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Yet to be defined in a few sentences.
Individuals and social groups have always been cyborgs because we have always existed in tandem with technology. Today, with the vast proliferation and diffusion of new technologies throughout society, techno-human syntheses occur in more aspects of our lives than ever before. Advances in medicine augment our bodies with technology (e.g., pills, pacemakers, IUDs, breast implants, Viagra, contact lenses). Communication is increasingly technologically mediated (e.g., radio, television, the web). We are experiencing a proliferation of personal devices like the smart phone, which is, essentially, a computer we carry with us wherever we go, often sleeping with them at our bedsides and using them check our profiles and messages first thing in the morning. It is not difficult to imagine a future where we begin to look like the cyborgs found in movies; however, our definition goes far beyond the half-human, half-robots propelled into the popular imaginary by science fiction and cyberpunk because technology is about more than electronics. The layout of a prison or a school is a technology of discipline; language is a technology of thought and communication; cultural norms themselves are technologies of social organization—in every instance, technology is the product of a particular historical moment and it becomes integrated into the social life of that period.
Our focus is as broad as these examples suggest, but we most often focus on new technologies. Today, the reality is that both the digital and the material constantly augment one another to create a social landscape ripe for new ideas. As Cyborgologists, we consider both the promise and the perils of living in constant contact with technology.
Contribute The Cyborgology Blog is seeking guest contributors from various academic disciplines. Posts might summarize current research, analyze current events, review works of art, or offer theoretical insights in plain language. Submissions should be between 200-500 words and be written for a general audience. Please email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Nathan Jurgenson studies the bottom-up turn the Internet has taken -what has come to be known as Web 2.0. Working with George Ritzer and as a founding member of the Prosumer Studies Working Group, he has focused on the topic of prosumption, how people are increasingly producers of what they consume (and vice versa). Currently, he is focused on the blurring of the on- and off-line worlds, especially how self-documentation using social media impacts the way we live our everyday lives. This has far reaching consequences, from issues of self-presentation and identity, exploitation and inequalities, surveillance and much else. Finally, Nathan is also an active musician in Washington DC. nathanjurgenson.com
PJ Rey is a Sociology PhD student at the University of Maryland. His research is concerned with the “culture of hyper-visibility” that has developed in tandem with the emergence of the Internet (particularly, Web 2.0). He argues that visibility has broad implications for the operation of power in society, becoming a mechanism responsible for new forms of social inequality. He also studies a variety of related topics such as labor on social media, online dating, and Internet use and well-being. For more information, visit: www.pjrey.net
What is a cyborg?
Well, the easiest (and more tangible) response is that "cyborg" is short for cybernetic organism, or what cyborg theorists Gray, Mentor, and Figueroa-Sarriera (1995) call “the melding of the organic and the mechanic, or the engineering of a union between separate organic systems” (p. 3). They admit, however, that “the range of human-machine couplings almost defies definition: even existing human cyborgs range from the quadriplegic patient totally dependent on a vast array of high-tech equipment to a small child with one immunization”(p. 4). Yes, this is all a bit confusing...but many cyborgologists would say that we are all cyborgs to some extent, especially as our daily lives become increasingly connected to technologies of all kinds.
The more theoretical response to the question, "What is a cyborg?" should probably begin with Donna Haraway, whose 1985 paper entitled "A manifesto for cyborgs: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the 1980s" ushered in the academic discourse on cyborgs, hybrid creatures who blur the boundaries between the various boundary projects of modernity, including human/machine, human/animal, male/female, and so on. For Haraway, the postmodern “self” is no longer characterized by a singular, unified identity, but an assortment of politicized and fractured cyborg “selves.” A related notion involves the attempt to take control over one's cyborgification, whether through some sort of body modification or other medical procedures in which there is an intimate interface with technology. Finally, Gray (2001) and others have begun to investigate how agency and citizenship will function in cyborg societies.
Applied to sport, the image of the cyborg challenges the notion of "pure human" competitors who rely on old-fashioned blood, sweat, and tears, and NOT chemicals, implants, and gears! The intersection between cyborg theory and sport studies, while not yet fully developed, raises important questions related to practices like "body policing" in elite sport, as well as ethical questions related to the frightening prospect (or for some a foregone conclusion) of genetically altered athletes. Regardless of one's position, reconceptualizing "human" athletes as always and already cyborgs may render labels such as "natural" and artificial" inconsequential, and allow athletes, spectators, and scholars alike to begin sorting through the much more complex, politicized and uncertain terrain of the inumerable forms and ways of being cyborg in contemporary technocultures. Here's a decent wikipedia entry on cyborg sport: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyborgs_in_sports
So, that's a start, anyway. Of course, we could talk about cyborgs in film (e.g. Terminator, Fantastic Planet, AI, & BladeRunner), or the cyborgification of both modern warfare (e.g., "clean" and "shiny" weapons) and sexuality (viagrafication of masculinity, cybersex, etc.), but we'll save that for later. Until then, I've included a hopelessly inadequate list of references and links to get you going! Selected academic sources (Updating 2009!!!)
- Balsamo, A. (2000). Reading cyborgs writing feminism. In G. Kirkup, L. Janes, K. Woodward, & F. Hovenden (Eds.), The gendered cyborg: A reader (pp. 148-158). New York: Routledge.
- Gray, C. H. (2001). Cyborg citizen: Politics in the posthuman age. New York: Routledge.
- Gray, C. H., Mentor, S., & Figueroa-Sarriera, H. J. (1995). Cyborgology: Constructing the knowledge of cybernetic organisms. In C. H. Gray (Ed.), The cyborg handbook (pp. 1-14). New York: Routledge.
- Haraway, D. J. (1985). A manifesto for cyborgs: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the 1980s. Socialist Review, 80, 65-107.
- Haraway, D. J. (1991). Simians, cyborgs, and women: The reinvention of nature. New York: Routledge.
- Haraway, D. J. (1997). Modest witness@second millennium.femaleman meets oncomouse. New York: Routledge.
- Hayles, N. K. (1999). How we became posthuman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Philosophy/Cultural Studies of Technology
- Feenberg, A. (1995). Subversive rationalization: Technology, power, and democracy. In A. Feenberg & A. Hannay (Eds.), Technology and the politics of knowledge (pp. 65-84). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
- Feenberg, A. (1999). Questioning technology. New York: Routledge.
- Ihde, D. (1993). Philosophy of technology: An introduction. New York: Paragon.
- Menser, M., & Aronowitz, A. (1996). On cultural studies, science, and technology. In S. Aronowitz, B. Martinsons, & M. *Menser (Eds.), Technoscience and cyberculture (pp. 7-30). New York: Routledge.
Sport, Technology, and Cyborgs
- Busch, A. (1998). Design for sports: The cult of performance. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
- Butryn, T. M. (2000). Posthuman podiums: The technological life-history narratives of elite track and field athletes. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
- Butryn, T. M. (2001). Cyborg horizons: Sport and the ethics of self-technologization. Research in Philosophy and Technology. In press.
- Chapman, G. E. (1997). Making weight: Lightweight rowing, technologies of power, and technologies of the self. Sociology of Sport Journal, 14, 205-223.
- Cole, C. L. (1993). Resisting the canon: Feminist cultural studies, sport, and technologies of the body. Journal of Sport and Social Issues,17, 77-97.
- Cole, C. L. (1998). Addiction, exercise, and cyborgs: Technologies and deviant bodies. In G. Rail (Ed.), Sport and postmodern times (pp. 261-275). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
- Cole, C. L. (2000). Body studies in the sociology of sport: A review of the field. In J. Coakley and E. Dunning (Eds.), Handbook of sport studies (pp. 439-460). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Cole, C. L. (2000). Testing for sex or drugs. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 24, 331-333.
- Eichberg, H. (1982). Stopwatch, horizontal bar, gymnasium: The technologizing of sports in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 9, 43-59.
- Farrey, T. (2000, January 20). Morphing the human body. [On-line]. Available: http://espn.go.com/otl/athlete/intro.html.
- Franklin, S. (1996). Postmodern body techniques: Some anthropological considerations on natural and postnatural bodies. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology,18, S95-S106.
- Hoberman, J. (1995). Sport and the technological image of man. In W. J. Morgan & K. V. Meier (Eds.), Philosophic inquiry in sport (pp. 202-208). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- Pronger, B. (1998). Post-sport: Transgressing boundaries in physical culture. In G. Rail (Ed.), Sport and postmodern times (pp. 277-298). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
- Rintala, J. (1995). Sport and technology: Human questions in a world of machines. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 19, 62-75.
- Shogan, D. (1999). The making of high-performance athletes: Discipline, diversity, and ethics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
- Simon, R. L. (1994). Better performance through chemistry: The ethics of enhancing ability through drugs. In S. Luper-Foy & C. Brown (Eds.), Drugs, morality, and the law (pp. 133-150). Hamden, CT: Garland Publishing.
- Zorpette, G. (1999, Fall). Muscular again. Scientific American, 10, 27-31.
- Cyborgology: Constructing the Knowledge of Cybernetic Organisms," in The Cyborg Handbook