During Week 9 my lifestream consisted of some blog posts relating to the weeks readings on Cyborgs, the post/ trans-human, and some catchup summaries of previous weeks.
Posts Tagged cyborg
This core paper from week 10 discusses some ideas that we’ve come across already – the impact that technology will have on the ‘transmission’ model of teaching (for teacher, learner and institution) and what cyberspace means for learning.
Some of the implications that technology and cyberspace have for education -more individualised learning (by making it more active, interactive and flexible), providing a social space for ‘new forms of interaction’, new identity construction, and the change in the power dynamic between teacher and student. It also highlights the fact that ‘cultural’ differences aren’t necessarily geographically bound. It defines ‘anti-podality’ as an experience of dislocation caused by this transnational and globalised communication, an active trajectory between places and identities, with no borders. Possible troublesome areas such as the reader as author (as a result of texts being based online) are also touched upon, as is the fact that knowledge and access to it can’t necessarily be contained by and within an institution. At our institution we are experiencing some of this at the moment- from an IT point of view, they are a little reluctant to support applications outside of their safe protected zone, and from an academics point of view, some are apprehensive about ‘their’ material being made available to everyone. I think the driver for change here could be the learner- if they gain sufficient skills in digital literacies and carry out most of their work in the new spaces, tutors and institutions may be forced to follow.
At present, students are bound by the ‘spaces of enclosure’ (a phrase I liked)- book, classroom and curriculum, which in turn have been threatened by cyberspace as it promises activities and learning to be egalitarian, purpose-driven, self-imposed, self-monitored, have a learner-determined path of learning, not requiring an interpretation of pre-given meanings but active collaboration in its creation.
For the teacher this all means a different type of role, with the focus away from them as a central authority, as the availability of information will be equal to both teacher and student, with the teachers’ role being seen as ‘aiding’ the learner, especially with regard to being stimulated and thinking critically. Green is quoted as seeing new technologies as ‘amplifiers’ of human potential- with the brain playing more of a management role. I wondered about this in an earlier post- about whether our brains would be changed in any way due to technology- if the cognitive processes would be altered. You would imagine that technology will constantly be advancing, and our brains would need to keep up with this, requiring quick learning/re-adapting to be important. Also being able to discern quality or useful information amongst the reams of data. I wonder about ‘deep’ thinking and the role it will have to play- if we won’t depend on processes much such as data analysis and ‘crunching’, will we use it? Also, with all the ‘noise’ of our enhancements going on around us, will we have peace enough to think deeply?
Another helpful slant on the cyborg was given in this paper- it blurs the boundaries between nature and culture, technology and nature, body and subjects, active agents and involuntary machines. The word ‘cyborg’ is a ‘good metaphor for restructuring of boundaries which are no longer stable, and questions some fundamental divisions which were the basis or reality of the world’. In an educational context, this translates to formal/informal, teacher/student, classroom/home, print text/ electronic text- all educational ‘spaces of enclosure’ which have been challenged by technology.
Most of Week 8 was spend drowning in the feminist cyborg world of Haraway! I was none the wiser after two readings. I did pick a lot up from links other people tweeted though. Luckily the Hayles’ reading wasn’t as dense. I need to add some more thoughts to these ideas behind cyborgs and posthumanism. I can’t seem to critique it at the moment though as I’m still trying to grasp some of it and I don’t just want to repeat what some of the papers say.
I did do a good bit of websearching around cyborgs and that. I think I came across Kevin Warwick in another module a few years ago. It’s an interesting perspective he has- maybe for some it is a bit taboo at the moment with opinions and a standpoint that is too futuristic and ‘out there’. But as technology ‘colonises our daily life’ it will be inevitable that implants in the body will move on from those with medical benefits or cosmetic purposes.
Again most of my lifestream feeds have been from Delicious, Twitter and Youtube or blog posts. Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to vary them, but found that I end up purposely trying to find things from different sources- I don’t just want to search Flickr for ‘cyborg’ and feed the result if it means nothing to me. I suppose I’m sticking to what I would normally use outside of the course. Will make another effort over the coming weeks though for a bit of variation.
I think when we hear the word ‘cyborg’, we immediately get the frightening image of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator guise (or similar pop culture examples), which can influence the way we see the relationship between man and machine. Can we become super-humans?….is it man or machine?…or both? ?….is this morally right? Likewise, you could be put off by hearing that ‘posthuman’ meant total disembodiment, our consciousness not being central to our existence, or being able to download the contents of the brain to a disk.
I think it is a big, big area for consideration spanning philosophy, biology. I.T., cognitive science and much more. From a certain angle it does offer some insights though, and it may be useful to reassess what we regard as ‘human’, or to look at some actual examples of cyborgs.
By creating tools and artifacts, mankind has always sought to distribute cognition, and make life easier. Technology has moved on, and we can now implant tools in the body, so the modern take on this would be something along the lines of the work of Kevin Warwick. Humans can live with some embedded technological device (hearing aids, pacemakers etc.) which in a lot of cases improves the quality of life. And it can be argued that we are all cyborgs as we use computers, iPhones etc. in our daily life. I hadn’t come across the idea, as Kevin Warwick stresses, of a ‘cybernetic organism’ being a ‘network of communication and control’- systems of interrelating parts, with each part cyborg-like as well as the whole. Halloway draws on other areas such as social studies to argue that the cyborg is a liberating notion, freeing us from the male-dominated, gender-orientated past.
This feeds into posthumanism also, which Hayles points out involves humans as information systems, intelligent machines, a collection of components or regards the body as the ‘original prosthesis’. The boundaries are blurred a bit and change as to what constitutes the person, so we could suffer the potential loss of individualism. Essentially we would be, like machines, vehicles for information flow. The idea does seem a little cold, but it is quite powerful. We can easily integrate with machines, and be part of a wider system of flow and feedback. When you look at humans using virtual reality or using some high tech device- they become a natural extension of us, all part of the one system.
Apart from the medical, philosophical or religious questions that this raises, it could cause a divide in the future in terms of who embraces it and who doesn’t. Those who don’t may be left behind and not evolve.
An interesting video of Kevin Warwick talking about his work.
A little bit graphic, he talks about the implants he has had done and what they have enabled him to do. Both himself and his wife were connected for a while via their nervous systems. He talks about future developments (it is from 1998 I think)- where people could be connected brain to brain, or having your brain connected directly to the internet.
I don’t know how this sits with me. He says that for example cybernetics will have a big influence on education- data can be sent directly to your brain, and medicine- possible cures via electronic pulses. Didn’t having the whole world of info at your fingertips (via the internet) not feel as empowering as it should have had, until Web 2 made everybody connect with eachother as opposed to a person-data connection? If the brain was connected to the internet what would happen to the challenge and satisfaction of learning? Would we even be bothered? Wouldn’t it also be dangerous- being wired up via transmitters and cerebral connections might give us more control, but would also make us susceptible to being controlled? A PC virus is bad enough but one in the head!