Thanks to technologies surrounding and incorporating us all the time, extending and amplifying our actions and lives, we are more empowered than ever to challenge the limitations of what it is to be human and what it is to be a woman. There is no room left for fear of being cyborgs. We already are. Let’s embrace the opportunities technology gives us to recreate our own identities.
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The word ‘cyborg’ (short for ‘cybernetic organism’) was invented by the engineer and psychiatrist double Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline and first mentioned in their article ‘Cyborgs and Space’ (1960). It explains the necessity of altering a human’s bodily functions to meet the requirements of environments in outer space as opposed to recreating an earthly environment. This scientific daydream initiated countless unprecedented speculations about extending the human condition and surpassing its bodily limitations.
Up until now there is no unitary definition of what the term ‘cyborg’ actually means. It is not confined to implanting technologies into the personal body or actually merging man and machine, but it encompasses all utilisation of human to nonhuman interaction to challenge our understanding of what it means to be human. Cyborgs are tangled networks of (wo)man and machine, they surround us and incorporate us all the time. Today, we are all cyborgs. New technologies constantly disrupt our ideas of how things are, how we are currently experiencing the world around us and how we see ourselves as human beings. By embracing new technologies, we embrace the capabilities that they give us, and therefore create new opportunities to develop our own identities.
A nightclub with its sound and light installations and avid dancers is as much cyborg as wearable technology, which helps us to understand our bodies better and to improve our performance by giving feedback based on the interpretation of body data. Technology extends our selves on the inside and outside, connecting us to ourselves and everything around us. Another example is the smartphone — we use it all the time, it serves as an extension to speech to talk to friends far away, as an extension to eyes and brain by being a camera and storage device, facilitates the navigation through unknown areas with the GPS, it literally extends our innate human capabilities and allows to experience the world around us in a different way. Of course not all aspects of this are good, we are more distracted, less anonymous and so on, but overall we can agree that it makes life in today’s world easier and more accessible.
As the cyborg is a combination of our imaginary and material reality, it gives us the ability to transform. Embracing our cyborg identity, harnessing the empowerment of humanity through machines, is a way to detect the infinite potential ways of being human and initiate change. Historically constructed identities of gender, race and class are contradictory. Their consciousness is being forced upon us in our social reality even though there is no thing that strictly binds us to any of these categories. All basic assumptions we make, that let us navigate and categorise different aspects of our life, can come into question and we and our identities can all be reconstructed. The identity given to us by our environment can increasingly be redefined by ourselves.
The digital and technological space gives increasingly more room and possibility for experimentation with how we identify ourselves. Information technology carries an important role in the fight for liberation from social constructs. Donna Haraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’ (1991) has significantly influenced the fields of feminism, science studies and critical theory since it’s publication and remains very relevant until today. Haraway identifies technologies as the ‘crucial tools recrafting our bodies which embody and enforce new social relations for women.’ Meaning, the connection of women with devices and new technology allows to construct our own identity, our own sexuality and even our own gender. Communications- and biotechnology are powerful instruments for enforcing new meanings, disorganising structures placed on our bodies by our culture, the media and social environments.
Extending the human body and its functions through technology allows to access new environments — extraterrestrial, informational or even physical — and thus is the most powerful tool for creating new roles and new meanings for female intimacy in our connected world.
This article originally appeared on the Wisp Blog