Miller – The Body and Information Technology


Should we embrace technological advances to prolong and improve quality of life?

Where should we stop?

Has our technological power outpaced our ability to make informed moral choices?

Will it create further conflict and inequality and society?




Body is not a given. It is made. Modern western life allows more chance to shape our bodies to our preferences.

Foucault – The body is a target for exercising power in society. Discipline and Control

Feminism – Female body as site of oppression.

Tech allows to change the “reality” of the body. Slow down aging.

Williams and Bendelow (1998) – modern medicine has problematized the body- 1.) more plastic/malleable 2.) bionic/artificial extras 3.) interchangeable/organ donor 4.) interchangeable across species/human ear mouse 4.) hyperreal/exaggerated



Key influence – Cybernetics (study of reg systems and self gov mechanisms). First theory to imagine humans and machines as a combined info processing system.

3 approaches

  1. Critiquing humanism
  2. Debate over bodies relation to technology (I THOUGHT THIS WAS TRANSHUMANISM?)
  3. Critique of relationship between the human and technology

Key terms:

Cyborg – Cybernetic Organism. Something with organic and inorganic elements in it. 4 diff. types of human/machine relationships. 1.) Restore 2.) Normalise 3.) Enhance 4.) Reconfigure.

Q? – Does the relationship between machine and human have to be permanent to count as true cyborg?

Extropianism – turn flesh into data.

Q – Is the brain just a thinking machine? If so, if we can eventually replicate the electrical impulses that make up brainwaves can we recreate human thought without a brain, within technology?

Transhumanism – Bodies have stopped evolving so we need to use technology to reach the next stage. The body is just a house for human intelligence. We need to make that everlasting.

Dreyfus (1972) critique of AI and transhumanism. 1.) Biological assumption that brains work the same as computers 2.) Psychological assumption that thought is a type of calculation 3.) epistemological assumption that intelligence is rational and thus computers can do it. 4.) Ontological assumption that we can understand and measure everything that needs to be replicated to make up intelligence.

Data made flesh – By understanding the body as data e.g. DNA codes, controllable biological compounds, etc. we actually remove the body as a whole from our conception of it.

Can everything really broken down to bits of information?

Rather than cyborgs what’s more likely is that humans will get the tech to artificially recreate bodies. Are these cloned cells, manipulated genes, etc. artificial or natural?

Body – tech – society – can we even neatly divide these things? Can we not see humans and society defined by the tech they use?

HOMO FABER – tool using man. Tech debates in an effort to seem epochal ignore man’s symbiotic relationship with tech throughout history. E.g. block and tackle, the plough, steam engines. All changed culture. Man is Homo Faber and cyborg.

Simmel – Man designs tech to overcome bodies limitations compared to its’ imagination. Therefore tech comes from man so how can it be unnatural?

Idhe – Man’s 3 relationships with Tech

Embodiment – When man uses tools he sees it as part of his body < yeah right, has to be a really well designed tool to get to that level. Not applicable in all cases.

Hermenuetic – Tools become the way man experiences thing. E.g. watching a gig through your smartphone even though you are at the bloody gig.

Alterity – Our perception of the world changes as we use the tool. E.g. we learn to judge speeds differently when we drive.

MOBILES AND THE BODY – a Phenomenological approach

Special relationship. Why? 1.) Always close to the body 2.) Uses multiple senses.

Mobiles create connected presence – feel connected with others who aren’t there.

Distributed presence – can be present in several ways at the same time.

Ambient Intelligence = Ubiquitous computing + Ubiquitous Commuincation + Adaptive interfaces

I have no doubt this will just be used for targeted advertising and little else