A Sudden Insight on Cyborgs

Cyborgs actually exist. About 10 percent of the current U.S. population are estimated to be cyborgs in the technical sense, including people with electronic pacemakers, artificial joints, drug-implant systems, implanted corneal lenses, and artificial skin. (N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, 115.)

It’s sometimes hard for me to distinguish the difference between this technical definition of the cyborg and the more elusive, metaphoric definition. Probably because, writing about narratives and cultural constructions, I trade mainly in metaphors. But the fact remains, and it should be made perfectly clear, cyborgs are a reality.

A much higher percentage participates in occupations that make them into metaphoric cyborgs, including the computer keyboarder joined in cybernetic circuit with the screen, the neurosurgeon guided by fiber-optic microscopy during an operation, and the adolescent game player in the local video-game arcade.

In this way– as Haraway’s chimera, as the ever-shifting figmental blur– we are all cyborgs. In the way that Pattie Belle Hastings’ cyborg survey defines it, we are cyborgs. Is it okay for us to think of ourselves in this way? Does it mean anything that I can quite easily define myself and most of the people around me as cybernetic (wo)man-machine organisms?

“Terminal identity” Scott Bukatman has named this condition, calling it an “unmistakably doubled articulation” that signals the end of traditional concepts of identity even as it points toward the cybernetic loop that generates a new kind of subjectivity.

This explanation reminds me of Bob Arctor’s affliction– the split in the hemispheres of his brain, and the subsequent and parallel split in his identity. Am I similarly fragmented/ing? Who/what am I?

Who are you, this shadowy individual I type to on my screen with whom I maintain a strange dialogue, reflecting my own thoughts back onto myself, ad infinitum? Are you that mysterious, vast, and recursive entity that Philip Dick encountered on November 17, 1980 (and documented in Exegesis)? Or are you a Maturanian reality “that remains outside the compass of human knowing”? …Or just another chimera?

Essay #1 – Completed

Research Paper Outline

I’ve decided to forgo the official review of three previous courses that more or less led me to choose “cyberliterature” as a topic. This is partly because of time constraints, but also since I’m finding it unnecessary to my research. Originally when I wrote my course outline and drew up the schedule, I didn’t plan on the journal entries being so developed. I also didn’t expect the assigned readings to yield so much raw material for me to work with. That’s not to say I won’t take up some information from those three courses (Literary Computing, Literacies, and American Technologies)– in fact, the links in the sidebar owe a lot already to them as sources– but I won’t be going out of my way to serve up more entrées when I’ve already got a buffet. This makes me a little sad, because I was hoping on completing the research I started on Wikipedia and the Wikipedia community last spring, but I’m afraid it might turn into a endless tangent and distract me from writing my research paper (which I do not want to be exclusively about Wikipedia) next month.

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