Thinking like a Cyborg

 

Virtual reality is rooted both in the real and the imaginary; it is a set of movements that is not only steeped in social reality but also appear to us as fantastical spaces (Munster 2006, 90-91). Digital technology can multiply and extend our physicality to significant degrees; however there is no guarantee that seamless matches between the body and technology will be produced. Thus, these mismatches can show us the hybridity and transgressiveness of embodiment through technology. In this sense, digital technology is one that corresponds with rather than replicates the actual world (Munster 2006, 93). The cyborg, who occupies both reality and imagination, give us the chance to talk of different realities that would seem different to different eyes and that establish themselves at the very moment of engagement (Longo 2003, 26).

The cyborg body is oppositional, utopian, and “completely without innocence” (Haraway 1991, 292). Technology has come a long way to challenges cultural dualism in interesting ways; the distinction between mind and body becomes more and more ambiguous, and it is not as clear who makes and who is made (Haraway 1991, 313). There has been ongoing progress of the artificialisation of the human body and also an anthropomorphing of mechanical objects (Fortunati, Katz & Riccini 2003, 218). When machine could be brought to life and living beings mechanised, the distinction between machine and organism relationships becomes obsolete and unnecessary (Haraway 1991, 314). The body is a potential map of power and identity, and the cyborg body has the potential to subvert existing systems and provide us with new perspectives. A cyborg body does not seek a wholesome identity; it generates antagonism indefinitely and therefore can show us a way “out of the maze of dualism” (Haraway 1991, 315-316).

As such, cyborg imagery allows us to go beyond naturalistic and constructionist perspectives. Haraway argued for a cyborg politics that strive against the one unifying language which translates all meaning perfectly under one central canon; it insists on noise, pollution and fusion to subvert dominant structures and modes of reproduction of  the dualism between master and slaves, man and machine, reality and fiction (Haraway 1991, 312). The hybridity of the cyborg image can therefore encourage us to think about processes of transgression, about how certain boundaries between human and digital technology are being crossed and eroded. For Haraway, it is the cyborg subjectivity, the merging of identities and the constant breaking down boundaries that can disrupt the matrices of domination and present to us new potentials (Haraway 1991, 311). For us, it offers a refreshing way of thinking about how we interact with technology – and digital technology in particular – to give ourselves an opportunity to think outside the boxes of rigid clichés and oppositions.

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