Disabled Cyborgs In Space

Donna Haraway’s ironic, binary busting cyborg has deeply influenced the study of the relationship between the human and the technological since she published A Cyborg Manifesto in 1985.  Providing a template for  her cyborg was the 1961 paper by Nathan S. Kline and Manfred Clynes  (K&C)  Drugs, Space and Cybernetics: Evolution to Cyborgs.

K&C’s purpose was to find a path to a space-exploring society unencumbered by the technologically unmediated bodies of “man” poorly evolved to living in a vacuum.

Haraway repurposed this to theorize the path to a feminist-liberatory society unencumbered by  technologically unmediated  female bodies poorly evolved to living in the patriarchy.  She redefined “cyborg” as a hybrid  made to live not in outer space but in the space of social reality. Continue reading “Disabled Cyborgs In Space”

The Nomadic Cyborg

I have conceptualized here the cyborg in Haraway-ian fashion, as hybrid of the human and the cybernetic, the machinic, the algorithmic.  I have suggested that these partners to the human have a kind of agency that left unexamined is likely to lead to humans misunderstanding their relationship with the machinic. I have let Prof Haraway speak for herself in cautioning against “the solace of human exceptionalism”.

Somehow this seems still a half measure.  Somehow the human almost always seems the senior partner in the hybridization.  The cell phone, the internet of coffee makers, cars, consumer artifacts of every description, the vast extractive enterprises leveling mountains for a few tons of gold, rare earth metals, copper, the semi-autonomous war machines, manufacturing complexes seem somehow, even with a rampant speculative turn here, augmentation.  That is augmentation to the vivid subjet-ivity of human consciousness which experiences each iteration of the machinc as individual, driving nothing from their networked existence, existing only as cell phone, coffee makers, extraction and manufacturing. Continue reading “The Nomadic Cyborg”

Cyborgs in Space

The Haraway-ian cyborg, the blending, overlapping, the hybridization of the human and the machine-ic, specifically the information, cybernetic, algorithmic machines that are not extensions of human capabilities but partners/competitors of the human, companion species like the wolf/dog our best friends and worst mythic nightmares, that cyborg, as a matter of course, creates not only the architecture/space of the snail’s shell, the open fire warmed architecture of the cave, the intentionalized architecture/space of the hut, tent, cabin, cathedral, and split level suburban house, that cyborg also creates the Code Space of data based architecture-alized information interacting with the cascading contextualization/de-contextualizations, the cascading structure/ruin makings, of cascading algorithms that create in turn, companion, non-Euclidean spaces of curved surfaces and intersecting parallel lines enabling the fractal formation of discontinuous voids and firewalls that simultaneously house and expose the cyborg. Continue reading “Cyborgs in Space”

The Geopoetic Cyborg

Taken as an invitation to geopoetry, the effort to rename the current geological epoch from Holocene to Anthopocene is also an invitation to speculate, to  forgo in Donna Haraway’s phrase, “the solace in human exceptionalism”.  In the space opened by such a turn, perhaps a glimmer of something else can form, perhaps as she suggests, an ethical reworlding. Continue reading “The Geopoetic Cyborg”

A Cyborg Garden

We’re hoping to put in  a small garden this year, a couple of tomato plants, zucchini, basil, parley, some lettuce.  It’s been I think 3 years since our last one.  A lot has been going on and it’s been difficult to get organized for a project like that.  So we’ll see. It’s probably already too late to start our own tomato plants.  Garden centers now do carry a wider selection of  plant varieties than years ago, so maybe we’ll be able to find the Carmelos or Brandywines we favor. Meanwhile supplementing the seed catalog surfing, I remember a particular garden themed blog post that’s become something of a ritual for me this time of year.

110420_atomic_01[1]It’s an interview with Paige Johnson by the blog Pruned.  Ms Johnson also has her own garden blog. Garden History Girl  definitely worth checking out.

Pruned: So basically what are atomic gardens?

Paige Johnson: After WWII, there was a concerted effort to find ‘peaceful’ uses for atomic energy. One of the ideas was to bombard plants with radiation and produce lots of mutations, some of which, it was hoped, would lead to plants that bore more heavily or were disease or cold-resistant or just had unusual colors. The experiments were mostly conducted in giant gamma gardens on the grounds of national laboratories in the US but also in Europe and countries of the former USSR.

These efforts ultimately reached far into the world outside the laboratory grounds in several ways: in plant varieties based on mutated stocks that were—and still are—grown commercially, in irradiated seeds that were sold to the public by atomic entrepreneur C.J. Speas during the 50s and 60s and through the Atomic Gardening Society, started in England by Muriel Howorth to promote the mutated varieties.

It’s easy to look back at it all as some crazy, or conspiratorial, plot. But the atomic gardens weren’t a secret. They’ve just been forgotten. And it’s clear from reading the primary sources that most people involved were deeply sincere. They really thought their efforts would eradicate hunger, end famine, prevent another war.

My parents never had a vegetable garden while my brother and I were growing up.  I first encountered a kitchen garden as a part of my daily life in college.  The August before my junior year I moved in with friends Bob and Teddy living their version of the back to the land life.

The house was a small cinder block thing in the hills behind the University.  It’s street address was “The Little White House on Brown Road”.  Anyway, Bob and Teddy had, carved out a garden in a hay-field across the road,  I’m guessing with the help of the inhabitants of “The Green House on Brown Road”. I arrived just at its peak.

The onions were notable because the soil was rich in sulphur, the element that creates onionness.  Cutting into one made everyone in the house cry.  (The house had well water so taking a shower was an olafactory adventure.)

I could imagine Donna Haraway living in our little community, maybe in The Red House.  They always scared me a little bit. Even in the context of Brown Road, they seemed unpredictable, and given to sudden movements of body, speech and mind.  (Oddly one of them became mayor of Binghamton).

The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence. No longer structured by the polarity of public and private, the cyborg defines a technological pollis based partly on a revolution of social relations in the oikos, the household.. .. Unlike the hopes of Frankenstein’s monster, the cyborg does not expect its father to save it through a restoration of the garden… The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust. Perhaps that is why I want to see if cyborgs can subvert the apocalypse of returning to nuclear dust in the manic compulsion to name the Enemy.   Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto

We didn’t take photos on Brown Road.  Teddy went out west right after graduation and pretty immediately disappeared.  When Bob died a couple of years ago, several of his friends of that era tried to find Teddy, they all said the same thing, “Teddy went off the grid.”

I wasn’t close with any of the other Brown Roaders.  Karen is the only person I know who was there.  I find it hard to imagine that this level of “imperfection, loss and error” would be acceptable to most people if built into the code of their devices as Kitchin and Dodge suggest.  But if it was, maybe it’s true, our human/space would be more human.

The Findable Cyborg Part 3

It [Buddhist logic]  admitted nothing but the transient flow of evanescent events and their final eternal quiescence in Nirvana.  Reality according to Buddhists is kinetic, not static, but logic, on the other hand, imagines a reality stabilized in concept and names.  The ultimate aim of Buddhist logic is to explain the relation between a moving reality and the static constructions of thought.

Buddhist Logic T.H. Stcherbatsky*

In The Findable Cyborg, I suggested that findability is the quality uniting staticness and movement  in Heidegger’s Standing Reserve/Enframing.  This findability might perhaps be thought of not as a framed photograph, but rather as the movies or videos Cyborgs view on framed screens, silver or electronic.   Screens though are needed only as the framing device.  The kineograh (flip book) embodies the principle.

We can view the  pages or frames either as a series of discrete images or as fluid unified experience.  In both cases, the image(s) are a set, a Standing Reserve, placed in a perceptual frame.  The frame though is only a device to facilitate perception.   Every time a Cyborg views the kineograph, the order of the pages is different.

An important feature of this static movement, this findability, is the flexibility, dynamism of the assessment of objects, persons and process. Their relative importance changes over time with no particular assessment definative.  What is found changes.  What was previously found is not lost or forgotten, but rather no longer selected, viewed, or spoken.

It is as if the order of the pages of the kineograph had no importance at all.  Pages can be reordered, eliminated, added, or replaced by something different.  Any narrative of the images viewed in motion arises only as an epiphenonoma of this constant updating.  Only the findability of each element is important.

The technological understanding of Being encounters the revealing of Being as a challenge.  Responding to this, it seeks to make everything findable, available to, in Harraway’s phrase, the “unhindered instrumental power” of the Cyborg.

*T.H. Stcherbatsky (1866-1942), a Russian Indologist, is important in the development of Buddhist Studies in the West.

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.