Cyborg Anthropology

Bridging the gap between traditional and cyborg anthropology.




A prosthetic is a term for anything that is a replacement or addition to the body or a body part. Generally the term prosthetic is used to describe external attachments and appendages, but there are increasing experiments with internal prosthetics attached to one's nervous system. A prosthetic that borders on internal and external prosthetic is the cochlear implant. Artificial hips are permanent implants, while hearing aids and dentures are removable. Neural implants and prosthetics are generally used as substitutes for sensory input such as sight or sound.

Prosthetics in Everyday Life

Examples of prosthetics in everyday life are glasses, contact lenses, replacement legs and arms, and anything else that augments the body and extends the use of a body part.

Types of Prosthetics

Security Researcher Esteban Gutierrez defines four Implant types: "Cosmetic, Physical, Sensory, and Cognitive vs Function: Restorative, Enhancement, and Augment. Where Restore means something like "make us whole again", Enhance means make a capability better, and Augment means Add a new capability. Does this make any sense and do you know of any attempts to categorize or build a framework around how we modify ourselves as humans?"

I think we were discussing types of evolution. There's also the idea of hastening evolution by external prosthetics. Cutting off millions of years of evolution by externalizing memories by means of a mobile device that one can add and subtract data from at will. Also the idea of being able to quickly slough off that external prosthetic (throwing out a phone and grabbing a new one with better features). Akin to the idea of a Saber Tooth tiger being able to take out the teeth and throw them at animals. This is what cavemen did with spears. Externalizing their teeth and claws so they didn't have to evolve them.

Prosthetic Culture

Prosthetic Culture is the idea that human culture is comprised of human and object interaction, specifically the set of objects from the earliest tools to the most advanced artificial limbs. Applied to digital culture, prosthetic culture treats the computer as an external brain or cybernetic mental attachment. Humans shed prosthetic devices, whether virtual or real, increasingly quickly.

Prosthetics and Their Discontents

In Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents, his words suggest "a possible future in which the magnificence of humans as prosthetic gods is tempered by the ill-fitting and troublesome nature of their auxiliary organs.[1]

We are Gods, until we forget to plug in our devices. When our phones break, suddenly our ears cannot hear all the way to Japan at the mere touch of a button. When we spill water on our computers, we no longer can access files that we’ve saved to the externalized prosthetic for our cranium. The information that serves as social and work currency gets stuck, lost, and forever cut off from our ability to access it.

In the same way, our external organs sit angrily attacked in office cubicles, in airports -- in all of the interface exchanges we encounter during our daily lives -- such as the ATM machine, the coin dispenser, ect. The copiers, printers, scanners, and fixers; the software inside our computers, and the computer itself.

Fractal Prosthetics

We're beginning to have prostheses inside of prostheses. Interface inside of interface, malfunction compounded by poor design and the decay of time. Planned obsolescence has given us machines that must be constantly updated and refreshed. Good experiences are guaranteed as long as one stays on top of the purchasing wave.

Once one falls behind, the prostheses become worrisome. They give us more and more friction when dealing with reality. To upgrade generally decreases this friction -- lubricates us to glide more freely through the rigors of society.


  1. Smith, Marquard and Joanne Morra. The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future. MIT Press. 2006. Pg 11.