Archive for 2009

Andy’s Final Review

“This comment is little more than a kid playing with all the new toys at Christmas. What does this do? Where does that go? What am I doing here?”
Comment by me 22/09/09

This comment was made by myself in the early days of the Digital Culture course, as I unpacked the range of applications I now had access to. My tutor replied how she liked my playful approach to learning and discovery. The reason I draw upon these comments in my lifestream summary is to illustrate the start point of my digital journey through the past 12 weeks. I have issues with the terms digital natives and digital immigrants since for me, they convey relatively permanent social identities. Although I personally acquired a lot of knowledge and skills before computer technology became part of our daily lives, I consider myself sufficiently competent and confident with ICT to be a digital citizen. By this, I mean I am neither born within nor alien to digital culture. However, back in September, reading the Course Guide and setting up my Wordpress pages, I felt most definitely – a digital immigrant. Web 2.0 applications I was familiar with – but learning via a lifestream and blog was new to me.

As a social scientist, I approached the course with what I considered a clear understanding of culture and education. However, in engaging not only with the subjects of cyber cultures, cyber communities and cyborgs, but socially networking my learning digitally has required me to shift from theorist to practitioner.

Lifestreams is the first general system to treat reminders as first class entities
and to provide a metaphor that naturally accommodates reminding.

Eric Freeman: 1997, The Lifestreams Software Architecture
http://www.cs.yale.edu/homes/freeman/dissertation/etf.pdf

Lifestreaming is the means of aggregating a personal, internet bread crumb trail. My lifestream represents my digital learning journey through the Digital Culture course. This has been a useful application for me since I only have to look at my early entries, and realise my memory perceives them as being a long time ago. This is partly due to the new subject matter of the course; the likes of cyborg studies altered my thoughts to quite dystopic proportions. But the main need for a memory aid has been the substantial amount of tagging involved in researching the course. I feel as though I tagged so much, that I was forgetting what I was finding. My studies have touched upon the subject of unlearning periodically. I reject this concept – instead it’s the capacity of memory to absorb substantial input of data within a short space of time.

As my lifestream matured, so did my competence in using it as a tool for my learning. It is noticeable that from my early experimental days of tagging lots of data, using several applications, my digital practice evolved into using primarily, Twitter, Youtube, Del.icio.us and of course, my blog. Crucially, the weekly summaries enabled an accessible, orderly structure to my digital memory.

Tags: ,

Andy’s Week 11 Review

This should be my last weekly review of the Digital Culture course, before I submit my final review of the Lifestream. As I type, I am conscious that much of my activity involves review and preparation for relevant to my digital essay. My essay will be a presentation of the merits of producing a digital assignment instead of a traditional essay. Already I appear to be making distinctions because I have just felt the ne
ed to go back over the last two sentences I typed and bold two words I typed before appreciating their significance. In researching my assignment I am gathering data instead of information. As I am planning an essay that compares and contrasts two formats, I would previously have described such an activity as writing a discussion. But now I appear to be making a presentation. The production of a digital assignment may be a different format but I am now sitting here curious to analyse to what this extent this alters my thinking and understanding. Am I communicating differently – or do I now think differently?

Like the last 4 weeks, there are not as many lifestream entries as there were in the earlier part of the course. This is a reflexion merely of the number of web sources I tag, and not the amount of studying I am doing. The bulk of academic work over the last few weeks has been reading. However this analysis causes pause for thought over the lifestream as a whole. Over the first 6 weeks, I felt compelled to show activity almost daily. Having read the study guide for the unit, and noticed the lifestream was an integral component of assessment, I wanted to demonstrate I was regularly engaging with the course. Now I am maturing within digital culture, and developing familiarity with lifestreaming, I believe I consider quality of entries over quantity.

If I did want to illustrate learning activity on my lifestream I would need to tag my lifestream itself. I am evaluating lifestreaming and reviewing prior activity for the essay. Therefore the website I am visiting the most at present is the lifestream itself. Metaphorically, the lifestream symbolises a living flow of my learning. If I was to turn my thoughts inwards and evaluate my own activities and thoughts, would I be creating a whilpool? I don’y think so. Without evaluating my learning path, I cannot measure my understanding. Maybe over the final week of the lifestream, I will tag lifestream entries to demonstrate my point.

In the meantime, here is a blog from the 2nd week of the course, I find relevant to my preparations for the essay. I find it interesting to read and contrast my knoledge now – having subsequently carried out the ethnographic study and researched cyborg culture – to how I felt in the early stages of the course.

Am I a Cyberpunk as well as an Immigrant now?

Bell refers to cyberpunk as providing ‘a cognitive map of human-computer interaction’. For me, this reference adds weight to the stereotypical image of digital culture being populated by personalities more confident in cyber society than mainstream f2f interaction: the geeks, teckies, sci-fi buffs, etc. Watching Week 2’s Film Festival took me out my comfort zone. I admire all the special effects and do feel genuinely challenged by the symbolic messages – but I don’t feel any sense of identity and belonging. I’m a social animal who prefers eye contact.

However because of the significance of both the different behaviours and cultural identity, I do respect the value and relevance to including clips like The Matrix. I confess to being enthused and extra motivated to participate in this course – more so than any other course. Thanks to the wonders of the Dongle, I’m typing on the train right now, capturing my immediate thoughts – and posting them.

But am I any different to the real me? Are other passengers looking at me – Twittering, surfing and blogging – as a real computer nerd? I don’t feel different. I know why I’m here. I know what I’m doing.

The key point of this blog is I may not know what territory digital culture is going to take me, what I am going to learn, or exactly how I’m going to behave. But provided I retain site of who I am – ie. an e-learning student and developer – I believe I can apply my cyber interaction to the real world. I am not a cyberpunk – I am a learner.

http://digitalculture-ed.net/andym/2009/09/ Sept 29

Tags: ,

Never mind the culture, what about digital tools?

As I approach the end of the Digital Culture course, I am reviewing my learning to date and preparing for the final assignments. Naturally, the prime focus is on course readings, interactions and activities. Apart from tagging weblinks in my lifestream, and offering brief comment in blog posts, I feel I have I have provided sparse analysis of an important component of my capacity to function within digital culture. Over the past 2 months, I am now aware how competent I have become in using a varietyof software applications.

I have never been a teckie – I’m a social scientist. I always see myself as a user of technology – although I am aware of impending dystopic society when I may well become part cyborg before I die. What is significant though is I now have the capacity to create reasonably good quality, digital content. This bodes well not only for me, but for any technophobic practitioner who feels threatened by digital applications. Basically, over the last few weeks, I have noted what my peers have been using, downloaded them and played around with them until I created an acceptable end product. Apart from my phone, all of them are completely free.

Here are my new found digital allies -

Wordpress. I’ve adapted the appearance, changed settings, posted on my blog and lifestream with no hastle. I read recently the VLE is considered dead. Having used Wordpress without hassle, Moodle feels restrictive.

My Sony Ericsson phone. When it came to making video, I had thought about treating myself to a small camcorder. However, the output from my phone has been so good, I don’t really see the point. The great thing about your phone is it is always there with you. At times when you suddenly feel inspired, it’s there in your pocket.

Moyea FLV Downloader. You Tube and Bing offered access to thousands of videos, but Moyea provided the means to download them to my laptop. This gave me the opportunity to edit and insert in my presentations. Like many of the applications I have started using, Moyea is no more complex than iTunes.

Videosoft Convertor. As I am not a teckie, finding videos came in a variety of formats was a potential obstacle for me. However, a quick Google search took me to this application. No matter the format – MP4, WMV, FLV – I simply copied the file into this, and it gave me what I needed.

Windows Movie Maker. This has been a revelation to me. And to think I’ve had it all the time. It’s part of Windows OS. This is what I have used to compile video from different sources, edit clips to fit, narrate and put soundtrack on. It also helped upload to You Tube. I found the Timeline especially easy to use. Once I realised I was not actually cropping the original file, I became more bold with my experiments. If I got it wrong, I simply clicked Undo. This has been my best find.

Desktop Activity Recorder. I found this the least user friendly. It tended to make actual activity slow and shaky. I also had to crop the start and end of each clip to remove the recorder screen. If I was going to be doing a lot of desktop simulations, I think I would invest in buying better software – unless someone knows of better freeware.

Prezi. I saw classmates providing presentations on Prezi and liked the look of it. So I gave it a go. I confess, it took me a few hours of trial and error to get to grips with the menus, but I have produced and presented with it now. I feel so competent, I am going to put my final assignment on it.

All of these have been new to me, but in the space of 12 weeks, I have become proficient enough with them to produce digital content. It makes me wonder how much more I could learn and do if I was producing digital content all the time.

Tags: ,

Final Assignment – proposal

Copy of my proposed final assignment synopsis and feedback from Jen.

Title: The merits of the digital essay.

Synopsis: For the course Digital Culture, candidates are required to submit some form of digital essay for the final assignment. For me, this represents a first. It is an opportunity for me, not only to experiment with digital applications, but also express myself via  different media. I am conscious of my enthusiasm and how my motivation compares to researching notes to compile a traditional, text essay. This leads me to ask questions that relate to various aspects of the Digital Culture course. What does digital media offer education? What is media  literacy? Is there any difference to the information being conveyed in my essay that would be any different in text format? Finally, in assessing the essay, who am I?  Is this a genuine product of my understanding and knowledge of digital culture? Am I still quintessentially Andy Murray the postgraduate student of education, or is this the work of my new posthuman self, a student who functions only with digital facilities?

My aim is to structure my arguments around the text v. digital discussions covered in Block 1 and the Cyborg Manifesto of Block 3. Having played around with Prezi last week for a work presentation, I’d like to produce my assignment on that. I’d like to develop the essay upon text slides, quotes, video excerts and personal video commentary.

Reply from Jenny

Hi Andy,

Thanks for this – you’re proposing quite a complex idea – a reflexive account of your own process of creating an assignment, drawing on multimodal, cyborg and posthuman theory. I can see that it could work, and I think you should go for it using Prezi as you suggest.

Are you thinking of a structure whereby you run the semi-traditional academic discourse in parallel with your own reflexive account? So, for example, a few paragraphs of text (or video, images, etc) drawing on the literature and making an argument, sitting next to a video commentary of your own experience? And so on through the piece? Or would you be looking to integrate these two aspects more closely? Either could work, but the former might ensure that you definitely hit all the core criteria for the assignment (see the course guide for more information – but an outline is here – http://digitalculture-ed.net/?page_id=233).  Also, keep in mind the 2000 word guideline for the assignment – obviously how you construe ‘words’ will depend on what you’re doing, but it should give you some idea of the approximate size of the thing so you don’t take on too much.

Tags: , ,

Andy’s Week 10 Review

I feel a lot of analysis of my learning journey this week was covered in my last post – The Fog Clears. Although this was essentially a discussion of Sian’s paper – Uncanny Digital Pedagogies – it really helped me get my head around Block 3. The Cyborg Metaphor of Haraway, and subsequent research has been extremely challenging for me, not just in understanding and analysing the subject, but the actual subject matter of potential cyborg culture itself. Dystopic images of the future was not something I had signed up for on this course. But because of Haraway’s inclusion in the course, I now feel in a position to evaluate to what extent digital technology is shaping my thinking. This in turn has obvious relevance to e-learning and the impact upon teaching and learning.

When I look back over my week’s lifestream – and indeed the previous 2-3 before that, it is noticeable there appears fewer entries. I identify this as having more to do with reading core and secondary texts rather than reduced activity. What I do see in the lifestream though is a developing maturity and acceptance of technology in my thinking. Two particular issues stand out for me – embodiement and situated learning.

” If embodiment is an existential condition in which the body is the subjective source or intersubjective ground of experience, then studies under the rubric of embodiment are not ‘about’ the body per se. Instead they are about culture and experience insofar as these can be understood from the standpoint of bodily being-in-the-world.”
p. 143Thomas Csordas in Perspectives on Embodiment by Weiss, G. and Haber, H., (eds.). Routledge; March, 1999

If I draw upon a before and after scenario, I could potentially identify my academic self as being embodied in both my mind and text books, notes and essays. Now, my embodiement encompasses a lifestream and blog. Yet somehow, my lifestream and blog feel more personal. Whether or not this is to do with the fact digital culture is the actual subject matter of my studies, but I now feel I think of my learning in relation to the time chronology of blogging. The development of my lifestream correlates with my comprehension of the the subject. I wonder if this relates to classmates feeling because they hav not been feeding their lifestreams, like a tamagochi, they get a sense of under-nourishment. The lifestream encompasses the embodiement of our learning.

This now brings me to the issue of situated knowledge. The only shared activity I have been involved in over the last three weeks have been commenting on other blogs, and the Skype tutorial. There appears to be a consensus on cyborg metaphors being challenging but worthwhile, and learning in digital environments new, exciting but unfamiliar (uncanny). I now perceive my situated knowledge as being on the cusp of somewhere new – but definately not at its destination yet. This is because I am not convinced there yet exists a distinctive boundary between a subjective and objective understanding. For 10 weeks I have studied the subject – Digital Culture. I have done so within the confines of digital environments, using digital applications with participants who already possess a positive stance on the use of technology. Through a combination of the course readings and social interaction, the class appear to have developed a consensus view that digital culture can enhance learning. But does this make our stance objective?

Objective When we say that knowledge is objective we are making authoritative claims about its standing. Actually, objectivity is an essentially contested concept in the philosophies of science and the social sciences; it is usually invoked to convey a sense of truthfulness and to offer a cloak of legitimacy for a particular story – it is a mark of authoritative knowledge.

Open University: Learning Space – The Social in Social Science http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=2055

At present, I feel conscious of my own situated learning being subjective. When I discuss digital culture with individuals outside the course, I am naturally confronted with their “uncanny” unfamiliarity and scepticism. I can identify with the merits of lifestreaming and blogging, but ti what extent is that because I have not only been studying the subject – I’ve been practicing it too? In order to properly evolve onto the realms of objective, situated learning, I believe I have to test the hypothethis of digital learning within the context of another subject. So take for example,  Social Care students. A crucial element of their training involves self-reflective practice. I perceive lifestreams and blogging as appropriate mediums for Social Care students to practice. But it is only by supporting their engagement with digital technology, and seeing other individuals develop using them successfully, will I feel truelly within the realms of objective learning.

I now suddenly feel aware I may have subconsciously produced a part, first draft of my assessment summarising my lifestream.

Tags: , , , ,

The Fog Clears

YouTube Preview Image

Thanks to Sian’s paper – Academetron, automaton, phantom: uncanny digital pedagogies (2009) – I offer the course another metaphor – the fog is clearing. Having read this, I now feel more able to get my head around the last two weeks’s analysis of cyborgs and digital culture. Let me answer this question:

“The posthuman subject is an amalgam, a collection of heterogeneous components, a material-informational entity whose boundaries undergo continuous construction and reconstruction.” (Hayles 1999, 3) One of the structuring principles of this course – the lifestream and the learning environment itself – is about disaggregation and reaggregation – taking things apart, scattering them across the network, and then having them put back together by the machine. What other connections might there be between cyborg theory and the pragmatics of online pedagogy and course design?

For me, Sian cleared the fog by discussing digital pedagogy in terms of its uncanny nature. In developing new learning environments, both learners and teachers are lifted out of the comfort zones of familiar territory. The cyborg metaphors linked to virtual environments further exacerbate the state of anomie by being such liberating entities, they offer the potential for society to re-write the script on what constitutes cultural norms. So, for example, taking the question of lifestreaming – disaggregation and reaggregation – the problem for academia, may not so much be a lifestream constitute”a collection of heterogeneous components, a material-informational entity” but instead simply represent a new form of representing learning that challenges traditional concepts of pedagogy.

Asking students to submit lifestreams as assessed elements of a programme is an attempt provisionally to capture something of the ‘spectrality’ of their digital existences. As an assessment strategy, it works with the idea of the learning process as volatile, disorienting and invigorating, and it also stretches conventional assessment frameworks to their limits. In defamiliarising the familiar through creative pedagogical appropriation of the digital, teaching becomes newly, and productively, strange.

Bayne (2009) p8

This paper has helped me formulate some clear thoughts, not only on the value of lifestreaming, but on the whole discussion of cyborg culture over the last three weeks. I see an evolution in my understanding. By beginning with Haraway, I feel the course deliberately took us to the far end of digital cultural spectrum – a dystopic image of mankind and technology merging as one, to create a neo-spacies, a posthuman. It is only by placing my disturbed emotions to one side, and forgetting about apocalyptic cyborg culture, I am able to identify how technology is enabling me to learn within new, digital environments. The problem with lifestreaming may be less to do with consigning my learning activities to a digital crumb-trail, but to familiarising myself with the capabilities and potential lifestreaming offers. A few weeks ago, I refered to my lifestream as my digital memory – a classic cyborg state. However, now I see it as simply a chronological catalogue of my online research. The production of the lifestream is not the focal point of my studies – it is what is now inside my head, my thoughts, ideas and knowledge. It is through digital mediums, I feel I have learned. The big challenge has been coming to terms with the new environment.

As a learner in higher education, the student:is in a process in which she is, in a sense, being estranged from herself… The student is asked to submit to the strangeness of new worlds opening before her. If they were not strange worlds, there would be question marks over whether we were in the presence of higher education.  

Barnet (2007) quoted in Sian (2009) p6-7

Thanks Sian.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Andy’s Week 9 Review

Do I have to talk to you through that thing?” 

This rather profound question was directed at me by my wife this weekend, whilst I was compiling notes for my blog. The “thing” she refers to is my laptop, a technological object that nowadays forms part of my “embodiment”. To fill you in on the domestic scene, it was Saturday morning, mid November. My wife commutes to work five days a week whilst I now work from home. Since I use my laptop for both work and study, it has become an object that is very attached to me daily. My wife hates technology and holds a very functional standpoint to its application. But now it was the weekend and we were sat in the same room together, here was a perfect situation for a domestic chat. She saw an ideal opportunity to discuss Christmas and a family party. However, what now appears to be my natural state of embodiment, she found me with my head already buried in my laptop.

The relevance to digital culture continued to develop with the conversation. When challenged to make a contribution to my ideas of menus, wine, activities, etc. I did have brief discussion with my wine – but then proceeded to surf the web for 20 minutes looking at food and wine sites. Conclusion – is all my knowledge now situated in online environments? Can I no longer function in life without referring to digital sources of information? Or worse, would my poor wife find it easier to Twitter me or respond to my blog???

This quote seems to help explain my situation –

“If embodiment is an existential condition in which the body is the subjective source or intersubjective ground of experience, then studies under the rubric of embodiment are not ‘about’ the body per se. Instead they are about culture and experience insofar as these can be understood from the standpoint of bodily being-in-the-world.”

Thomas Csordas in Perspectives on Embodiment
by Weiss, G. and Haber, H., (eds.). Routledge; March, 1999 p. 143

This little domestic scene of mine occurred whilst I tried to summarise my understanding of situated knowledge, embodiment and cyborg metaphors. Haraway and Hayes can only be absorbed within my own situation. I can identify situated knowledge as knowledge specific to a particular situation. Some methods of generating knowledge, such as trial and error, or experiential learning tend to create highly situational knowledge. The knowledge prior to any experience means that there are certain “assumptions” that one takes for granted. In most realistic cases, it is not possible to have a comprehensive understanding, therefore we have to accept the fact that our knowledge is always incomplete and partial. Most real problems have to be solved by taking advantage of a partial understanding of the problem context and problem data.

 

Situated knowledge can be a challenege to the truth claims of disembodied, detached observation, and instead, advocate a more located, partial and embodied understanding. For Haraway this view rejects a masterful, all-seeing gaze from a distant vantage point, blind to its own specificity and location in its claims for objective, all-seeing authority. Situated knowledge depends on its dislocation and distance not only from what is being observed, but also from where such observation is located. By recognizing that all knowledge is partial and located, attempts to situate knowledge makes partiality and location an explicit and critical focus for both researchers and the subjects of their research. Situated knowledge seeks to disrupt the authority and impartiality that is empowered, in part, by denying its own situation. It does so by locating, and often embodying, the production of knowledge in terms of proximity rather than distance and reflexivity rather than detachment.

 

I found the two core texts by Hayles and Shields more accessible to read than Week 8 readings (although I can see the course needed to challenge us to discover Haraway for ourselves before offering us an analysis of her.) Block 3’s study of Cyborg metaphors has certainly offered some thought provoking analysis of the present and the future. It has taken me sometime to identify the relevance of Haraway and Hayles to e-learning, but now I believe I have learned rather than take everything literally, I analyse the relevance to human interaction with technology. So here, in Week 9 of the course, I find myself pausing to evaluate my own domestic social and mechanical behaviour. Have I morphed into a cyborg, with the ‘informatics of domination’ shaping how my own body – especially my mind – is being modified with technology? I can relate my personal situation – and the contrasting position of my wife – to Hayles’ text.

I regard the posthuman, like the ‘human’, as a historically specific and contingent term rather than a stable ontology. Whereas the ‘human’ has since the Enlightenment been associated with rationality, free will, autonomy and a celebration of consciousness as the seat of identity, the posthuman in its more nefarious forms is construed as an informational pattern that happens to be instantiated in a biological substrate.

Hayles 2006, p160

We propose that there are two-way or reciprocal relationships between neural events and conscious activity. An attractive feature of this proposal is that it allows consciousness to be a causally efficacious participant in the cycles of operation constituting the agent’s life…… We also propose that the processes crucial for

consciousness cut across the brain–body–world divisions rather than being located simply in the head.

To sum up these complex interactions between means and metaphor, I offer in My Mother Was a Computer (2005) the following formulation, which has become central for me in understanding the contemporary situation as well as historical precedents: ‘What we make and what (we think) we are co-evolve together.’

Hayles 2006, p164

What I find more disturbing and confusing is this Haraway quote from the Shields text.

Women-headed households, serial monogamy . . . home-based business

reinforced (simulated nuclear family, intense domestic violence). (Haraway,

1990: 170) 

Quoteed in Shields 2006, p212

As I see it, the evolution of society has created masculine and feminine positions. The relevance of Haraway is to utilise our understanding of these positions to analyse how society evolves with technology. It is not the gender perspectives that will necessary be eroded through time, but the roles and functions of gender may change. In my opinion, technology will enable greater gender equality and a decline in sexual division of labour. However, I feel I am only able to make such a proclamation through my personal situated learning – how I perceive life, my situation and the changes that are occurring around me.

My gender may be less relevant, but am I posthuman now? Am I a PC?

YouTube Preview Image

Tags: , , ,

Skeumorphs

I came across this slideshow whilst trying to find some sources to help me get my head round the concept and significance of skeumorphs. I came across this quote from Gessler – and then I got it!

Skeuomorphs are material metaphors instantiated through our technologies in artifacts. They provide us with familiar cues to an unfamiliar domain, sometimes lighting our paths, sometimes leading us astray…. They help us map the new onto a familiar cognitive structure, and in so doing, give us a starting point from which we may evolve additional alternative solutions.

I confess, until I saw this slideshow, the whole concept lost me. So now you know why we like old artefacts so much. Wordpress won’t embed the slideshow, so here is the URL -

http://www.flickr.com/photos/youraccount/sets/72157622030187096/show/

Flickr Video

Tags:

Hayles – posthuman embodiment

Is Cartesian mind/body dualism, as Hayles argues of posthuman embodiment  the ultimate opposition that structures all of our debates about subjectivity and online identity?

Hayles is not the easiest of reads, but having just got to grips with Haraway, I feel I have now mastered the technique of thinking abstract and metaphoric rather than physiological reality.

“Virtuality is the cultural perception that material objects are interpenetrated by information patterns. The definition plays off the duality at the heart of the condition of virtuality – materiality on the one hand, information on the other”  (Hayles, p13-14)

Hayles appears to define virtuality as a cultural perception that relates well to the social impact of new technologies.  According to Hayles, virtuality consists of two categories – information and materiality, which are separable and discrete. The notion of “virtual embodiment” is not immediately obvious as it sounds like a contradiction in terms. How can virtuality and embodiment co-exist? In today’s society, our awareness of  bodily sensation is generally the result of  encountering the real world and not with virtual environments. However, I can also see how our  experience of embodiment  includes how our actions bring about changes in our understanding of ourselves, our emotional makeup, and our conscious and unconscious behaviours. For many people, including myself, since so much of my social interaction is via technology, it becomes difficult to retain a clear definition between reality and virtuality.

I see Hayles paper as identifying embodiment being determined by how we act. For Hayles, the body is an abstract concept that is constantly being culturally constructed. Virtuality is both a cultural and physiological construction that is constantly transforming concepts of reality. As mankind continues to interact with technology, and – it would appear through time -  merge with it, our capacity to redefine embodiment and identity will also shift. Overall, I see Hayles as inviting us to consider who we are, and who we see ourselves as being in the future.

Here’s an example of a virtual companion I found on You Tube. I offer this as an example of cultural change between human and technology. Is the woman speaking to a machine or a companion?

YouTube Preview Image

Tags: ,

Andy’s Week 8 Review

If I was feeling cynical, I could review my Week 8 reflections with one question and one word answer.

Qu. “Is our thinking about cyberculture too structured by the kinds of binaries of Haraway critiques?”

Ans. Yes

Sian was supportive in advising us all that Haraway is not an easy read. I have found not only her vision of cyborgs and posthumanism difficult to comprehend, but indeed the whole subject matter. Throughout my studies, I am trying to retain my main objective for studying Digital Culture – that is to utilise digital technology to widen participation and facilitate lifelong learning. Iacknowledge my acceptance that social interaction online has its own parameters. Through other units for the Masters programme, I have already analysed how individuals, removed from real world, f2f interaction, may experience a sense of liberation, since digital environments offer scope for creating their own realities. I am thinking here of anonymous usernames and avatars, as well as the enhanced power of individuals to interact freely where and with whom they want. To this extent, I have approached Haraway and Hayles with some acceptance of social evolution.

This week I have read Haraway and looked for critical analysis of her work online. My lifestream has references to both articles and videos. I have fathomed that Haraway’s article is an ironical challenge to issues of power, feminism and politics via the metaphor that is the cyborg. Based on the premis mankind and technology are gradually merging, the image of the cyborg in the future presents an image of an entity, potentially devoid of the social structures that gives meaning and order today. Her cyborg metaphor deconstructs the binaries of control and lack of control over body nature and culture, in ways that are relevant to current and future societies interaction with technology. Haraway uses the metaphor of cyborg identity to expose ways that elements deemed essential or natural, like human bodies, are not, but are constructed by society’s ideas about them. This has particular relevance to feminism, since Haraway believes women are often discussed or treated in ways that reduce them to bodies. 

I can now see how her article holds relevance when taken as an ironic challenge to society, how elements can contradict one another. Four contradictory elements are identified via the cyborg metaphor – The first is as a “cybernetic organism.” The second is as “a hybrid of machine and organism.” The third is as “a creature of lived social reality”, and the fourth is as a “creature of fiction. Initially, I think I took her too literally, and was instantly critical of her argument. “How could technology reinvent society without retaining some of its political elemnets?” However, once I had read the whole article, and some critical analysis of The Cyborg Manifesto, I saw her as making a challenge to society, rather than proclaiming the dawn of a new world. “The production of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality, probably always, but certainly now. Taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing an anti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology.” Taking responsibility also means “embracing the skilful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication with all of our parts.” Cyborg imagery suggests “a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves.” She emphasizes that hers is not a vision of a universal feminism, but instead a “powerful infidel heteroglossia.” For Haraway, cyborgs will be both pleasant and dangerous, and will require both a building and a destroying of “machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories.”

In my opinion, paradigms of gender and power evolve through social change. History demonstrates the influence of religion, economics and technology on the elements Haraway writes about. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and the 18th century industrial revolution led to huge social and political change. Yet society evolved whilst retaining elements of feudalism and patriarchy. Some of the visions of the future cyborg and posthuman studies have truely shocked me and led me to thoughts way beyond the realms of lifelong learning and education. However, as the boundaries between humans and technology continue to erode, I forsee a continuing social evolution. With regards feminism specifically, the potential will exist for the further erosion of gender inequality. Indeed, will there be a need for gender at all?

I hope to broaden my understanding of posthumanism over the coming week, as I take time for the other course reading and blog interaction with fellow classmates. In the meantime, I conclude with a video highlighting The Cyborg Manifesto.

YouTube Preview Image

Tags: , ,