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cyborgian-isms, identity construction and media amplification

A GALILEAN DIALOGUE

mcluhan: Artists perceive the changes caused by new media. They recognize the future in the present, while using their work to prepare the world for changes that aren’t yet apparent to others (McLuhan 3-4; Patel). Would you say the “Cyborg Manifesto” is an example of one such creative expression?

haraway: Yes and no. To be honest, I just prefer to live within indigestible, overly-intellectual political heritages (Gane & Haraway 139).

mcluhan: I, myself, use facts as preliminary probes, as a means of gaining insight… of pattern recognition. I’d prefer to map new terrain than retrace steps over old territory. Humans are just beginning to understand the new technology, but not enough of them and not well enough. I see all media as extensions of man, causing deep and lasting changes in him and his environment (McLuhan 3- 4; Patel). That’s what I took your “Cyborg Manifesto” to be about.

haraway: Yes… in part. The “Cyborg Manifesto” is really a feminist theoretical document. A coming to terms with the world we live in… and the question “what are we going to do about it?” (Gane & Haraway 136; Senft)

hall: I’m sure you’ll both agree, in a world where the flows of information, political and cultural ideas are constant… relentless in fact, new cultural formations are inevitably forged relationally (Rizvi 273).

mcluhan: I’ve always believed, societies are shaped more by the nature of the media that men use than by the content of the communication (McLuhan 5; Patel). So Donna, what would you describe as the basis of such feminism?

haraway: You mean people, right? Not just ‘men’.

mcluhan: Yes. People.

haraway: Well, to begin with, I was coming at it as a scientist and not just any scientist, but as a biologist and also, a Catholic refusing the church… while never being able to be a secular humanist (Gane & Haraway 137).

hall: That’s understandable… the evangelical police probably should’ve had a more prominent place in pop culture history (Hall, Deconstructing 443).

mcluhan: Media studies does deal with content, but also with the media themselves and the total cultural environment within which the media functions. There really isn’t anything inherently radical about this study, except that, few have had the vision to undertake it (McLuhan 3; Patel). I’m saying this, because it is a credit to you.

haraway: Why, thank you… for such sincere condescension. Inhabiting the cyborg is what this manifesto is about. The cyborg is a figuration. By inhabiting it, you can’t NOT get it… because, by inhabiting the media, you become it (Gane & Haraway 138; Senft).

hall: Our lives are characterized by global networks, flows of money, technologies, ideas and their various articulations to each other. But these networks have histories, and without understanding these histories, we cannot fully comprehend this sense of human collectivity. The past is linked to the present and plays an important role in imagining the future (Rizvi 267, 272).

mcluhan: The day of the individualist, the specialist, of privacy, of fragmented or ¨applied¨ knowledge, is being replaced by an awareness of a mosaic world — a simultaneous ¨all-at-once¨ world in which everything resonates with everything else. I still see it as less about the content and more about how the media ecosystem impacts the individual, and therefore the collective (McLuhan 15-16,18; Patel).

haraway: There is a simple point here… that the virtual, and who or whatever occupies it, isn´t immaterial. Anyone who thinks it is, is nuts (Gane & Haraway 148; Senft).

hall: Hmmm… I have to subscribe to Wittgenstein’s perspective on this one. Particularly when he says, understanding a language is less about grasping meaning, and more about accomplishing things with words (Rizvi 265). Content of popular culture works similarly (Hall, Deconstructing 447).

haraway: Yes, Stuart. Boundary sorting between ‘physical’ and ‘non-physical’ is about a specific way of creating worlds. The virtual world is perhaps one of the most heavily invested apparatuses on the planet today (Gane & Haraway 148; Senft).

hall: I can’t say I disagree with you Donna. Racism doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It has relationships with cultural and economic structures in society. This becomes clear at moments of conjuncture — when different social, political, economic and ideological contradictions coalesce to give it specific shape (Rizvi 267).

mcluhan: Yes, Stuart. Even if Hitler gave botany lectures, some other demagog would’ve used radio to retribalize the Germans, awakening their dark atavistic side. But, by stressing content and placing little emphasis on media itself, we lose the ability to negotiate the impact new technologies have, leaving us unprepared for the revolutionary transformations it induces (McLuhan 11; Patel).

hall: In my work, the internality of race is the lens through which broader social structures are explored. I’ve always viewed it as the social formation which is racialized. These historical forces reappear in disguise. They point to the future, lose their anticipatory power, and become merely backward-looking (Rizvi 270).

haraway: Stuart, you’ve opened up a stream of thinking based on the analysis of lived practices from transnational mobility, border crossings and interconnectivity (Rizvi 271). But what if you’re not a transnational? What if you’re local, immobile and interfacing solely with people who are local and immobile?

hall: I encourage people to think about “routes” rather than “roots.” The possibilities that arise from rethinking identity in terms of fluidity, mobility and hybridity, changes how identities form for all people… not just those constructed through diasporic experience (Rizvi 271). Cultural identities come from somewhere, they have histories, and like everything that is historical, they undergo constant transformation (Hall, Cultural Identity & Diaspora 225).

haraway: But Stuart, how can you rationalize it as ¨all the same¨ when you’re describing very different individual experiences? The cyborg was meant to reconcile disparate gendered viewpoints and experiences. Makes me question whether gendered differences are further apart than diasporic one’s.

mcluhan: The media amplifies the individual’s experience, regardless of what that experience is (McLuhan 3).

hall: Points of resistance and moments of supersession are like waves we seem to ride in the dialectic of cultural struggle. It’s continuous, within the complexity of resistance and acceptance, refusal and capitulation, which make the field of culture a constant battlefield… regardless of where you are. This is how cultural identity becomes catalyzed and constructed

over time… for everyone (Hall 447).

mcluhan: A “global-village” being forged by technology stimulates discontinuity, diversity and division. Come to think of it, the global village makes disagreement and creative dialog an inevitability (McLuhan 15; Patel).

 

Works Cited

Gane, Nicholas and Haraway, Donna. “When We Have Never Been Human, What Is to Be Done? Interview with Donna Haraway.” Theory, Culture & Society. 135-158. 2006. Web.

Hall, Stuart. “Notes on Deconstructing ´the Popular.'” Cultural theory and Popular Culture: A reader. Ed. John Story. UK:Pearson-Prentice Hall. 442-453. 1998. Web.

Hall, Stuart. “Cultural Identity and DIaspora,” Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. Ed. Jonathan Rutherford. London: Lawrence & Wishart. 222-237. 1990. Web.

McLuhan, Marshall. “The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan.” Playboy Magazine (Mar 1969). Ed. Phillip Rogaway. Re-edited for ¨Ethics in an Age of Technology.¨ 1-23. 1994. Web.

Rizvi, Fazal. “Stuart Hall on racism and the importance of diasporic thinking.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. 264-274. 2015. Web.

Patel, Zain. “McLuhan’s Message.” n.d. Web.

Senft, Theresa M. “Reading Notes on Donna Haraway’s ‘Cyborg Manifesto.'” n.d. Web.

 

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