; the preservation of the authentic human; the utopia and dystopia of technological intervention; enhancement, and; centring of the desiring human subject. The visual artefact shown above is my attempt at representing as many of these themes as I could, and to hint at points raised in some of the academic discussion on the subject of cyberculture.
The scene outside the window is a response to first part of the quote from Vincent Miller (2011) above. I wanted to highlight the fact that the representation of cyborgs as evil is not a recent phenomenon: you will see that there are images from several generations, starting with the Tripods (which are not strictly cyborgs as they do not have a human form) to the Terminator. As Miller points out in the second part of the quote printed above, cyborgs are also sometimes portrayed in the popular media as being helpful to society: the Six Million Dollar Man and Robocop, for instance. With this in mind I included some of the more recent movie characters such as WALL-E, Johnny 5 and Big Hero 6. All of these stretch the cyborg definition a little but they each have characteristics we would recognise as intrinsically human.
In the foreground of the image I am sat at a workstation surrounded by a plethora of devices that are all connected to the ‘cloud’ and also, one way or another, to my body: directly, such as the headset and the Fitbit; visually, through the array of screens, or; aurally, through devices such as the Echo Dot. This is my response to the quote from Donna Haraway, taken from here Cyborg Manifesto. The circuitry that can be seen through my shirt is intended to indicate that we are perhaps becoming cyborgs ‘by stealth’, that it is creeping up on us from behind. Whether you see this as a spreading infection or an enhancement will, perhaps, depend on your point of view. As you can see from the image it is causing me some discomfort, which alludes to my own thoughts on the matter, particularly with devices such as the Echo Dot and their ‘big brother is always listening’ connotations.
Lastly, through the array of screen in the picture I wanted to represent what Vincent Miller refers to as ‘technological embodiment’. This is shown through multiple virtual representations of me, facilitated by the computer mediated communication routes that were used during the Education and Digital Cultures course (such as blog comments and Twitter), though my work, and through my social life (represented as a Facebook page and the Fitbit, which represents me on Runkeeper). These aspects of the picture can be seen as a response to work of Ingrid Richardson where she argues that mobile media technologies need to be conceptualised in ways beyond prosthesis or an augmentation of the senses, and instead to recognise how technologies affect our 'bodily limits' and 'boundaries of embodiment',
Responses to the remix