(1) Read Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the late twentieth century using the library link below. Unpack and make notes as you read.
Haraway, D. (1990) ‘Chapter Eight: A Cyborg Manifesto’ In: Simians, Cyborgs, and Women : The Reinvention of Nature. London, UNITED KINGDOM: Taylor & Francis Group. pp.149–182.
Before reading the article I think I need some context… Donna Haraway will have an agenda like any academic writer. What I’ve discovered is that in academia there are many opinions, just as there are in everyday life. And just as in life people’s opinions are based on a mix of their politics/upbringings/training and access to/and analysis of facts (as they see them) so too in the academic world.
It’s a bit like football… there are a few dominant current theories like the super clubs at the top of the premiership. But these all have a lifespan and over time some drop out and new ones come in. There are also, of course, other strong theories constantly challenging these… like the rest of the premiership. These dominant, or upcoming theories, are often hybrids of different critical approaches, but can be new ideas altogether
The individual critics are like footballers. You get your international star players who are world beating academics (and get the fame, status and riches that go with that) right down to the lesser league and non league players who scrape a living teaching and write an occasional academic paper.
What there isn’t is a ‘correct’ answer to anything to do with culture.
So… in looking at any academic paper I need to know a little about when it was written… what was going on in society… and the political views of the author. On one level they are selling their opinions as much as Coke Cola is trying to sell me a drink (their status and success depend on convincing academia that they have the most accurate map of cultural reality). It is that academic’s opinion at that moment in time and if I am to form my own opinions I should treat it as such… no more, no less.
So, I need to have in mind the societal changes that were going on in 1985 when this was written and that Haraway was a feminist who criticised identity politics… and that this was first published in the Socialist Review. Was that because she couldn’t get it published in an academic journal or that she was pushing a political agenda? I suspect the latter.
I am going to look at some key terms then read and annotate the article and unpack it.
Her specialist subject: History of Consciousness:
Wikipedia: History of Consciousness is the name of a department in the Humanities Division of the University of California, Santa Cruz with a 50+ year history of interdisciplinary research and student training in “established and emergent disciplines and fields” in the humanities, arts, sciences, and social sciences based on a diverse array of theoretical approaches. The program has a history of well-known affiliated faculty and of well-known program graduates.
The department was began in about 1965 when the new St Cruz campus opened for the University of California. This was a time of radical ideas so academically, it’s a new kid on the block. Gradually it was formalised and brought into the Humanities department… Haraway joined in the late 1970’s.
It’s interdisciplinary and, one would hope, constantly being refreshed by the struggle between the different disciplines.
Haraway’s paper is now nearly 30 years old, so it will be interesting to see how it relates to the strides in technology… and how much of her (cutting edge) paper has seeped into ordinary discourse.
Feminist studies (her other specialism):
Wikipedia: Women’s studies is an academic field that draws on feminist and interdisciplinary methods in order to place women’s lives and experiences at the center of study, while examining social and cultural constructs of gender; systems of privilege and oppression; and the relationships between power and gender as they intersect with other identities and social locations such as race, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, and disability.
This is very interesting as it locates women as other (I’ve never heard of ‘Maninist’ studies), when I’ve always thought of them as equal.
It also reminds me of Marxist led articles I have read where the role of art is to educate workers of their ‘true position’ in the means of production so they can fight against capitalist opprerssion.
I don’t know enough about this area but my non academic thoughts are that when equals are treated as not equal for the benefit of a privileged group and that treatment is brought into the light, it is very difficult for them to defend their actions. Basically, abuse of any kind is easier to hide in the dark.
Given the unequal pay of women, the fact they have done more child care in the pandemic and their treatment in fundamentalist countries I think we still have a long way to go in understanding and organising society fairly.
Identity politics (what she criticised):
Wikipedia: Identity politics is a term that describes a political approach wherein people of a particular religion, race, social background, class or other identifying factor develop political agendas and organize based upon the interlocking systems of oppression that affect their lives and come from their various identities.
This is a little difficult to unpick as common sense would say we all base our politics on our identities. Do we identify as Labour or Conservative… Democrat or Republical.
This is also complicated when people are oppressed without realising it, such as when their unemployment is blamed on their laziness but is due to structural problems in the economy, or lack of government help in retraining.
I take identity politics to mean when people form their political affiliations around what they identify as ‘interlocking systems of oppression’ rather than identifying with society as a whole.
Socialist Review (where she first published):
Wikipedia: The Socialist Review is the monthly magazine of the British Socialist Workers Party. As well as being printed it is also published online.
I have not studied the politics of the British Socialist Workers Party or read their magazine but I think I can safely assume that it is heavily political and has a sharply defined agenda.
Haraway was a successful academic with published academic papers so I can only assume that she chose to publish in The Socialist Review for political (rather than academic) reasons.
Three other terms need claryfying:
Tool: From the Collins Dictionary:
A tool is any instrument or simple piece of equipment that you hold in your hands and use to do a particular kind of work. For example, spades, hammers, and knives are all tools.
Technology: (Collins’ definition):
Technology refers to methods, systems, and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes.
Machine: (Collins’ definition):
A machine is a piece of equipment which uses electricity or an engine in order to do a particular kind of work.
International women’s movements have uncovered fact and fiction of women’s lives… liberation rests on constructing consciousness… and possibilities… cyborg changes what counts as women’s experience.
I understand her premise so far.
Cyborg a reality… only partially, in science fiction the cyborg is integrated and enhanced… a single unity from organic and non organic parts. In medicine (so far) machines and technologies in the body though they may enhance performance and replace defective biological parts are no more than supercharged internal technological tools.
Cyborg is a fiction mapping social and bodily reality – an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful couplings.
Is she’s using Cyborg as a metaphor for women in society?
… effort of socialist-feminist culture in postmodernist mode of imagining a world without gender.
Is that because Cyborgs are genderless and not sexually reproduced? And is she arguing for a genderless society? Or a society where gender is not the determiner of difference… so male and female are equal? And feminism would not exist because gender would be rendered meaningless?
A Cyborg has no origin story… no terror of the phallic mother… no individual development and history… no gender formation… no original unity out of which to produce difference… no drama of escalating domination of women and nature.
A Cyborg has an origin in science fiction, a trope is always the struggle between biology (loss of humanity) and machine. It’s origin is the original sin of murder (of the human)… and the struggle of the human to to survive inside the Cyborg… for the no longer human where is the place for thoughts and feelings born of humanity?
The Cyborg is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust. … does not dream of community on the model of the organic family… they can exist as individual units (apart from ‘society’) yet long to connect… they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and capitalism.
Haraway seems to be verging on an individual ideology… these are broad statements about a fictional construct given as absolutes.
There are three ‘boundary breaches’ in late 20th century USA: Man and animal; Animal/human and machine; physical and non physical.
Here she is stuck in her time and charting a shifting boundary, where the boundaries seem broken to her they have been re-established for us. Man is now firmly an animal, but animal is not man; Machines are in no way analogous to man in complexity or capacity, we now know enough to know that even with the doubling of computing power and AI every five years or so computers will not be able to achieve the most basic common sense tasks for decades; as yet we cannot make non physical machines (we may be able to make whole or part biological machines soon). We have reduced the physical mass of technology from a building full of hardware (an old NASA computer) to a smartphone but we are nowhere near eliminating the need for any physical components.
The next paragraph seems entirely political and equates ‘Oriental’ factory women soldering smartphones to Cyborgs… and modern technology as Cyborgs.
Two viewpoints: 1) Dualisms of mind/body, animal/machine, idealism/materialism in social practices, symbolic formulations, and physical artefacts of high technology/scientific culture… rely on an imagined organic body to integrate resistance. 2) People are not afraid of joint kinships and partial identities. Both vantage points are necessary for the struggle for ‘justice/good societry/resist male dominated capital/military system’.
The language is very flowery and emotive like a barnstorming political speech, though it’s dressed in opaque (exclusive but for the initiated) academic language. She is arguing that different theorists come together to fight a common opposition instead of fighting each other.
Fractured Identities – p 155
No unity in identity – so many adjectives such as gender, race, class that there are as many groups as there are identities. We need to find a way of coming together… affinity not identiity.
This sounds like common sense – fight the enemy not yourselves, the group is stronger than the individual… and so on.
Oppositional consciousness – none categorised affiliation. An effective unity against man (man the the author of a cosmos called history). The old identity ideologies like Marxism and feminism were based on totalization and were exclusive of the ‘disorderly polyphony emerging from decolonisation’.
Marxism and feminism, from the outside, feel like very private clubs and structurally similar to the white/male/elite power structures the groups were opposed to. So a new way of organising and uniting resistance seems sensible.
The taxonomy of feminism has traditionally either incorporated or marginalised all groups not following its dogma. Thus it creates an official woman’s experience.
Put in these terms, feminism is fighting to replace one rigid ideological state with another… merely supplanting an old dictator for a new one (that is better suited to their needs)… but the logic of this is that any who don’t follow the new ‘rules’ them become subjugated just as they were.
What could replace this old feminism and still be effective? Cyborg feminism could be the answer. White middle class women discovering the non-innocence of the category ‘woman’ are forever changed. Innocence and victimhood as the only ground for insight are damaging… we could be another way.
It sounds like she is talking about democratising ‘feminism’ so all voices have an equal chance to speak and be heard, and people with different views can unite in agreement and with common cause... that sounds good.
Marxism… labour is an ontological category permitting the knowledge of a subject, and so the knowledge of subjugation and alienation. Feminism filiated itself with Marxism and ‘women’s labour’ entered theory under the authority of analogy to the Marxian concept of labour… in the household and as mothers (reproductive units in a capitalist state.) This is a difficulty as it is a pre-eminently Western ideology. The category ‘women’ has been naturalised and denatured in a Western theory of grounding action. Thus the epistemology and ontology of marxism/feminist identity politics/radical feminism erase or police difference.
I believe any fundamentalist ideology is by its nature dehumanising as it overrides common humanity ‘for the cause’. Followers believe in their own righteousness and insist on the world being seen through their eyes, and many ‘atrocities’ have been committed by fundamentalist groups. Marxism in it’s rigidity does have the feel (and many of the attributes) of a fundamentalist ideology.
An example of Haraway’s language, “… unintended erasure of polyvocal, unassimilable, radical difference made visible in anti-colonial discourse and practice…” … which simply means that MacKinnon’s theory stifled debate. The effect of this language is to exclude ‘ordinary’ people, make the uninitiated feel stupid or angry, put control firmly with the elite (who understand the language), and stroke the initiated.
Radical feminism can only accommodate all the activities named by social feminists as forms of labour if it can sexualise them. For radical feminists reproduction was rooted in ‘sex’ and for social feminists in ‘labour’. Both calling male domination and ignorance of social and personality ‘false consciousness’. Both categorisations were separate and both were totalities. Problems that couldn’t be incorporated by expanding the ideology, such as racism, were ignored.
Any theory that claims to explain the category ‘woman’ that has no place for race, or any experience that does not fit into its taxonomy, is invalid.
Different historical groups are said to have come into existence at different times… such as women and youth after the second world war… race did not always exist… ‘homosexuals’ are quite recent.
Society and culture is fluid so it makes sense that different groups (social categorisations in common usage) come in to focus at different historical junctures.
Real connection (of women) has been made partial by outdated white ideologies. Some differences are playful some are poles of world history systems of domination.
Yes, obviously, some differences are more important than others.
The Informatics of Domination (page 161)
Epistemological and political position. Rooted in fundamental change from industrial capitalism (an organic, industrial society) to a polymorphous, information system. From all work to all play. From comfortable old hierarchical dominations to scary new networks.
It is commonly said that we are living through a technological revolution as life changing as the industrial revolution and there is definitely a shift from away from industrial capitalism to production based on technology and information. Following on from this there are huge cultural changes that are only just becoming visible. One might be gender fluidity? Especially considering the rigidity of gender roles into the fifties and beyond, and the laws around homosexuality and same sex marriages. Another change is some people’s inability to tell the difference between image and reality. However, we are only just at the beginning of this paradigm shift and AI and the change in the jobs market will lead to seismic shifts in society and culture.
Harroway has a list of the transitions… I’ll take three:
Eugenics to population control (we seem to be going more in the direction of eugenics with genetic engineering – it’s outlawed at the moment but usually when the science is there it happens).
Reproduction to replication (we are nowhere near human replication yet… though we have cloned a sheep it’s not an issue in the public domain)
Racial chain of being to Neo-imperialism, United Nations Humanism (racialism is still rife around the world and getting worse in countries regressing to nationalistic populist governments, and in fundamentalist and totalitarian one party states… United `Nations Humanism seems very weak and imperialism in China on the rise).
As with any future prediction it’s very difficult to get it right but her list is very interesting and it would be fascinating to take her list old certainties and add our own predictions.
The two sides of the list expose the old ‘natural’ code as unnatural… so if replication becomes ‘normal’, then by definition sex was never ‘natural’.
This is problematic because, apart from all classifications being man made and therefore artificial constructs, it oversimplifies the situation. However we decide ‘natural’… it may have been natural to ‘reproduce’ under one system, but natural to ‘replicate’ under another. So what is ‘natural’ is dependent on the society/culture in place not on the term itself. To use a common sense analogy, what is natural for one person is not natural for another.
She then talks about the new Cyborg world, and explains her new ‘naturals’. This allows her to talk about a new world order and ‘how it might be’.
This is science fiction.
Old dichotomies such as animal and human will break down and numerous and polymorphous relationships replace them. The Cyborg is a kind disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self. Any relationship of woman to production/reproduction/the home/the workplace can be interfaced in a nearly infinite number of ways. New myths and meanings around science and technology will have to be made. This woman of infinite possibilities is the self feminists must code.
Current feminist theories are not fit for purpose in our changing world.
In this new world communication technologies and biotechnologies will be able to code everything so all boundaries will be permeable. Problems will be translated into coding and answers will depend on information flows. The language of coding will be universal and the biggest threat to power will be the interruption of information.
We are so far from reality and in the world of science fiction that I don’t see its current relevance. Other than any science fiction makes you rethink today.
Microelectronics is the technical basis of simulacra; that is, of copies without originals.
We are here in as far as we generate models of the real that become reality (but have no original) such as characters in video games. We can have ‘deep fakes’ that are so real only specialists can tell reality from the fake or simulacra. We also have fake news, that by definition has no original, but becomes real for the viewer.
Biology is used to ‘engineer’ new materials… microelectronics mediate labour into robotics… old boundaries (and its associated language such as base and superstructure) are threatened everywhere.
The world is changing so quickly that we need a new language. Language generally adapts very quickly so I assume it will start evolving to reflect the new realities.
The structured relations among people are changing so we need fresh analysis and political action to deal with it.
The ‘Homework Economy’ Outside the Home (page 166)
New working practices are producing a new working class… and new sexualities and ethnicities.
‘New Industrial Revolution’ producing new world wide working class/sexualities/ethnicities – capital mobility – international division of labour… new collectives/weakening familiar groupings. White men in advanced industrial societies vulnerable to permanent job loss… women keeping jobs… Third World women preferred labour in export processing sectors (esp. electronics). Process involves reproduction/sexuality/culture/consumption/production… in Silicon Valley women’s lives structured round electronic jobs… serial sexual monogamy/negotiating childcare/distance from extended kin/traditional community… likelihood loneliness and economic vulnerability in old age. Wide ethnic and racial diversity and conflicting interests culture/family/religion/education and language.
Working in the home (‘homework economy’) is redefined as female and feminised, whatever the sex. ‘Home workers are exploited as a reserve labour force, more servers than workers… time arrangements that make a mockery of a limited working day. Vast numbers of workers (white male) deskilled. This upsets social relationships men/women and needs to be examined.
It would seem common sense that new economic relationships engender new social and cultural arrangements. And (as they are new) we need to understand them. I agree ‘home workers of either gender are treated a servers not workers… lip service is paid to their social/economic importance especially now men are in the home but my feeling is they are generally considered low status, unskilled workers whose time is of little cash value.
Attack on white male unionised jobs is tied to communication technologies. Loss of (white) male wage and many female jobs are capital intensive like nursing and office work. Also collapsing welfare state and intensifying demands on women to sustain daily life with insecure paid work and ‘Homework’. The integration of the women into paid work is new… poverty with employment. Teenage women often sole wage earners supporting family in Third World… access to land is difficult. These all have major consequences for politics/gender/race.
This could be a description of life today and the cracks exposed by Trump’s election and Covid-19.
Haraway says that different stages of capitalism as identified by Marxism lead to different social arrangements. The present structure tied to ‘Housework’ she sees as women-headed households, strong feminism and erosion of gender.
Feminism does seem to be strong in society, at least in the public/state sector of the West… and there is an erosion of gender as seen in gender fluidity.
Men put out of work by technology in developed countries by automation/robotics… few male jobs generated in Third World countries… plus automated office… feminisation of work intensifies. Brings the social experience of black and white women closer. Cross gender/race alliances will become necessary.
In theory, but I don’t see any political movements mobilising this alliance. Black and white in the UK still seem separate, let alone in the US.
Technology effect on hunger/food production… women produce 50% food worldwide but excluded from benefiting from high tech commodification food/energy crops. Women still have to supply food. Gendered imaginations produced by video games where boys play violent destructive games. Effect militarised high tech states at the cultural expense of women. Tourism one of world’s largest industries.
This paragraph seems confused and under explained… with generalities put as facts. I think there is debate about the gender effect of video games… and it is much more complex than she suggests.
… Another confused paragraph… I think she is talking about reproduction but mixes traditional reproduction myths with boundary crossing (current technology) and Cyborg reproduction. Her point (I think) is that high tech systems are generating a new type of origin myth.
Scientific and technical workforce… danger bimodal social structure… elite workers and a mass of general redundancy and impotence controlled by a high tech repressive apparatus. The role of women in this privileged scientific group should be examined.
I’m not sure the bimodal social structure is science based… but there are the ‘left behinds’ (there is a bimodal social structure exposed by Covid-19) and huge swathes of ‘unskilled’ workers trapped in low paid insecure jobs.
Can the professional middle class women be connected to the ‘non-professional’ women… in the feminist cause?
It would be nice… but I don’t see it happening based on gender, especially with the gender fluidity Haraway identified earlier. However, I do see a movement (or at least the beginning of one) among professional people and ‘ordinary’ working people around questions of how we structure society in our ‘new world’… and whether the unemployed are to blame as slackers… or the problem is structural. I see a battle between the old elite with political power and capital against a rising realisation among ‘society’ of a need for ‘fairness’ and change.
Women in the Integrated Circuit: (page 170)
My wording… Society as complex circuit… woman’s position not as previously ascribed like a switch (factory/home for example) but a network of interwoven ‘realities’ always connected and always ‘on’. Each idealized space suggested in the other: Home, Market, Paid Workplace, State, School, Clinic-Hospital, and Church.
Diaspora now includes (she has a long list under each heading but I’ll just take the first two.)
Home: Woman-headed households, serial monogamy… Market: Women’s continuing consumption work, programmed to buy new technologies… Paid Work Place: Sexual and racial division of labour, many more privileged occupational categories for white women… State: Continued erosion of welfare state, decentralizations with increased surveillance and control… School: Deepening coupling of high-tech capital needs and public education at all levels, differentiated by race class and gender… Clinic-hospital: Intensified machine body relations, renegotiations of public metaphors which channel personal experience of the body… Church: Electronic fundamentalist ‘super-saver’ preachers solemnizing the union of electronic capital and automated electronic fetish gods, intensified importance of churches in resisting militarised state…
… all this is a massive intensification of insecurity and cultural impoverishment, with common failure of subsistence networks for the most vulnerable.
Most of what she predicted has come to pass as such as the UK’s failure of subsistence networks for the most vulnerable where the state chooses not to fund free school meals in holidays (and is forced into doing so by a political backlash) and seeks to take away £20 a week from starving families in a pandemic that ensures there are minimal low paid jobs (it may be forced into a ‘U’ turn). Haraway was hopeful for organisational opposition from women’s groups and labour… The Labour party in the UK has been ineffective and silent on these huge structural changes and has mounted no effective opposition (which is strange)… there is some public awareness as the invisible in society (cleaners/care home workers for example) on who society depends are brought out of the shadows by the pandemic.
Argument for not splitting women into those offering a ‘clear-sighted critique grounding a solid political epistemology versus ‘manipulated false consciousness’ but a better understanding of new realities and possibilities and the potential for changing the rules of the game. No totality of language… in social relations science and technology there might evolve a feminist science.
The old ideological straight jackets Marxist’ ideologies feels almost biblical and from another age… Marxist academics like priests interpreting the bible… these highly structured ideologies first born in the industrial revolution are not fit for the purpose of ‘opposing’ the ‘New World Order’ of a machine society creating a bimodal society.
Cyborgs: A Myth of political identity:
Myth of identity and boundaries… bodily boundaries and social order… bodily image related to world view… machines and consciousness of late capitalism… breakdown in distinction organism and machine… personal and political ‘technological’ pollution.
Women of colour:
Fusion of identities compared to Cyborg fusion organic and non organic… a metaphor… in the US… ‘Offshore woman’ … ‘Sister outsider’… distinction oral and written language… power to signify by writing… of the power to survive (not original innocence and falling from grace)… science writing male… the body turned into coding… women must create non male origin myths… language politics and battles over language… how can you have an identity if your language is taken away? Using the ‘conqueror’s language’.
Difficult to understand and dense… but talking about language as a frame… and if you use someones language (including their hidden myth structures) you cannot have your own identity or successfully challenge the system embodied in the language. Therefore women must create a new language and mythology.
Writing is Cyborg technology… struggle against perfect phallogocentrism (fallacy of the one code that translates all code perfectly)… so Cyborgs generate noise and pollution/rejoice in illegitimate fusion animal and machine and so subvert structures and modes of ‘Western ‘ identity such as body and mind, slave and master.
Haraway is saying women are metaphorical Cyborgs disrupting the (male) language of power and creating a new communication system (a new language.).. initially by disrupting the old language.
My interpretation… Current language based in oppression and moral superiority and myth of Adam and Eve, woman born of man, so separateness of woman from man is what masculinists fear because it threatens their power. However, Cyborg (Woman of Colour) writes her own origin story and turns herself into the literate mother who teaches survival. So… partly we are talking about a battle over the language society uses.
Traditional origin myth… original innocence (lost) and the return to wholeness so life is individuation, separation, tragedy in autonomy… war with occasional respite in the bosom of the Other… stories with plots ruled by reproductive politics… women better or worse but always weak and oral… and subject to victimisation. Real Cyborgs such as South East Asian village workers are writing own texts of their bodies and societies and refusing to disappear. Survival is their power.
This seems like she is talking not only about identity politics and the voiceless having a voice (which is happening a little bit) but in changing the very language which fashions our Western world view… which I don’t think is happening… the weak are given a voice within the language and are subsumed into it, rather than writing a new language.
Male language is structured in dualisms: mind/body, culture/nature, self/other for example. The self is the One who is not dominated (the male) but is dependant on the other so their power is an illusion. To be the other is to be multiple, without clear boundary.
This sounds like a neat trick of words… in reality the dominant group stay dominant and exploit the weak… however they view themselves the reality is the exploitation of the weak.
The final few pages analyse feminist science fiction… boundary crossing and Cyborgs.
Cyborgs are not our enemy… their bodies like ours are maps of power and identity. Science fiction examines their ‘identity’ and possibilities. How they generate different languages not (structurally seeking unitary identity and generating antagonistic dualisms). Female embodiment has historically been organic and necessary… by being out of that role and taking pleasure in machines women (Cyborgs) create a ‘new sex’… gender ceases to be a global identity and this has a profound effect on society and culture.
I wonder if the new gender fluidity is a reflection of this change? Whether ‘gender’ will cease to define humanity? Fundamentalist patriarchal societies trying to jam women back into the Eve role? Modern technological societies ‘degendering’ could produce a new of Cyborg equality… but the feminist victory of the liberation of women would have been born of technological change not Marxist activism… and by the destruction of the binary woman/man.
The Cyborg myth system is waiting to become a political language to challenge the informatics of domination.
Yes… if humanity became genderless or totally gender fluid (there was no male or female) and there was no ‘birth’ but construction/combination/and reconstruction it would generate a new language – not in the sense of French, Spanish or Chinese but an alien language encompassing a new way of being.
Cyborg imagery suggests a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves. A goddess is part of the dualistic male worldview (and even though a goddess man is the signified in male/female… woman is the other) so Haraway would rather be a Cyborg… fluid… heteroglossic and multi tongued.
Unpicking… A thought provoking read with much clear analysis but some confusion. It opens up areas of serious debate which I have not heard aired in public debate.
The picture of the future for society is chilling (and is coming true) and it is tragic that this was written in such opaque language and published in a left wing journal so as guarantee its obscurity, and defeat the very thing it said it was fighting for.
(2) Read Automata: Seeing Cyborg Through the Eyes of Popular Culture , Adam I Bostic. Again, unpack and make notes as you read.
I couldn’t find any Wikipedia entry for Adam I. Bostic or background information on the article.
published in 1968?
Contemporary cultural expressions of cyborg consciousness… a mass of contradictions… a way to be outside of/and explore ourselves…
Application of cyborg theory in contemporary tv and cinema… modern technology visually believable and virtually real… gives them psychic potency… two narrative forms, as hero or collective… hero’s disembodiment and transformation through technology to improved whole – hero struggles with new identity then accepts as an element of transformation of enhanced body and self.
Collective have no individuality… they are neo-socialist and androgynous… single consciousness… ruthless and emotionless… collapse of binary terms of difference… body in crisis without desire or agency… a conscious being that isn’t human…
Visual form expresses culture…
We are/are like machines… our genetic code is similar to a computer code… we propagate a digital database that did the programming… we are incorporating machines (artificial hearts/limbs) into our bodies… technologies and medicine only part of cyborg discussion… discussion extends to thought and perception.
Individual and community… use of mobile phone… a virtual experience… extends the human body… my ‘personal body’ gives way to a ‘social body’.
Cyborg always seeks improvement…
Unpick… A much lighter piece (academically) but interesting in it’s analysis of cyborgs in popular culture – more a media studies piece than social studies and lacking in direct social relevance. I enjoyed and the section on the different narrative structures of cyborg and as I had seen most of the films and TV he cited and it’s given me another framework to view these films.
3) Think carefully about your own enhanced embodiment with technology.
I use the phone to chat to people not present… the internet to research images and information… glasses to help me see.
None of this threatens to make me into a hero or subsume me into a collective… I feel these these technologies are machine tools rather than making me into a cyborg.
Is this relevant to your continuing Painting Practice?
Not psychologically… insofar as these technological/machine/simple tools give me more options to express myself I will use as many as I understand and can afford. The technology gives me access to tools I can use… I use information and I use paint… on one level modern paint is no less a tool than my phone as neither change ‘me’ as a human and both are things I ‘bend to my will’.
Would you consider using varying technologies to inform your practice or do you find technology interesting in terms of concept?
Technologies are just new tools… no better or worse than anything we already have. They allow us to do different things. A spade, or a fork or a trowel in the garden are tools with different strengths and weaknesses… pigs can turn the soil too… as can rotavators or industrial ploughs.
If it helps me express what I want to express and I can understand and use it I will.
Conceptually, all technology is an extension of tool making and no more alive than a walking stick or a pen. If technology gains consciousness or penetrates/integrates with biology sufficiently to create a cyborg with a different consciousness to a human then I would be interested. However technology (and the cyborg) drove a huge cultural wave of books/tv and films in the 90’s and early 2000’s – many of which I read and watched so it’s not something I’m conceptually interested in in my own practice.
Write reflectively around your thoughts on this subject.
My thoughts are that we are nowhere near the border between human and cyborg, or machine consciousness.
What has been very interesting in this reading is how language is species determined – not Chinese, Russian or English – but the human… and this stands outside and controls discourse within it. Our language is binary and male dominated, making that frame visible changes me conceptually.
Haraway’s essay is harrowing and charts the dystopian future well. She delineates how it is dependant on language and how changing economic production might change language and therefore change the future. Sadly, I see no evidence of this… though gender fluidity might be a sign.
By turning away from figurative painting in my practice towards abstraction, I wonder if I am turning away from a visual language rooted in binary oppositions and am trying to find a non gendered space where people can come together as undifferentiated humans? Or even, in Haraway’s terms, as cyborgs?