The Findable Cyborg

Heidegger’s terms Enframing and Standing Reserve, taken uncritically seem to imply a static state – a picture taken, or the stock in a warehouse.  Certainly, this is part of Heidegger’s meaning, but it is insufficient.  A quality of movement,of dynamism is also present.

The revealing that rules throughout modern technology has the character of a setting-upon, in the sense of a challenging-forth. That challenging happens in that the energy concealed in nature is unlocked, what is unlocked is transformed, what is transformed is stored up, what is stored up is, in turn, distributed, and what is distributed is switched about ever anew. Unlocking, transforming, storing, distributing, and switching about are ways of revealing. But the revealing never simply comes to an end. Neither does it run off into the indeterminate.

The revealing reveals to itself its own manifoldly interlocking paths, through regulating their course. This regulating itself is, for its part, everywhere secured. Regulating and securing even become the chief characteristics of the challenging revealing.

What kind of unconcealment is it, then, that is peculiar to that which comes to stand forth through this setting-upon that challenges? Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. Whatever is ordered about in this way has its own standing. We call it the standing-reserve.

The Question Concerning Technology, Martin Heidegger

So there is a sense of a kind of standing by and perpetual motion.  Haraway’s phrase “unhindered instrumental power” is relevant here..

Furthermore, communications sciences and modern biologies are constructed by a common move — the translation of the world into a problem of coding, a search for a common language in which all resistance to instrumental control disappears and all heterogeneity can be submitted to disassembly, reassembly, investment, and exchange…

The world is subdivided by boundaries differentially permeable to information. Information is just that kind of quantifiable element (unit, basis of unity) which allows universal translation, and so unhindered instrumental power

The Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway

Coding provides the concept we need to unify this combined sense of staticness and dynamism.  Code, especially algorithmic code, allows objects, people and processes to go about their business while being instantly findable.  Indeed, from the perspective of code, the evolving coded shadow of something continually modifies the thing’s boundaries, and therefore the thing itself.

Computer coding and search technology produces a state in which things are not sorted, put into pre-determined categories, as much as found. This findability is what unites the static and dynamic aspects of Heidegger’s Enframing/Standing Reserve.

Perhaps the unease many feel about code enabled surveillance or souveillance is that it never comes to an end, that the regulating and securing code enables is always out there, that the Cyborg is always findable.


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