10 Replies to “Block 1 – Cybercultures visual artefact #MSCEDC https://t.co/WRDuiYR03A”

  1. Absolutely fantastic!

    I love the way you show the difference between the frightening way that Cyborgs are portrayed in fiction and the real world applications that are so inspiring. I think we can get too caught up in the worries and hypothesising of potential down-sides to consider the upshots.

    With the reading from Miller’s 2011 The Body and Information Technology, we have so many examples of the positive possibilities of cyborgs. Restorative cyborgs are celebrated at the Paralympics, so why downplay the advances that technology has made in this area? Ableism comes in many forms, and our obsession with fearing technology cannot be allowed to reinforce this. In the same way that Reconfiguring and Restorative cyborgism could be seen as applying to those who have had, or are undergoing, Gender Reassignment.

    Is perhaps the same underlying fear that people have of tampering with the human form through technology connected to the fear of those who are “other”? Is the fear and hatred of the Cyborg the same type of prejudice shown to those with a Disability or who are Transgender?

    1. Thank you so much for you comments. I’m glad you enjoyed my visual artefact.

      Yes, I was trying to encapsulate the view being argued by Knox (2015), that digital education has “largely shifted away from the phase of cybercultures, towards the view of an educational world in which technology is more firmly embedded, but importantly subservient to its human users”. The dystopian image of cybercultures and cyborgs, that has been diffused to us through science fiction, is exactly that – fiction! Knox says the “next phase of education and digital cultures reveals a pacification and instrumentalism of technology for predefined social ends”. I had hoped for the artefact in the latter half of the video, was able to represent this change in how cybercultures can viewed and imagined in more positive ways.

      I think you draw a very interesting parallel regarding how those who have altered the human form through technology, aside those who had done so through gender reassignment. I agree that both would certainly receive prejudice rooted in ‘otherism’ and in the belief that the individual has done something ‘unnatural’. However, I think that perhaps fear and hatred of the cyborg is fuelled more from a mistrust of technology, as well as the augmented abilities that a technological enhancement may provide to a human. So whilst there are some similarities in the prejudice, I don’t think its exactly the same.

  2. Great video Brian!

    I really liked how the first two scenes emphasise a kind of horror at the idea of removing the mind from the body (seen especially in Murphy’s face when his Robocop suit is removed). This seemed to be an interesting counter to positive views of the Cartesian dualism, in which escape from the body is seen as emancipatory (although I suppose the end scene of Robocop in a positive one).

    The shift to ‘subservience’, as you describe in the comments above, really comes across in the second half of the video – it is actually surprising to see how much experimentation is happening in this area. Perhaps it is not mainstream, but some people certainly seem to be happy with breaking the skin barrier, don’t they!

    I wonder to what extent educational technology will come to accept this level of ‘enhancement’.

    1. I think you raise a very interesting point here Jeremy. Much of what has been discussed in terms of technological enhancements to humans has been from a wider social perspective. If we look at the issue from a narrower point of view, viz. technological enhancement of school children, I ponder what impact transhumanism would have on our education systems.

      Take for instance the most basic of the ‘real life’ enhancements from my video – the insertion of a data chip into the back of an individual’s hand. What educational opportunities would this avail, should schools and colleges insist on turning their students into an army of mini-cyborgs? There would certainly be many benefits from an administrative point of view; for example, schools would be able to undertake expedient and instantaneous attendance as children walk through the school gates, an essential part of their safeguarding procedures. In addition to this, cashless cafeterias would ensure the speedy distribution of lunches, and collate data on the types of food children are eating, with this being visible to both parents and teachers. Furthermore, this could form the basis for health-based discussions and schemes of work centred around real-life consumption data. An implanted chip that recorded biometric data from the child’s body in the same manner as a Fitbit or Apple Watch, would also be highly valuable for PE departments in devising personalised fitness plans and class setting according to physical ability. The list of educational benefits could go on….

      However, the ethical concerns surrounding what is being suggested here are glaringly obvious, particularly in reference to privacy, and Orwellian oversight of young people. As such, to my mind, the acceptance of this type of technical enhancement within mainstream education is a non-starter, certainly for primary and secondary aged children. I cannot imagine any teacher, senior manager, head of school, or politician that would be able to put forward a convincing enough ‘educational’ argument that would supersede the ethical implications of doing such a thing. The educational arguments are strong but surely the ethical considerations will always win for the parents and children.

  3. Great artefact Brian, only just got a chance to watch it now. Definitely a great exploration of transhumanism. The juxtaposing of fact and fiction certainly is powerful but I had a very different response to Matt. I found the juxtaposition actually made the factual reality of transhuman activity seem more ‘othering’ and as though the video was trying to show ‘this is how it starts’ sort of thing.
    Have you watched the series “Years and Years”? There is a very interesting take on Transhumanism there which looks into state ownership of transhuman tech and thus the transhumans themselves.
    There is also the well known case of Transhuman activist in Australia, Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, being charged by a transport company for modifying their card into bio-implant: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-18/biohacker-who-implanted-opal-card-into-hand-escapes-conviction/9880524

    1. Thank you for your comments David.

      Yes, I did see ‘Years and Years’ when it first screened. However, I was far more enticed to the programme by its socio-political storylines rather than its commentary on the development of technology. In fact, as the series progressed and the daughter went ever further down her transhumanist journey, I became increasingly frustrated as a viewer and felt that the show was deviating from what was a hard-hitting imagination of a (not-too-distant or implausible) dystopia created by Trumpian policy, Brexit Britain, the migrant crisis and a whole host of other ‘real-life’ contemporary issues. At the time, the transhuman storyline just didn’t ring quite true for me.

      It’s odd how my perception of the show has changed since starting this course and I have delved more and more into scholarly analysis of transhumanism and posthumanism. Having re-evaluated the characterisation of the transhumanist daughter it is possible to see that her extropian ideals are actually widely mirrored by many youngsters today, and the idea of biohacking is gaining traction amongst younger people. The scene where the wonky cybernetic eye implant that had installed by back-street charlatans, may not be that far removed from the reality of our near future.

      I think you also raise some interesting points here about the ownership of technology, and how there may tensions that could arise, particularly in terms of governmental/ corporate ownership, and how much control they could assert over posthumans. As Hayles states, ‘consider the six-million dollar man… As his name implies, the parts of the self are owned, but they are owned precisely because they were purchased, not because ownership is a natural condition”. She goes to onto say, “similarly, the presumption that there is agency, desire or will belonging to the self and clearly distinguished from the “wills of others” is undercut in the posthuman, for the posthuman’s collective heterogenous quality implies a distributed cognition located in disparate parts that may be in only tenuous communication with one another.” How will we be able to reconcile this dichotomy between self and ownership in a posthuman world? Certainly, within an educational context, there is already tremendous challenge in regards to ownership of technology and how it could/should be used for educational purposes. How much more difficulty and tension will schools and colleges face, when these issues are being discussed within a transhumanist/posthuman environment?

      Hayles, K. (1999) ‘Towards embodied virtuality’, in How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics, pp 1 – 24, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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